20 years ago today, our nation was confronted with the reality of violence and hate targeted at women.
20 years ago today, we all learned of the massacre of 14 engineering students—all women— by a man armed with a simple rifle and an arsenal of misogyny.
Between November 25 and December 10 each year, communities around the world mark 16-days of activism to end gender-based violence. Within those designated days fall a number of tragic anniversaries pertaining to violence against women including December 6: Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action.
The events conclude on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which begins by stating: We are all born free and equal.
This United Nations statement was enshrined into global consciousness on December 10, 1948. History remembers that women were once the legal property of men in this country. Today, we know that women continue to be the property of men in many communities. Clearly the world has a great distance to go before “free and equal” becomes a reality for half the human race.
We all know this. We all know the kind of lives that girls and women must bear simply for being born female. But we often dismiss this reality, feeling overwhelmed and uncertain as how to parse the multiple issues and affect real change. How do we act in the face of this reality?
In thinking about today, I have recalled my earlier years of activism and weighed them against change. It is difficult to see that those years have had little effect. Indeed, I often believe that misogyny is becoming even more entrenched. Everyday we are reminded of violence against women: the advertising, the news items, the crime shows, the video games, the movies, and the music in our lives. Too much of our cultural expression bears the smear of sexism and the brand of violence in all its forms.
Yet, how often do we call it sexism, misogyny? Have we become afraid to name it for what it is? Perhaps we are socially ashamed to admit that women and girls continue to be treated as lesser peoples in even our society.
And yet we still give the same tired gender lessons: boys are naturally aggressive and girls passive. Violence and sexism still holds us all hostage—women and men, girls and boys. Like domestic violence, are we afraid to speak up for fear of making it worse? Or do we think it will go away on its own?
In revisiting the trauma of that day, I have been questioning change.
For many, the actions of that gunman at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal were the actions of a madman. But can any of us discern where that line is? When sociallyembedded hate morphs into madness into murder?
Today is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action.
Anne-Marie Edward was killed in the Montreal Massacre. Her mother, along with survivors of the shootings, passionately campaigned for the creation of the gun registry. Recently, Suzanne Laplante-Edward implored all of us to remember the kind of devastation a single rifle can inflict in just 22 minutes: 14 dead, 27 wounded.
Just a few weeks ago, Bill C-391 was passed in parliament and, if passed in the senate, the gun registry will be abolished.
How do we call ourselves to remember and to act? Where do we find awareness, language, and action.
In remembering this terrible anniversary, I look to the action of young women heading up the Miss G Project who are fighting to get women’s studies courses into high school. They understand that we all need more than the occasional text book sidebar to reflect the lives of girls and women.
In remembering this terrible anniversary, I look to the men of the white ribbon campaign who are working to educate boys and men. Who are working to breakdown hate against women.
In remembering this anniversary, I look to the December 6 Fund which provides loans for women escaping violence.
In remembering this anniversary I look to myself to find the hope and the courage to continue to fight for equality of all persons, for the realization of all human potential, for change.
Please join me now in a minute of silence to collectively mark this National Day of Remembrance and Action.