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


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 »


Roundtable: Thoughts on the Omega Women + Power Conference

September 19, 2009

Welcome to the F-Wave Blog!  This is a space for seven young women to talk about issues of importance to our lives and communities, and to learn from each others’ experiences (and have a little fun while doing it.)  We met last weekend at the Omega Institute’s Women + Power Conference, and so we thought it would be appropriate for our first “roundtable” post to be a wrap-up of the conference.  You can learn more about us on the “About” page.  You can also follow this blog using the RSS Feed link to the right, or follow us on Twitter @thefwave. We hope you enjoy reading, and always feel free to give us your feedback in the comments section, or by e-mailing us (e-mails found on the About page).

Val:

This was the feminism my father warned me about.  Or more specifically, these were the feminists my father worried about.  Gloria Steinem and her bra-burning gang of man-hating , castrating, abortion-loving Feminazis.  This is not to say that there was any bra-burning (just bra abstaining) or castrating (that I know of) at the Women + Power Conference.  But these were women of all ages, who threw around words like “heteronormativity” and discussed female power and subjugation with flagrant abandon—and they were certainly more than this OC girl had ever seen together at one time.  Perhaps that is what struck me most about the conference.  Sitting on the shuttle, winding through the mists and the mountains of upstate New York, I was electrified with excitement at my realization that I was sitting on a bus full of young women JUST LIKE ME.  And not like me at all.  Dozens of women from all backgrounds who were brought together because we believe in Feminism, not as an antiquated study of generations past, but as a living and vital force in our own contemporary culture.  We are not too distracted by our iStuff to notice that women are still not receiving pay equal to men, that we are still afraid to walk the city streets alone at night, that we still feel the eye of the male gaze.  And not only that, but these we young women see the injustice of a world where heterosexuality is the standard by which all else is judged.  We see that people of color continue to be treated as second class citizens, even in states like my own, where they are the majority.  We see all of these things, and we will not stand by.  That refusal to be complicit, to be silent, to be complacent was the bolstering impression that I took with me from Omega.  Yes, there were shortcomings.  White, middle-aged, upper-middle-class women still comprised the majority of the participants.  Young women (meaning under the age of thirty), were given a shockingly small voice.  Issues of gender and sexuality went largely unmentioned.  But the truly young women were not of this nature, and coming from a generation who has supposedly tuned out from the pressing issues of the day, it was exhilarating to find that we are everywhere, and we are fighting.

Lisa:

So much of my feminist learnin’ comes from reading books and blogs. The conference really reminded me that discussion and actually making opinionated statements are much more valuable than sitting at a computer screen, nodding your head in agreement with the text you’re reading.

Becky:

Omega was a transformative experience for me. I’ve been feeling very burnt out this year, and was even questioning my commitment to my program and school in general. Spending this weekend with all these wonderful women was just the kind of energy boost I needed. Everything seemed more than I could possibly dream, like getting to speak to Gloria Steinem, meeting and hanging out with the wonder women of Feministing.com, hearing from women across the board on issues of interest to me. Most of all, getting to meet some new best friends from all over Canada and the U.S. was my absolute favourite part.

We spoke a lot of the communities that feminism creates among women. And even though we had only just met hours before, and we had very little in common as a group other than our feminism, we were able to connect on a level that allowed us to share our thoughts, voices and experiences without any fear of judgement, reprisal or rejection. One of my most overwhelming experiences was getting to talk about body issues in the sauna. For the first time in my life, my body was just a body, not for anyone’s consumption, and I loved it so much. It made me realise how important these woman-woman connections are to understanding and accepting ourselves. And in light of the inter-generational dialogue theme of the conference, I think it’s reflected in our need to interact with and hear the stories of women of all ages, from all backgrounds and experiences. There was an energy on that campus, and it wasn’t just the estrogen permeating the air, lol. There was an air of possibility and hope and power. Sure there are a lot of issues we still need to work on, like the representation of non-hetero sexualities, but overall there was a feeling that no matter what, we can overcome any obstacles in our way. The movement is strong within us. 🙂

Mary:

The Women + Power conference was kind of attitude-altering for me.  Having the privilege of seeing some of my heroes (Gloria Steinem, Samhita and Jessica of Feministing) and finding new role models (Sakena Yacoobi and Helen Thomas), and making friends with other young women who relate to me geeking out over powerful interesting, motivated at talented women of all walks of life really made me realize I am much more interested in being PART of the feminist movement.  I might not end up protesting down the streets of DC with a bullhorn and a battle-cry (which is awesome) but I do think that being active in some way, verbally on a blog, politically by voting, etc, or socially by simply making waves when someone in my home says something racist or sexist is imperative.  I like the idea of being more conscious and feminist in my daily life even if I don’t make a career of it.  As a young, broke, brown woman from a different walk of life than many of my fellow conference attendees, I feel getting my perspective in the mix on the general blogosphere is an important step in creating a holistic community.

Judith:

For me, the conference was a mixture of feeling very empowered at times and dealing with a lot of anger at other times.  On the one hand, I had a great feeling of being in this “safe” space.  Not only was it safe in the sense of not worrying about the negative energy that comes from being stared at on the street, or safe in the sense of being able to express my views, but also safe in funny little ways like not having to worry about accidentally eating meet in the dining hall.  It was wonderful to get away from my life, to recharge, to do some yoga, to meet some amazing women, and to assess where I am in my life and where I’m going.  I also enjoyed connecting with women of different generations, even though some of that experience was colored by the heteronormativity and privilege of it all.

On the flip side, I found myself frequently questioning my own reactions, especially to the women on stage.  Interspersed with wonderful wisdom and insight from Gloria Steinem, Helen Thomas, Isabel Allende, etc. were some comments that sat funny with me.  There was a lot of talk about how women, while trying to empower themselves, have become too aggressive, not embracing their “feminine,” caring side.  This was often linked to children and family and (sometimes) men.  There was also lots of talk of mentoring, which I think is great, but where does one find a mentor on the street?  So I reacted to a lot of this with a mix of “hmm, maybe I do need to allow myself to be more emotional” and the more abrasive “fuck that shit.”  The juxtaposition of these groups of traits as “masculine” and “feminine” was especially troubling.  I felt some essentialization of “woman” creeping in, and it made me feel like an outsider at times.  That said, the conference has given me a lot to think about, and I’m so excited about blogging with these amazing women.