(Trigger warning: violence against women)
Twenty five years ago in Montreal, a man walked into a classroom and cleared out the men. He killed fourteen women he didn’t know, but raged against them because “You’re all a bunch of feminists.” He knew nothing about these women except their sex, and he made it clear that’s why he was doing it.
It’s appalling that Justice Minister Peter MacKay suggested it’s a mystery. Earlier this week he commented on the December 6 massacre, saying in the House of Commons, “We may never understand … why these women were singled out for this horrific act of violence.” NDP leader Tom Mulcair responded, “It’s because they were women.”
Yes. It’s because they were women.
I lived in Montreal at the time of the murders, and heard men in the YMCA gym say, “It’s not because they were women. The guy was crazy.” That made me so mad I wanted to shout “He separated the women and men!” But what was I going to say, a lone woman in the weight room in the basement of the Y? Nothing.
I understand that it could make men uncomfortable to be in the same group as someone that decides to kill. It’s less uncomfortable to say he was “crazy.” The killer made an extraordinary choice for the time, and not extraordinary in a good way. But violence against women is not an unusual choice, and murder is one end of a continuum that is shown every day. We are never at a loss for examples.
In Canada, 100,000 women and children will leave their homes in a year to escape violence. Every five days, a woman is killed by her partner. Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to grow up to be abusers or victims than peers who don’t witness violence. And yet we ask women what they might have done to bring on violence, sexual assault, or abuse.
Meghan Murphy writes about the social messages women receive in How Much Longer Are Women Going To Be Told To ‘Just Try To Cope’? “Men rape, it’s our responsibility to take precautions to avoid being raped. Men are violent, don’t piss them off. Men have needs, they can’t control those needs.” Sean Michaels wrote a great piece reflecting on December 6. He says,”The oppression of women is one of our eldest systems. And it is subtle. Bizarre: here is a thing as rife as garbage and yet it is so camouflaged that a man will sometimes claim, deluded, ‘We have solved it.'”
There are over one thousand of missing and murdered Indigenous women who seem to have no value to the powers that could do something about it. Every day trans women are violated. Half of the women in Canada will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes.
We haven’t solved it at all.
I wish I had a magic response to ending this. I don’t. But I have a community, and resilience. I work to help the girls and women I care for feel this too. Tomorrow, December 6, look at the girls and women around you. As things are, every second woman has, or will experience violence. That’s way too many.
There will be an event in Vancouver on December 6 starting at 1030 AM: Connect at the Marker of Change. .