Poli SAVVY: Quebec’s obsessions with Catherine Dorion’s clothes

White gloves off; Quebec politics is obsessed with pieces of clothes we should or shouldn’t wear.

Last week, it has once more demonstrated its patriarchal tendency to try and shut down women based on what they wear.

On Nov. 7, Catherine Dorion, the Québec Solidaire MNA for Taschereau, was refused access to the National Assembly in Quebec City for – cue dramatic music – wearing an orange hooded sweatshirt. This came at the end of another scandal involving the MNA, after a photo of her Halloween costume sparkled a lot of attention from the media. She appeared sitting on the main desk at the National Assembly, wearing what one would consider as the authentic, classic outfit of a female minister; high heels, skirt and a blazer.

Sadly, this is yet another example of a reductive obsession, where society is pushing the rhetoric that women must first gain credibility based on what they look like, not what they have to say.

For anyone not following Quebec’s politics, since her election, Dorion has been considered the underdog, a young politician challenging the conventional decorum while wearing “regular” clothes with her jeans, Doc Martens and colourful t-shirts.

A profound issue that arises from this scandal is the message it sends about who has a place in politics. Having such a debate over what some consider as a poor choice of outfit undeniably reflects the idea that politics is reserved for a certain elite; an elite who can afford to constantly be well-dressed.

Well-dressed according to who? When we take the true meaning of democracy – as to power to the people – it needs to reflect the diversity of our society, whether that means popular fashion, flamboyant, classy or simple day-to-day outfits.

This issue resonates deeply because the truth is, I haven’t emancipated myself yet from feeling the pressure that women have to look the part, to dress up in order to be taken seriously. I’ve long struggled to look good, but also try not to attract unwanted attention. I don’t want to be listened to because of my looks, but because of what I have to say.

Right now, Quebec is reinforcing this feeling by sending the message that women’s words and ideas won’t be considered… Unless we comply.

What Dorion is trying to do is show how politics are not reserved for old white men wearing ties. She is standing up against boomers afraid of change, who see wearing a hoodie to the National Assembly as a call for anarchy.

Ok boomers, breathe. This is simply what diversity in representation looks like.


Graphic by Victoria Blair

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