Remembering the Montreal Massacre

December 6, 2016 § 2 Comments

Today is the 27th anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre, also known as the Montreal Massacre.  On this morning, 6 December, in 1989, an armed gunman walked into the École Polytechnique, separated the men from the women, and shot 28 people, executing 14 female students.  Why? Because they were women and he felt that feminists had ruined his life.  As per usual, I refuse to name him.  He should be forgotten, he does not deserve infamy (he killed himself at the scene).  His suicide letter contained the names of 19 other Quebec feminists he wished to kill.

For Canadians of my generation, the Massacre was and remains deeply shocking.  It resonates. I remember where I was when I heard the news, I remember the shock I felt, and then the anger.  I grew up in a violent household, my mother the target of my step-father during drunken outbursts.  His violence appalled me.  All violence against women appalls me.  Deeply.

And here we are, 27 years on, and violence against women is still prevalent.  For this reason, name and remember the victims of the Massacre in Montreal 27 years ago, to honour them. May they continue to rest in peace:

  • 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.

Clint Eastwood and Political Correctness

August 5, 2016 § 22 Comments

I have to admit, I like Clint Eastwood, the artist.  He’s the star of one of my favourite films of all-time, The Good, the Bad & The Ugly.  And he’s made some mighty fine films of his own.  He’s also a complex man.  He claims to be libertarian, but he’s supported both Democrat and Republican politicians.  He’s called for gun control since the early 1970s.  He was also a progressive mayor of Carmel-By-The-Sea, at least on environmental issues.  And he’s long been an advocate of environmental controls.  And, clearly, since he’s been mayor of his little resort town, he clearly isn’t opposed to government at all costs, nor is he opposed to using government power for the common good.

But, in recent years, he’s become a bit of a loose cannon.  His speech at the 2012 Republican Conference, the so-called “Empty Chair” routine, was unforgettable.  But this week, he was in the news again, complaining about the “pussy generation.”  See, Ol’ Clint is tired of political correctness:

[Trump]’s onto something because secretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation. Everybody’s walking on eggshells.

We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist.

My response? So what? First, Clint Eastwood loves to come off as a tough guy when he’s going off on a tangent like this.  Clint Eastwood ain’t no tough guy, he plays them in movies. That’s a big difference.  Second, Clint Eastwood is 86 years old.  When he was growing up, Jim Crow and segregation existed in the US.  Is that what he wants to return to? I presume not.

As for “political correctness,” you know what?  I’m sick of this one too.  Creating an environment in the world where people feel comfortable, where we are all respected and treated fairly is not a bad thing.  It’s easy for a multi-millionaire 86-year old white man to complain about the things that weren’t called racist 80 years ago.  What discrimination has Clint Eastwood faced in his life?

And this is the thing, the people who complain about “political correctness” tend to be white and middle class, and quite often male.  In other words, they tend to be people who don’t know what it feels like to be the target of discrimination or hate speech, or, worse.  It’s easy for them to claim there is no discrimination, no racism in society.  They’re not targeted by it.  It’s easy for Eastwood to complain about the “pussy generation.”

In short, you cannot complain about “political correctness,” or claim there is no such things as racism, sexism, misogyny, or homophobia if you are of the dominant group in society.

More to the point, a long time ago, a great man once noted that the mark of a democracy was how it treated its minorities.  And that is most certainly true.  That great man, by the way, was former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau (the father of current PM, Justin “Hotty Pants” Trudeau).

 

The Violence of the Misogynist Mind

February 4, 2016 § 2 Comments

Yesterday, one of my alma maters, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, sent out a video from Facilities about #NationalSweaterDay, which is a Canadian initiative to turn down the heat in the winter, to remind consumers about environmental responsibility (and the cost of heating).  The video itself is several years old, but it was circulated again.

To my eyes, this is horrible. A female professor is named “Pinkums” and is addressed as “Miss.”  I know from conversation with my female colleagues that they have a real struggle to be addressed as Doctor, or Professor.  Oddly I, as a white man, do not.  And, frankly, this video is degrading.

News of the video became widely known through the blog of Elise Chenier, a professor at SFU.  I was appalled when I came across this and tweeted my shock and dismay at SFU. No university should engage in this. Ever. To the credit of the university, it apologized almost immediately. And the video had long been pulled from circulation.  According to the CBC:

SFU vice-president for external relations Joanne Curry later released a statement addressing some of Chenier’s concerns. In the statement, Curry agrees the videos were “inappropriate, sexist, and not in keeping with our equity commitments.”

“As the video was produced by an external vendor, I had not seen it. When I did watch it, I immediately agreed with the feedback we had received,” the statement read.

“We took steps to remove the video as quickly as possible and have followed up with the group who produced and distributed the video to ensure it will no longer be used.”

Note, however, that Curry immediately passes by buck, noting that it was made by an external vendor.  But, the university did the right thing, as Chenier notes.

