Five things you missed at the Women in the World Summit, with Angelina Jolie and Justin Trudeau
In 2010, journalist and magazine editor Tina Brown hosted the first Women in the World Summit, a forum for business leaders, activists, politicians and pop culture luminaries to share their experiences and discuss how they could improve the lives of women and girls. Since that first event, Brown has hosted yearly summits across the U.S. and abroad, but last night was the first time it came to Canada. In her opening address, Brown spoke about women’s power to change the future. “When Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman crushed Iron Man at the box office, that was a harbinger,” Brown told the largely female crowd at the AGO. “We all knew what was coming.”
The marathon event featured more than 20 speakers, including Angelina Jolie, Justin Trudeau, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland, Felicia Sanders (a survivor of the Charleston church shooting), Women’s March co-chair Tamika D. Mallory, and Loung Ung, the author of First They Killed My Father (a memoir turned TIFF film, directed by Jolie). Here, five highlights from the summit.
Loung Ung gets tingles watching First They Killed My Father
In her memoir, Ung recounts her experiences as a young girl during the mass genocide of 1.7 million Cambodians by the communist Khmer Rouge regime in the mid-1970s. She mentally prepared to watch some of the most harrowing moments of her book’s film adaptation at TIFF, but when she saw the scene of landmines indiscriminately killing children, she said, “it still gives me tingles in my toes.” She said she was lucky to escape the genocide with all of her limbs. In 1980, Ung escaped to the U.S., and she is now a spokesperson for Landmine Free World. “As women, we have more strength that we give ourselves credit for,” Ung said. “Peace is an action, we need to strategize and fight for it.”
Jolie read First They Killed My Father 16 years ago while filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia. Since then, Loung and Jolie have been close friends. Jolie told the audience that, when she was considering adopting her now-15-year-old son Maddox (who is an executive producer of the film), she first asked Ung if she thought people would be offended that an outsider like herself was adopting a Cambodian orphan. “If she had said [yes], my life would have been very different,” Jolie said.
Justin Trudeau wants to transform trolls, not the internet
Before Brown’s conversation with Justin Trudeau, a montage of clips showed the prime minister calling himself a feminist a dozen times in various interviews and press conferences. When Brown asked him how trolling—or as she called it, “the wild west of misogyny”—could be stopped, Trudeau said it comes down to “changing attitudes, not changing the internet.” He explained that it’s challenging to retain women in powerful positions because of the “nastiness” they face online, and pointed to the hatred towards Mississauga-Erin Mills MP Iqra Khalid’s anti-Islamophobia motion. “She questioned if she still wanted to be an MP,” said Trudeau.
When Brown asked him about the impact of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, on his own beliefs as a feminist, Trudeau said Pierre was a supportive father, but not necessarily a feminist. “What he taught me was all about rights…standing up for everyone’s rights,” said Trudeau. “I don’t know that we could call him a feminist. He was very old school. He was a product of his time.”
Chrystia Freeland believes you can be polite and strong
When asked how the NAFTA negotiations were progressing, Freeland stayed positive. “We’ve done our homework, and our trade negotiators are the best in the world,” Freeland said. “We’re being polite, but being polite doesn’t mean you can’t be strong. We’re standing up for our national interest.”
That politeness extends into cabinet meetings, too. Freeland recalled that the prime minister asked veteran members of the gender-equal cabinet to describe the current dynamic of the meetings. “They said, ‘Everyone really listens and tries to understand each other. Before we used to fight all the time, there were tribal fractions,’” said Freeland. “[A veteran male minister turned to me] and said, ‘I wonder why it’s so different?’”
Grieving mothers from Israel and Palestine are working together
Israeli Robi Damelin’s son, David, was killed by a sniper while serving in the Israeli army. Palestinian Bushra Awad’s son, Mahmod, was shot by an Israeli solider in Beit Omar. At the Women in the World Summit, they spoke about bonding together after losing their sons to put an end to the conflict. They’re both a part of the the Parents Circle, a reconciliation organization for bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families. Awad said that, prior to meeting Damelin, she thought “Israelis were killers,” but when she spoke with her for the first time, that changed. “When we talked about our sons and she cried, I forgot she was an Israeli and [instead I saw her] as a bereaved mother.” Damelin said their unexpected friendship shows what’s possible. “We recognize the humanity in each other.”
Men wanted the Women’s March to be called the People’s March
Not every member of the night’s final panel, Women Busting up the Bro Culture, cared for its name: panelist Lisa Bloom, the civil rights lawyer who brought down Bill O’Reilly, said the term “bro culture” sounds too fun and should instead be called what it is: the “patriarchy” or “systemic misogyny.” Another panelist, Women’s March co-chair Tamika D. Mallory, recalled the men that doubted that they could pull off the march. “Men told us that we were not capable of organizing a march of that magnitude,” she said. “They didn’t think we had the skill set to pull it off. Men wanted us to change the name to the People’s March.” When many of these men realized how vast, well-run and necessary the march was, Mallory said, they came out after all.