25

Remember the women of the Montreal Massacre by more than just their names

Opinion: Misogyny will not be conquered by downplaying or ignoring how gender and violence intersect


 

TOP, FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: MARYSE LAGANIÈRE, MARYSE LECLAIR, MICHÈLE RICHARD, NATHALIE CROTEAU; MIDDLE: SONIA PELLETIER, ANNE-MARIE LEMAY, ANNE-MARIE EDWARD, ANNIE ST-ARNEAULT, MAUD HAVIERNICK; BOTTOM: ANNIE TURCOTTE, BARBARA DAIGNEAULT; BARBARA KLUCZNIK-WIDAJEWICZ, GENEVIÈVE BERGERON, HÉLÈNE COLGAN (PHOTOS: CANADIAN PRESS; DESIGN: LEO TAPEL)

Anne-Marie Edward, 21, chemical engineering student. Edward loved skiing so much that she was buried in her École Polytechnique ski team jacket. After her death, her teammates wore patches with her initials on their uniforms.

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, 31, nursing student. She and her husband had just fled Poland for Montreal in 1987; they were together in the École Polytechnique’s cafeteria when she was killed. Her husband later said they had come to Canada because they believed that it was the safest place in the world.

Maryse Leclair, 23, materials engineering student. She was one of the top students in the school, and her father was the director of public relations for the Montreal police. Unaware that his daughter was among the victims, he stood outside the school and promised the media that he would go in and then report back what he saw. He was the one who found his daughter’s body. She was wearing the sweater that she’d had on during their family’s last Sunday dinner.

Every December 6 ceremony I’ve attended has included a portion where the names of the massacre’s victims have been read out loud. I’ve heard people solemnly intone Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz like a metreless poem at dozens of different memorials over the years. But none of these ceremonies has ever mentioned that Geneviève Bergeron sang in a professional choir, or that Sonia Pelletier was the youngest of eight children, or that Annie Turcotte loved tinkering with cars and baking with her mother. Maybe these details are irrelevant, but they feel increasingly important the older I get and the further the shooting fades into history.

Men will be the first to tell you that they love women—they love their mothers, their wives, their sisters, their daughters. They’ll say this as if it solves the problem of gender-based violence, as if “love” hasn’t been used as an excuse for inflicting harm throughout human history. The truth is that women don’t need men’s affection. We need for men to see us as fully human and just as deserving of rights and autonomy as they are.

Some people will find it ridiculous that I’m trying to draw a straight line from the Montreal Massacre to #MeToo and the recent outings of sexually predatory men. After all, Marc Lépine didn’t harass or assault any women as far as we know, and Harvey Weinstein certainly has never committed a mass shooting. Sure, both are instances of violence against women, but is there a uniting factor beyond that?

The answer is that every act that exists on the spectrum of violence against women—from street harassment all the way up to rape and murder—happens because we live in a culture that still views women as being less human than men.

Women were objects to Lépine, things that had unfairly taken his rightful place at the École Polytechnique. In his view, women had stood in the way of the life he’d wanted. He wrote in his suicide note: “I have decided to send the feminists who have always ruined my life to their Maker.”

In many ways, Weinstein and his ilk have viewed women through a similar lens: as objects, to be used or not used according their desire.

There is a moment in this video from the CBC archives that both chills my blood and makes me nod hard in recognition.

It happens around the 1:12 mark, when École Polytechnique survivor Nathalie Provost is asked what the shooting made her realize. Provost sighs deeply and replies, “That I am a woman,” then laughs a little. She knows it might sound a bit silly; she also knows that it is true. Before the shooting she had felt that she was equal to men. It wasn’t until after 14 women were killed that she had realized some men might disagree with her and their disagreement might be deadly.

Provost is probably best known for speaking up against Lépine in an attempt to save her fellow students. When he yelled that he was trying to “fight feminism,” she told him that the women who were there were not feminists, or at least not the kind who thought they were better than men. She was the same woman who, days after the shooting, spoke from her hospital bed urging young women not to be afraid to study engineering. In a 2009 interview with the Toronto Star she said, “At the time, I thought to be a feminist meant you had to be militant… I realized many years later that in my life and actions, of course I was a feminist.” She is one of my heroes.

Heidi Rathjen, another survivor of the shooting, said in the same Toronto Star story, “[The École Polytechnique] was a wonderful place for women. It was easy for people to think feminism was passé.” Her words gut me nearly as much as Provost’s do, at least in part because I still see that attitude reflected today.

I know it’s tempting to believe that feminism has achieved all of its goals and we now live in a world where people of all genders have the same access to opportunity, autonomy and safety. The reality of violence against women is horrible to consider, and no one wants to think about horrible things, let alone recognize that they might happen to them or someone they love. Like Provost, I’m sure many people hope that women can somehow outrun their gender. But like Provost, none of us can.

Misogyny will not be conquered by downplaying or ignoring how gender and violence intersect. The sooner we accept that, the better.

