The 3rd WWWave remembers Montreal, December 6th, 1989.

by Fazia Rizvi

A Day to Remember


December 6th, 1989.

Another woman just reminded me of the event that happened in Montreal, Canada on this day. A moment of silence is in order.

It's been eight years today since Marc Lepine entered L'Ecole Polytechnique Engineering School in Montreal, Canada, ushered the male students out of the room, lined the female students up against the wall, and shot them. He then moved around the school and continued the shooting. When it was all over, 14 women died, and 13 others were wounded. In Lepine's mind they deserved to die. Why? He felt they were feminists because of the simple fact that they were in an engineering school, and he felt all feminists should die.

A Random Act?

The problem is this was -- and still is -- considered a random act of violence by a madman. But Lepine left a suicide note after the killings clearly detailing that he killed the women because they were feminists and that he felt feminists had ruined his life. This was a politically motivated killing of those women. It was an act of war against women's rights and feminism. When terrorists kill tourists in Egypt we acknowledge that political gains and revolution are the foundation of their violence against innocent people. But the world still cannot come to grips with the socio-political aspects of violence against women. And so, almost ten years after the fact, society still shakes its collective head and mutters, "How sad. But it was just the act of a madman. What can you do? You can't rewrite the past!" No, we can't rewrite the past. But society can certainly pull its collective head up out of the ground and deal with the real repercussions of this incident.

Lepine was not that unusual. His suicide note reads like hundreds of familiar posts today to the newsgroup alt.feminism. The same misspelled, inarticulate fury at women who've changed the gender rules ends up in my personal e-mail box every other day from men who think my personal website focuses too much on women.

Random? Just a madman? Maybe not. Lepine also had a list of names of other well-known Canadian feminists that he thought should be killed. He wasn't just striking out in random. He'd thought of a methodical plan to strike back at an ideology. He'd declared war on feminism, and any women who didn't live up to his vision of how things should be, was an enemy. Maybe he stepped over the line into madness when he thought up the assassination plans - but the rest of his attitude is frighteningly familiar today.

Lepine's suicide note:

"Forgive the mistakes, I had 15 minutes to write this. Would you note that if I commit suicide today 89-12-06 it is not for economic reasons (for I have waited until I exhausted all my financial means, even refusing jobs) but for political reasons. Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker. For seven years life has brought me no joy and being totally blase, I have decided to put an end to those viragos. I tried in my youth to enter the Forces as a student-officer, which would have allowed me possibly to get into the arsenal and precede Lortie in a raid. They refused me because antisocial [sic]. I therefore had to wait until this day to execute my plans. In between, I continued my studies in a haphazard way for they never really interested me, knowing in advance my fate. Which did not prevent me from obtaining very good marks despite my theory of not handing in work and the lack of studying before exams. Even if the Mad Killer epithet will be attributed to me by the media, I consider myself a rational erudite that only the arrival of the Grim Reaper has forced to take extreme acts. For why persevere to exist if it is only to please the government. Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men. Thus it is an obvious truth that if the Olympic Games removed the Men-Women distinction, there would be Women only in the graceful events. So the feminists are not fighting to remove that barrier. They are so opportunistic they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men through the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can. Thus, the other day, I heard they were honoring the Canadian men and women who fought at the frontline during the world wars. How can you explain then that women were not authorized to go to the frontline??? Will we hear of Caesar's female legions and female galley slaves who of course took up 50 per cent of the ranks of history, though they never existed. A real Casus Belli. Sorry for this too brief letter. Marc Lepine

(the letter is followed by the 19 name list, with a note at the bottom:

"Nearly died today. The lack of time (because I started too late) has allowed these radical feminists to survive. Alea Jacta Est."

Focusing On The Symptoms and Not The Cause

Apparently men in Canada wear white ribbons at this time of year to indicate their committment to non-violence. But something about that bugs me.

The women were murdered because Lepine thought that feminism was evil, and that women should have no right to enter traditionally male domains. THAT's the reason they all died, but that's NOT what the men stand together in solidarity to condemn. Instead, they stand together and condemn just a simple symptom of the problem - the violence. But that violence - particularly against women - COMES FROM the attitudes of anti-feminists and how they think women should be treated!

The only up side to the aftermath is that the profile of Lepine has not overshadowed the memories of the *women*. Every year people are reminded of their names and who they were.

The Aftermath

One of the reasons this tragedy has always stuck in my mind is because of how STARKLY it illuminated the problem of the attitudes towards women who want to do more than small-minded men will let them. Every year I remember it, and every year I mourn for the victims. It was a tragedy and the women were victims, but I always expected that more would have come of this event than mourning and monuments and speeches once a year. I always expected that it would have sparked some major kind of movement, some activism, something that would improve women's situation and change our world for the better.

But each year that I remember these women, I get more and more disappointed at society's feeble attempts at patching up the symptoms of the real problems. From my perspective, things have simply gotten worse, and all the promises made to my generation sound emptier and emptier. Yes, now I have more opportunity to do more with my life than I could have dreamed of in the 1950's. But I do so with pepper spray in my purse, and an unlisted phone number. My single girlfriends put male voices on their answering machines, get P.O. Boxes to use instead of physical addresses, and are arming themselves with handguns at an unprecedented rate. We accomplish more than our mothers every dreamed of in the midst of a war zone. A war against women.

This year was the first time I'd heard that Lepine left a suicide note, and the first time I had the opportunity to read it. Of course it sent chills up my spine, but not for the usual reasons. Others might say it was just the ramblings of a bitter madman, and that's chilling enough. But it sent chills up MY spine because I've read it all before! It's all over alt.feminism. It's the jerk who spewed violent hate mail at me after I brushed off his attempts at Internet romance. There are more than plenty other men who think and SPEAK UP this way. There are more than plenty of them who AGREE with Lepine's thoughts. There are more than plenty of them who've sought out women's public spaces on the Internet to voice their dissatisfaction with women's rights, to the point of drowning out the women and dismantling their cyberspace. It seems there are more every day. I see them on college campuses, and I read their thoughts in the newspaper.

Others might read this and come to the horrified realization that, if things don't improve, we might have another incident like the Montreal massacre. But we already do. It's just one man killing one girlfriend, or one wife, or one woman who brushes him off at a time. It's the violent reactions and potent anger aimed at women anytime we say "no", or "I'll do what I want to do." It's the professional male anthropologists who get annoyed when a female colleague studies the social implications of this event. It's the male anthropologist who says "do you really think anyone cares?" when the subject of political motivations behind the violence of women is brought up. (*) It's an army of men gathering together and called themselves Promise Keepers to non-violently take away women's rights. And somehow all the feminist activism just isn't making enough of a dent. We need to be doing something different. We need to be doing something *effective*.

(*) The anthropologist is supposed to be interested in studying human cultural behavior, whether or not anyone else might be "interested" in it. He's supposed to study it from that culture's perspective as well. Unfortunately there are a lot of male anthropologists who just can't see anything from a woman's perspective, put themselves in women's positions, or be their cultural advocates.

Genevieve Bergeron, 21, was a 2nd year scholarship student in civil engineering.
Helene Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master's degree.
Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.
Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.
Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.
Maud Haviernick, 29, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.
Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a 2nd year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.
Maryse Laganiere, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.
Maryse Leclair, 23, was a 4th year student in engineering materials.
Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a 4th year student in mechanical engineering.
Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.
Michele Richard, 21, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials.
Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.
[IMAGE: Candle and rose]

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Copyright © 1997 by Fazia Rizvi

09/28/07 at 0:16