Gabrielle Gallant is a Toronto-based communications expert and former press secretary for the Ontario Liberal government
The Prime Minister lost his temper. He got up out of his seat, and he walked over to the Conservative Whip – who was standing in a group of NDP MPs – and led him to his seat. As he did this, he bumped into NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau. In the video of the altercation, Ms. Brosseau clearly winces. It is also undeniably clear that the elbowing was unintentional.
This incident has dominated the political discourse in Canada. The country – including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself – is in agreement that Mr. Trudeau should not have done what he did.
But perhaps the most appalling element of the events? New Democrat MPs have characterized so-called elbowgate as gender-based violence.
NDP MP Niki Ashton said that "it is very important that young women in this space feel safe to come here and work here." NDP MP Brigitte Sansoucy went so far as to make a comparison to "abusive husbands" whose wives had taken shelter at a centre for battered women.
To manipulate the cause of violence against women for partisan purposes is the antithesis of NDP values of equality.
To compare this incident to violence against women is a slap in the face to any woman who has actually been assaulted.
To label this as violence against women is just plain cruel: Any woman who has suffered real violence certainly knows an accidental elbow is not akin to violence.
This comparison – and all statements likening this incident to gendered violence – diminish the cause of those who fight violence against women. It diminishes the pain of the very real trauma experienced by women who have suffered abuse at the hands of men.
Physical attacks against women and harassment in the workplace are very real, and we must be vigilant in fighting these issues.
The gravity of the very real issue of violence against women – and so many other issues that form barriers for women in the pursuit of equality – has, unfortunately been manipulated to score cheap political points.
Opposition parties and media have gleefully stated that this "gendered violence" diminishes Mr. Trudeau's credibility as a feminist.
Why is there such a drive to portray people who support women as hypocrites? As a feminist – and as an ambitious young woman who is close to Ms. Brosseau's age – I am more than disappointed. I am disgusted. I am furious. This discourse is incredibly harmful to the cause of gender equality.
Should the Prime Minister have got out of his seat? Absolutely not. However, he recognized his mistake quickly and has indicated his regret for his actions repeatedly.
What the opposition MPs have done to the fight for gender equality is far worse.