Book Review: “I Hate Feminists!” December 6, 1989, and Its Aftermath

The book’s title caught my eye. I remember where I was when the news broke that a male student killed fourteen women students on a college campus in Canada. Melissa Blais weighs in on the terrible events that took place on December 6, 1989 in this short, and powerful book. Blais does not makes sense of the tragedy, as that is not the book’s intent. Each chapter examines what took place and the consequences. The chapters are divided accordingly: Introduction, Feminist Participation, Marginalization to Disparagement, Commemorations, Negotiating the Representation of the Massacre, and the Conclusion.

Some have called the events the Montreal Massacre and others have refer to the Polytechnique violence. Regardless of the shorthand this tragedy caused many to take a serious look at targeted violence against women. Of course, violence existed prior to this event, and the fact that the women were college co-eds caused more attention by some. Blais teases apart the ways in which the newspapers covered the events and the consequences of the murder to the feminist and anti-feminist movements in Montreal and surrounding areas.

I read the English translation (thank you Phyllis Aronoff) and doubt that anything was lost in translation. The book is not an easy read, as you will want to put it down and think about some of the points that Blais makes. I read the book and thought about what has changed since this tragedy. I also thought about the Highway of Tears in British Columbia and the missing and murdered women in Juárez. I have mixed feelings. I know that many things have improved, but I think that some have stayed the same.

I have had the honor of sitting on the Dec 6th planning committee at work and this is the sort of work that requires a sincerity of the larger project–stopping violence against girls and women. I recall hearing some engineering students lamenting that they had to be reminded about the event and how burdensome it was to have to do this. I think it is more burdensome to not remember the 14 women from Montreal, and the women before and after them. The commemorations have become about stopping violence and it is crucial to remember this.

One of the things that came out of my reading this book was that I found out that my colleague, Maureen Bradley wrote some thoughtful work about the events. And, Bradley’s work is cited in this book. I encourage you to look at Bradley’s website about her other work since. Overall, I Hate Feminists is a book is worth reading and then thinking about the different ways that you support anti-violence efforts in your community. The book lingers–as it should.

IMG_3153

Blais, Melissa. 2014. “I Hate Feminists!” December 6 1980, And Its Aftermath. Translated Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott. Toronto, Canada, Fernwood.

Dec 6, 2011: Dec 6, 1989

On this December 6, I want to remember and honor the 14 women who were killed at Polytechnique solely because they were women. I remember where I was when I heard about this tragedy–it was two days later, but I was still scared. Scared that women students were singled out by a male classmate and killed only based on their gender. I often wondered if we paid more attention to them because they were college students? If we paid more attention to them based on their education, class, and race privilege. But, these are not always polite questions to ask. It is important to acknowledge that the act was heinous.

We had the bookmarks in the US where I went to university, and the WMST-L or other listservs would remember Dec 6. I remember thinking that this one event caused a concentrated focus on violence against women, which we need to have tough conversations about as we attempt to curb violence. However, I know that I have also thought that women were killed before Dec 6 and continue to be killed solely because they are targeted as women. We need to use Dec 6 as a day of reflection and continued energy to make a difference. We can’t bring those 14 women back, but their legacy is important and what we do with it.

Living in Canada, I think of the gross similarities between the Missing Women on the Highway of Tears and the DTES and the Missing Women in Ciudad Juarez. So, this Dec 6 I want to reflect about what we’ve done and what we can continue to do to educate people about the reality of violence against women in our communities and across the globe. As I have repeatedly said, we have more work to do.