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December 6th, 1989
December 6, 2012 12:55 AM   Subscribe

The École Polytechnique Massacre, also known as the Montreal Massacre, occurred on December 6, 1989 at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. A man armed with a knife and (legal) gun shot twenty-eight people before killing himself. Claiming he was "fighting feminism," he killed fourteen women and wounded ten women and four men before killing himself.

The shock of this massacre, with the murderer deliberately targeting women, led to the establishment to the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, or white ribbon day, in which not only the fourteen victims are remembered, but violence against women in general is spotlighted.

The victims:

Geneviève Bergeron (b. 1968), civil engineering student.
Hélène Colgan (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Nathalie Croteau (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Barbara Daigneault (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Anne-Marie Edward (b. 1968), chemical engineering student.
Maud Haviernick (b. 1960), materials engineering student.
Maryse Laganière (b. 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department.
Maryse Leclair (b. 1966), materials engineering student.
Anne-Marie Lemay (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Sonia Pelletier (b. 1961), mechanical engineering student.
Michèle Richard (b. 1968), materials engineering student.
Annie St-Arneault (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte (b. 1969), materials engineering student.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (b. 1958), nursing student.
posted by MartinWisse (68 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by quazichimp at 1:00 AM on December 6, 2012


I was 8 when this happened, when I was at my grandparents house for christmas. My mother was an ardent femminst, and a teacher. Her explaining this event to me, and watching her cry, was my first genuine feeling that the world was not safe, and the world was less safe for women, esp. women who were ambitious.
posted by PinkMoose at 1:46 AM on December 6, 2012 [14 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted; please try not to turn this into a flamewar right out of the gate? It would be great if people could exercise a modicum of civility and restraint and not embarrass ourselves. Thanks. (Please contact us if you have any questions.)]
posted by taz at 1:54 AM on December 6, 2012 [20 favorites]


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The shooter, who was apparently denied admission to the engineering program, specifically targeted female engineering students. It's a significant event in the history of Canadian efforts to encourage women enrollment in STEM fields. I began my engineering undergrad the next year, and it was rare then for there to be even twelve women students in a freshman class of 150. When my Dad studied engineering in the 70s, there were fewer than twelve women in the entire engineering program.
posted by ceribus peribus at 1:58 AM on December 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


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posted by tykky at 2:06 AM on December 6, 2012


also mentioned previously (not saying this is a double, but the discussion there may be relevant)
posted by idiopath at 2:43 AM on December 6, 2012


The STEM aspect of this should not be downplayed. I know of plenty of women in academic STEM disciplines who have suffered serious levels of harassment and hostility in the workplace due to entrenched sexism. I've heard of systematic failing of female students in STEM "gateway" classes (classes the students were able to pass at other institutions). 20 years ago, the situation was much worse, and I have no doubt that it contributed to the massacre. Obviously, there were other factors, but we need to do a better job of purging these poisonous attitudes from the "STEM Culture."
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:45 AM on December 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


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posted by frimble at 3:18 AM on December 6, 2012


I was in my second year of grad school, never forgot the horror of hearing this news.

So sad for the families and friends, and all those promising lives lost. It was the first time I'd ever thought of a university classroom as an unsafe space.

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posted by spitbull at 3:41 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by hydropsyche at 3:41 AM on December 6, 2012


Hunh

I am born in 1966 and I was once an engineering student and remain a woman.


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posted by infini at 3:52 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember being very freaked out about this when it happened. I was taking night classes for engineering, about to transition to being a full-time day student in electrical engineering, and I would occasionally think about this as I sat in the big lecture hall.

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posted by rmd1023 at 4:17 AM on December 6, 2012


I was living in Montreal when this happened. I didn't watch TV or listen to the radio at the time and had a very peripatetic existence. The next day almost all the newspapers were gone in the subway station. When I first read what happened on my commute to work, I couldn't quite process it. This stuff doesn't happen in a city like Montreal.

You could feel it that day, like the whole city had stopped, and it was so sad, all those young lives gone, just like that.

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posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 4:17 AM on December 6, 2012


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Obviously, there were other factors, but we need to do a better job of purging these poisonous attitudes from the "STEM Culture."

