Dec. 6th, 2016

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fuck patriarchy)
Hopefully a continuing series where I criticize the left, but from a place of love. You know, if people are interested in that kind of thing.

Today is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. That's something I wholeheartedly support, being an unapologetic man-eating feminist myself. But like many good ideas that are too good for the moderates to fully ignore, it's quite often watered-down and turned into the merely symbolic, especially in public institutions like schools or quasi-public spaces like Facebook.

Dec. 6th is the anniversary of the massacre at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. Fourteen young women were murdered at the hands of a maniac, simply for the audacity for being female engineering students. In a country where mass shootings really don't happen often, it was shocking and horrific and leaves a deep psychological scar on any of us who remember, vividly, hearing the news.

Dec. 6th is a day for ritual now. Any well-meaning person of any gender dons the white ribbon (even though the original point was for men to show that they were against violence against women*). Schoolchildren make handprints on banners that declare, "these hands will never be used in violence," even though that is statistically unlikely to be the case. Posters go up, most with roses on them.

On Facebook, every other post is a list of the names of the dead, now with the requisite likes and hearts and crying faces and sometimes angry faces (from the leftists).

It's not that I don't think that these are all important rituals to have, or that these 14 women are not worth remembering. They absolutely are. But I'm uncomfortable when something I feel passionate about is reduced to a cut-and-paste of names and ages so that everyone can show how they remember, how important the ritual is, and how very not-sexist they are. It becomes an exercise in form over function.

Violence against women in Canada does not, by and large, look like a lunatic carefully sorting the female students from the male students and then gunning down the former. That has happened, but that is not what usually happens. Women are more likely to face violence at the hands of a loved one than a stranger. The dead are less likely to look like photogenic young students and more likely to look like this:

15317735_10210195526377609_9006564611569533908_n

Oh, you probably can't see that too well. That's the 1181 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada between 1980-2012, who rarely get spoken about on the one day that we get to talk about violence against women. Marc Lépine is dead, and beyond the reach of justice, but there still might be justice for the women pictured above. We won't know if we don't do anything about it.

It's not a day to talk about the women and girls in prison and foster care, or even victims of domestic violence. Not sex workers or trans women or non-status immigrants, who face a greater risk of violence and exploitation than the general population.  It's not a day to talk about women who have been raped by men who are deemed more trustworthy than they are, and thus are re-victimized in the press and the courts. If we took today to look at those things, we might look at violence against women as something other than a horrible event that happened once but is now safely in the past to be ritualized. We would have to see it as something ongoing, something in which all genders are complicit.

It's not a day to talk about misogyny, today, as rampant and widespread as ever, to shut down any number of MRA and Alt-Reich groups who have seized the zeigeist by the pussy. That would be politicizing things, and the National Day of Remembrance and Action is a hashtag, not, like, a political thing.

My beef is institutional, not individual. On a personal level, listing the names of the 14 victims of Dec. 6th is understandable, even laudable. On an institutional level, however, framing violence against women as a rare, dramatic act rather than a routine and persistent symptom of a patriarchal culture is not productive. I'm not going to lie and tell you I have an answer to this, or even that I know with certainty that it's a problem, per se. I guess I just want a louder, angrier, more complicated discussion. Not symbols, and not copy-and-paste. Ugly, unvarnished truth that moves towards action. For starters.


* Gender is, of course, more complicated, but a lot of us didn't know that in 1991 when Jack Layton was first promoting it.

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