It Makes Sense that We’d Sexually Objectify Justin Trudeau, for Just a Little While
Sexual objectification dehumanizes, hollows out subjectivity, strips agency. It’s the most virulent bug in the social software. Marketers exploit it for maximum return.
But when the target is a gorgeous male politician who works it hard by duckfacing the international press, the creep factor gets lost in the giddiness.
Hotness and hope are commingling in Canada’s Camelot.
And anxiety too. A lot of men out there, including me, just had their repressed dysmorphia torqued up with a big homoerotic rachet, wielded in the manly hands of Justin Trudeau. We’re poking our bellies, searching for abs.
In the glow of countless Justin hardbody images, young execu-bros are already hitting the heavier weights. Personal trainers are crazy booked. Crossfit and boxing gyms are bursting at the seams. Tattoo dudes are taking appointments for Haida totem designs. Ink and blood are flying! (We’ll see if that helps the Haida Nation.)
What about older men? Consider the CBC interview with the avuncular Joe Clark. Speaking from London right after the win, the former PM waggles his ruddy jowls and burbles “Justin is so fit! He’s in such good shape!” over and over again.
The interview finishes, the lights click off. Clark waddles off into the fog to console himself over bangers and mash.
Younger men channel their inner Justin. They wonder about his cufflinks, how much he can bench, whether it’s boxers or briefs, which protein bars are in his attaché case. They stand at the mirror and put up their dukes. They imagine themselves looking out through Justin’s face, staring down Putin. It makes their brains hurt. They shake their heads and refocus.
In the aura of Trudeau, older men mourn their youth. Where are their yoga-teaching wives? Or — they see that glowing son they’d wished they’d been able to feed with a perfect silver spoon. They wonder where their empire is.
Perhaps Trudeau’s hotness is scrambling the male gaze amongst women and men and everyone else. He can be looked at, and it seems he can see you. His soft eyes can’t cut into you like Harper’s. You can gaze at him and actually wonder what deep feelings he’s feeling. What does he feel about you? It can feel good to just admit that you wanna tap that energy, or be caressed by it, or hang out with it in the sauna at Davos. Way better than the reflex fear of a powerful man who’s there to fuck you over, because that’s how it’s always been.
The women and men now ogling Trudeau weren’t starting from some non-ogling piety. Just ten days ago, they were ogling the obvious oligarchs with disgust. They were starting from that judgy nausea that welled up every time they looked at Harper’s face and posture and listened to his drone, knowing he was raping the land, minorities, decency and science. I always thought if I stood near him I’d smell a slow methane leak.
Let’s be honest, lefties. We’re not supposed to say it, but we made a visceral link between Harper’s embodied flatline and Harperian policies that disembody the other and homogenize the world.
Trudeau’s body can dance bhangra and sit on the floor in a mosque. It can box the crap out of doofus senators, build things, summit peaks, be comfortable in its skin. Its youth and vitality are an evergreen forest overtaking the oil sands of wizened men. His body is springtime in October.
What did we ever imagine Harper’s body doing, other than hoarding money and defending whiteness and smelling his farts under the duvet? Hoarding and defending wants to express pride, but can’t conceal its deep shame. We gaze upon Trudeau, fall in love a little, and shame seems to lift. The body can be enjoyed again.
But which body? The white body with a glowing tan? The male body of privilege and high performance? More worrying than garden-variety objectification are the perennial links between sex appeal, ableism, and fascist aesthetics. If Chip Wilson sends Trudeau free yoga pants we should get extra worried about the mutually supportive links between a healthy glow and neoliberalism.
Physique is not destiny. Musculature is not policy. Sexualizing Trudeau is a slippery slope I’ll take no farther than this post. We can’t go overboard because it would excuse jokes about the late Dame Thatcher’s hair, for example. And while there’s surely a correlation between the hardness of hair-helmets and austerity down through right-wing generations, the helmets of Thatcher and Harper express different necessities and strategies across the gender divide.
Nonetheless, in the case of the PM-elect, maybe we could cut our mirror neurons some slack for a week or a month. They’re delivering primal eye-candy data. Objectifying Trudeau’s body may be both uncouth and unwise, but it’s understandable given the swamp of unsexy we’ve just crawled out of.
With any luck, the stress and air travel will turn Justin grey and paunchy within a year or two, and we’ll all get over it. But for now, the body politic heaves a sigh of relief and is tickled by the erotics of “change”. It’s a teenage romance that could end in Paris, if we pay attention.