December 6th – Remembering the Montreal Massacre

December 6, 2009

My fingers were bitten by the cold air as they clasped the candle. My breath blew out in white clouds that dissipated quickly in the night. Snow was falling softly, quietly, passively  among the gathered crowd. It was almost too cold for the tears wiped quickly from our eyes. Here, in Minto Park, in Ottawa, we gathered to remember.

20 years ago, on December 6th, fourteen women were murdered at L’École Polytechnique in Montréal. They were murdered by a man because they were women. Because they were women who dared to pursue a university degree in engineering, a field that continues to be traditionally dominated by men. The man in question, Marc Lepine,  blamed his own failures on feminism. On women’s “intrusion” into men’s privileged world. We remember these women and the tragedy that happened 20yrs ago. And we come together to address the continued perpetuation of these attitudes today.

Other names were mentioned, but it’s their stories that hit home. Distinct, despite their similarities. A woman, murdered in her driveway, by her estranged husband. A 5yr old girl, murdered, by a 20yr old man. The most horrific, three young girls and a woman, found in a submerged car. Their father, mother, and brother charged for their deaths. The woman had been their father’s first wife. Their lives were too inconvenient too be spared. We also remembered the most vulnerable in our communities. The names of First Nation women who are murdered or disappeared are added weekly to a list held by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. And so rarely do their stories appear in our media. It has been called Canada’s greatest human rights crisis.

These women died because our society perpetuates violence against women as acceptable, and even humourous. They were murdered by men who bought into the idea of defensive masculinity. That it is somehow okay to treat women as less than human, as unworthy of respect. That they don’t deserve it. That they don’t deserve life. These are not isolated incidents. These attitudes exist on a broad scale and are systemically enabled through society’s tolerance of patriarchal norms.

But, there is hope. I stood, shoulder to shoulder with my male friends as well, the candles we held lighting up their frostbitten cheeks too. They stand with us, and for us, in recognition that these are not isolated incidents, and that they are part of the solution. I am so proud of all of them, those who came to the vigils held on campus, at the University of Ottawa, and at Minto Park, for the entire city.

One of the speakers, shared his story about growing up watching his father repeatedly abuse his mother and the other women in his life. I was especially touched by his description of his identity: feminist masculinity. I like this description for our male allies. It gives them a place within the movement for change. Violence against women is an issue so huge, that we need to work together if we’re going to construct a better future. This is why we are feminists. Because this matters.

We can all be part of the solution to end violence against women. Remember December 6th, but remember the women who live this every day as well. And actively work with us for a future where they will never have to.

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

http://womenwontforget.org/
The Star: Lessons of the Montreal Massacre
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89cole_Polytechnique_massacre
(see the bottom of the wikipedia article for more links)

~Bex

Advertisements

Feminine Feminism? Part II: Challenging Perceptions

November 24, 2009

Here it is! This is Part 2 of 2 on challenging our conceptions of feminism and femininity. Part 1 may be found here.

In Part 1, we discussed how femininity and feminism are not antithetical to one another, as inspired by this Feministing post. Here, I want to discuss the image and presentation of femininity, and how it influences our perceptions.

One of the tumblrs that I follow is La Douleur Exquise by Miss Wallflower that is basically a celebration of all things feminine. Every day dozens of pictures are uploaded that reflect the general theme, emphasizing fashion photography, bon bons, woodland creatures, books, tea and inspirational quotes. I am acutely aware of its flaws. The majority of women featured are white and waif-like. It emphasizes traditional gender roles and promotes women’s sexuality and aesthetic appeal as their primary quality. But for its artistic merit, it also forces me to confront these images, and question how their meaning is received today.

My feminist theory professor was also really into art, so receiving the presentation and questioning the meaning of these images goes hand in hand with cultural feminism for me. For example, here are a few photographs that piqued my interest:

Girl kissing boy on bench Read the rest of this entry »


Feminine Feminism? Part I: Challenging Definitions

November 17, 2009

This is Part 1 of 2 on challenging our conceptions of feminism and femininity. Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next day or so…

I read an article the other day that I found through Feministing that has brought to mind a lot of questions about femininity. The article written by Karen Salmansohn is titled ‘Are You a Feminist, or a Feminine-ist?’. The title of the article immediately set off some warning bells, but I gamely read on. Salmansohn is basically highlighting her theory behind and solution for the modern discomfort with the word feminism. Here’s how I read the article:

“…Almost from the introduction of the word “feminism” into our world, the definition has become corroded to mean something less than complimentary than its original intent. Somewhere along the line, to be a feminist started to mean a woman who’s basically unattractive both in looks and spirit.”

Okay, I would strongly disagree, but I understand that this perception exists…

“I find this negative connotation to be shameful and highly unhelpful. Women could truly benefit from finding a more inspiring word than “feminism” to stand by, as well as stand for, when seeking to become our most powerful and successful selves.”

Really? I agree with the unhelpful negative connotation, but ‘feminism’ is pretty damn inspiring to me…

“We don’t have to make a choice between feminine or powerful and successful. We can be all those things.”

OOH! OOH! Bingo! I definitely agree with this point! Okay keep going…

“With this in mind, I’d like to put forth that starting today, the word ‘feminism’ be updated to become the new word ‘feminine-ism.’”

Wait, WHAT!?!? Eff that.

And so the article goes on. I mean, I understand where the writer is coming from. In our exploration of independence as women, the sacrifice/rejection of traditionally feminine things was necessary at times in order to challenge society to redefine its norms. It also opened up incredible new avenues for women who felt restricted by these gendered roles and images. Today, we are in a much better place to reclaim some of these so-called ‘feminine’ practices. Read the rest of this entry »


Roundtable: On Discovering Feminism

October 10, 2009

This week’s roundtable will feature each of our feminist origin stories – how we came to identify as feminists and how it has impacted and shaped our lives. One of my favourite parts of meeting other feminists is hearing all the many, many paths that lead women to take on this identity. Some have always known, and others took a longer journey. It’s interesting to see what varied backgrounds we have to bring to the movement, and I think its a testament to our strength that all these women and male allies can identify with something that has a slightly different meaning for each.

So, read on and enjoy our stories, and leave your own in the comments!

~Bex

Read the rest of this entry »


Take Back the Night! And reclaim our spaces: Ottawa Edition

September 25, 2009

Every September, the women and allies of Ottawa take to the streets to rally for safer streets for women. But it’s not just about taking back the night. It’s about coming together and showing everyone just how powerful we have become. We demand safety, we demand an end to violence against women, we demand justice, and hell, we want it NOW.

This year, I was late. Yep, that’s right, missed the rally at Minto park because I got the time wrong lol. Thankfully, marches like this don’t usually go very fast, so a light jog is enough to catch up. It was kind of funny, jogging along Rideau Street. I had feminist buttons pinned to my jeans, and was wearing an old white t-shirt I had cut the neck out of and turned inside out with ‘RIOTS not DIETS!’ scrawled on with a red marker (inspired by Val: THANKS!). I was clearly late for the giant march that had just gone by. As I joined the ranks of the march it was wonderful to see such a crowd! The male allies were respectfully holding up the rear guard, and the very large, diverse group of women were yelling “WOMEN! UNITED! WE’LL NEVER BE DEFEATED!” as they rattled cans, banged drums, shook tambourines and screamed about women’s rights with smiles on their faces. I was really happy to see some First Nations women leading the drums at the front. I found some friends quickly, exchanged hellos and joined the chant.

And then they handed me a megaphone.

Read the rest of this entry »