The Massacre at École Polytechnique

Before this moment, I knew extremely little of the Montreal Massacre (also known as the massacre at École Polytechnique), the anniversary of which is today. Now, thanks to Renee, I know a little bit more:

To ensure that there was no confusion as to why he felt the need to enter École Polytechnique and massacre 14 women, Marc Lépine left behind a detailed three page letter in which he blamed feminists for being “so opportunistic they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men through the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can”. He considered himself to be “rational” and therefore felt his rage against feminists was justified. He went on to state in his suicide note,” why persevere to exist if it is only to please the government. Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men.” Lépine was so angry at the loss of unearned male privilege due to the advances of feminism; his letter also included a list of nineteen other women that he also wished to see dead.

After such a horrible event there were many that felt that this terrible act of violence should be looked upon as the actions of a sole mad man, who had lost the capacity to reason. While it might be comforting to look at this as a singular incident, to do so would mean ignoring the degree of violence that Canadian women live with on a daily basis.

[. . .]

On that cold winter day Lépine’s victims were just ordinary women working on getting an education. There was nothing special, or unique about any one of them. They became targets of Lépine’s rage for having the audacity to attempt to receive an education. Whatever excuse that is proffered, male violence against women exists to support patriarchy.

Though his fourteen victims now lie silent in a cold grave, their deaths remind all women just how vulnerable we are in a world that has chosen to value one sex above another. We reify this in every single institution from education to government. Each December 6th as we stop to remember our fallen sisters we are reminded of just how far we still have to go.

Go learn.

cross-posted at The Curvature

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10 comments for “The Massacre at École Polytechnique

  1. Kate
    December 6, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    This hits me hard every year. I am a graduate student in electrical engineering, and it chills my blood to think that someone could be so outraged by my audacity to study what I enjoy that they would resort to violence.

  2. Bagelsan
    December 6, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Acid in faces. Shootings. Campus rapes. Yep, sounds like equality! Guess we feminists can all stop whining and go home now!

  3. Katy
    December 6, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Thank you for posting this. The engineers at my Alma Mater do a great job of a service every year including a special publication by the engineering newspaper. I’m glad to see that this has been put on a prominent Feminist site. Thank you.
    Nous nous souvenons.

  4. BC
    December 7, 2008 at 12:25 am

    As a Canadian who was in last year of university during the Montreal Massacre, this anniversary always strikes close to home.

    There’s been a phenomenon that I approve of… recently, my peers have been consistently writing about this anniversary of this event in a way that ensures that it is the names of the 14 who died that appear in postings that mark the day, rather than the name of their killer.

  5. choppet
    December 7, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Glad you wrote about this. There are usually a plethora of anti-violence feminist events on December 6th in Canada because of the Montreal massacre. In fact, it was one of the first things we talked about in my introductory Women’s Studies class – how the media censored out angry responses to the “tragedy”, and left only saddened ones. Because anger implicates.

    A few years ago, an art student dribbled what appeared to be blood all over campus on December 6th. If you followed the bloodtrail, it lead to a darkened room with fourteen empty chairs, each with a rose on it. I’m not sure how I feel about the art piece but it stuck with me.

  6. December 7, 2008 at 3:15 am

    The memorial we had here in Halifax included a minute of silence and a minute of screaming. It focused a lot on actions we can do now, which I really was taken aback by.

    I mean, I appreciated it, but every other one I have gone to has been a silent memorial.

    I think screaming for violence against women, screaming to say we’re here, is a very important thing.

  7. December 7, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Yes, thanks so much for posting this.

    (LAW AND ORDER’s season 10 premier was based on this event, does anyone remember? Of course, they changed the locale to New York, but the story was the same–titled “Gunshow”.)

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  9. June 5, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    De ce que rien n’est intelligible, il ne s’ensuit pas le droit de conjecturer l’absurde.

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