It was December 6, 1989. It was the first time I felt the wrath of antifeminism when I learned of what later became known as the Montreal Massacre. A very sick man, whose name I will not glorify, entered École Polytechnique with mass murder as his intent. The school, associated with Université de Montréal, ranks first in Canada for its scope in engineering research. This monster walked into a classroom, told the men to leave and brutally gunned down the female students. Fourteen women died that night: 12 engineering students, one nursing student and one employee. The murderer made it clear he wanted to kill women, shouting “I hate feminists” as he walked through the school looking for his next victims. A suicide note found in his pocket after he turned the gun on himself revealed that he had intentions of killing even more women. After witnessing the horrifying event, an additional two students later committed suicide. May they all rest in peace.
In Canada, we honour 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence that starts on November 25 with International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women through to December 10 International Human Rights Day. Included is Canada’s unique National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women on December 6 to honour those that died at the Montreal Massacre.
Violence against women is a violation of human rights. Every woman and girl in the world deserves to live a life free of intimidation, threat, mutilation, sexual control and fear. Physical, sexual and mental abuse not only prevents women from fully participating in society but also costs in health care, legal expenses, lost productivity and social development.
Awareness is only the start. Eliminating abuse and violence against women requires leadership as well as efforts from women, men, parents, politicians, you, me…everyone. It will take police vigilance in dismantling Incels (self-proclaimed involuntary celibate online men who incite violence against women) and stopping human trafficking. It will take legislation to catch up on rape kit backlog and change gun laws. It will take countries to stop female circumcision. The list of contributing changes that need to occur is overwhelming.
Where do we start? It doesn’t matter. Just start somewhere. Support your local women’s shelter. Volunteer. Donate. Write a letter to your local politician. Keep an eye on your neighbour. Believe victims. Keep watch on your children’s behaviour and the behaviour of their friends. Question the schools your children attend. Interject into sexist berating. Condemn sexist humour. Inquire if you see questionable behaviour. Educate yourself. Do something. If you do nothing, nothing will change.