Marking the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
Women are dying. More specifically, they are being killed by men. Every year on December 6th, individuals and organizations across Canada take a moment to ask why and to think about ways we can stop it. December 6th is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The Parliament of Canada established it to mark the anniversary of the murders of 14 female engineering students at L’École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989. Their killer, a man, targeted the women specifically in an act of violent hatred. The massacre was a symptom — and became a symbol — of gender based violence, an issue that we continue to grapple with almost 30 years later.
It is impossible to address violence against women without acknowledging that men are by far the most common perpetrators of that violence. The gunman responsible for the Montreal Massacre, like the majority of mass shooters, was male. He was driven by a hatred and resentment of women and the belief that men are superior. He felt entitled and neglected, and blamed women for his unhappiness. He viewed the success of female students as responsible for his failure.
The 2018 van attack in Toronto was inspired by similar beliefs. The man responsible for killing 10 people in April was motivated by anger at women from whom he expected but could not ‘get’ sex. His hatred extended to everyone who he imagined was getting and doing what he wasn’t. The van attacker was radicalized online by a community of men known as incels who actively share and promote those ideas. All of these beliefs are products of our society and as we remember the lives of women who were killed we cannot ignore the beliefs that promote and lead to violence against all women.
Men are taught to be violent. We teach boys to hold in their feelings because ‘boys don’t cry’. We teach them to ‘finish fights’, ‘man up’, and ‘be the man’ in all they do. We also teach them to fear and despise girls and women when we use ‘girly’ to insult their abilities or deride the expression of emotion. When they begin to have relationships, we teach boys to hide their emotions, to view women as objects from which sex is gotten, and that the ‘man of the house’ makes decisions. Together, these cultural ideals and thousands more like them create a hierarchy of winners and losers with men on top. Unable to express their emotions and having been taught that power is won with aggression, men reach out desperately for power by hurting the vulnerable people around them.
During the first eight months of 2018, 106 women were killed in Canada. Fifty-three of them were murdered in Ontario. The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability maintains an interactive map of national femicide – the murder of women. They also track their names, and manner of death. Read their September 2018 report for more details. More than 50% of the women killed so far this year were murdered by someone they knew.
Until our culture and communities finally reject the beliefs that women are less valuable and that men must be dominant, angry and abusive, men will continue to hurt and kill women. On this day of remembrance we think of the women murdered on December 6th, 1989 and every woman killed before and since. Femicide is an issue that we can address. We can all begin to take action by infusing the antidotes of respect and equality into our beliefs, thoughts, and actions. We can all resist the myths and common expressions that teach men to be violent. And we can acknowledge that change requires honesty, responsibility and accountability as we forge new habits and come to terms with the consequences of outdated beliefs.
A December 6th vigil will be held at the Owen Sound City Hall and at Coulter Parkette, Port Elgin at noon.