Today is the anniversary of the December 6th massacre in Montréal. When this happened I was 14 years old, growing up in Ottawa which is only a couple of hours from Montréal. This hate crime had a devastating impact on the feminist community, and on young women considering studying in technical fields.
This morning I was listening to a Spark (CBC Radio) podcast about females in startup culture and it brought up the topic of the decline in women enrolling in STEM and as I got to the office and remembered what today is I thought: “Here are 14 fewer role models, and STEM women”.
In the early 90′s I lived in Montréal and was part of direct action to commemorate this day. One year we blocked traffic in a very busy intersection near Concordia for 15 minutes, as a woman read out each name, allowed one minute of silence before proceeding to the next. We passed out flyers to passers by and to those stuck waiting in their cars. What impressed me at the time was how so many people were aware of the significance of this date, of this heinous crime, and that any anger quickly dissipated and was replaced by respectful silence.
Today I’m taking 14 minutes to remember Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz. I’m not putting it out there in anyone’s face in the same way that we used to but I’m glad to see some people tweeting, blogging, and otherwise continuing to bring it to people’s attention so that they do not forget how this was a crime that can never be mistaken for anything but a hate crime against women, and feminists specifically.
In the Geek Feminist post the author points out how today we should also be remembering other groups who are targeted and killed such as Aboriginal women and Trans women. I want to suggest we remember that every day, and then on December 6th we can take an extra 14 minutes to remember that a guy walked into a room and specifically shot women, calling them a “bunch of fucking feminists” while doing so. He didn’t know if they were feminists. He equated them being in a non-traditional field with being feminist. Today when a woman shies away from labeling herself a feminist I have to wonder if it’s events like this that shaped her idea of why using the F word doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Something I am thinking about with regards to this event is that the gunman told the men to leave the room, and they did. They left their cohorts in the room with an armed lunatic instead of protesting, uniting, or otherwise trying to help. Similar to the use the Bechdel test to check for quality content in media – I wonder how this scene would play out today in a CS classroom. Would it pass a Polytechnique test? Would today’s male students still walk out and leave the women behind to be murdered?