Feminists are so often accused of being sexist, as if fighting for our rights and safety is somehow taking something away from men. And a good amount of the time in 2014, it’s fairly easy to ignore statements that insist that we’re somehow being “misandrist” towards men by talking about issues that affect us daily. But when another woman is killed by a man, the conversation turns from being annoying to being necessary. Because in 2014, we’re still not past the legacy of the École Polytechnique Massacre in Montreal, Quebec.
On December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine, a 25-year-old man armed with a rifle and a hunting knife, killed fourteen women studying at the technical college before turning the gun on himself. He said that his motives were to fight feminism, and he had picked out the names of women who he considered dangerous feminists. He shot a total of 28 people – twenty women, and four men. It is perhaps the largest and bloodiest misogynistic killing in Canada. December 6, 2014, is the twenty-fifth anniversary of this killing – a killing that happened because a hurt and jilted man decided that feminists and feminism needed to die.
It’s easy for us to sit back and pretend that women aren’t being killed because of their sex nowadays. But the fact of the matter is, it continues to happen. Many men continue to be threatened by feminism, by the changing tide of social justice. They continue to hate women for rejecting them sexually, for ignoring them, and for speaking their minds. Elliot Rodger, a young man in Isla Vista, California, killed women because he hated them for rejecting his sexual advances. Women are often beaten, raped, and murdered for responding badly to street harassment. And over 1500 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada are considered a low priority by the government, not only because they’re women, but also because they’re indigenous. Women, in this culture, are still considered throwaway beings, second-class and for the sole use of men. It’s desperately sad. It’s desperately scary.
When we live in a world where feminism has done so much, but has so much further to go when it comes to including our sisters of colour, who are trans, who are gay, who are disabled; when I receive search terms and threats on my blog that state that they want to kill me, to kill women, for being feminists and speaking out for our rights; when one in five women will be sexually assaulted; when women in tech are overridden and ignored by men; and when simply being a woman in gaming means that men are ready to ignore your voice and send death threats because you pointed out misogyny in video games?
What is the legacy left by the Montreal Massacre? Is it really going to be “never again” when it comes to hurting and killing women in the name of misogyny?
Feminism isn’t just about protecting women. It’s about ending violence so that men can remain safe, too: gay men, trans men, and straight, white men. It’s about erasing the idea that being womanly means something negative. And it’s about protecting women so that they can make a difference. I don’t practice activism because it’s fun. I do it because I believe that no one should have to die at the hands of someone who hates them.
On this National Day of Mourning, I say this: the women who died in the Montreal Massacre did not die in vain. We as feminists are working to ensure that misogyny will be in history books only. It may not happen in our lifetime, but the tide is turning. Men may still see us as “sexist”, but what we see is a future where women are equal, safe, and respected – just the same as men.
Read their names. Say their names. They died because another man thought women were below him, low enough to die at his hands. They died because of misogyny. And we won’t ever stop fighting to ensure that this will never happen again.
We remember. We won’t ever forget.