I guess Lépine was not exactly within the STEM culture - but he had picked up from somewhere that women entering STEM was to blame for him being excluded from it. That kind of zero-sum mentality was poisonous then, and is no less so now.

I had the École Polytechnique massacre in the back of my mind during the recent discussion of the paucity of female developers in games (itself a microcosm of the issue of the paucity of women in computer science). Lépine was clearly at an extreme, but seeing the anger and violence of some of the men demanding that women leave "their" industry alone is sobering. It's deeply disturbing to see women being threatened ("jokingly/trollingly") with rape or murder for, essentially, being visible in or commenting on the industry, and I don't really know what the solution is, apart from continuing to resist this kind of attitude and its normalization.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:28 AM on December 6, 2012 [26 favorites]


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posted by oulipian at 4:35 AM on December 6, 2012


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posted by Flashman at 5:00 AM on December 6, 2012


The STEM aspect of this should not be downplayed. I know of plenty of women in academic STEM disciplines who have suffered serious levels of harassment and hostility in the workplace due to entrenched sexism. I've heard of systematic failing of female students in STEM "gateway" classes (classes the students were able to pass at other institutions).

Just as anecdata, across the border in my small New England liberal arts college only a few years later in the nineties every single mathematics major was a woman and more than half of the science majors were women. This sort of sexism and prejudice was very common then and still is, but wasn't universal, lest the youngsters think that we were all complete barbarians back in the 1900s.
posted by XMLicious at 5:07 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by sixohsix at 5:08 AM on December 6, 2012


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posted by kmz at 5:27 AM on December 6, 2012


I don't really know what the solution is, apart from continuing to resist this kind of attitude and its normalization.

One part of a solution is that men need to work to change the system. They need to talk about the problem with other men. They need to speak up when they see sexism in action in their department or lab or industry. They need to do their best to support female students and junior colleagues and help them get access to the same opportunities that male students and colleagues have. Professors need to consider how their teaching styles, their assumptions about the discipline/industry, and their ingrained sense of "how things are" may disadvantage female students, and those professors need to work actively to change those things.

Because, honestly, keeping women out of science (whether through passive "old boy's clubs" or active bigotry or hyperactive terror, does not just hurt women. It hurts the process of science, and anyone interested in science and the related fields should be concerned.

seeing the anger and violence of some of the men demanding that women leave "their" industry alone is sobering

Yeah it is. It's pretty much the same thing as right-wing pundits banging whatever drum suits them and then pretending that violent crimes are utterly unconnected to their profitable rhetoric. Sigh.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:39 AM on December 6, 2012 [23 favorites]


I'd graduated from college the year before, and most of the victims were about my age.

I was active in women's issues in college; we advocated for a women's center, and against the date rape and domestic violence and casual misogyny bred by a strong fraternity system. Many of us got death threats, and rape threats. My friend Carol was walking past a frat one night on her way to a dorm when a guy came out of the frat, recognized her as one of those "bitches" who'd spoken at a recent anti-frat rally, and punched her in the face. I got "used" (smeared with mayonnaise) condoms in my campus mailbox. We were constantly told by a small but loud cohort of students and alums that we didn't belong at "their" college.

This incident hit close to home in so many ways.
posted by rtha at 6:00 AM on December 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


In addition to Hildegarde's previous post, I also made this one back in 2005. It might add something to the discussion as well.
posted by aclevername at 6:03 AM on December 6, 2012


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posted by koucha at 6:11 AM on December 6, 2012


Both the previous post links (as well as the need for a mod comment in this one) make me want to crawl in a hole and never come out. WTF.
posted by kmz at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


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I don't believe I had heard of this before. Regardkess of his motives, actual or claims, the guy was a dick, and should never have been allowed to get close to things that go boom.
posted by Mezentian at 6:58 AM on December 6, 2012


At a different Canadian university, the tragedy of this was still evident many years later. One professor admitted to my class that he didn't want to plan for any labs at the university's off-campus aerospace research facility, because he didn't want to risk losing a busload of Canada's "brightest young minds" in a traffic accident.

