I’m sitting in a coffee shop on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. There’s a guy here, sitting the next table over who is often here. He taps his foot compulsively as he reads the paper and sips his coffee. i’m wearing earplugs, but I can hear him tapping. no rhythm, either. Drives me CRAZY. taptaptaptaptap. tap. taptap. tap. taptaptaptaptaptap. taptaptap. grrr.
21 years ago today Marc Lepine shot 14 women dead because he identified them as feminists. There is nothing on the news today about it. We are still under seige. women in general, feminists in particular. The transition house where i work is always full. The women’s centre where i work, too, sees around 300 women each day. All are suffering. Many are in flames.
What happened to feminism? What has happened to us that so many of us are still suffering so much? There are women impoverished, desperate to find a home, desperate to feed their children, desperate to belong somewhere. Feminism could have been that somewhere, but it’s not.
then again, it isn’t supposed to be a ‘somewhere’, not yet–it’s a MOVEMENT. But what’s happened to the movement? Sometimes it seems that we’ve moved, but only deeper and deeper into a rut, not out of the trouble that patriarchy has got us into. so many of us go down in flames, burning alive sucked into the muck.
tapping man is gone. good. I was gonna stick a stir stick into his forehead.
I get so wound up by such little things, eh. There’s a fucking war going on, and I want to amputate tapping mans foot. argh.
i’m going to work this afternoon, in fact. to the transition house/ rape crisis line. Who else marks December 6? Is it only in Canada that even a handful of women remember this massacre? Was it then, in 1989, that the women’s liberation movement began to unravel or had it begun before that? One of the women Lepine shot, one who survived, said, “We are not feminists” as he leveled his rifle and took aim.
We are not feminists. She said.
It did not matter. Feminism had carved a spot for her in that classroom, for her and eight other women in a classroom of more than 60 students. Even if she ‘only wanted to become an engineer’, Lepine saw a feminist. He saw his hatred of women reflected in her audacity. The audaciousness of a woman wanting to become an engineer! He thought it was all about him, her desire for a profession in Engineering, he couldn’t, (as my mother might say), ‘see past his own eyelids’, and he saw his hatred for her reflected back to him and thought it was her hatred for him. silly little man. He did not see that there were more than five times as many men in that room–he only saw that he was lonesome and frightened and men had abandoned him and women had taken their places where he thought he should be.
Really, though, i’m making it up; I don’t know what he saw. He forgot what his mother had tried to teach him. He let the abyss of despair suck at him ’till only rage and fear filled him and he couldn’t see his part, but had to blame someone, so it was the women. The feminist women.
Oh, little man. You did not see the great power you had, you only tasted the rusty, sour taste of death–you gave up.
Why, when men give up, do they so often take women with them to death? why do they insist we suffer for their unearned and squandered privilege? What’s the point of that? Men kill their children, they kill their wives, they kill their girlfriends, their mothers, their aunties and they kill strangers before they turn the gun on themselves, why? There are many many examples of this so much that ‘murder-suicide’ is a common term. And we know without being told who the murderer is. He is the man. He holds the gun.
The life of death is male. It does not have to be this way. But it still is.
December 6, 1989, I know exactly where I was. I was on the third floor of an old house in a working-class neighbourhood in Vancouver. There were three other women there with me, and we were taking stock of the work of the week. We were counting the women who had called the crisis line, the women who were responding to male violence, the women asking for help, for protection, for strategies of survival. We were counting and we were telling the stories we had heard and we were trying to figure out how, between the four of us, how we could hold the front-line. How could we answer the phones and invite the women and keep the wheels turning and the lights burning. Then the phone call came, “Drop what you’re doing, turn on the TV, a man has killed women for being feminists”. We watched in shock. we wept into each others arms. we knew what this meant.
A few nights later, the other rape crisis centre in town held a vigil. We were grateful to gather. But I wanted more than candles and silent grieving. I wanted righteous flames, and women’s voices raised in terrifying keening–the grieving of the active ones–This attack was about US. All of us. He named other women he wanted to kill, and they were women who dared to fight back and dared to take their space, and dared to speak on behalf of women, and dared to stand up for other women.
Some of my friends there, at the vigil, they were angry because we were mourning so publicly these 14 privileged women, while many more women in prostitution in Vancouver had died, vanished, burned up in the crucible of patriarchy and we barely whispered their names, if we even knew them…
It’s been 21 years. Every year Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter hosts an entire day of feminist action–discussions, films, panels, lectures, interactive displays–about male violence against women. Every year they and many other radical feminists, labour activists, warriors of many sorts, call for an end to prostitution, a guaranteed livable income, freedom for all women (and therefore all men, too)–and devote the whole day to figuring out what that freedom could look like and how to get there together.
It’s the same gang I was part of all those years ago. There are many more than four women now holding the front line, many more than the 8 or ten who were part of the collective then. There are hundreds of women who have been part of the work since then, (and men too, raising money and handing it over and addressing their own sexism), hundreds of women who have answered the call to imagine freedom together.
But we have a long way to go yet. We are not yet free. It’s 21 years later. We are still in danger of men’s rage because we are feminists.
I’m really glad there are so many more of us now. Thanks, women. Don’t give up. Never give up.