Geneviève Bergeron. Hélène Colgan. Nathalie Croteau. Barbara Daigneault. Anne-Marie Edward. Maud Haviernick. Maryse Laganière. Maryse Leclair. Anne-Marie Lemay. Sonia Pelletier. Michèle Richard. Annie St-Arneault. Annie Turcotte. Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz. Their names have not been forgotten.
Twenty five years ago at the École Polytechnique de Montréal, Marc Lepine shot and killed fourteen women and injured ten before turning the gun on himself. In his suicide note, Lepine explains that he was going “to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker.”
Fourteen women dead because of misogyny.
Do I think things or better, or that times have changed? No. Though I can’t comment on how much has changed in the last twenty-five years–I was four when the massacre took place–I do not feel that there has been a societal shift during my adult life. Canadian society is the same colonial heteropatriarchy it was in 1989.
The fact that since 1980 nearly 1200 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or have been murdered is undeniable proof that nothing has changed. When one considers that Indigenous women make up only 4.3% of the total population of women in Canada yet comprise 16% of all murdered women, one can see that there is something wrong with the system. When the Prime Minister states that “We should not view [the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls statistics] as a sociological phenomenon. We should view it as crime,” it is also clear how little the lives of Indigenous women matter to the Canadian government.
Speaking more broadly about women of all ethnicities in Canada, statistically, although women and men are recipients of the same amount of violence–at least violence that is reported–the majority of violent acts committed on women are done by men. The types of violence that are perpetuated are different as well: for women it is sexual assault, whereas for men it is physical violence or homicide.
Sexual assault, like other kinds of gendered violence against women is about control. This need for domination is embedded clearly within the social tenets of patriarchy.
That is why when women stand up to gendered violence perpetrated by men, the men get so angry (or at least that has been my experience): the woman or women are not allowing themselves to be subordinated.
What Lepine did was certainly an extreme example of gendered violence against women, yet there are other men who have done the same since: Paul Brenardo (and his wife Karla Homolka) sexually assaulted and killed two teenage girls, while Robert Pictkon killed dozens of sex workers from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (many of whom were Indigenous). There are many, many more, though these three examples are the most publicized.
So where does this leave us as a society, if approximately half of the population* could be the victim of violence? How do we fix this? What needs to be done, and by whom?
*Admittedly this is a reductionist and problematic binary I’m using here: there are many more conceptions of gender than the male/female dualism that is used in Eurowestern nations and that I’ve employed above. I believe that there are many different genders and genders can be fluid. I’m not sure if using cisfemale would be appropriate either since my understanding of cis- is that it is based on a binary.