This time yesterday I was walking with three close, long time friends to the top of the small mountain that is the centre of my city. We went to honour the 14 women killed and the women injured here in 1989 at the École Polytechnique, this being the 30th Memorial. Killed because they dared to be there, dared to be studying to become Engineers. I remember as if it were yesterday, as do my friends. Out in the freezing weather once again to think about these women, and about the lives all around us, as well as our own. Why has it been 30 years with such slow movement, even reversals on progress. This year though was different. We have a woman Mayor of this city for the first time. The city plaque that had been placed in this park, at the insistence of women, a park in which we remember these women who were killed and all women who have been violated by men, this original city plaque despite the efforts of women, made no mention that women had been targeted. This year, on the 30th anniversary, the new plaque replacing it, reads:
Place du 6-Decembre-1989
“Cette plaque a été nominee en memoire des 14 femmes assassinées l’ors de l’attentat antifeminist survenu a l’Ecole Polytechnique le 6 décembre 1989. Elle veut rappeler les values fondamentales de respect et d’égalité, et condamner toutes formes de violence a l’encontre des femmes”.
“This park has been named in the memory of the 14 women murdered during the anti-feminist attack that took place at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989. It is a reminder of the fundamental values of respect and equality, and a condemnation of all forms of violence against women.”
The original plaque had sidestepped the reality of the intent of the killer, who separated the men students from the women, declared his hatred for feminists and opened fire on the women. It felt different this time that it is admitted that this attack was on women as feminists. I felt last night the way I do every year, the way I did when I first heard that these women had been killed. I felt the shock again, and questioned again why more has not been done to stop woman hatred nor to end the assumption that any man, in any way, has the right to order us around, harm us, kill us. I thought of how long we have been speaking this out as I listened to Government officials promise more, and my resolve to end this violence deepened again. I thought of the young woman recently raped and murdered by four men in their 20’s and wondered who had taught those young men. I thought of the girls struggling through childhoods, being refused school, of girls trying to escape violence, being abused. I thought of the widows. I thought of all of the stories here in my country that I have heard, all the years of promises made, all the shelters here painstakingly opened up in this period, and in the news yesterday stories of women waiting to escape here, with shelter beds full. And of women waiting for police or courts to provide safe ways out. I thought of women and girls being harmed every day, and of knowing that women are being told not to waste the time of police, and that many police are violent toward women too. The four of us stood together knowing all this.
I felt my strength renew with my sisters here, who know what needs to be done and who like me will not stop. I am stronger here with all of you, with every story I read on World Pulse, knowing we are here with each other, and counting on news of everything being done to women and girls, as we form our network and create a global document of everything that needs to change. Knowing that here, we are women who dare to continue to speak. To name that we continue to be lied to, the insisting that life has always been this way, and that change takes time. Forced to glean our own history of women’s brilliance, still so hidden, the times and places throughout history and now, where our perspective was and is sought out and respected. We share the glimpses we have from dedicated women carrying stories, carrying proof of ceremony with women, sought out for our wisdom, our perspective, our love of our communities. We share the glimpse of times when a man would not think of violating a woman or girl.
This year this new plaque was made stating definitively that there is hatred against feminists that needs to stop. Feminist, a word I have called myself for a very long time, a word that has led me to find sisters unafraid to identify as being dedicated to ending all forms of violence of and suppression of women and girls. This year new promises were made by politicians pledging to do more. Maybe this new plaque declaring boldly that violence against women exists, will embolden a woman seeing it. Maybe we have made a step forward. Maybe this year more men will step into teaching men and the next generation of boys to never harm a woman. This could have been done 50 years ago. With the local and global connectedness we have now, we continue to celebrate our finding each other here, our staying close over the years, and our determination and commitment to make this happen.
Last night we sent photos to each other, of us together, and of the 14 pillars of light sent out across this city in memory of the murdered women. Today I am sending out the news, knowing we are so many thousands now in touch with each other, knowing we are speaking out, declaring the thousands of changes that need to be made, showing each other our strength and beauty, girls proclaiming what they want in life, men beginning to teach the next generation of boys a different culture, one that respects women and believes in sharing equally, women bringing our wisdom forward, our trust in what we know is possible, our celebration in finding each other.
Every day I think about all of us, everywhere.