25 years ago today, a gunman entered the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, in Canada, killing 14 women and injuring another 14 people in the name of "fighting feminism," before taking his own life. The most unfortunate, the most heartbreaking, the most infuriating part of this all is that the same misogyny that fueled the mass murder is still alive and well.
In the suicide letter written by 25-year-old Marc Lépine before he embarked on his killing spree, he wrote of the feminists who have "always ruined my life." He wrote, "The feminists always have a talent for enraging me. They want to retain the advantages of being women...while trying to grab those of men... " The ramblings continue.
I don't aim to highlight the words of a crazed gunman. I included the quote because the same exact sentiments, these legitimately demented ideas about women that are rooted in fear and hatred continue to motivate violence against women. We've heard it all before, and we continue to hear it. Just this past May, the UCSB gunman echoed this very attitude, shooting and killing six people. These are not just attacks on feminists or feminism. They are attacks on women. Every goddamned day women are targeted for having the audacity to be a woman and are subjected to some violence as punishment.
And yet, when something like this happens, women's right to anger is the first thing to go. It is invalidated and ignored. Over at the Ottawa Citizen, Shelley Page, a journalist who covered the mass murder when it happened explains how feminist outrage over the blatant attack on women and feminism had been "sanitized" and silenced by the media. How even sending female reporters to the scene of the massacre had raised concerns surrounding "objectivity." And how she was complicit in this.
When I review the stories I wrote, I almost never used the word feminist; I never profiled the achievements of one of the slain engineering students or the obstacles she'd toppled. I never interviewed a single woman who was angry, only those who were merely sad. Why? No one told me what not to write, but I just knew, in the way I knew not to seem strident in a workplace where I'd already learned how to laugh at sexist jokes and to wait until a certain boss had gone for the day before ripping down Penthouse centrefolds taped on the wall near his desk.
My stories were restrained, diligent and cautious. For years, I remembered one of my sentences with particular pride. Reading it now, it shows everything that was wrong with how I covered the event:
They stood crying before the coffins of strangers, offering roses and tiger lilies to young women they never knew.
I turned the dead engineering students into sleeping beauties who received flowers from potential suitors.
I should have referred to the buildings they wouldn't design, the machines they wouldn't create and the products never imagined.
They weren't killed for being daughters or girlfriends, but because they were capable women in a male-dominated field.
I should have written that then.
The hatred towards women that fuels attacks like the Montreal Massacre is incredibly repulsive, so for feminism to be sanitized and scrubbed from the situation is beyond disappointing. Feminism and its outrage aren't meant to be pretty. They aren't meant to be restrained, cleansed, or censored. And they are not meant to be forgotten. These are the names of the women who lost their lives 25 years ago on December 6:
Geneviève Bergeron, Helene Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte.
Image via AP.