Reacting to the nervous titters of the students in the lecture hall, the prof said, don't laugh-- the Montreal Massacre, the loss of 14 female engineering students, had a chilling effect on the progress of Canadian women in technical fields for decades.

We didn't laugh after that.
posted by pharaohmagnetic at 7:01 AM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


We didn't laugh after that.

That just shocks me. I figured after a short period of time (esp in fun controlled countries - and there is a thread for that already) people go back to keepin' on. You figure it's an outlier.

I guess not.
posted by Mezentian at 7:10 AM on December 6, 2012


No, it was a deliberate act of terrorism deliberately designed to stop women from studying technical subjects, not much different from what the Taliban is still doing in Afghanistan.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:21 AM on December 6, 2012 [22 favorites]


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posted by heeeraldo at 7:26 AM on December 6, 2012


No, it was a deliberate act of terrorism deliberately designed to stop women from studying technical subjects

I was not a woman in 1989, and nor am I one now.
I have probably been desensitised to the subtleties by all of the other mass killings in the past 30 years, most of which have been "senseless".
posted by Mezentian at 7:29 AM on December 6, 2012


..............

A movie was made a few years ago by Denis "Oscar Nominated" Villeneuve. It centers on the point of view of one of the male students, who committed suicide after the shooting out of guilt for failing to save his colleagues. Needless to say, it's incredibly hard to watch, but in a haunting beautiful way.
posted by Freyja at 8:22 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by Gelatin at 8:35 AM on December 6, 2012


I have probably been desensitised to the subtleties by all of the other mass killings in the past 30 years, most of which have been "senseless".

Mezentian, I recognize that you aren't familiar with history of the École Polytechnique massacre until this post, and I appreciate your honesty. I also recognize that you are participating in this discussion in good faith. It's with that understanding that I suggest, gently, that the deliberate targeting of female students in a STEM program is not a "subtlety." When people like you are the target of this kind of violence, it doesn't feel all that subtle. It actually feels pretty overt.
posted by bakerina at 8:44 AM on December 6, 2012 [22 favorites]


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Rhetoric and cultural trends, good or bad, have consequences, and most commonly they have the biggest consequences for those who are doing the most daring and necessary things.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:47 AM on December 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many of those names are friends of friends, classmates of my classmates. I remember that day very clearly, where I was, even what the room smelled like, the dish that was on the stove when Patric told us about his friends after he got off the phone.

I try not to dwell on that day, but I do remember Lapine and what he thought he was doing (there's a domestic violence part of the story too-he was specifically hunting an ex who fortunately was missed).

I was canvassing grad students this week at a workshop, for work next fall. I was glad to see many, more than half (and most of the award winners) are female. I figure that's how these things will change, one hire at a time.
posted by bonehead at 9:02 AM on December 6, 2012 [23 favorites]


Lepine may be an "outlier" in the sense that statistically, terrorists are "outliers" in the general population, but that doesn't mean he didn't have a very clear anti-feminist motive and wasn't encouraged by systemic and entrenched violent anti-feminist discourse in the general consciousness.

And meanwhile, the National Post continues to provide a voice to idiots like Barbara Kay, who insists that women have never been oppressed ever in history and that the Canadian Women's Federation is a fearmongering profiteer who sees this tragedy as the equivalent of the "Superbowl" for the "violence against women industry".

I just can't.

From the same publication, a voice of reason: Why Remembering the Montreal Massacre is a Vigil Worth Holding.

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posted by Phire at 9:24 AM on December 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


A sad anniversary, and a story that sadly needs retelling every year.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:27 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was in my first STEM job (at Lotus), and I knew the Poly campus well, having visited there often during my undergrad years in Massachusetts. I had just dropped out of grad school in philosophy of mathematics, largely due to sexism/homophobia and very poor job prospects (at the time, about 3% of mathematicians, either academic or commercial, and 4% of tenured philosophy professors were female). Having gone to an all-women's college for undergrad, I could picture all too well how I had dodged a bullet... so far.

