6 December 2009

Montreal Massacre 1989 - 2009

Revised and edited June, 2012

In the comments section following the article Montreal Massacre Death Cult by Margaret Wente (Globe & Mail, Dec 7, 2009), a commenter asked why it is that violence against women receives special status over violence against everyone else, when women experience less violence than men?" This is a reasonable question, unless you look at it in terms of power – who has it, who doesn’t. When women had little power in their lives, due to marriage and lack of career to give them financial independence, they were often at the mercy of men. Women have become more liberated, however, as the years have gone by, and that no longer holds true. Women in marriages - or out of them - are likely to have as much power - real power, of decision-making, access to resources, etc, as men. The whole social issue of 'violence against women' is a remnant from earlier times.

It’s strange but Marc Lépine, the man who killed 14 women at the Montreal Ecole in 1989 actually represented one of the men who was far less powerful than women. Yet because of the myth of 'violence against women', he got blamed for being the originator of the Montreal Massacre (just as many years ago housewives got blamed when things didn't go right at home).

The Montreal Massacre had nothing to do with domestic violence. The feminists and pseudofeminists involved were the ones who held the power. Marc Lépine didn't have any. Male violence and aggression is often about masculinity, as was Lépine's act of violence. Is it possible that women are more likely to use psychological tactics aggressively so as not to appear aggressive, or masculine. Things are not always as they seem.

Margaret Wente has claimed that the argument that Marc Lépine killed women for daring to pursue their dream implies that all “ordinary” men would also be enraged by seeing women get ahead. Yet, she says, that isn’t so. Here, in her words:

“In the narrative of the Montreal massacre, the students were killed for being feminists – for daring to pursue their dream. That's true, so far as it goes. But this narrative also implies that the rage of Marc Lépine reflected the rage of ordinary men embittered by seeing women get ahead (Montreal Massacre death, 2009).

Wente argues that is simply isn’t the case that all “ordinary” men feel the kind of rage that Lépine did, and the reason is that Lépine was abused by his father, she says, thus had pent-up anger inside against women, the reasoning goes (though not against men). The argument she uses doesn’t explain the circumstances which led Marc Lépine to the Polytechnique that day.

In response, I would suggest that men in general don’t show anger towards the group that is oppressing them, any more than housewives of the fifties did towards their husbands, at being held back. For one thing, it just isn’t permitted in society to express oneself that way. The tendency is for anyone who is being controlled to that extent to accept their situation rather than continually fight it – to push it down, bury it in the subconscious. People don’t use such extreme violence unless there are other things going on at the same time.

Most men today, whether “ordinary” men or the more privileged kind, know that if they want to get ahead they have to be nice to the powerful women in their lives. And maybe that’s something good that has come out of feminism (as long as women today don’t abuse their power as men used to), because I’m sure many men in earlier times never felt they had to be fair or even kind to their spouses. Sometimes people just don’t realize the negative effect of their power and the ways they use it. Sometimes people with that kind of power over material resources sincerely believe they deserve what they have because they are superior.

Wente further argues that “His [Lépine’s] father had a deep contempt for women, and severely abused both the boy and his mother before abandoning them. Mr. Lépine obviously contracted his father's rage. But he no more resembled ordinary men than Robert Pickton does.”

But Marc Lépine is no more like Robert Pickton than Pickton is like most other men. Each is different in their own way. Lépine’s multiple act of violence was not committed against prostitutes, or aboriginal women, or poor women. He killed women in the institution that he saw as doing harm to him and his life, the women who, for him, represented the middle class feminists who took his career goals away from him, and who were destroying society.

So, no, Marc Lépine doesn’t represent all men – or as Wente says, his rage isn’t representative of all men’s. Yet it was Marc Lépine that feminists made the object of all their rage, despite the reason for his justifiable anger being nothing to do with domestic violence and everything to do with feminism.

This act of violence he committed had nothing to do with the way his father treated him or his mother. It makes more sense to realize that he had been hurt very badly by someone, and not through a personal relationship, but connected to the Polytechnique and its staff and students that had treated him so badly, leaving him with nothing, with no way out, no other options. I have experienced some not-so-pleasant interactions myself, and when one sees students getting admitted to the college who don’t seem to have any special knowledge or credentials, or professors showing favouritism, the unfairness of it can be overwhelming. Without a strong supportive network of friends and community, one doesn’t stand a chance.