Today, I awoke to find my Twitter feed aflame with trolls.  Interestingly, all but two were men. The two women both noted they were “anti-feminist” in their bios.  Getting trolled on Twitter is nothing new.  It has happened before, it will happen again.  I have received all kinds of hate on Twitter, including death threats.  But today’s trolling was interesting in the sense that the men, all of whom were white, who attacked me descended into homophobia from the get go.  Some hoped I got raped, others told me to perform sexual acts on other men.  One threatened to rape me. And then there was the garden variety name-calling.

I spent a good amount of time blocking and reporting people today, thinking that this happens everyday to feminists on Twitter.  I can only imagine the abuse Chenier is getting right now. There was #Gamergate. Or what about when women suggested that a woman’s face be put on paper money in the UK? This happens every, single, fucking day to women who are threatened with rape and death for calling out patriarchy and male privilege.  And we let that happen. Every single one of us.  Right-thinking men, in particular.  We need to find a way to fix this, we need to figure out a way to marginalize these kinds of men, or the likes of Roosh V.  This is not ok.

MLK noted that the problem African Americans in his time faced wasn’t actually an African American problem.  It was a white problem.  Hence, he worked to raise white consciousness.  To convince white people they were the problem and had it in their power to fix racism.  By no means have we succeeded, but we have made a lot of progress.

Misogyny and sexism, similarly, is a male problem.  But, it seems that sexism and misogyny is considered acceptable for some men.  When people are offended by things like the SFU video, they respond with banal statements like “Can’t you take a joke?” Yes, I can. But this isn’t funny.  This is the basic laddish response.  But then there’s the anger, the violent, misogynist, threatening anger.

Male anger needs to be curbed.

But as much as I want this kind of thing stopped, I still struggle with the basic question of why some men act like this?  Is it simply about power?  Is it because they feel marginalized?  Why do some men feel the need to respond to feminism with vile, disgusting language?  And in some of these men, I think it goes beyond words and there is a danger in their threats and fits.

Sadly, I fully expect more trolling in response to this post.  The trolling will continue on Twitter.  And there will be some nasty comments left on this blog.

Thoughts on the Montréal Massacre

December 6, 2014 § 12 Comments

Twenty-five years ago today, on 6 December 1989, a deranged young man wandered into the École Polytechnique in Montréal and opened fire.  He was angry at women, he was angry at feminists whom he blamed for ruining his life. So he targeted women studying at an engineering school.  He killed fourteen of them:

  • Geneviève Bergeron
  • Hélène Colgan
  • Nathalie Croteau
  • Barbara Daigneault
  • Anne-Marie Edward
  • Maud Haviernick
  • Maryse Laganière
  • Maryse Leclair
  • Anne-Marie Lemay
  • Sonia Pelletier
  • Michèle Richard
  • Annie St-Arneault
  • Annie Turcotte
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

Today, I’ve seen patently stupid media articles in Canada praising us for being so much better today than we were then.  Bullshit.  We’re not.  I’m not even going to list all the misogyny and other bullshit I see around me on a daily basis.  I’ve noted much of it on this blog.

I’m sick of. I’m sick of misogyny. I’m sick of men’s violence towards women.  It’s time to man up, it’s time to end this.

 

F-Bombs for Feminism

November 7, 2014 § 4 Comments

FCKH8.com, a website dedicated to eradicating hatred, posted this video a few weeks back.  Not surprisingly, it caused a bit of a sensation

After all, we can’t have little kids swearing, can we?  Never mind the fact that they’re noting the ridiculous gender imbalance in our world.  Of course, that’s not shocking.  Denise Balkissoon published this devastating opinion piece in the Toronto Globe and Mail today; she argues that the Jian Ghomeshi situation is not some magical watershed for violence against women, reciting a long litany of shocking moments that should’ve marshalled our collective anger to stop it.  And this is just the Canadian context of violence against women.

But it’s not just violence.  A couple of weeks ago in class, two of my female students commented on their own experiences.  Both are incredibly intelligent young women, and both come from a place of privilege.  They are white, and they come from relatively affluent backgrounds.  Both grew up treated equally and fairly vis-à-vis the boys, but when it came time to graduate from high school and go to university, they discovered the world was not so fair.  Both report they received diminished opportunities in comparison to the men they knew, in terms of their choices for university, the internships they received, the jobs they got.  Why?  Because they’re girls.

The Facebook post I first saw this FCK8 video on had a bunch of comments tut-tutting about the foul language of these little girls, not on the fact that what they were saying was true.  And that is the entire point.  If it takes a famous Canadian radio host beating his dates, a South African athlete killing his girlfriend, or little girls swearing to draw our attention to this general societal problem, we’ve failed.

Anita Sarkeesian and Why I Got So Much Trouble on my Mind

October 16, 2014 § 7 Comments

I got so much trouble on my mind, like Chuck D. back in 1990.  Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist gamer, and critic of gamer culture.  I’m not a gamer, but I have female friends who are, and I have friends who design video games, including women.  They all report a culture of wider misogyny.  But I’m not here to lambaste gamers, I’m here to point out misogyny is a deep-seated cultural issue.  It permeates every corner of our culture, it’s regarded as acceptable by far too many, both men and women.  Too many of us stand around and watch it happen, and we do not call it out for what it is.  We do not stand up.

