Today we remember the 30 year anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. A day in which a man, whom we Canadian feminists choose not to name, entered L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, separated the men and the women, then gunned down 14 women who happened to be sitting in class, there to study engineering. Later it was discovered that the shooter’s ire was mostly directed specifically at feminists and these women were going to pay for whatever it was that feminists had done. This rage against feminists was neither new, nor does it seem to have gone away. A recent article in The Atlantic by Helen Lewis explored the numerous ways in which the online ‘manosphere’ of various social media platforms is rife with misogyny and have become safe spaces for future mass shooters. Online harassment and stalking has gotten so bad that I recently read an nearly unending thread on Twitter, initiated by national book award winner and black woman sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom seeking advice for how to deal with death threats. As she tweeted, “do you archive them or just delete or what? I’ve always saved them for some unfathomable reason. But now I have someone managing them and it seems like a bad job to have so I wonder if we just delete them?” . Thankfully, I’ve yet to receive a death threat, but recently had my Twitter feed trolled and shared at work in an attempt to smear me; such is the life of women in academia.
But what is it that feminists have done to deserve such ire? One scholar at my university has publicly referred to feminists on university campuses as “terrorists” for lowering the bar for academic excellence in our efforts to increase the numbers of women and people of color on university campuses. Feminists have pushed for universities to be more inclusive and they have challenged racism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination against marginalized, minority, or otherwise vulnerable groups. And, as a result of feminist movement, women now make up a third of STEM undergraduates and over half of all bachelor and master degree recipients in Canada. But terrorists?
If terrorism is defined as unlawful intimidation, harassment, and threats of violence to pursue a particular political agenda, the history of mass gynocide and interminable domestic and sexual violence rates would suggest that perhaps there’s some projection going on among the anti-feminists. This is not an ideological claim, but an empirically verifiable truth that women and men experience disproportionate rates of violence at the hands of men. Though, I do recall reading about a research project from maybe 15 years ago in which scholars found extensive anti-male bias in their systematic analysis of greeting cards. I never realized what a hotbed of feminist activism Hallmark was, but hopefully the advent of email has really put a dent in their female supremacist movement.
The reality is that neither feminists nor most men are terrorists. Most men aren’t going to kill anyone and there is no scientific evidence showing a correlation between feminism and terrorist activity. And though I’ve yet to receive a death threat, I still can’t help but flinch when I find myself in the cross-hairs of an angry man. One man rolled his eyes as he told someone in front of me that I had expressed fear of him physically harming me because he knew that he himself was harmless. He said I was crazy to think he would ever hurt me physically. No matter how mad he got at me for the words I used, I was to know that he was somehow still safe. But how are we to know that this otherwise “good” guy isn’t going to be the one to lose it? Perhaps the anti-feminists feel terrorized by women’s terror.
It is this fear of the unknown, the fear I have for my children (mostly boys), that makes me want to retreat into the comfort of my safe home. But this is precisely why, we still remember the names of the women who lost their lives to a lone angry man on December 6th, 30 years ago this week. We come together to remind ourselves that there is strength in numbers and that we not allow each other to be terrorized out of public spaces, places of higher learning, or positions of power. Despite hundreds of years of misogyny, both veiled and explicit, white male supremacy is losing. We aren’t going anywhere and we don’t care if they like it.