On December 6, 1989, at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, a man name Marc Lépine entered a classroom with a gun in his hand. He ordered the male and female students to stand at opposite ends of the room. “I am fighting feminism,” Lepine said, “You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.” He then shot the women from left to right, killing six and injuring three. He then moved quickly through the rest of the school, looking for more women to shoot. In total, fourteen women were killed, ten more injured, and four men were injured. Finally he turned on the gun on himself and ended his own life. His suicide note accused feminists of ruining his life.
The Montreal Massacre dramatizes the ideological war against feminism. Problematically, most demonizations of feminism rely on a misunderstanding of what feminism actually is. Lépine was motivated by the belief that feminism was oppressive, and that, in culture, it is women who oppress men. This is a gross skewing of the most essential facts of feminism. While feminism encompasses a wide range of ideological positionalities, the uniting definition of feminism is distinctively anti-oppression: feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of sexual equality” (OED). That’s right: feminism is anchored in the ideal of equality. Feminism seeks to eliminate oppression, not to be the hand that administers it. As for Lépine’s belief that it is women who oppress men in society, just think on the fact that there were fifty men in that engineering class that day, but only nine women, and think of the Montreal Massacre as one of the countless acts of violence targeted disproportionately at women by men. Lepine’s war against feminism was saturated with a dreadful irony: he attacked feminism by re-establishing the patriarchy that was already ripe in the scene.
We at Antigone remember the women who were killed and the men and women who were injured with solemnity, sadness, anger and love. And we ask that when you encounter someone who demonizes feminism, that you invite them to think critically about their beliefs and to learn more about feminism at Feminism 101.