Thoughts on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against WomenPosted: December 6, 2011
I would like to take a quick post here to talk briefly about the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
On December 6, 1989, a twenty-five-year-old man by the name of Marc Lépine went to École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec. There, armed with an illegally obtained rifle and a hunting knife, Lépine went into a classroom at the university, divided the men and the women, and shot all the women in the room, injuring three and killing six. He proceeded through the university, all in all killing fourteen women and injuring ten, while injuring four men. He targeted women specifically and blamed feminists for ruining his life and the world. He turned the gun on himself, in the end.
The incident has been debated since. Some argue that it was the work of a nutcase who was abused by his father while many more argue it was an attack against feminists and women and is thus representative of societal attitudes toward feminists and women.
Personally, I don’t like the way “the feminist movement” in Canada has appropriated the massacre to their own ends. I don’t believe society tacitly or implicitly supports violence against women. I was always taught to never hit women, and I view men who do as being scumbags (though this may be a weird sort of sexism on its own). I think that although Lépine clearly had a troubled childhood and was a troubled individual, what he did was abhorrent and inexcusable. I don’t think for half a second that Lépine represents all men or even a fraction of men in Canada or the US, and I think that while men do commit violence against women, women also commit violence against women on the basis of gender, as women commit violence against men on the basis of gender (and as my own childhood instruction of “not hitting women” tacitly endorses violence against other men). Appropriating any tragedy for political motive, is, I think, scummy, whether that’s the Columbine shooting, The VA Tech shooting, 9/11, or the “Montreal Massacre”. I think these events need to be remembered for what they were: horrifying expressions of violence against innocents. We should always remember the victims (and the perpetrator) and the reasons why, but not attach it to a cause.
Immediately following the event, men at École Polytechnique were criticised for their failure to stop Lépine; some went as far as to accuse these men of harbouring the same feelings as Lépine himself, which again strikes me as being a little insensitive and quite stupid. While we’d all like to imagine that if we were around during the Crusades we’d martyr ourselves for Muslims and Jews being killed for their religion, or we’d join King in the Million Man March, or we’d stand beside Ulysses S. Grant and fight slavery, or whatever, the reaction of most is self-preservation, and that’s how we’re designed; rocking the boat isn’t that easy. As an example, I think that Americans specifically are getting screwed by the banks and corporations and so on (the relationship is obviously more complex than that, bear with me), but I would never join Occupy Wallstreet and I think the movement itself is boneheaded. Back to the Montreal Massacre, it takes a lot of gall to accuse someone who’s been shot and watched his friends gunned down around him of cowardice, and it just a little sexist, too.
But I don’t wish to detract from the severity of the event. Take a minute or two today to think of the women in your life today and the fourteen lives lost at École Polytechnique twenty-two years ago today.