We just had a similar event play out this April at Oakland's Oikos University (7 dead women), not to mention countless such incidents in non-academic settings across the US alone. The horror is that they're countless. Men killing multiple women *as a matter of course* in US culture is unacceptable. Feminism is needed now more than ever. Until blaming women for men's problems is inconceivable (and the reverse as well!)
posted by Dreidl at 10:40 AM on December 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


I was a freshman in university in Ontario when this happened. A number of my fellow classmates who were just general science majors decided to switch to engineering just as a sort of Fuck You to that guy.

Thank you for naming the victims here, and not the perpetrator. It bothers me a lot that I can easily remember his name and not more than one or two of the women he killed. I try every year to memorize that list.
posted by marylynn at 10:47 AM on December 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


Thank you for this post (and, as marylynn notes, including the names of those who went to École Polytechnique to improve the world, not darken it [they are who we must remember]). And thank you to all of the women who showed us all what can be, rather than allowing what 'is' to rule the day, thank you for those who have, and those who will continue to persevere and thrive in STEM despite the institutional, structural, inter-personal and other obstacles (such as the shocking terrorism with a vile message clear as day, as at École Polytechnique, and the more common violence of a toxic environment) that our society puts in place, and so many seem to defend or by lack of care, or awareness of the past, support (and thank you to the Mothers and Fathers who nurture and encourage daughters to push past centuries old, dusty and broken societal expectations and play a part in realizing they are able to do anything they dream of).

To not encourage and draw people into STEM from a pool of all people, as was said above, "hurts the process of science, and anyone interested in science and the related fields should be concerned."
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posted by infinite intimation at 11:05 AM on December 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've taken my lead here from noticable Canadian science fiction fan, walking disaster area and allround good egg James Nicoll, who has been holding this vigil every year for as long as he's been blogging.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:08 AM on December 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was in Grade 12 in Ontario when this happened. On the first anniversary, some friends and I approached our high school admin about holding a memorial (Ontario still had Grade 13 at the time). The vice principal told us, a group of women who were about to go off to university, that we "shouldn't dwell on this kind of thing." Every year on this day I remember the women killed, why they were killed, and the man who told me to just forget the whole thing.
posted by atropos at 11:48 AM on December 6, 2012 [18 favorites]


Thank you for this post.

Dec. 6 is an important day of remembrance for me, as a Canadian feminist. I was in high school when the Montreal Massacre happened, and I remember the horrified response and media coverage very clearly. I have shown the archival news clips to students (some of whom weren't even born at the time and don't know anything about it) during a unit about violence against women or when teaching a play based on the events, and the footage is still hard to watch. I haven't seen Polytechnique yet (haven't quite been able to get up the nerve), but I will one day.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:12 PM on December 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


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posted by benito.strauss at 3:56 PM on December 6, 2012


Thank you for posting this. This is an anniversary that I will remember forever.
Everything about those few hours - getting out of the building running, hearing the shots and chaos around me, then trying to gain access to my car which was parked behind the police barricades - all felt so surreal. Even now, to this day, I wonder whether it really happened.

Every time I return to Montreal, I make a point of visiting the Polytechnique, to commemorate the dead, and to think about what it means for me to live when others perished.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:13 PM on December 6, 2012 [15 favorites]


I keep thinking about a man I cared a lot about, now gone from my life, who made frequent and shitty little "jokes" about how awful women were, about how they were amoral, crazy, evil, how everything was the fault of women. He'd had a horrible mother and had fairly recently been through a bad short-lived marriage followed by a nasty divorce and I'm guessing he thought it was harmless black humour. But he told me himself that he'd hurt a lot of people (and I think in his context, people=women he'd been involved with), and he routinely spoke of his exes with contempt. He spoke of one former girlfriend, who had died, with respect, saying she was the only one he hadn't come to despise, because she wouldn't take any bad behaviour from him. It was as though he considered it a woman's job to make him treat her well. My attempts to explain how this or that comment about women was unfair were ignored. When I finally told him in an email that I wanted the comments to stop and said they were no different from making comments about how black people were crazy and evil, he never responded to that email.

