Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A Sad Day Every December 6

I guess I was 40 in 1989 when I heard the horrifying news from Montreal. It made me sick with rage and grief.

As a younger woman I had been forbidden certain roles within the church, although  my brother was invited to fill them, roles of leadership and preaching. When I got married I was expected to quash my own preferences and personality in order to encourage and support my husband’s (not by him, mind you). As a mother of three young daughters I suffered with them when they hated their hair or felt too fat, knowing that they had imbibed our culture’s stupid emphasis on women’s appearance. It has never been easy to be a woman in a world still led mostly by men with traditional male values, like competition and coercion.

On that Wednesday, Dec. 6, 1989, I gasped with true shock at the report of a young man's killing of 14 female engineering students at  Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. I watched the TV coverage all day and cried. One of my daughters still remembers sitting beside me on the couch, worried by my tears. A high school student, she had just learned that engineering was a field she would be suited for. 
Almost immediately after the murders were reported, I heard first-hand denials and dismissals: “This crime had nothing to do with …” gender, or feminism, or the injustice of our political, corporate, educational and social systems. Despite what the shooter, Marc Lepine, had written and said about hating women, many men and some women willfully closed their minds to making any connection between this event and our cry for change in attitudes about boys and girls.

To me this event was a blatant, dramatic expression of the thousand cuts girls and women receive from the day they are born into patriarchal cultures.
My 3 yr. old granddaughter is already being taught that to be considered “pretty” is  very, very important, since strangers constantly tell her that she is. My grandsons don't get the same comments. Toy stores are worse than ever with their “Girls Toys" aisles drowning in pink and purple and princess, "Boys Toys" aisles filled with camouflage-coloured guns and monsters. A more glaring example is the heartbreaking story of Malala Yousafzai, the  15 yr. old who agitated for the education of Pakistani girls, and was shot recently by angry men who wanted her to shut up.

On many December 6ths since 1989, I have wept again as I listened to the reading of at least 20 new names, the names of women killed by their partners just that year only in our province of Ontario! I’m not crazy about the word “feminist” since it has been twisted into a mean-spirited caricature. But none of us should forget that boys and girls are still being treated unequally, a habit that warps and stunts both genders, and hinders the shalom we want for our human family.