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A Gender Balanced Cabinet Should Be Nothing Special

11/05/2015 02:46 EST | Updated 11/05/2016 05:12 EDT
GEOFF ROBINS via Getty Images
Canada's new environment minister Catherine McKenna poses for a photo with other cabinet members at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario, November 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ GEOFF ROBINS (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

On November 4, Justin Trudeau was officially sworn in as Prime Minister of Canada. He had made note in the weeks following his electorate victory that he would have a gender-balanced cabinet, a 50/50 split of male and female members. When asked why this was so important to him, Prime Minister Trudeau glibly answered, "Because it's 2015."

There was a round of applause. The celebration in Ottawa is deafening today, and support for the cabinet is pouring in from all corners of the Canadian soil. And still, I can't help but ask myself the question: why are we so excited about this equal gender cabinet?

Let's examine the obvious -- it's never happened before. In the entire history of Canadian cabinets, a Prime Minster has never appointed an equal ratio of men and women. Naturally, this is a pretty big deal insofar as a pivotal change is happening right before our eyes, but why didn't this occur to anyone before? Even in the past century when women were allowed to hold office, why has no other Prime Minister thought of having BOTH genders EQUALLY represented?

To some people, this may not be particularly mind-boggling. Women have moved up a lot in the world in terms of social, economic, and political influence. It wasn't so long ago that women were expected to adhere to the barefoot and pregnant "laws" that were governed by the patriarchal political climate. But here we are, 2015, and cheering wildly because we have more women in government.

Apologies for raining on the parade, but I have to question this.

In a truly gender equal society, we would all look at this cabinet and say, "Huh." It wouldn't wow us or give us pause. It wouldn't be cause for celebration or be considered important in any way other than with a "here's our cabinet, let's see what they can do" medal of participation. In a gender equal society, this gender equal cabinet wouldn't be big news because THAT'S THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.

It's so obvious that it's not obvious at all. Society has tricked us into thinking that something like a gender equal cabinet is special. It's not special -- it's common sense. This should have happened long before 2015 and should be so passe that we don't even bat an eyelash. The cabinet and representatives themselves should be the big deal here, NOT the genders of the cabinet members.

Yes, the best people for the job should be selected, but I can guarantee that just as many capable women as men, especially in areas that have a notable impact on women (Carolyn Bennett appointed as Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs is a prime example when examining the recent wave of missing Indigenous women in Canada). A woman with the same qualifications as her male peers should be appointed to cabinet, and again, this is nothing more than common sense. It should be so easy to have a gender balance here, and I'm quite positive that 2015 wasn't the first year to see female cabinet members shine.

Is this new cabinet a step in the right direction? Obviously, yes. This is the beginning of something big for Canada. Justin Trudeau has ignited the hope that maybe one day, a gender balanced cabinet will not be cause for amazement. We have to start somewhere, right? I applaud our new Prime Minister for being a harbinger of a vital change that will one day be a big "meh" on our newsfeeds. We can't have the equality we desire without this spark.

Let's get excited for now. Let's raise our glasses, toast our female MPs, and have a good chat about how great it is that our Prime Minister is finally paying attention. But let's not mistake something "special" for something that should be happening. The change is good, but our awareness of the real issue should be better.

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