Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Profs reminds us that today is the twentieth anniversary of the murders of women engineering students at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989. Because of this terrible event, today is also the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women day in Canada, which has been commemorated since 1991. In case you’re unacquainted with this terrible massacre, here’s a CBC link with a video clip of a report and a description of the murders (emphases Historiann’s):
A gunman confronts 60 engineering students during their class at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. He separates the men from the women and tells the men to leave the classroom, threatening them with his .22-calibre rifle. The enraged man begins a shooting rampage that spreads to three floors and several classrooms, jumping from desk to desk while female students cower below. He roams the corridors yelling, “I want women.”
Before opening fire in the engineering class, he calls the women “une gang de féministes” and says “J’haïs les féministes [I hate feminists].” One person pleads that they are not feminists, just students taking engineering. But the gunman doesn’t listen. He shoots the women and then kills himself. Parents of the Polytechnique students wait outside the school crying and wonder if their daughters are among the 14 dead tonight.
I was in my last year of college, preparing for final exams, when this news broke 20 years ago. It really harshed our “post-feminist” buzz in the late 80s to learn that merely studying engineering was considered a sufficiently provocative act that it courted assassination, and that reassuring men that we weren’t feminists wouldn’t necessarily save our lives.
Leslie M-B at The Clutter Museum has an interesting post up on campus violence, inspired by the release of the report on the Virginia Tech shootings, which revealed disturbing delays in notifying faculty, staff, and students outside of the central administration building. She also discusses the troubling reluctance of campuses to release accurate information about sexual assaults. Check it out.
I still maintain that the absence of relationships with women should be considered a major warning sign that a man is capable of mass homocide or femicide. It’s such an obvious commonality of all of these North American massacres–from Montreal, to V-Tech, to Fort Hood. But, because misogyny is normalized, and the degradation of women is a substantial part of our entertainment and political culture, guys like this get a pass until they start shooting. We mourn the victims, but we don’t take meaningful steps to prevent the creation of other victims. There’s no political advantage in reducing even mentally ill and socially maladjusted men’s Second Amendment rights.