In 1989 Marc Lépine murdered 14 engineering students on a Canadian university campus because they were women (as he said while killing as well as in a letter found later).
Subsequently, any analyses and discourse that linked this horrific crime to misogyny and systematic violence against women was mainly shunned, ridiculed and silenced in the Canadian mass media.
The exact same pattern is happening again, in the wake of violent attacks by misogynists known as ‘incels’. This essay Murderous Fallout written in 1991 eerily echoes the same rhetorical strategies we see today, as if we have had no real progress in the last 27 years. I found the essay because of a memory triggered by the current atmosphere: I was doing my Bachelor’s at the University of Alberta at the time (in the late 80s), and to my horror, at a U of A engineering event, male students started shouting ‘Shoot the bitch!’ targeting a female engineering student who was making official complaints about sexist practices.
Studying Industrial Design in those years, in that programme, meant being the only woman in many of the classes (or one of two or three). It was absolutely completely normal in those days for my fellow students to make sexist remarks during our project presentations or even sexually explicit comments. For me it was absolutely normal to have to hear these comments because I am female. It was absolutely normal for the male professors to allow this atmosphere – because that kind of atmosphere was normal. In fact, while it made me uncomfortable, I was so used to that kind of discomfort that I thought it was a given – this is just the world so deal with it. It was absolutely normal that adult males felt they had the right to lay their hands on young women’s bodies, whether mine, my friends’, my nieces’… the family friend, the grandfather next door, the slimey brother-in-law, the brother’s best friend, the cousin, the neighbour – and family members would not call it out because it would have caused disruption and confrontation. Creepy uncles are just part of life.
It wouldn’t have occurred to me until years later, with perspective, maturity and more self-confidence, to realize how this behaviour is not normal and needs to be called out and stopped. I wish the other males around would have had that kind of maturity.
Pretending this oppression doesn’t happen is an oppression and a silencing of its own. Trying to claim that racism against BIPOC doesn’t exist and violence against women doesn’t exist – that there is no patriarchy and no white male privilege – is continued oppression and obvious attempts to maintain current hierarchies. Moreover, pretending that all this talk is just banter in social media with no real consequences is utopian – it has real ramifications in politics and elections, in mobilizing violent mobs, in making workplaces undesireable and uncomfortable for people who don’t happen to be white men, in incentivizing young men to kill.
See David Futrelle’s article ‘Incels hail Toronto van driver who killed 10 as a new Elliot Rodger, talk of future acid attacks and mass rapes’
See studies done by anthropology students
See this Master’s thesis
See Laurie Penny’s column
See the thousands of threats directed at Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, Laurie Penny (including the ones investigated by the FBI/police that mean they have to leave their homes) – and then tell me that calling out racism and sexism is virtue signalling and turning our society into a victim society. Whatever the f*ck that even means.