Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Of Stars and Fairy Dust: Trudeau's Masculinity a Subtext in Tory Attack Ads

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Of Stars and Fairy Dust: Trudeau's Masculinity a Subtext in Tory Attack Ads

Article excerpt

Ads aim to sap Trudeau's masculinity: experts

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OTTAWA - The headline on the Conservative party's latest mailout reads "He's in way over his head," but what's drawn around Justin Trudeau's head could be carrying a powerful subliminal message too.

A swirl of tiny little stars -- reminiscent of Tinkerbell's trail of sparkles -- frames the Liberal leader. He's shown with a goatee, open collar and his jacket slung over his shoulder.

The flyer produced for Conservative MPs to be sent to constituents contains several negative bullet points about Trudeau that are written in a cursive font, while the points lauding Prime Minister Stephen Harper are in a bolder print font.

The letter "i" in Trudeau's first name is capped with a star in the Conservative materials -- like a pre-teen girl might apply to her name.

So what exactly are the Conservatives getting at here?

"I think there is a subtle attempt not necessarily to question Justin Trudeau's masculinity but to at least make him appear less masculine," said David Coletto, a Canadian market researcher and CEO of Abacus Data.

Coletto says recent polling shows Trudeau does just as well with men as with women, something that would worry the Conservatives.

"I think (the ads) are meant to weaken his standing particularly among middle-aged men, who are really the core of the Conservative government's coalition, so they're trying to shore that up...the idea that this guy's not a man's man, and maybe therefore not worthy of our vote," said Coletto.

The initial volley of the Conservative ad that ran last weekend was carried during a Blue Jays baseball game, an English Premier League match and a PGA golf tournament -- all of which are overwhelmingly watched by men. The ad went into wider distribution during top-rated programs this week including Wednesday evening's broadcast of American Idol.

Christopher Greig, co-author of the book "Canadian Men and Masculinities," also believes the Conservatives are trying to frame Trudeau as "unmanly" in their most recent flyer. He explains that society has certain views on what an appropriately masculine identity is.

"Men who exhibit non-traditional gender behaviours or engage in non-traditional male activities or work, tend to get positioned as less manly," said Greig, a professor of education at the University of Windsor.

"In the Justin Trudeau case, the mention that he was a drama teacher sort of plays into those anxieties around being appropriately male, where drama has been historically gendered feminine."

When Conservatives were asked Thursday about a potential subtext in the ads said they saw nothing of the sort.

"I don't think anybody's saying anything like that," said Alberta MP Leon Benoit. …

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