Today is the 12th day of 2007’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. It is also the anniversary of the Montreal massacre. On 6 December 1989, 18 years ago today, Marc Lepine murdered 14 women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique. He murdered them because they were women. He stormed an engineering classroom carrying a gun, then he ordered the men to leave. He opened fire on the women, screaming
I hate feminists as he shot. Then he moved through the building, still shooting, always at women, killing a total of 14 women and injuring 8 before he ended the terror by shooting himself.
6 December is a day of remembrance for the women who were killed. They were:
- Geneviève Bergeron, aged 21
- Hélène Colgan, 23
- Nathalie Croteau, 23
- Barbara Daigneault, 22
- Anne-Marie Edward, 21
- Maud Haviernick, 29
- Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31
- Maryse Leclair, 23
- Annie St.-Arneault, 23
- Michèle Richard, 21
- Maryse Laganière, 25
- Anne-Marie Lemay, 22
- Sonia Pelletier, 28; and
- Annie Turcotte, aged 21
The Montreal Massacre was horrifying and shocking. But we also have to remember that it’s less unusual than we all think. Yes, it’s a terrible freak event that some madman massacred women he had never even met because of his sociopathic hatred. But every day women are raped, beaten, and killed by men–and it’s usually not by strangers, but by men they know and thought they could trust. They are attacked just because they are women–because the men who assault them believe that they have the right to control women’s lives and their sexual choices, and to hurt them or force them if they don’t agree. By conservative estimates, one out of every four women is raped or beaten by an intimate partner sometime in her life. Take a moment to think about that. How much it is. What it means for the women who are attacked. What it means for all women who live in the shadow of that threat.
Today is a day to remember fourteen innocent women who died at the hands of a self-conscious gender terrorist. Like most days of remembrance, it should also be a day of action. I mean practical action.. And I mean radical action. I mean standing up and taking concrete steps toward the end to violence against women in all of its forms. Without excuses. Without exceptions. Without limits. And without apologies.
I want to see this men’s movement make a commitment to ending rape because that is the only meaningful commitment to equality. It is astonishing that in all our worlds of feminism and antisexism we never talk seriously about ending rape. Ending it. Stopping it. No more. No more rape. In the back of our minds, are we holding on to its inevitability as the last preserve of the biological? Do we think that it is always going to exist no matter what we do? All of our political actions are lies if we don’t make a commitment to ending the practice of rape. This commitment has to be political. It has to be serious. It has to be systematic. It has to be public. It can’t be self-indulgent.
The same is true of every form of everyday gender terrorism: stalking, beating, confinement, forced labor, rape, murder. How could we face Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Maria Klucznik, Maryse Leclair, Annie St.-Arneault, Michèle Richard, Maryse Laganière, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, and Annie Turcotte, and tell them we did anything less?
Take some time to keep the 14 women who were killed in the Montreal massacre in your thoughts. If there is a vigil today in your community (1, 2), attend it. Speak out in memory for the women who died, and against the pervasive regime of systematic male violence against women. If you are a member of other movements (as many of my readers are members of the libertarian, anarchist, or anti-authoritarian Left movements), use today to bring a strong feminist voice to your comrades in those movements, to speak out on how any comprehensive human liberation must include the end of systematic violence against women. If you don’t know enough to speak out, make an effort today to learn more (1, 2, 3, 4). Make a contribution to your local battered women’s shelter. Find a local group that works to end domestic violence or rape or any other form of violence against women, and ask them what you can do as a volunteer or as a supporter to help them in their efforts. Don’t worry about what’s
reformist; think about what kind of concrete action can concretely undermine violence against women, starting today.
Feminists should remember that while we often don’t take ourselves very seriously, the men around us often do. I think that the way we can honor these women who were executed, for crimes that they may or may not have committed–which is to say, for political crimes–is to commit every crime for which they were executed, crimes against male supremacy, crimes against the right to rape, crimes against the male ownership of women, crimes against the male monopoly of public space and public discourse. We have to stop men from hurting women in everyday life, in ordinary life, in the home, in the bed, in the street, and in the engineering school. We have to take public power away from men whether they like it or not and no matter what they do. If we have to fight back with arms, then we have to fight back with arms. One way or another we have to disarm men. We have to be the women who stand between men and the women they want to hurt. We have to end the impunity of men, which is what they have, for hurting women in all the ways they systematically do hurt us.
–Andrea Dworkin (1990): Mass Murder in Montreal, Life and Death, 105–114.
Every year I make a point of explaining that I’m pointing the finger at a sexist patriarchal misogynist society rather than individual men. This year I choose not to do that. The time for assigningblameis so far in the past (if indeed there ever was such a time), and that conversation takes us nowhere. This is the time for action, for change. Remember Parliament’s 1991 enactment of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women — the glorious moment when every single womyn in the House stood together and claimed this Day of Remembrance. Remember what we can and do accomplish — all of us — when we work together. It is time to demand change, and to act on that demand. Let’s break the cycle of violence, and let’s do it now.
Remember. Mourn. Act.