[memorial image with names of women is from here]
"We have been asked by many people to accept that women are making progress, because one sees our presence in these places where we weren't before. And those of us who are berated for being radicals have been saying:
'That is not the way we measure progress. We count the number of rapes. We count the women who are being battered. We keep track of the children who are being raped by their fathers. We count the dead. And when those numbers start to change in a way that is meaningful, we will then talk to you about whether or not we can measure progress.'"--Andrea Dworkin [this quote is from:]
MASS MURDER IN MONTRÉAL -- The Sexual Politics of Killing Women, in Life and Death.
I remember the day very well. It was a horrible thing to learn about; the details unfolded and I can recall specifically when the misogynist assassin's statement was released, and the terror of knowing that now feminists and women who are perceived as such will not just be mistreated, misunderstood, maligned, and viciously degraded by corporate pimps. Now men will kill women "more efficiently", not just one by one privately, but in groups in social spaces. I knew this was, in no uncertain terms, a political act of misogynistic terrorism. And I remember being furious that the press kept focusing on the mass murderer, on his life, as if there were secrets in his past that could explain this.
What more of an explanation is there than the fact that in North American in 1989, as before and ever since, woman-hating is enacted by men violently and systematically against the minds and bodies of women, with systems of white male supremacist power firmly in place to ensure such men don't stop. I remember being shaken by the virulence of the killer's woman-hating--so undisguised, so utterly blatant, and so terribly lethal.
Surely now, I thought twenty years ago, we--the many citizens and the press and other media of the West--cannot deny that gynocide (or as many women say, femicide) is a fiction. Surely now it is plainly clear to all that this is much more than an idea in many men's minds, that it isn't just privatised and happening to one woman at a time.
What I didn't quite imagine--only because I didn't want to believe that men would remain so grotesquely callous--is that twenty years later there would be men, individually and in groups, who celebrate the murderer as a hero for men. Knowing this, and everything else that I know that men do to women to control them and to harm them, means that nothing is off limits in the misogynist imagination, and that as long as State power is on men's side, as long as there are male supremacist States, there can be no meaningful progress, no significant movement toward safety and dignity for girls and women.
So my hope and my support for a revolution led by women grows stronger every day, as I know nothing short of radical change will do. And this shift must include the removal not just of all who harm women misogynistically, but also the removal of those men, each and every one of them members of the dominant gender class, who would consider a killer of eleven women going to an engineering school a hero for men. If one's humanity is so void, so bankrupt, then let these beings disappear from the Earth, for the good of all.
If you don't yet know the horrific story, just below is a link to the powerful telling by Lee Lakeman of Vancouver Rape Relief. To read her account, click on the following URL: http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/dec6/leearticle.html
ALL OF WHAT FOLLOWS is a news article offering some reflection on what's happened in the last twenty years. And remembrances of that awful day. It is from here.
'Progress and regress' in women's rights since Montreal Massacre: Prof.
Friday, December 4th, 2009 | 1:00 pmCanwest News Service
Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the day Marc Lepine walked into Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique and, in the guise of fighting feminism, killed 14 women in the deadliest shooting in Canadian history.
For many Canadians, who will never forget where they were when they heard the news, the day is seared into their consciousness and a rallying point in combating violence against women. But today's campuses are filled with undergraduates who were toddlers, or not yet born, when the Montreal Massacre occurred and for whom the event has little, if any, direct resonance.
"I think we have to acknowledge that Dec. 6, 1989 changed how Canadians think about violence against women," said Connie Guberman, status of women officer and women's studies professor at the University of Toronto.
"So whether one is 18-years-old and wasn't born yet, the historical reality for those of us who have been around awhile (is that) that mass murder, which is the largest in Canada's history, changed our consciousness about the issue of violence against women. Prior to 1989, those of us active in this movement had to convince people that it was a real issue."
U of T held ceremonies at all three of its campuses on Friday, she said, with the focus on fighting violence against women as well as paying tribute to the 14 lives lost.
Ecole Polytechnique will mark the sombre milestone with a ceremony that's expected to draw 1,000 people, and they're encouraging members of the community to leave flowers at a memorial bearing the names of the 14 women killed.
At Montreal's McGill University, the student society's Sexual Assault Centre is hosting a memorial on Sunday, but Daniel Redmond, a 24-year-old social work student who spearheaded a white-ribbon campaign for men against violence against women, was surprised more wasn't done to honour the 20th anniversary.
People his age or slightly younger know about Dec. 6 and its significance if they're socially aware, he says, but "it's not visceral to this age group anymore."
