Twenty-five years ago. It was twenty-five years.
I was a young woman then too: I was twenty-four. Unlike the victims of the Montreal massacre, I was not studying to break into a male-dominated field; I was already working in a traditionally feminine career. The day after the horrible news of the murders broke, I sat at the cafeteria table at lunch as we shook our heads over the thought of something like this happening in Canada. My male co-workers expressed amazement and disgust, not at the shooter — that went without saying — but at the male students who left the room on the shooter’s orders, rather than trying to “take down” the man with the gun. To them, this was a problem to be solved by male heroism, rather than prevented by men recognizing women as equals.
And of course, OF COURSE, it’s #notallmen, it was #neverallmen. But men like my co-workers, who would never have dreamed of committing acts of violence against women, didn’t talk about the fact that this was about one man’s twisted resentment of feminism, of women in traditionally male space. And part of the reason they didn’t talk about it was that they didn’t really get it themselves, and they weren’t entirely comfortable saying the word “feminist” out loud.
Already in 1989 when the Montreal massacre happened, women’s place in the world had changed so much from our mothers’ time. Brave feminists in previous generations had won us the right to vote, the right to get an education everywhere and the right to work for equal pay in every profession. From there on in, young women like me thought, it would be smooth sailing to full equality.
The horror of December 6, 1989 shocked me, shocked a lot of young women like me, but I think we thought of it as an anomaly. I did, anyway. The disturbed, violent man who killed those 14 women at Ecole Polytechnique projected his own inner demons onto women he identified as “feminists,” with tragic results, but one violent psychopath didn’t threaten the inevitable forward motion of feminism.
Flash-forward twenty-five years. I’ve spent the last two decades in my traditionally-female career. I’ve seen more women, including my husband’s engineering colleagues, entering traditionally male-dominated fields. I’m raising two smart young feminists — my strong-willed, independent daughter, and my son who has no problem identifying himself as a feminist, which was not usual for sixteen-year-old boys when I was growing up. We’ve come a long way, baby … and we’re still going.