Geneviève, Hélène, Nathalie, Barbara, Anne-Marie, Maud, Maryse, Maryse, Anne-Marie, Sonia, Michèle, Annie, Annie, Barbara
These are names I learned today. They are names I don’t want to forget. They deserve to be recognized and remembered. Do you know them?
They are the 14 women shot by an angry woman hater on December 6, 1989 at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique. The women were separated from the men and shot after which he roamed the school and shot several other women.
These women were killed because they wanted to study engineering. They were smart. They were young. They had families.
That event occurred 30 years ago. Today on International Day of Women, I felt it important to do some reading about this tragic event. 30 years ago I was ten years old but I remember being so confused and saddened by the news. It’s etched in my memory. Even at ten I knew how terrifying it must have been to be separated from the men, lined up and killed because of your gender. But do we do this still today? 30 years later we should be better. Tonight on the news I heard about women in sports. Women in sports make way less than men doing the same job. The government of Canada put 30 million dollars towards changing that. There’s that 30 again. When I first heard that, I wondered what the 30 million would do. Would they use it to create posters that say, “pay women the same as men!”? Would they just increase salaries of women in sports? If so, isn’t that the role of the owners? Why is the government giving away money that could be used for social programs to women who already make a ton of money? Even if a woman makes half of what some of today’s top hockey or basketball players that is still more money than most people see in a year. Maybe the government just wants to try and make a point. Could it be their way to say, “women deserve to be paid the same as men.”? Women are rarely paid the same as men doing the same job. Men are years ahead of us because for years many professions were male only. Universities were male only. Women could go if they wanted to teach but most stayed home and had children.
The killer at Polytechnique (who I won’t speak his name as I don’t believe any murderer should gain notoriety for heinous crimes) had been abused as a child by his Algerian father. His mother was also abused and a bond between mother and son was discouraged. His father most likely indoctrinated into his son that women don’t deserve rights. His whole life we watched as his abusive father hurt his mother. His mother stayed in that relationship. I wonder if she could see the future and what her son would do later in life, if she would have changed her situation and left. Sad reality is probably not. It’s mind boggling to know how many women stay in abusive relationships. They allow their children to be taught that it is okay to hit women. They allow their children to see and hear things that are shaping their view of women, of society, of relationships and of themselves often creating a vicious cycle.
My parents both taught me that women can be anything. When I was in grade school my mother went through the rigorous process of applying to be a firefighter in our city at a time when there were no women at all; she would have been the first. She made it through all the stages of testing only to quit at the last step. I remember she said, “I realized I didn’t actually want to be a firefighter I just wanted to know that I could.” Seeing that taught me a lot. I have always been similar to my mom in that way. I don’t always want to do something but if someone says I can’t or women can’t then it’s a challenge to prove otherwise.
The women at Polytechnique may have felt the same. Engineering is still a seriously male dominated field but 30 years ago there were barely any women studying engineering. Women are encouraged to enter but many still don’t. There is a huge need in engineering and computer science for the marvelous mind of women. Women’s thought processes are often different than men so having women as well as men in a field of work brings a broader range of thoughts and ideas to every task.
Our girls have always been taught that they can go into whatever field they want. So far two of them have chosen female dominated roles in child welfare. They both desire to become mothers someday. They desire a home to love their children in. We have taught them that whatever they want to do is okay. It’s okay if they want to be a doctor or a stay at home mother, a lawyer or a secretary, a teacher or an engineer; any profession is open to them and all are good.
I’m thankful we are raising our kids in North America because I know full well that there are other countries, other governments, other families that do not teach their girls the same. Our girls have the freedom to choose. Other girls do not. Child marriage, trafficking, slavery, mutilation, abusive fathers, neglect, poverty, and more affect girls all over the world and prevent their skills and talents from ever being developed.
All mothers are women. That’s the way our bodies were created. Women have a place to hold a baby, men do not. That doesn’t make us weak, it makes us strong. If any man has ever seen labour, they should know how powerful the woman’s body can be. Women take insane amounts of strength to bear the loads they do every day. Women deserve to know the same rights as men. Does that make me a feminist? I don’t feel like I am. Maybe I’m leaning towards that movement if it means girls in Africa can one day enjoy the ability to go to school for engineering instead of being forced into mutilation or child marriage at age 12.
My prayer is that no child (male or female) are taught that it is okay to hurt others. Every child should know that women and men can be strong and also have times of weakness. They should be presented with all the options for education. Girls and boys can both learn that there are differences between their bodies but that doesn’t make either of them weak. For International Women’s Day, teach your children that every single person on this planet is different, not equal. Everyone is unique and has a unique set of skills and talents and all can be used for good and all deserve respect. Teach your children to dream and to strive for greatness no matter what they choose to do.