Dec 6 is Our Day to Remember and Take Action on Violence Against Women
By Jon Farmer
Thirty-one years ago, on December 6th 1989 14 women were killed at l’ecole polytechnique in Montreal. They were employees and students of the school and they were murdered because they were women. In the days after the shooting, communities across Canada came together to hold vigils in memory of the women killed and to stand in solidarity against the hatred and violence that ended their lives. One year later in 1990, our communities stood together in solidarity and remembrance again and in 1991 the government of Canada officially established December 6th as the national day of remembrance and action on violence against women.
The 14 women murdered in Montreal on December 6th 1989 were not the first women to be killed because of their sex or gender, or to be targeted with violence for pursing their dreams in areas where women were traditionally not welcome or seen. They were also not the last. In the thirty-one years since their deaths, women have continued to be targeted in private and public ways. Indigenous women, girls, and two spirit people have been murdered and gone missing by the thousands across Canada. Between 1989 and 2019 we know of more than 780 femicides in Ontario alone. The Toronto Van attack of 2018 was motivated by the hatred of women. The mass shooting in Nova Scotia earlier this year, began with an assault on an intimate partner.
We mark December 6th again this year, because violence against women and gender based violence continue in our communities and in our country. As long as that violence continues, we will stand against it. And we must continue to stand against it until every one is safe and free to live a life without violence.
Today is, after all, a national day of remembrance and action. The action is essential. Every one of us can take action to prevent and stop violence against women because the violence takes many forms. December the 6th holds significance because of physical violence. Violence against women can also be emotional, mental, sexual, and economic. It can be obvious or subtle. It can stand out to us like lightning at night or blend into the background like the sound of a refrigerator, so constant that we stop noticing it and begin to think that it is normal.
The normalization of violence against women is what gives it such deep roots and makes it such a difficult problem. Many of us were raised with ideas that justify violence against women, men’s violence against women specifically. The seeds of these ideas were planted in pop culture and derisive jokes about who wears the pants, who belongs in the kitchen, and what that haircut made you look like. The ideas were fertilized with TV and movie plots about princes who rescue damsels in return for their ‘hand in marriage’, women who ‘friendzone’ the ‘nice guy’, and men who ignored all her signals and kissed the beautiful leading woman anyway ‘like a boss’.
These ideas were repeated in musical ear worms about ‘bad boys, ‘crazy bitches’, and ‘summer lovin’. They are everywhere and their constant droning can blend into the background of our lives or in some cases became the soundtracks to them.
As we remember the thirty-first anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, the first and most accessible action we can take is to recognize the roots of violence and challenge the ideas that make it possible. After naming it for what it is – misogyny – we can challenge and reject those ideas in every facet of our lives from family dinners and group chats, to lyrics and plot lines, and the conversations we over hear in public.
We can each act by raising our voices to say that violence against women and all violence based on sex or gender are unacceptable. Violence against women may be normalized but that doesn’t make it normal or inevitable. We can hold out hope that if enough voices are raised against violence, then safety and equity will become the sound and soundtrack of the future.
Jon Farmer is the Coordinator of Violence Prevention Grey Bruce
You can watch the 2020 December 6 Virtual Vigil Here