On December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine walked into the École Polytechnique de Montréal and fatally shot 14 female students, whom he'd identified as feminists, before killing himself.
His suicide note read, "I have decided to send the Feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker."
According to the Montreal coroner's report, witnesses described the Lépine killing after he had separated the female students from the male students:
During this time, Lépine moved a little closer to the group of 9 girls who were standing together at the back of the classroom, with no possible exit. He said to them: "Do you know why you are there." One of the girls answered "No". He replied: "I am fighting feminism." The student who had spoken added: "We are not feminists, I have never fought against men." He immediately started firing on the group, from left to right.
Police later found a letter in Lépine's pocket that contained the names and phone numbers of 19 other Quebec women, including politicians and police officers, whom he had intended to kill because he had identified them as "radical feminists."
Twenty-five years later, women are still being targeted, threatened, and murdered by young men with dangerous misogyny issues.
On May 23, Elliot Rodger went on a rampage that killed six University of California students and injured 13 others. In a 107,000-word manifesto written before the shooting spree, Rodger wrote of his plans to construct a "climactic massacre... My War on Women... I will attack the very girls who represent everything I hate in the female gender: The hottest sorority of UCSB."
This October, staff of Utah State University received an email threatening a mass shooting prior to a speaking engagement with feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian. The school was forced to cancel her appearance while the FBI hunted the person behind the threats. The person who wrote the email referenced Marc Lépine.
The Salt Lake Tribune's description of the threat made it clear that we haven't come very far in 25 years:
The email, purportedly from an anonymous USU student, promised "the deadliest school shooting in American history" if Sarkeesian's Center for Women and Gender Studies-sponsored talk were allowed to proceed.
The writer claimed to "have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs" he intended to use to ensure Sarkeesian would "die screaming like the craven little whore that she is."
The emailer also said he would target as many other "feminists on campus who won't be able to defend themselves. One way or another, I'm going to make sure they die."
Feminists have ruined by life," the emailer contended, adding that he intended to write a "manifesto in blood" to avenge himself, and the "emasculated cowards too afraid to challenge the vile, misandrist harpies who seek to destroy them."
What sets these mass murders apart from the frequent, horrible murders of domestic violence victims, sex workers, indigenous women, and other all-too-common femicide scenarios? L épine, Rodger, and the person behind the USU threat all drew a clear map of their targets (feminists) and the roots of their rage (women's rights).
This past year has been, in part, defined by news of extreme misogynist violence. Massive online harassment campaigns like Gamergate got press for targeting women with direct threats of rape and murder. Several women were killed, shot, or stabbed after the Rodger shootings—all for rejecting men's sexual advances. Native Canadian people so frustrated by the lack of government inquiry into an epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls decided to start dragging the Red River themselves, discovering bodies along the way.
What happened this year? Was it a sudden, violent backlash against feminist-identified women? Or has this kind of violence been there all along, stewing and lacking media attention until now?
The growing influence of the men's rights movement, created as a backlash against feminism, is at least partially to blame.
As blogger David Futrelle told VICE this September, men's rights activists (MRA's for short) are both pissed at women and totally obsessed with them. Futrelle reports regularly on the MRA movement on his blog We Hunted the Mammoth: The New Misogyny, Tracked and Mocked.
"It's what I like to call the new misogyny—basically a large amorphous internet subculture that is consumed with hating and attacking women," Futrelle told VICE. "Some of these people call themselves men's rights activists and portray what they are doing as somehow beneficial for men. Others call themselves 'men going their own way,' the basic premise being that they want to live independently of women but end up talking most of the time about how terrible women are."
Or, as Cracked so eloquently put it: "Men's Rights Activism began as the natural response of American males to the growing threat of feminism, in much the same way that burning your house down is the natural response to the threat of ghosts. In both cases, a better solution would be to walk away and let a less emotionally fragile man deal with the situation."
Internet trolls are one thing. Mass shootings and rampant death threats are another. Let's hope 2015 moves us into a new era where women-haters are able to work through their issues without leaving a trail of dead bodies behind.
These are the names of the 14 young women killed by Marc L épine on December 6, 1989:
- Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
- Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Barbara Daigneault (born 1967) mechanical engineering student
- Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
- Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
- Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
- Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
- Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
- Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
- Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
- Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
- Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student
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