December
6th 2009
20th anniversary of the massacre at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal

Posted under: American history, Gender, O Canada, students, unhappy endings, women's history

Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Profs reminds us that today is the twentieth anniversary of the murders of women engineering students at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989.  Because of this terrible event, today is also the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women day in Canada, which has been commemorated since 1991.  In case you’re unacquainted with this terrible massacre, here’s a CBC link with a video clip of a report and a description of the murders (emphases Historiann’s):

A gunman confronts 60 engineering students during their class at l’École Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. He separates the men from the women and tells the men to leave the classroom, threatening them with his .22-calibre rifle. The enraged man begins a shooting rampage that spreads to three floors and several classrooms, jumping from desk to desk while female students cower below. He roams the corridors yelling, “I want women.”

Before opening fire in the engineering class, he calls the women “une gang de féministes” and says “J’haïs les féministes [I hate feminists].” One person pleads that they are not feminists, just students taking engineering. But the gunman doesn’t listen. He shoots the women and then kills himself. Parents of the Polytechnique students wait outside the school crying and wonder if their daughters are among the 14 dead tonight.

I was in my last year of college, preparing for final exams, when this news broke 20 years ago.  It really harshed our ”post-feminist” buzz in the late 80s to learn that merely studying engineering was considered a sufficiently provocative act that it courted assassination, and that reassuring men that we weren’t feminists wouldn’t necessarily save our lives.

Leslie M-B at The Clutter Museum has an interesting post up on campus violence, inspired by the release of the report on the Virginia Tech shootings, which revealed disturbing delays in notifying faculty, staff, and students outside of the central administration building.  She also discusses the troubling reluctance of campuses to release accurate information about sexual assaults.  Check it out.

I still maintain that the absence of relationships with women should be considered a major warning sign that a man is capable of mass homocide or femicide.  It’s such an obvious commonality of all of these North American massacres–from Montreal, to V-Tech, to Fort Hood.  But, because misogyny is normalized, and the degradation of women is a substantial part of our entertainment and political culture, guys like this get a pass until they start shooting.  We mourn the victims, but we don’t take meaningful steps to prevent the creation of other victims.  There’s no political advantage in reducing even mentally ill and socially maladjusted men’s Second Amendment rights.

35 Comments »

35 Responses to “20th anniversary of the massacre at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal”

  1. Oroboros on 06 Dec 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    Then we need to address the mental illness and social maladjustment.

    I’ve recently become aware of a phenomena described as love-shyness.

    In at least some cases, men suffering this appear to have had trauma related to women at a young age. I think that some of the therapies for PTSD may be useful.

    I’m considering a set of inter-related businesses to address the needs of those men, and more generally anyone who has difficulty creating relationships.

    A big part of my motivation is to intercept and rehabilitate some men who will otherwise become killers. So I realize that this is probably the most dangerous business idea that I’ve ever had, and will necessitate security measures from the outset. By using licensed therapists, I hope to get insurance to pay for most of the program.

    My ultimate goal is to change the way we all think about dating and to offer an entirely new kind of “dating service” that will train and test people before they have access to it. I’m talking about 6 months of individual and group therapy- far too much for anyone to endure merely to “hook up”. The people looking for that can go to the pickup community that is mentioned in the love-shy wiki page.

  2. Historiann on 06 Dec 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    I really don’t want to hear about the needs of men in this thread, Oroboros. I understand where you’re coming from, and your ideas about changing dating sound good, but I don’t think it’s right to focus on the male perps today.

  3. New Kid on the Hallway on 06 Dec 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    I still maintain that the absence of relationships with women should be considered a major warning sign that a man is capable of mass homocide or femicide.

    Also that guy who walked into the gym (aerobics class?) and killed a number of women–he had a blog filled with rants about how he couldn’t get any (young, white, hot) women to look at him and what was wrong with these evil women.

    Myself, I highly doubt those early “traumas” would be anywhere near so traumatizing if we didn’t have a society that told men that women are theirs for the taking. Women who suffer early “traumas” relating to men don’t go out and shoot up gatherings of men. Plus, if “love-shyness” is such a big problem because shy men can’t live up to heterosexual gender roles requiring them to take the first step in initiating relationships with women, how about we, I don’t know, CHANGE THE GENDER ROLES??

    (If the “trauma” referred to is getting rejected by someone you’re infatuated with: hasn’t *everyone* suffered such traumas??)

  4. Janice on 06 Dec 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    The massacre still is keenly felt here in Canada: tomorrow is our campus’s main memorial service and the lessons are still being learned.

