On December 6, 1989, Marc Lepine shot to death 14 women at the Engineering School of the University of Montreal in Canada; it was the worst single-day massacre in Canadian history.
More than three decades later, the anniversary of the shooting remains the occasion for alarmist claims about violence against women and the ritual shaming of every man.
I will review the massacre and the reporting about it to show how from the beginning it became a pretext to reinforce and exacerbate already widespread anti-male propaganda, much of it having little or nothing to do with the gunman or his crime. Rather than seek to understand what happened on that December day, Massacre commemorations have spread misinformation about the prevalence and meaning of violence against women, smearing all men as potential murderers.
Every year, the anniversary of the Montreal massacre is commemorated with articles and reflection pieces in mainstream media bearing angry titles like “Let’s finally call ‘violence against women’ what it really is” and “Violent misogyny is a threat to half our population. We need to call it what it is: Terrorism,” the latter op/ed referring to the massacre as “just one in a long line of mass killings motivated by hatred of women.” Such articles suggest that society has yet to grapple with the pervasiveness of hatred of women.
In actuality, “hatred of women” quickly became the dominant, perhaps the only acceptable, public explanation for the murders, with the bloodthirsty gunman recruited as a stand-in for all (“toxic”) men.
Let’s return to December 6, 1989.
Stating that he hated feminists, he moved up and down the halls in search of victims before turning the weapon on himself. Fourteen women were left dead, ten other women and four men injured. To clarify his action, Lépine left a suicide note explaining his rage (He also appended a list, not released until many months later, giving the names of particular women he would like to have killed).
Even before the note’s contents were revealed, most commentators ruled out of bounds the idea that Lépine was mentally ill or that his atrocious act was in any way exceptional. That was too easy, they insisted, and was itself a kind of sexism. Martin Dufresne, identifying himself as a member of the Men’s Collective Against Sexism, charged in a letter to the newspaper Le Devoir the day after the murders that “The antifeminism of the killer is strangely echoed by those who would again censor women by preventing them from saying what everybody knows perfectly well: it was misogyny that struck Wednesday, not an ‘incomprehensible act.’”
If anyone had tried to prevent women from calling Lepine’s an act of misogyny, the censorship was spectacularly unsuccessful.
Many declarations in the wake of the shooting (collected here in book form) were even more emphatic than Dufresne’s, alleging that Lépine’s act was an instance of ideological terrorism, logically planned and executed, its purpose to make all women afraid. His choice of an Engineering school was purportedly a warning to women entering masculine fields: if you attempt to usurp male authority, you will die. As feminist journalist Francine Pelletier wrote somewhat bombastically for La Presse newspaper just a few days after the incident, “If this is madness, never has it been so lucid, so calculated. […] The message is: there is a price for women’s liberation and the price is death.” Quebec feminist Nicole Brossard, also in La Presse, claimed that every woman who mourned Lépine’s victims knew that she herself had also “been symbolically put to death.”
These were dramatic declarations that no man dared contradict.
“the day-to-day struggle inflicted upon women by men’s domination.” Denise Veilleux, in a letter to Le Devoir, summed it up as follows: “Most women know one thing only too well: it’s open season on women all year long!”
"The safety of women must be
the foundation of any society"
immigrant from Algeria, with a history of psychiatric illness. As Gharbi’s business failed, he became more unpredictable and explosive. According to his ex-wife Monique Lepine in interview, he had beaten both her and their son, once “slamm[ing] [his son’s] face so hard the marks were there for a week.” He also failed to show his son any affection.
kind of behaviour, that it hurts them too, that they don’t want any more of it—that’s the day when things will start to change. Not before.”
easily refute, and most didn’t even try.