Their names were Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault and Annie Turcotte.
Last week marked the 30th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in Canadian history; the day a gunman on an anti-feminist rampage walked into an engineering class at École Polytechnique in Montreal and murdered all of the 14 women named above, after separating them from the men and making his motive crystal clear.
It was a watershed moment on both gun violence and violence against women in this country, and yet we continue to struggle with both.
Encyclopedia Britannica’s website Britannica.com defines feminism as “the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes.”
We might thus well be baffled by the use, still, of the words feminism and feminist as pejorative terms. Some even spit out the word “feminist” as if it was an expletive. Who would be against equality for women in all of these important aspects of life, and why? Shouldn’t we all be proud feminists, men and women both?
And yet, there are an estimated 1,000 physical or sexual assaults against women in British Columbia alone every week. Women also remain vastly disproportionately the victims of domestic violence. And these are just the most visible and extreme signs of an inequality that persists to this day.
Politics and other influential fields are still dominated by men. It is astonishing that a progressive country like Canada has had only one woman prime minister in its entire history, and she was quickly swept from office. A wage gap persists. And beyond that, fields of work where women outnumber men are often some of the most underpaid in the workforce.
So not only do we remember Dec. 6 for a single act of horrific violence, but we remember because we still have work to do to address the underlying tensions in our society that it laid bare.