WATCH MORE: Consent matters: Sexual assault isn’t a women’s issue—it’s everyone’s issue


 

Remember the women of the Montreal Massacre by more than just their names

      • What an idiotic and uninformed statement on such a terrible and tragic event to occur in Canada’s past.

        #1 – The horrific massacre was carried out by an atheist. “Marc was baptized a Roman Catholic as an infant, but received no religious instruction during his childhood; his mother described her son as “a confirmed atheist all his life.”

        #2 – Even if Marc was religious, could we say that misogyny is rooted in religion? Or course not! I had to school you in this just a couple of weeks ago Emily. Have you learned nothing? I pointed you to a Scientific American article. Remember? The article published by scientists documented how misogynistic behaviour was observed in primates. Primates are not religious. Primates are our close evolutionary cousins. The evolutionary connection between primates and humans occurred far before religion was invented. Therefore the conclusion of the scientists was that misogyny is an evolutionary characteristic. I’m sorry to say, but you cannot dispute the facts of published science. The same evolutionary facts being taught in thousands of high schools in Canada are the same facts that support the origins of misogyny.

          • You don’t have to read my reference. If you want to discredit Scientific America — go right ahead. Fool.

            My goodness — it appears you don’t even read your own references. It’s right there in your Wikipedia link. Look at the last reference in Wikipedia.

            Lépine, Monique; Gagné, Harold (2008). Aftermath. Viking Canada. ISBN 978-0-670-06969-9

            “Marc was baptized a Roman Catholic as an infant, but received no religious instruction during his childhood; his mother described her son as “a confirmed atheist all his life.”

            I’m sorry if it hurts your sensibilities — Marc was an ATHEIST!

            Now owe up to it.

          • Chip

            It’s not you.

            You’re trying to reason with someone to whom facts and reality have no meaning. It’s a fools errand.

            Treat it like an idiot. Expose its lies, move on and know that many many others do value facts, reality, truth.

        • Scientific American is a magazine……nothing more

          I am aware of what Wikipedia says. Don’t try using it as a diversion.

          You have no idea what an atheist is. I am one.

          .

          • Ahhh. Standard pattern. First, outrage. Second, random articles you apparently run you life by Third….you cut and run.

            Hey, it’s your game. You play it.

          • I am using Wikipedia as a diversion? Your the one that brought it up!!!

            I am simply pointing you to your very own reference.
            Marc Lepine was an ATHEIST! To say he was RELIGIOUS is calling EVERYONE but yourself a LIAR! It is also denying the very reference that YOU provided. You expect everyone but yourself to accept the facts.

            Lépine, Monique; Gagné, Harold (2008). Aftermath. Viking Canada. ISBN 978-0-670-06969-9

            “Marc was baptized a Roman Catholic as an infant, but received no religious instruction during his childhood; his mother described her son as “a confirmed atheist all his life.”

          • It’s a standard, Chipper. Not your imagination.

            As usual, you have no idea what the words mean.

    • 1 woman is killed every 6 days in Canada. It will never heal.

  1. Feminists are responsible for 750,000 abortion murders every year in the US.

    Feminists are responsible for affirmative action, the systematic discrimination against and persecution of white men in society.

    It’s rare that we hear a mass murderers full story, about their life and what drove them past the tipping point.

    Even when we are given a glimpse we are expected to jump to politically correct conclusions.

    If feminism drove Lépine to murder, what are we doing to prevent another tragedy?

  2. Feminism is responsible for 750,000 abortion murders every year in the US.

    Feminism is responsible for the systematic discrimination against and persecution of white men in society.

    We rarely if ever are told the whole story of these mass killers. About the details of their lives that they perceived to drive them to commit murder.

    If we are given a glimpse, we are expected to jump to politically correct conclusions.

    If Feminism did push Lépine past the tipping point, what besides propaganda have we done to prevent it from happening again?

    Guns? One of the last mass killings was accomplished with a rental truck. I dare you to say rental trucks are “part of the problem”.

    If you think the takeaway from this is that you’ve got to be crazy to hate feminism, you’re sorely mistaken.

    • Oh do stop with the abortion nonsense.

      The bible not only doesn’t forbid it…..it gives instructions on how to do it.

      • Murder is murder.

        Are you living your life according to the doctrine of the bible now?

        Maybe you should.

        • LOLL I’ve actually read the bible…..it’s obvious you haven’t.

          • You can’t even spell Bible! How can anyone believe you’ve read it?

          • I spell it, I don’t regard it as sacred.

            And again. you’re diverting.

  3. Nice,

    The first comment didn’t appear but the comment counter increased by one. No change after several reloads.

    Then after rewriting, and posting a second time, both appear of course.

    The more the merrier.

  4. This is how women get killed……men who are confused by religion…as I said before.

  5. It must be very confusing to blame everything on something that you preach doesn’t exist.

    Post truth, if the fact that Lépine was a practicing atheist doesn’t fit your deluded world view, deny it.

  6. When you remember 750000 murdered children every year, I’ll remember a few feminists.

  7. Too much Xmas drinking going on at this time of year.

Sign in to comment.