Love, rage and protecting our girls

11 Apr

My baby is experiencing separation anxiety. I had to cut my workout short on Monday, because after only 20 minutes away from me, poor Daphne was a puddle of inconsolable tears. As soon as I entered the room, she was all smiles. While the recent lack of mobility is a little frustrating, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am flattered and relieved. Because after two terrible stories hit the news this week, I am happy that my daughter is still at an age where a quick cuddle from one of her moms is enough to console her.

Last Friday I was puttering in the kitchen when I heard the news over the radio. A gunman had opened fire at a Gatineau daycare — only a few minutes over the river and away from where we live. I was momentarily paralyzed and then started madly searching the internet for details. News websites assured me that none of the children had been harmed. My initial reaction was relief, until more details of the incident started to surface. As it turns out, one man was shot point blank, before the shooter turned the gun on himself. A daycare worker named Neil Galliou was apparently executed in front of five toddlers. By all accounts he was a gentle man who loved children and would have done anything to protect them. His death is a terrible tragedy. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. A few days after the shooting, it was revealed that the shooter worked as a janitor at the daycare and was married to the director. She had recently ended the relationship. He entered the building and before opening fire, doused his wife in gasoline and attempted to set the whole place aflame.

The media’s take on the situation emphasized that the children were okay, made broad comparisons to other recent school shootings (such as the Newtown massacre) and speculated about a possible “love triangle.” The articles focused on the exceptional nature of this situation, almost audibly breathing a sigh of relief that this was a rare occurrence. No one framed the story as an extreme act of violence against women and children. The shooter attempted to light his wife on fire, burn down a daycare and massacre dozens of children because she had the gall to end the relationship. This is not an exceptional story, it’s a common one. A woman asserted her independence and a man attempted to kill her. I no longer feel relief. I feel sick that we live in a society where some men think that their private pain is deserving of lethal retribution.

Fast forward to early this week when the media caught on to a story of a 17-year-old girl who committed suicide after 18 months of harassment and “slut shaming” following a sexual assault. Though I feel uncomfortable repeating her name, Rehtaeh Parsons’ have gone public with her story, in an effort to seek justice for her death. The teens who allegedly raped Rehtaeh and tormented her by circulating photos of the assault are still roaming the halls of their high school. They remain anonymous, while Rehtaeh’s story and photo are (ironically) being posted and re-posted all over social media. Again, reporters are portraying this story as a unique one — a cautionary tale about the hazards of cyber bullying and new technology. But this is also an old story — and in many ways the same one as the Gatineau shooting. A young woman was sexually assaulted. She went to the police. Her parents stood behind her and supported her. She was brave enough to tell her story. And no one else believed her. No one did anything. She was chased out of her school. She was shamed for being a “slut.”

I came of age in the era of the White Ribbon Campaign. I grew up in a feminist household, so even though I was only 10 years old when 14 women were massacred in Montreal, the incident had a profound impact on me. When I was in high school, I helped organize vigils commemorating the event — vigils that were coordinated by some of my favourite male teachers. In the early 90s, there was still a lot of popular discussion out there about how men could end violence against women. Twenty-three years later, I am struck by how this kind of violence continues to be characterized as an isolated event — even though the same tragic and enraging story recreates itself over and over again.

Now I am the parent of a baby girl. A girl who will grow up to be a teenager and a grown woman. Will someone take a compromising photo of her that will haunt her throughout her adolescence? Will she be brave enough to leave an abusive relationship and then have to reap the consequences? And what about my friends who are parents of young boys? How will we teach those boys to respect women? How do we break this cycle so our little ones won’t grow up to be victims of the same sad and horrifying story?

I refuse to characterize these two events as tragedies. They are symptoms of the woman-hating culture that we live in. A culture that we all must work to change. For all of our sons and daughters.

2 Responses to “Love, rage and protecting our girls”

  1. Victor April 11, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Thoroughly awesome. As a male feminist, I heartily agree.

  2. syrens November 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    Reblogged this on syrens and commented:
    An old post (from last April) but a good one. Go have a read.

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