Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advantages of being a woman???

Twenty years ago today, Marc Lepine entered the École Polytechnique in Montreal and shot and killed the following women:

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

I didn't attend École Polytechnique, and I wasn't an engineering student. But at the time of the shooting, I was a university student, I was a woman, I was a feminist, and for me, that day was as horrifically memorable and life-altering as the events of September 11, 2001.

The "Montreal Massacre" was the first school shooting in Canada, and most of us just didn't believe that that kind of thing happened here. But it was also very different from so many of the mass shootings we hear about even today. For one thing, Marc Lepine did not personally know any of his victims. He did not attend the school with them. It wasn't a simple case of someone being bullied to the point where it was intolerable, or having a personal issue with someone and innocent bystanders getting in the way - it was a deliberate, premeditated attack on an entire gender. Women.

Marc Lepine separated male students from female, and targeted women exclusively during his rampage. His suicide note said he hated feminists,

"for seeking social changes that "retain the advantages of being women [...]
while trying to grab those of the men."

Because he targeted women, December 6th has become (in Canada), a national day of mourning for all female victims of all violent men.

But when we talk about Marc Lepine as a symbol of violence against women, we usually do so because he targeted women. I think it might be more important to remember that Lepine himself witnessed - and was a victim of -- domestic violence while growing up. Statistics clearly prove that "75% of boys who witness domestic violence have been found to have demonstrable behavioral problems". So maybe it's more fitting to see Marc Lepine as a symbol of violence against women because he was also a victim of it, and the violence he witnessed and experienced in his own home as a child (probably) contributed to the deaths of fourteen others.

Domestic and dating violence are so much more than "private" problems. They are big issues, with far-reaching implications.

I would never presume to lump an entire gender together the way Lepine did, by declaring that all men are evil. But twenty years after the massacre, most cases of domestic and dating violence continue to be perpetrated by men (the ones who do have problems) against women.

So much for the "advantages" of being a woman.

More information on the Montreal Massacre:

More information on Domestic Violence

For more information on feminism:,,694923,00.html.