Monday, December 7, 2009

"Montreal Massacre"

disclaimer: this is likely to be fairly random, poorly written, possibly even incoherent. This is 'stream of consciousness", triggered both by the anniversary, and by reading some others' responses to that anniversary.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the murder of 14 (and injury of 14 more) at École Polytechnique in Montreal. All 14 of the dead, and 10 of the wounded were women. Not an accidental statistic... Marc Lepine, the shooter, himself blamed "feminists" for all his troubles.

This disturbed man accomplished his goal... he got his revenge before turning the gun on himself (whether out of guilt, or fear of retribution or the judicial system we'll never know). But his actions that day, and the results, had another result he likely never expected and would not have wanted. The shock and outrage spurred a movement to draw attention to violence against women and make such actions less socially acceptable... in Canada, at least.

I say LESS socially acceptable, because sadly there are thousands of violent acts perpetrated against women on a daily basis purely because they are women and because someone feels that the only way they can feel better about themselves is to grind someone else down.

I was in highschool, at an all girls' school when the massacre took place. For obvious reasons, it was a 'hot topic' there, but in the midst of the Scarborough Rapist's reign of terror it was, to some extent, a background issue to a teen girl in Toronto/Scarborough. It was overwhelming to contemplate... so it simply wasn't.

Then I hit University... to study Engineering, originally. Suddenly, it took on a new significance. Women in Engineering were a minority. We were outnumbered. We were seen differently (well, we were seen differently by those outside the faculty, more than inside). We were 'sisters' of the victims. The reactions of men of a more misogynistic bent to women in a traditionally male field became more than just theoretical. It bound us together and made us stronger.

Memories of events like this gave me strength when I was stalked... strength to take action; to seek assistance instead of just accepting that "these things happen to girls".

Memories of events like this helped (eventually) give me strength to leave a relationship with a man who was systematically abusive... in his words and actions, in isolating me from friends and family, in routinely belittling and insulting me, in pursuing actions he knew damn well were unwelcome and unwanted.

Marc Lepine may have taken these lives, but his actions that day helped ensure that a generation of women (and men) would fight against the fear and, partly out of anger and outrage, become the very people he would have despised for their self-assurance and strength.

But Marc Lepine was not automatically and whole-heartedly some kind of demon. He was a man with problems. A man who had a warped view of the world and the cause of his personal problems. A man of questionable mental health with a mother who loved him, who loves him still, and who deals daily with the struggle of equating her son with the man who perpetrated this violence. A mother who had herself been victimized by a man she at some point trusted. He is someone to be pitied, not blindly condemned. But a man who created a situation that could not be ignored... that MUST not be ignored.

20 years have passed. There are annual memorial events. There have been some changes, but there's still room for improvement.