December 6th

December 6th is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women here in Canada. Unfortunately, that site doesn’t have links to any of the planned activities in various cities around the country, but if you live in Canada, you can contact the nearest women’s centre, shelter for abused women, or sexual assault/rape crisis centre in order to find out the time and location of the vigils, information sessions or protests planned in your area.

For anyone outside Canada or unfamiliar with the history of this National Day of Remembrance, some background information:

On December 6th, 1989, a man named Marc Lepine went to the École Polytechnique in Montreal. In the first classroom he entered, he separated the male students from the female students, instructed the men to leave and proceeded to shoot the women, saying “You’re women. You’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists”. He killed 14 women, injured 14 other people (including four men), then killed himself, leaving a suicide letter that was later released to the press. The suicide letter included a list of women he identified as feminists and planned to kill and “outlined his reasons for the attack including his anger towards feminists for seeking social changes that ‘retain the advantages of being women […] while trying to grab those of the men.'” (see wikipedia)

The wikipedia article includes references to some debate as to whether these murders had anything to do with a larger, sexist structure that supports violence against women or discourages feminism. The fact that even with such blatant, horrifyingly misogynistic statements accompanying this action, there is still any question of this kind tells me all I need to know about the continued relevance of feminist action.

The vigils are about remembering not just this event itself, but also the epidemic of violence experienced by women simply because they are women. It’s one of the few days of the year when space is offered to talk about this kind of violence as a hate crime, and I would encourage everyone to take that opportunity, whether they’re in Canada or not.

The CBC archives, by the way, also has some resources designed to be used by teachers in raising awareness about sexism, violence against women, and media portrayals of violence, using the Dec 6 events as a starting point. It seems to me they’d be useful in any classroom, actually.

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