I've had the misfortune to run into quite a few men who made shitty little comments about women, and though they weren't rapists or physically abusive or even the kind of guys who'd hassle a woman in the street, although they'd probably all claim that it was "just a joke", these jokes are never just a joke. If they were just a joke such men wouldn't ignore or be angered by a request to stop making them. If they were just a joke a woman's counterarguments against them wouldn't be dismissed immediately. If they were just a joke a woman who is upset by them wouldn't be told to just get over it. If they were just a joke a man who made them would be genuinely concerned to learn that he'd hurt a woman by making them, and would have the respect to at least think about, and respond to, what she has to say about the matter.

Such jokes are symptomatic of a deep-rooted contempt towards women. When a man makes these jokes to a woman, he adds more weight to whatever grief she carries, because it's safe to say that if she hasn't been abused by a man, she has female friends or family members she loves who have been. When a man makes these jokes to other men he encourages them in whatever misogyny they might entertain within themselves, and maybe then they'll take it steps further than the man who just makes "harmless" jokes.

The man who killed all these women on December 6, 1989 probably knew more than a few men who "just" made demeaning jokes about women, and those men bear some responsibility for the hatred and the violence those jokes facilitated.
posted by orange swan at 7:37 PM on December 6, 2012 [29 favorites]


Although the people who seek out women to massacre because of their gender are a very, very small subset of the people who spout misogynist hatred, it is common to all of the people who seek out women to massacre that they spout misogynist hatred. I would think that not creating echo chambers for killers would be a disincentive for well-intentioned people to, you know, not spout misogynist hatred.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:35 PM on December 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


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posted by livinglearning at 9:44 PM on December 6, 2012


I was in 3rd year at an Ontario university, the same age as most of these women, and this just shattered everybody I knew. Just unbelievable.
At the time it seemed outrageous that anyone would dismiss the fact that these women were targeted because of their gender. Now it's just fucking obnoxious.
seawallrunner, I can't even imagine what that experience was like for you. Thank you for sharing that.
posted by chococat at 10:42 PM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:53 PM on December 6, 2012


I keep thinking about a man I cared a lot about, now gone from my life, who made frequent and shitty little "jokes" about how awful women were, about how they were amoral, crazy, evil, how everything was the fault of women.

That reminds me of a former colleague of mine. He had been through a nasty divorce and brooded on it for years.

He was writing a science fiction screenplay. The premise of this work- which he considered brilliant and original- was to imagine a world in which women act rationally and logically like men do.

I was in my early 20s at the time and it was my first exposure to pure, unmoored misogyny. Fortunately he had no violent inclination.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:37 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know, on an intellectual level, that its out there (misogyny) but I really really enjoy emulating an ostrich with my head firmly in the sand.
posted by infini at 2:06 AM on December 7, 2012


Failing to speak out against bigotry when it happens in your presence is little better than actually encouraging it, because that is how people set their boundaries for behaviour. Humans "go a little farther" each time they do not find resistance.

It's important to speak up if you don't find something acceptable, because when you don't speak up, that is just about as good as saying you are okay with it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:43 AM on December 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've heard of systematic failing of female students in STEM "gateway" classes (classes the students were able to pass at other institutions).

When did this happen? I can't imagine something like this happening without being slapped silly by lawsuits.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:49 AM on December 7, 2012


The 80's was a very powerful time for feminism in Canada. We were fighting for abortion rights; our sexual assault laws changed; there was Government Ministries dedicated to women's equality; there were feminist newspapers, magazines and journals; there were feminist based women's centre's and sexual assault centre's in most major cities...

I worked in a Canadian women's centre on Dec 6th. As other women arrived to work, hearing of this news, many of us were numb. Some cried. And then the phones started ringing. As I answered, I remember thinking "be strong for the other women". And I picked up the phone and it was a man, screaming "all you bitches should die". And the next call the same thing and then another caller. We unplugged the phones and locked the doors. Throughout the day, some fifty to sixty women came by the centre - many staying for hours because they did not want to be alone, and they most certainly did not want to be around men. It was a day that changed many Canadian women's lifes.
posted by what's her name at 7:38 AM on December 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


I've heard of systematic failing of female students in STEM "gateway" classes (classes the students were able to pass at other institutions).

