Thursday, January 25, 2007

Violence and my Visceral Reaction

Ok, obviously it has taken me 2 months, and I haven't yet figured out what I want to say about this article. I've reallized, though, that my problem in figuring out what to articulate is based on my attempt to overcome the desire to label that I talked about in my last post. I want to listen to what this person is saying, and not dismiss them as a crazy right-wing nut-bar . . . but basically her thesis kicks me in the gut. Maybe I'll respond to it sometime soon, but in the meantime, I'd love your comments.

December 6, 2006

Lone gunman
The Ecole Polytechnique massacre was a freak tragedy. So why is every man made to feel guilty for it?
Barbara Kay, National Post

Seventeen years ago today Marc Lepine killed 14 women and himself at the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal in Canada's worst mass murder. From this human tragedy of no inherent political significance, a political industry emerged, which produced in the massacre's name: gun control laws, lavish public spending on women's causes, feminist-guided school curricula and a high tolerance for overt misandry.

In the massacre's wake, ideologues elevated Lepine's rampage from a random act by one disaffected individual into the gender equivalent of Kristallnacht or 9/11. A narrative evolved in which every woman became a potential victim of an organized, hate-driven enemy -- like the Nazis or al-Qaeda -- with the massacre as an ominous harbinger of more aggression to come.

Both male and female feminists colluded in promoting the myth of lone killer Lepine as the symbol of all males' innate hostility to women, however dormant it might appear. In a shameful, inflammatory broadside affirming generalized male responsibility, for example, a group called Montreal Men Against Sexism responded to the massacre with self-hating stereotyping inconceivable in the context of a similar crime committed by, say, a black or a Muslim: "Men kill women and children as a proprietary, vengeful and terrorist act ... with the support of a sexist society ... As pro-feminist men, we try to reveal and to end this continuing massacre."

What "continuing massacre"? Women have been subjugated by men throughout history, but organized massacres of women by their own culture's males? Never.

In an equally specious analogy, career arch-feminist Judy Rebick commented: "If [Lepine had] killed 14 Jews, he'd have been seen as ... anti-Semitic." Yes, and rightly so, because anti-Semitism is a historical syndrome involving a litany of actual massacres by organized Jew-haters. But no similar historical record exists of organized women haters or of women-specific massacres.

Such rhetorical duplicity, endlessly replicated, has resulted in harmful social fallout. Amongst other unjust and gender-divisive consequences, the "White Ribbon" educational movement, initiated in 1991 as a direct response to the massacre, and now integrated into more than 100 schools across Canada, sponsors a biased, error-riddled curriculum on domestic violence (read "violence against women by men"). A freak tragedy has thus become the misandric lens through which many Canadian children are taught to perceive gender relations.

Publicly endowed grievance rites like the annual Dec. 6 vigils are inappropriate responses to isolated acts of violence. National mourning ceremonies should consecrate events that have shaped our civic character. Honouring the dead should draw people together -- the whole country, not half -- either to heal historic wounds, acknowledge sacrifices made on all our parts and strengthen our sense of national purpose, or to affirm solidarity in the face of calamities inflicted by a real, external enemy.

The Montreal Massacre commemoration industry, whose emotive effect depends on scapegoating men, is having the opposite effect: For the sins of a few, the nature of half our polity is often falsely maligned, breeding suspicion and hostility in women, needless shame and guilt in all men and boys, and mutual resentment and mistrust between the sexes.

Ritualized violence against women, such as wife beating, bride burnings or honour killings, is a function of retrograde cultural notions of sexual relations. If such abhorrent behaviours were officially tolerated or encouraged here, then politicizing a particularly egregious example would be justified in order to end the practice.

But the complete reverse is the case. Officially and unofficially, virtually to a man and woman, Canadians schooled in our heritage culture utterly repudiate violence against women. Proof lies in the fact that while many gendercides in history have targeted males, none preceding or following the Montreal Massacre in the West has singled out women.

Most people assume Lepine's rage was entirely focused on women. In fact, the perpetually troubled misfit entertained serial and disparate revenge fantasies. An earlier ambition, noted in his suicide note as one of several "projects," was to join the Armed Forces as an officer cadet, gain access to the arsenal and embark on a shooting rampage. In that case, those murdered would have been males, and Marc Lepine, along with his victims -- their names inscribed on a commemorative plaque in the armory perhaps -- would by now have faded from our national memory. Something for Canadian "equality" buffs to ponder at the vigil tonight.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


The problem with politics and activism is that they encourage you to take up positions - to avoid evaluating situations (and people) as you find them, because there's a set ideology that you are supposed to espouse as a tory, greenpeacer, Christian, etc etc.

Throughout my life, I have found labels to be very comforting, but I am realizing a need to move beyond them. I met a guy once who told me that I couldn't be a feminist because my father walked me down the aisle when I got married. This man had got his definition of feminism, I believe, from Foucault (another man). I was deeply offended. Several times, people have assumed I was a vegetarian, because I "look like a vegetarian." I was deeply amused. I was just discussing this with Melissa. Apparently, people are often surprised she doesn't eat meat, because she "doesn't look like a vegetarian." Apparently vegetarians don't wear make=up?