Also, Marc Lépine was aware of the impact of feminism on society, whereas many men and women were not. He knew it, but it was one of those things that people don’t like to talk about. People – young men and women – just tried to find a way around it so they could go to university too, and succeed. Yes, Marc Lépine knew it, but he lacked the skills to write about what he knew. No doubt his effort to try to inform others resulted in further frustration. No one knows exactly why circumstances come together they way they do resulting in the kind of behaviour that Marc Lépine exhibited. Margaret Wente would like to blame it on childhood abuse, a typical Freudian viewpoint, and one from pop psychology, but not a perspective that holds up under close examination.

One of students at the Polytechnique at the time was Heidi Rathjen, who later said, “The atmosphere at school was totally egalitarian. It was a wonderful place for women.” (Lessons of the Montreal Massacre, 2009). But the egalitarianism she speaks of was between men and women students of the middle class, not between the daughters of important people in Montreal and young men who had little family influence. I know that she sees people’s helpfulness as “egalitarian” and not that such people tend to be nicer towards those who already have resources of their own. I know she sees getting a job at the funeral home and the bursary that came with it as something she deserved, and thus fair, but it’s not all deserving young women and men who get treated like that.

It can be easy for those in power to distort facts and blame the one with none for not being smart enough, or being too emotional (a tactic often used against women in the past). By discrediting the Marc Lépines of this world, they can get unknowing people on their side – especially young women - willing to see them as lesser human beings, entirely responsible for misfortune endured by women in their relations with men, rather than recognize the damage feminism has caused to society.

Original post, Dec 6, 2009, updated

A selection of articles (see below) on the Montreal Massacre (20 years ago today, Dec 6, 1989) represent just a fraction of the many perspectives on this tragedy. ‘A Slap in the Face’ for Victims, by Ingrid Peritz, emphasizes the importance of the firearms registry, which some feminists see as the one tangible legacy of the Montreal Massacre.

Once again the comments on this article provide much to reflect on, from people interested in this subject of gun control and concerned about the rationale behind it. In Lessons of the Montreal Massacre, by Catherine Porter, the story is told of one of the survivors of the Montreal Massacre, Nathalie Provost, who speaks to us about choice, and taken-for-granted opportunities for fulfilment in life. She and her children are living in a different world than most of us.

The fact that Marc Lépine attempted to get the world to see how feminism has created a wider division in society between those who have and those who do not, seems to be lost on her. If her children, and all children, had to rely on one person’s views only – hers – about the lessons of the Montreal Massacre, the world would be in trouble indeed.

Western News, from the University of Western Ontario, now known as Western, announced its 2009 remembrance ceremonies, one in Engineering, the other at Brescia College to honour the loss of the 14 women killed on Dec 6, 1989 at Montreal, and "the lives of all women that have been lost to gender-based violence" (Montreal Remembrance Ceremony, 2009).  I believe they are actually referring to women killed by men they know, mostly, and not the kind of killing Marc Lépine committed that day – meant to be a political act to draw attention to the harm feminism has caused in society.

Marc Lépine lost his life that day also, as did others, though that is never acknowledged by heartless, narrow-minded, politically-oriented feminists. On Dec 6, 1917, the explosion of the SS Mont-Blanc in Halifax Harbour left 2000 dead, injuring thousands of others. This is a sad day of remembrance.

The Montreal Massacre Death Cult, by Margaret Wente, is a request for feminists and Canadians to move on, but in so doing, Wente manages to perpetuate stereotypical myths about Marc Lépine that ensure moving on is not possible.

See also my website about the Montreal Massacre: http://www.montrealmassacre.net/

Lessons of the Montreal Massacre
By Catherine Porter
Toronto Star
Dec 5, 2009

Montreal Massacre Death Cult 
By Margaret Wente
Globe and Mail
Dec 07, Dec 11, 2009

Montreal Remembrance Ceremony
Western News, p. 13
Dec 3, 2009

‘A Slap in the Face’ for Victims
By Ingrid Peritz
Globe and Mail
Dec 05, 2009

Links updated June, 2012