"I think part of it comes from an overall desire to move past it and to let it go," he said of the relatively quiet passing of the anniversary. "Too many people are not recognizing that it is still an issue."
Monique Frize had just assumed the national role of Nortel-NSERC Women in Engineering Chair at the time of the shooting, and her first duty was attending the funeral services of the victims. She remembers looking at the white caskets and the families, she said, and vowing to draw more women into the field where Lepine felt they didn't belong.
Since then, there's been "progress and regress" in women's rights, she said, but Dec. 6 taught her and many others the meaning of feminism – a lesson she believes is needed now for younger generations who are adverse to the term and being "gagged."
"People would say: 'Are you a feminist?' and I'd say no because I didn't know what it was, but I'd been a feminist all my life without knowing," said Frize, now an engineering professor at Carleton University, with a joint appointment at the University of Ottawa. "I took the massacre as violence against women in an ultimate, extreme way, but it also to me represents violence in families and homes, in the military, violence to women in general."
Recent cases have seen women and girls targeted for mass murder by men who blamed them for their problems, as Lepine did.
George Sodini opened fire on an aerobics class full of women in Pennsylvania in August, after posting online diary entries ranting about his rejection by the opposite sex.
In 2006, Charles Carl Roberts entered an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, ordered the boys to leave and shot the girls in the head, killing five of them aged seven to 13. A suicide note he left for his wife claimed he had molested two young female relatives years earlier and feared he would do so again.
The Women's Resource Centre at the University of Calgary co-ordinates a Polytechnique memorial every year, says executive director Stephanie Garrett, and the event is one of the university's biggest in terms of drawing people from the wider Calgary community.
"The people who come every single year are always the same people, of a certain generation where they were either at university at the same time as this took place, around the same age as the women that were killed, or else they were in some way related to the issue so they feel a strong need to remember once a year and reflect on what happened," she said.
They work hard to help younger students understand the context of Dec. 6 and how it relates to them now, Garrett said, and they've seen students tackling these issues in contemporary ways, hosting social networking groups and screening Polytechnique, the 2009 film dramatization of the events.
"Having not faced all of the news and understanding of it at the time, it's different for them," she said. "But we also live in a completely different world where they have far more international media and communications around the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there's a more global feel to the issues."
In a statement, Ecole Polytechnique said the courage, solidarity and accomplishments of members of the school community over the last 20 years are the best homage they can offer to the victims' memory.
"On this occasion, we would like to reaffirm our hope and faith in the future," the school said. "Time does not heal a tragedy like this one, but life is here and waiting for us to live it.
14 women died at Marc Lepine's hands on Dec. 6, 1989:
Genevieve BergeronCanadians of different ages have different impressions of the event, but many will never forget where they were when they heard the news.
– "I was living in Moncton and I was upstairs reading and my husband called from downstairs, 'Monique, Monique, come and see this!' I went down (to watch the news) and we were both in tears, it was unbelievable. My first day on the job, instead of being in my office at the University of New Brunswick, it was at the cathedral in Montreal for the funeral. It was a hard way to start a job attracting more women into engineering."
– Monique Frize, retirement age, an engineering professor at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa who had just been appointed Nortel- NSERC Women in Engineering Chair at the time of the shooting.
– "I know exactly where I was. Dec. 6, 1989 was a Wednesday; for many years I taught the introduction to women's studies course on Wednesdays at that time and it was the last class of the term. The class ended at 9 o'clock and we all said goodbye, and by the time I got home, I had calls from students saying, 'Are you all right? I need to connect with you.' They felt that they would have been the targets if it had been on our campus, students in women's studies. They phoned me at home and they left messages at my office to say, 'I need to connect with someone. Can you believe this happened? How do we make sense of it?'"
– Connie Guberman, 54, status of women officer and professor of women's studies at the University of Toronto.
– "I'm not sure how well I understood it. All I knew is that in your gut, anytime you hear that multiple women were killed by a man who believed they shouldn't be studying what they were studying, you know that you want to do something about that. You know that those people still exist; violence takes place in different ways now."
– Stephanie Garrett, 29, executive director of the Women's Resource Centre at the University of Calgary.
– "People who are specifically fitting in my age group or the year or two around that, there does tend to be some awareness of it, despite the fact that personally, I would have been four when the massacre occurred. At each point that I've looked at it and kind of taken it in, you get that drop in your stomach. Every time, I'm just horrified and I hear his words and it just, for lack of a better word, it just shreds me."
– Daniel Redmond, 24, social work student at McGill University who's running a white-ribbon campaign for men against violence against women.