Anyway, from the ridiculous to the laughable, these experiences of having other people label me has encouraged me to look at the way I label myself, at the pigeon-hold I put myself in. When I was a teenager, and into university, I thought of myself as artsy. Then I went to law school, and realized that I have a very logical sequenced brain (or else my indoctrination was so complete that my brain was rewired through the process . . .). My image of who I was, where I fit, kept me from experiences that I was fully capable of, and being able to offer my talents to the fullest to causes that I care about.

When I lived in Scotland, it was the first time I removed myself from everything I knew. It wasn't so much that travelling was a chance to reinvent myself as some kind of wild and crazy party animal, but it was, as cliche as it sounds, a chance to find myself. I could strip away all of the identifications that I was scared to leave behind, because they were what people at home knew me as and counted on me to be = and I examined who I really was. What I believed. What I liked. What I wanted. It was scary - I almost lost my faith. But I came out stronger, and by being willing to self=examine, I realized that being honest with myself was worth disappointing, and maybe even losing, people I cared about. I didn't lose anyone, but gained a precedent of honesty and trust in my relationships.

So, since then, I've realized that being honest with myself involves seeing myself as a very multi-faceted individual. I don't fit into pigeon holes, and I guess I don't fit into a group that can be defined or identified by their clothing or the muic they listen to or what they do for a living. I am a thinking and caring (most of the time) human being, in all of my contradictions - and I pray for the courage to look beyond the labels and treat every person I meet as the same.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Ok, so after a fairly long hiatus, I am returning with something a bit inane. I have an article about how bad the Day of Action and Remembrance Against Violence Against Women is, which I have been planning to respond to. But, I haven't organized myself on that one. So, in the meantime . . . obese children . . .

Today the Globe had articles about both phys. ed classes and school cafeteria food. The premise was sound - childhood obesity is on the rise, and something needs to be done about it. However, I felt like there were elements in the discussion which are often missing that might be worth thinking about.

I hated gym class when I was a kid. I quit gym after I'd made it through the mandatory requirement in grade 9. I was glad to see in the article in the Globe that our school systems are moving away from a sports skill based program to one of general activity and fitness. I have managed to be relatively healthy and active throughout my life, but I definitely didn't learn any love of physical activity in gym class, which I was never particularly good at, and am glad that I am now an adult and can choose activities that aren't team sports (I like to swim, bike, hike, work out on my own at the gym).

I think that school is an important place to learn to incorporate physical activity into our daily lives, but it has to come in all shapes and sizes, and not just be based on skills at sports. Maybe non-athletic children need small challenges - pedometers to encourage them to walk more. Activities where they only have to run for a short time, and don't need particular coordination. It's hard to go from being completely out of shape to running around on the soccer field or trying to hit a baseball, and it can be a turn-off (I am still trying to get over my aversion to running, grounded in the cross-country program that our elementary school did, which consisted of sending us out to run . . . I was shocked at about the age of 25 to learn there is TECHNIQUE to running . . .).

It also has to come from home. Children don't spend all day at school - so there's a portion of the day when they could be active outside of the school context. If a parent drives to the corner store, then the child is going to think that's an option. If the parent never rides a bike or goes skating, why should the child want to?

I thought that this article missed the point a bit more than the one about exercise. A lot of the healthier options in school cafeterias, at least in my day, were quite unappetizing. When I lived in residence (1997), the pasta was good, and the salad bar and sandwich bar were both decent, but the hot meals that weren't processed were disgusting. This article talked about one school where the students were passing up shepherds pie and vegetables for french fries with gravy. That's because processed shepherd's pie and frozen vegetables are gross.

There was one mention of a school where there was squash soup and fresh baked fries. Now, that's good food that tastes good - but it costs more. So, there's the rub. Good healthy food generally costs more. Perhaps the school boards and governments, if they are going to take this seriously, need to be subsidizing fresh food. . . but when they are already cutting programs left right and centre, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Perhaps, another thing that schools should be doing is extending their home-ec classes. When I took my mandatory course in grade 8, we learned the basics, but didn't really learn to make a full good healthy meal. This is something that would transfer over from school to home where kids are in charge of meal preparation.

The commentary on the Globe and Mail website is often fairly cutting. I usually avoid it, but I was interested in what people had to say about these articles. There was one person who mentioned that the problem was that we coddled our lard-butt children and had to tell them they were fat and had to move. This reader suggested there should be no such thing as "love you body week" at schools. While the underpinning of this argument may be sound - that children who are obese have to be encouraged to take control of their health, I still find this tone problematic. People hate their bodies, and it's a problem. Telling an obese child that her body is disgusting is probably not a good way to encourage mental health. It seems it would make more sense to encourage children to love their bodies for what they can do - to feel good about being strong and fast and healthy. Children shouldn't be obese - but there's a large gap between obese and movie star thin . . .

Ok, that's my rant of the moment. I speak from the position of someone who doesn't have any children, and is aware that it's going to cost a lot of money to change the system . . . but I still think it's worth thinking about.