06 December 2007

Remembrance and Action

Today, December 6, is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Eighteen years ago today, Marc Lepine walked into the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and opened fire while yelling that he "hated feminists" and killed 14 women. This horrific act was carried out because Lepine, like far too many men, hated women. It is the world's oldest hate crime and form of discrimination, it has been justified and rationalized by numerous arguments, and it is largely ignored. More than 3000 women are killed by men in the United States every year--roughly equating to a 9/11 on an annual basis. Yet there is no "war on misogyny" that seeks to eradicate men's terrorism and violence against women; it is accepted as the most outrageous manifestation of a "boys will be boys" mentality.
Today is a day of remembrance, to the extent that people know about what happened on December 6th. Given the paucity of white and purple ribbons adorning people's coats in Halifax, I think it is safe to say that not many do. A month ago, we all honoured--rightly so--those killed in the two World Wars by wearing poppies. It is expected. It is right and proper. But we don't take the time to remember the women who are murdered by men today, yesterday, last week, last month, last year, and who will continue to be killed tomorrow, the next day, next week, and so forth. There are memorials in many cities in Canada, and some small vigils. You don't see too many politicians wearing white ribbons in late November/early December. It says a lot about our pride in our forefather and our country that we remember those who gave their lives to a just and noble cause more than half a century ago. Unfortunately, it also says a lot about us that we don't remember and don't honour the women who are killed on an all-too-regular basis. But those of us who do, do so through books, through public events, through personal memorials, and through the commitment that we undertake to take action.
Today is a day of action. Today we come together and say, "This must stop." We join the White Ribbon Campaign, taking the pledge to never commit, condone, encourage, or turn a blind eye to men's violence against women. We can join Amnesty International's Campaign to Stop the Violence, or the Stolen Sisters remembrance campaign. We talk to our friends and family about violence that affects 1 in 3 women world-wide. We send letters and emails to our elected officials demanding justice. We tell people that think beating up, humiliating, and degrading women makes for good comedy that they are wrong, that it is not funny. We change our attitudes and look to change the attitudes of others so that we can all come to the very sensible conclusion that the scope and scale of violence against women is unacceptable, that it must end, that we must begin to regard all people with the same compassion and empathy and accord them the same rights and dignity that we expect for ourselves. This is what we do today...and what we must all strive to do every day.

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