Monday, December 6, 2010

This Is A "What About The Men?" Post

Today is the anniversary of the murder of the 14 women at l'Ècole Polytechnique Montreal, 1989. On this day 21 years ago, Marc Lèpine purposefully went into a classroom of engineering students, separated the men from the women, made the men leave, shot the women, then wandered the school finding more women to shoot at. In 45 minutes, he had killed 14 women, with the rationale, "I hate feminists."

I attended a memorial ceremony today. Since that day, this memorial has blossomed to include remembrances of women who are killed because of who they are - women, that dare to exist beyond what small-minded men think they should be. I listened to two women talk about being dismissed, ignored, mythologized, because they are First Nations, and how their deaths are just part of life, and not a tragedy. They asked, how many women does it take before change must occur? What is the tipping point of death that will demand people take notice and stop the violence?

Today, I think about the men in that classroom that day. I wonder who they were, and what they were thinking about when told to leave the classroom. I wonder if they put up resistance and what they would have said then if they knew then what they know now. I wonder what the men were thinking as the gunman went around the university, looking for more victims, shooting them down. 

I understand, of course, why they didn't stand up. I understand why self-preservation overrode everything else. I know this, I know survival instincts. Fifty men against one man with a gun, leaving that one man with a gun against nine women.

This makes me angry. For all the literature upon literature of (usually heterosexual) men doing brave deeds, for all the sacrifices that men are supposed to make on battlefields laying down their lives, for all the strength that men are supposed to possess to protect us weak frail women -- this apparently was not enough to save the lives of 14 women that day, and it still isn't enough.

For all the stories we are told about the natural intelligence of men, the natural physical strength, and their natural instinct to protect women or those weaker than them, there were still those men who walked out of that room that day, December 6, 1989. 

I think about the terrible bargain so many of us must live with. I think about male homosociality and macho culture that demands men behave a certain way when there are no women present. I think about rape jokes and how they abound when there are only men in the room. I think about the language of dominance that lends power to the masculine.

What about the men? Why would men allow such beings as Marc Lèpine to exist without check? Why would men laugh at rape jokes that condone the subordination and humiliation of women, why would they stay silent? Why would men let other men do and say these things?

Where were those men that day and where were their fucking heroics? Where was their fucking machismo that day? It seems in the face of true injustice, men's "naturally competitive" edge take leave. Patriarchal myths are cowardly like that.

I worry. No, I fear. I fear for my sisters, cis and trains, and for my queer siblings in humanity, because tomorrow might be a day that some gunman would calmly, rationally decide he would take a gun to them and shoot them down and leave them in a ditch somewhere, because that's what a reasonable person would do in the face of something that affronts them. I fear another resentful man would find it a suitable punishment to rape and murder women because they dared take his rightful place. 

And I fear that men who are supposed to be our allies, who daily complain that of course they love women and want to see women happy, why aren't we pleased with their silly little compliments and derring-do's that embarrass us and objectify us, these men who are supposed to be stronger and protective and caring, these men who are our brothers and fathers and cousins and uncles and friends -- I fear that, instead of standing with us to face the fire, instead of standing up against a genuine danger, instead of speaking out against the little things designed to humiliate us if we ever knew -- I fear they, too, will walk out of the room to leave us to our fate. 

I can't say I would be surprised, though. And I can't decide if that's worse. I wouldn't be able to hold it against them, but my heart would still break.

I don't want to hold men to these higher standards that the patriarchy claims to hold them to (and fails to make them accountable to, but that's why patriarchy as an oppressor system works), as feminism has shown how these standards are a sham. Yet men still believe in the inferiority of women, even as they benefit from the advances feminism has made.

I just wish men were as strong as the myths say they are. 

Good night, all you who others deemed not human enough to be worthy of empathy. I wish you peace.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent piece. The most chilling point I think is Lèpine's hatred of feminists that led to the senseless murder of women, who may or may not have been feminists.

    I feel that there is a strong overlapping of hatred, mistrust and mistreatment of feminists with women in general. And I do wonder if feminist hate operates as a more acceptable, under-the-rader form of misogyny in societies in which "real" misogyny is more easily named and shamed (the way Islam treats women is a classic example).

    Haha! I'm not for one who wishes myths were true. The thing with myths is that they're really powerful and endure the test of time, but they're not made for being proven true. But for feminists to expect men to step up and embody the myth is potentially dangerous as men already do this; most really do aspire to be part of that seductive myth and inevitably fail, at the expense of themselves and those around them.

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