This post was originally written for my local Women in Science and Engineering chapter’s blog. I’m afraid it’s not my best writing, as I found the experience somewhat upsetting, but I think the day we were marking is of particular interest to readers of Geek Feminism, so I’m cross-posting it here.
TRIGGER WARNING: this post discusses actual violence against women, specifically the story of the Ã‰cole Polytechnique Massacre. There’s little graphic detail here, but several of the links in this post contain fairly disturbing information.
In Canada, December 6th is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The day was chosen as a memorial to those killed in the Ã‰cole Polytechnique Massacre, which happened on December 6, 1989. On that day, a lone gunman walked into the school and killed 14 people, injuring more, before turning the gun on himself. He claimed that feminists had ruined his life and that the young women engineers he targeted must be feminists because of their non-traditional career choice.
Members of CU-WISE, GSA, IEEE WIE, Womyn’s Center, Foot Patrol, and MEN were out in the unicentre on Dec 3rd to raise awareness of the issues, and to raise money for a pair of women’s shelters in the area which burned down. At 1pm, we held a candlelight ceremony in the unicentre:
After the ceremony, we showed the new film, Polytechnique. I made the mistake of staying to watch part of it. Not that it is a poorly done film, but I found it quite deeply disturbing. Mark Lepine’s suicide note actually sounds too much like the death threats I, and many other women involved in the open source community, have received from another deranged individual (trigger warning: the link is to a post which discusses some of the vile stuff he says). And after watching part of the film, I then had to walk through Carleton’s halls, which share some of the same institutional feel to the hallways of Ã‰cole Polytechnique. I will caution that this film can be highly disturbing, and note that I will likely never watch the rest of it.
However, despite my misgivings with the film, and the unpleasant feelings that come with marking the date of the MontrÃ©al Massacre, I think it was a great opportunity to talk to some of our wider university community about the history and the issues.