Punk Rawk, Maaaaan!

January 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

I managed to not sound entirely daft in an interview with the Halifax Commoner on the place of women in punk rock.  That’s a goal in and of itself, no?

Remembering the Montréal Massacre

December 6, 2009 § 1 Comment

On 6 December 1989, a lone gunman burst into the École Polytechnique de Montréal, part of the Université de Montréal, and opened fire.  He targeted women specifically.  He was upset that “feminists” had ruined his life.  For his delusions, 28 innocent people were shot, before he turned the gun on himself.  In the first classroom he broke into, he separated men from women, then shot all 9 women, 6 of whom died.  Then he wandered the hallways, the cafeteria, and another classroom, targeting women, shooting another 14 women, and 4 men.  All 4 men survived, of the 24 women who were shot, 14 died.  All this within 20 minutes.

I was 16, living in suburban Vancouver when this happened.  I remember the shock.  I couldn’t fathom then, and I still can’t, how someone could open fire in a school, let alone, to kill women for being in school.  These 14 women died because they were just that: women getting an education.  I have never been able to wrap my head around that concept.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  It didn’t in 1989 and it doesn’t in 2009.  The Montréal Massacre is one of those transformative moments in my life, it is deeply embedded in my view of the world.  It was a shocking, terrible event.  And despite all of the school shootings since in both Canada and the USA, this is the one that is, to me, a horror story.   Every 6 December, I remember watching the chilling news footage in the living room back in BC, I remember trying to understand why this had happened, my mother and I both horrified.  And every 6 December, I find myself asking those same questions over and over.  I still don’t have an answer.

But what particularly upsets me about 6 December is that the shooter’s name lives on, in infamy, of course, but nearly everyone of my generation, we were all affected wherever we were, know his name.  I refuse to utter it, print it, post it, etc.  I do not want to remember him.  Diane Riopel, who taught at L’École Polytechnique in 1989, and narrowly missed meeting the killer, echoes this sentiment: “We have given him enough publicity. Out of respect for the victims, the killer should be completely anonymous.”  I don’t think Hell exists, but when I think of him, I hope it does.  I don’t think anyone can name all 14 women who died.  I certainly can’t.  They’re all agglomerated as “the victims.”  The shooter maintains his individuality in death, but the 14 women he martyred lose theirs.  All we seem to know is that they were engineering students.  But what else about them?  What were their dreams?  What did they plan to do with their lives when they finished school?  What books did they read?  Where did they hang out with their friends?  All of this, I wonder about every year at the anniversary.  And I have no idea what the answers to these questions are.

These are the victims:

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student, age 21.
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student, age 23.
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student, age 23.
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student, age 22.
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student, age 21.
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student, age 29.
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department, age 25.
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student, age 23.
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student, age 22.
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student, age 28.
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student, age 21.
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student, age 23.
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student age 20.
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student, age 31.

Gender, Religion, and J-Roc

October 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

Christianity has a long history of being a female-gendered religion.  I would suggest this derives from the early Christian Church, which saw men and women as equals.  It was only the rise of the Vatican in Rome that saw the gradual dissolution of women’s roles in the church.

In the late 19th century, throughout the British Empire, including Canada, there was a massive reinvigoration of mainline Protestant churches.  In part, this was driven by the concept of “muscular Christianity”, a doctrine that was used to justify and extend the British imperial project.  According to this doctrine, the (white) British Christian man was to give his body and soul over to Jesus.  His body was to be his temple.  The muscular Christian, then, could be found all over the British Empire, in Africa, in India, extending British dominion over a usually recalcitrant populace.  He could also be found in the inner-city of London and Manchester, as well as Montréal and Toronto.  The Americans got into the act, too.  Indeed, the rise of organised sport, largely centred around Thomas Arnold’s Rugby School and the ubiquitous sport, derived from muscular Christianity, as did the Boy Scouts movement of Lord Baden-Powell in the late 19th century.

But this masculinised Christianity arose in response to the feminisation of these mainline Protestant churches.  Women were always the more devout, the ones who actually went to mass, and they began to create space for themselves within the parish, within the church itself.  Women’s auxiliaries, in particular, but also other organisations.  The Catholic Church, at least in Québec got involved, too, creating groups that were female-centric.  The fact that these churches would become feminised is not all that surprising, in many ways.  Women were left without recreative spaces through the rise of industrialisation and the middle classes in the 19th century.   The advent of domestic servants for large swaths of the population meant that these women had less to do.

Just as their husbands’ masculinity had to change and take into account their new sedentary employment as managers, these bourgeois women’s femininity also shifted.  They were no longer so much caregivers and housekeepers, they had free time.  But they lived in a world where their public excursions and causes were always going to be limited due to the dominant patriarchal ideals of the day.  There were concerns about their safety and security, about the “delicate nature of the fairer sex.”  Thus, the church became the ideal location for women.  What safer place could there be than God’s house?  And so the parish (or whatever you want to call it in whatever Christian church you want to talk about) became this feminised space, just for women.

And men were turned off by the church, hence the response of muscular Christianity.

Recently, I exchanged emails with my CTlab colleague, Marisa Urgo, about American jihadists, and she noted something kind of interesting.   She suggested that it makes sense that bored (white) suburban youth in the US would be intrigued by Islam, as it is a very masculine religion, when compared to Christianity.  While I am not so interested in the consequences of this, it’s not my area of expertise, I do find the idea of gender and religion really interesting.  The fact that a particular disaffected segment of white, suburban youth would be attracted to the masculinist vision of radical Islam is fascinating for all sorts of reasons.

I think there’s also something to be said for the exotic here, much like white suburban boys in the late 80s/early 90s got so fascinated by gangsta rap coming out of Los Angeles and New York City.  This was when I was a teenager, and whilst I love hip hop, I never quite understood these guys who became so obsessed with not just the music, but the alleged lifestyle of gangsta rappers, to the point where they began to not only dress like Easy-E and Ice Cube, but they began to commit petty crime and to act like idiots, so that they could be gangsta.  You know the type, like J-Roc from Trailer Park Boys

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