That's not borne out in the literature of graduate success and conversion to full time jobs. Young women are generally doing very well in university and post-secondary education. They have graduation rates better or at least as good as their male counterparts in almost every science or engineering discipline.

Women abandon the system, however, at the transitions, from university to grad-school, and especially, from grad-school to that first critical full-time job. Lots of female PhDs graduate, but there are comparatively few female Assistant Professors, and even fewer who are able to convert to tenured Associates. There are similar problems in governmental science labs and industry.

Recent studies of advancement and scholastic success have generally found three reasons for lower levels of female participation and transitional dropouts: 1) a female-unfriendly work environment, 2) critical job advancement requirements (publications, punishing class schedules, etc...) and low quality of life right at the time when most women need to decide if they want a family, and 3) low pay for professional scientists compared to other jobs for which the graduate would be otherwise qualified.

Those of us in scientific management roles can do a lot about #1. We can look for/be mentors for young grads, we can do a lot about the everyday lab environment, and so on. This is probably the easiest one to change, in fact.

The structural quality of life/work stress problems are harder. Good pregnancy leave policies and adaptations for partial work weeks can all be made, but taking a year off to have a kid is a hard sell to review committees who have fixed performance deadlines for tenure-track positions. It's also hard for heads of department who need to find fill-in lecturers. Fixing these problems and others is very slow going. Some of it is no doubt entrenched misogyny, but there are also legitimate concerns about dilution of job requirements and fairness, and there are economic costs for many of these adjustments too. However, we do have to fix these problems, otherwise science & engineering careers will continue to be bypassed by female graduates, and we will all be the worse for it.

In my view, the final problem, choosing higher-paying careers, is really symptomatic of the structural problems. People have always chosen science careers over money, personal and intellectual satisfaction over financial rewards (science is generally an upper-middle class existence, though). However, if there are also those structural barriers, the choose family or tenure bullcrap, as well, it's not surprising that many look for a way out of that trap. Solve the structural disincentives and I think the pay competition problem will resolve itself.
posted by bonehead at 8:50 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]



The structural quality of life/work stress problems are harder. Good pregnancy leave policies and adaptations for partial work weeks can all be made, but taking a year off to have a kid is a hard sell to review committees who have fixed performance deadlines for tenure-track positions. It's also hard for heads of department who need to find fill-in lecturers. Fixing these problems and others is very slow going. Some of it is no doubt entrenched misogyny, but there are also legitimate concerns about dilution of job requirements and fairness, and there are economic costs for many of these adjustments too. However, we do have to fix these problems, otherwise science & engineering careers will continue to be bypassed by female graduates, and we will all be the worse for it.


How do the Northern European (Nordic) countries do it? I remember back in Helsinki that women were always in and out on maternity leave through all their time at the university, a year off iirc
posted by infini at 8:58 AM on December 7, 2012


I too was an engineering undergrad in Ontario when this happened. The violence was a long way from my experience but the sexism, explicit or implicit was not. I like to think things have changed since this happened - not enough perhaps, but at least changed a little for the better. My sister entered engineering a year or so later and I hope someday my own children will as well. And I hope they will remember these women but look back on the event as something that happened a long time ago.
posted by GuyZero at 9:36 AM on December 7, 2012


The thread from 2005 is desperately depressing. This one is, so far, a huge improvement. Thanks mods for moderating, and thanks Mefi for changing for the better.
posted by jokeefe at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


When did this happen? I can't imagine something like this happening without being slapped silly by lawsuits.

10-15 years ago. My impression is that it was very hard for the students to prove, given that they only had the data in front of them (ie their grades). They noticed patterns, of course, and complained to the Administration who investigated, gathered enough evidence, and eventually were able to force a more equitable process. Since I know about it only at second hand, I don't know whether the faculty involved were demonstrably "trying" to fail female students or just not giving them class attention, benefit of the doubt in marginal cases, etc. It's awfully hard to single out individual examples of misogyny in a climate of general contempt.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:36 AM on December 7, 2012


Eviemath pointed out another thoughtful refutation of Jonathan Kay's argument that this shooting should deserve no more commemoration than any other schol shooting:
This form of dismissal and diminution is nothing new, of course. It was just an insane act by one person, goes the defensive male narrative: it was fourteen women, but it could have been fourteen of anything.