Men have a particular moral imperative to stand up in the face of misogyny.  Why?  Because misogynists are also men.  Men threaten women.  Men rape women.  Men kill women.  And spare me the “men’s movement.”  It’s nothing but a sad-sack attempt by a rearguard of men, upset that their access to patriarchal privilege is under threat.  Of course, that threat is only in their tiny little minds.

Sarkeesian was scheduled to give a talk on misogyny and gamer culture at the Utah State University.  Then some pathetic little man emailed an anonymous threat promising a “Montreal-style massacre” if USU allowed her talk to go ahead.  I’m not going to quote this pathetic little man’s threat here.  But I will remind readers that on 6 December 1989, one misogynist opened fire at the École Polytechnique de Montréal and shot 27 people, killing 14.  All of the dead were women.  All of them.  Why did he do this?  Because he claimed that feminists had ‘ruined’ his life.  So, too, did the anonymous man who threatened Sarkeesian at USU.

Sarkeesian wasn’t even told about the threat against her life by USU.  She read about it after landing in Utah.  Moreover, USU and the Utah police were unable to provide protection for her, as Utah is an open-carry state, meaning it is entirely legal to carry concealed weapons onto a university campus.  To prevent weapons on campus, or to have people check their guns at the door would have violated their Second Amendment rights.  I’m not sure that’s even true, but that’s an argument for another day.  So Sarkeesian cancelled.

I can’t say I blame her.  Who wants to be a martyr?  Especially for something as basic and simple as civil and human rights and the right of women to be treated equally by society.  But, this also lets the crazies win.  This lets the misogynists win.

I have had death threats in the past, in response to articles I published on a now-defunct London-based magazine website.  The threats against me were not credible, so I ignored them.  I have had a variety of threats against my person and my employment on Twitter.  But, again, they weren’t credible, so I ignored them.  But this is what the bullies do.  If they don’t like what you’re saying, they threaten you.  If you’re a woman, they threaten to rape you.  They threaten to kill you.  The threats Sarkeesian felt was very real.  Hell, she’s already been the target of some asshole’s idea of a joke with a video game that allows players the chance to punch her in the face over and over again.

We cannot let the crazies win.  And Sarkeesian continues to speak out about the threat to her life.  I applaud her.  If the crazies win, we lose civilisation.  Someone’s Second Amendment rights do NOT trump my First Amendment rights.  And, arguably, USU, as a state institution, violated Sarkeesian’s First Amendment rights.  There is a lot of talk about “rights” in the US, the rights guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights.  But nowhere does it say that anyone’s rights trump those of someone else’s.  Not in the Bill of Rights, not in the voluminous jurisprudence that has developed surrounding the Constitution.

And yet, I haven’t seen a politician come out in support of Sarkeesian.  Nor have I read a thing about an attempt to find the man who made this anonymous threat in the first place.  He sent an email.  It’s not that hard to trace it.

Welcome to the Terrordome indeed.

Why We Need Feminism. Still.

June 23, 2014 § 5 Comments

I am blessed with three insanely wonderful, talented, beautiful nieces, they are really amazing, and I don’t get to spend enough time with them.  The oldest of the three, Haley, is in a rock band in Norway, Slutface.  The band just released a new single, “Angst,” which, aside from being catchy as all get out, struck me for its lyrical content.  Haley sings about female objectification, dumb boys, and misogyny.  It kind of took me by surprise, because you don’t really hear lyrical content of this sort in pop music today.  Listening to the song, I thought back to a recent exchange I had on Twitter.  I posted something hashtagged #yesallwomen, and a troll responded that it was campaigns and hashtags like this that led to women being sexually assaulted and raped. Yes, seriously. In his delusional little world, rape and sexual assault didn’t happen until social media appeared on the scene.  He was, as you would imagine, hyper-aggressive about making his point, too.

When this current trend of feminist hashtags and campaigns on Twitter and social media exploded last year, I was kind of surprised.  I came across the account @everydaysexism and was gobsmacked. Women were documenting their experiences of being catcalled and harassed walking down the street.  I was shocked.  I though this kind of shit ended thirty years ago.  I asked the women in my life, and they confirmed that this was indeed their daily experience.  It angered me.

Back in the day, every woman I knew had been raped or sexually assaulted, so perhaps I should not have been surprised.  “The day” was the early 1990s.  But I seriously thought things had got better since then.  I’m not sure why I thought this.  I am a professor, everyday in the hallways, across campus, and even in my classroom, I see examples of sexism and outright misogyny.  Almost all advertising is based on the objectification of women to sell everything from cars to beer to razor blades to men.  In the post-Britney Spears, “post-feminist” world, this kind of objectification has become part of the day-to-day.  And for many of my female students, the very word “feminism” is a bad one.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a student say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then go on to make a very basic feminist point.

That depresses me.  As does this picture. 542999_200584493411003_2052673512_n  We ALL need feminism, for the reasons outlined above, and for the reasons this woman points out in the picture.

Sexism and misogyny isn’t funny.  Women don’t need to learn how to “take a joke” when men say stupid shit to them.  Men need to stop being pigs.  It’s that simple.

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