Today is December 6th. In Canada we remember the women killed this year in a massacre at École Polytechnique. Women were killed because they were women seeking training and jobs in a field that a deranged man considered to be the territory of men.
I think about when I was a young child, how I dreamed of being a doctor and a lawyer. I was suprised in grade five by a school assignment where we had to research a field of employment traditionally employed by the opposite gender. It surprised me to find that those two careers were seen (at least by my teacher) as being traditionally mens. I thought, maybe a long time ago they were but people can’t think of them as that now, could they?
I still hope most people would think girls can be doctors and lawyers, but since grade five I’ve learned much more about how even though many fields are changing there is still quite a bit of sexism, not just in denying women work in certain fields or somehow treating them like interlopers, but in viewing fields dominated by women as somehow less respectable or less worthy of pay. For example, in one of the articles I saw soon after the American election people were talking about how one sign of Democrats not understanding working class white people is that the Democrats were, apparently, expecting white men to take pink-collared jobs. The existence of that term, pink-collared jobs, suggests people still see a division between men and women’s work. If we think in terms of venn diagrams, maybe people see a larger overlap between men’s fields and women’s fields, but they still see them as seperate.
Ok, so people are always going to have their own views on things and some people take comfort in believing a woman’s job is in the household. Part of me wants to say, “if you’re a woman who believes women shouldn’t work in that field, then by all means, don’t work in that field; if you’re a man, marry someone who wants to stay home” but it isn’t as simple. It isn’t just people holding a personal belief about the meaning of their life. This idea of girls being different is still being used to deny young women educational opportunities. The belief that women don’t belong in the workforce is different than the belief that an individual person should be able to drop out of the workforce to raise a family.
Right now my thoughts about this day, this massacre that happened so many years ago, is mixed in with my thoughts about the recent election. After Trump’s election people said that democrats need to listen to the angry working class white person. Well, today I’m mourning the actions of a white working class man who blamed women for stealing his jobs.
When I typed the murder’s name into Google one of Google’s auto-complete options was “Marc Lépine hero.” I quickly choose something else, found the info I need, and closed the tab. Then I went back, slowly, hesitantly and started reading things that call him a hero. Guess what? They’re not making a point. They’re sad angry people and they sound an awful lot like Trump and Trump’s circle of supporters.
There is a video out right now aiming to help prevent school shootings by helping teach people to watch for the signs that someone might be planning a shooting. It is a powerful video and I would encourage you to watch it. One of the signs is a strong fascination with firearms. What portion of the states demonstrates that? Aggressive behavior or gestures of violence are two more. I think of all the violent messages I’ve seen online. I had a man tell me recently that my blocking him from a conversation online was the worst internet experience he’s ever had. If you’re a woman who dares speak up, you’ve probably had worse or know someone who has. How do you differentiate these days between the everday trolling – the everday unrealistic threats of rape from strangers – and the one likely to carry something out? Is there a point to differentiating?
Marc Lépine walked into a school. He ordered the men to leave the room and began shooting the women. Where are those men, I wonder? Do they regret leaving? What did they think would happen when they left? Apparently some thought they were going to be the ones killed and others say it happened so fast they didn’t have time to think.
What do we think will happen if we let things continue the way they are going? Hate crimes are up in Britain since Brexit and in Canada and the United States since Trump’s election. What do people think will happen when they elect a president willing to mock and degrade people? Trump has appointed Steve Bannon as his advisor. Steve Bannon’s publication prints articles like “The Solution To Online ‘Harassment’ Is Simple: Women Should Log Off.” The article makes it sound like the problem is women don’t have thick enough skins and object to people bieng rude to them. No. Women object to online harassment becuase we’re scared it will encourage deranged nutcases to actually carry out their threats. We’re scared it will empower people to rape and murder women. We’re scared it will empower them in push women out of their jobs, to harass them and not hire them. (Another headling from Bannon’s publication assures people that when women don’t get hired for tech jobs it isn’t the bias, it is just that women suck at job interviews. Yes, they used “suck” in their headline.)