One might speculate whether Kay would be equally blasé and contemptuous had the shooter been an anti-Semite, his victims Jewish, and the Jewish community aroused enough to discuss in a wide-angle sort of way the lethal effects of anti-Semitism in society.

But it wasn’t. The victims were twelve young women who hoped to become engineers, a female nursing student and a female university employee. The killer might have been, in fact almost certainly was, insane. But what shape did that insanity take? What images and ideas galvanized his murderous impulses, gave form and substance to them? Where did all of that come from?

It is precisely those questions that feminists and pro-feminists address directly in our annual memorials and observances. None of us have ever argued that every man is a potential mass-murderer of women. But all of us have seen in that horrific series of acts one extreme end of a spectrum of misogyny that is deeply embedded in our society.
I won't link to the original article by Jonathan Kay that it's rebutting, but I do want to add for non-Canadian readers that Jonathan Kay is the son of the Barbara Kay I deplored in my previous comment. They're quite the pair.
posted by Phire at 12:13 PM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by spinifex23 at 12:34 PM on December 7, 2012


I was an undergrad in a women's college in Massachusetts. The campus pretty much ground to a halt as the news came in. We focused less on the STEM aspect than on the anti-feminist stuff.

It was a very, very scary day. That something like this could happen in Montreal, one of the most civilized cities in the most civilized country in North America was simply horrifying. It was obvious there was no safety anywhere, except in gathering together and fighting.
posted by QIbHom at 12:55 PM on December 7, 2012


That's not borne out in the literature of graduate success and conversion to full time jobs. Young women are generally doing very well in university and post-secondary education. They have graduation rates better or at least as good as their male counterparts in almost every science or engineering discipline.

Just to be clear. I was not describing some vague "everybody" does it scenario. I was relating what was told me by faculty who lived through the particular event at their institution. I am sure it's possible they just made it all up, but I am not sure why they wood. "Background misogyny" is by no means unreal, and at least as damaging as terrible "direct" acts of rage. Wejust don't notice the former.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:30 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It never fails to amaze me how resistant people can be to acknowledging these kinds of acts--and the culture of misogyny that lies beneath--as hate crime. This particular act fit the definition of terrorism as well: a targeted act towards a few to attempt to intimidate and control the many.
posted by availablelight at 7:04 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


What Lepine did was awful. He was mentally ill. And his actions were born in a lifetime of misogyny. But I don't think it's really helpful to call this "terrorism". It's equally reprehensible, but it's not the same. And I think it's almost unhelpful to conflate them. By making the act more extreme it makes it easier for people to dismiss what Lepine did as something that has nothing to do with them. When what Lepine did is very much something men and women still have to face every day.
posted by GuyZero at 9:38 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Terrorism" was used in the strict political science sense, not in the "scary brown men committing quasi-military acts against a faceless government" sense.

Definitions

There is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85).


His actions were perhaps more keenly focused and resonant for a specific population than those of the OKC bombers.
posted by availablelight at 6:35 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lepine's crimes were not, or mostly not, framed as terrorism. Canada pre-September 2001, did not have that language. It was characterized as a hate-crime, a crime targeted specifically at women and feminism. There are some literature references in the Wikipedia article on Lepine.

The distinction between terrorism and hate crime is a useful one to make, I think. A hate crime is one against a group or religion, and can be fought by targeted programs: against misogyny, or anti-Semitism, for example. A terrorist action, however, seems much more poorly defined to me. While it seems to have started as non-state provocateurs causing mass panic in the name of a political cause, now it seems to be applied to everything governments don't like. Hate crimes in Canada are well defined and allow police and prosecutors to take into account motive when deciding on charges. Terrorism is this shapeless thing that is much harder to define both in the public's mind and legally. One is comprehensible, the other much less so. I prefer to keep the two things separate.
posted by bonehead at 7:39 AM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


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