    I think this article from yesterday’s Toronto Star said it best:

    ‘Twenty years ago Sunday, Nathalie Provost yelled “We are not feminists” as Marc Lépine sprayed her and her classmates with bullets. Today, the engineer and mother of four says: “I realized many years later that in my life and actions, of course I was a feminist.”‘

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/734817–lessons-of-the-montreal-massacre

  5. perpetua on 06 Dec 2009 at 2:18 pm #

    I have to admit that I have never been able to comprehend the rise of “postfeminism” – on an intellectual level, I suppose, I can understand the historical phenomenon that fed into it and the cultural precepts that informed it. But in my gut, I *don’t get it*. Why women would just give up that like. Why they are uncomfortable with the label of feminist. How we become a world in which stilettos and a miniskirt became signs of empowerment (ie accepting that it is only through our sexuality that we can achieve self-worth). Why the routine, everyday, ingrained, repeated violence against women is something that society just accepts. I mean, I know *why* (institutionalized patriarchy and the misogyny it engenders) – but why are we not angrier about it? Why are there so few feminists?

    Women should know by now that mollifying men is NOT going to save our lives (ie, “we’re not feminists”). Men don’t commit violence against women because they are smart, outspoken, or economically successful – they do so because they are allowed to. And yet women in the western world go around like hostages – if we are good girls, then we won’t be hurt. If we act the way they want us to, everything will be okay. And the acts of violence keep adding up.

    I’m angry today, not sad.

  6. Oroboros on 06 Dec 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    I’m sorry Historiann. I guess that I recognize almost every perpetrator has been a victim. I fear that until we can see beyond the heinous crimes to their causes, we’re doomed to suffer more. I don’t think more guns will make us safer. I do think that therapy might.

  7. Oroboros on 06 Dec 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    New Kid, I hear everything you’ve said. I see the need for a new kind of dating service *precisely* because women have suffered the same kinds of trauma. If you deal with men who have damaged views of women and then turn them loose, they may encounter a woman with equally damaged views of men. That work might be undone.

    I just haven’t figured out how to market the business to those women yet (in part because of the gender roles not creating the same need for women). I do hope this program will challenge and change gender roles for everyone who participates. I don’t foresee teaching men how to approach women. I do foresee teaching them how to communicate, how to negotiate boundaries etc. We will have mixed-sex coursework. Every individual will get the same group training as a complement to individual therapy.

    I heard one story from a man who, at age 9 told a girl he liked her. She turned right around and told her friends and they laughed at him as a group in front of his friends. That man’s problem is deeper than simple rejection. The rejection turned into a public humiliation. It is one thing to risk rejection, but that puts the risk into a whole new realm. Do women suffer the same thing? Of course. Instead of shooting holes in men’s bodies, they put those holes in their hearts and heads because of the gendering of guns.

    That man hasn’t acted violently against women that I know of, but he seems to be suffering. As a result of not feeling loved, he overeats. That makes him feel less worthy of love. The program has to address all other manner of disorder. I foresee changing people’s own body images (and realities) even as we challenge unhealthy views of what “normal” is.

    Sorry again for the length. I hope I’ve made it clearer that this isn’t about the needs of men as much as the needs of society. Again, my motive in this business is to ultimately address the needs of women by “fixing” damaged views held by men.

    I won’t be offended if you delete my comments here Historiann. It’s somewhat off-topic in a memorial thread. I guess whenever I look back I also look forward and hope you won’t need new memorial threads.

  8. Bavardess on 06 Dec 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    Thanks for that link Historiann. I hadn’t heard about the Montreal case but it is truly chilling. All the more so in light of your recent posts on the debate over the gendering of gun violence, concealed guns, and the belief that this will somehow make women safer on campus.

  9. Comrade PhysioProf on 06 Dec 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    I see the need for a new kind of dating service *precisely* because women have suffered the same kinds of trauma.

    Are you kidding? Some kind of new “dating service” is gonna prevent deranged misogynist murderers from killing women?

    As Historiann pointed out, the fact that these dudes have been unable to form human relationships with women (if they are heterosexual) is a sign and symptom of their depravity. Trying to assist them with “dating” isn’t going to do anything to alter this underlying problem.

  10. Paul S. on 06 Dec 2009 at 4:41 pm #

    I still maintain that the absence of relationships with women should be considered a major warning sign that a man is capable of mass homocide or femicide.

    If that was the only criterion, I suppose that I should be considered potentially dangerous.

    Do you really think that a man being extremely shy or reticent with women should in and of itself lead to his being considered a potential murderer, regardless of whether he has actually done or said anything that indicates great hostility toward women?

  11. Digger on 06 Dec 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    I remember the Montreal massacre. It is chilling to know that I or any woman can be a target just for, well, being a woman and doing normal things like going to school, or having an opinion (especially if it’s “no”), or not fawning over some guy. It’s not a victim mentality, I don’t think, to acknowledge this. We get reminded every day.

    I don’t know how to pick out the ones potentially dangerous to women in particular. But I do think that people who can torture animals “just for fun” or “to see what happens” are scary as hell.

  12. Oroboros on 06 Dec 2009 at 7:53 pm #

    Comrade PhysioProf, I accept that some people have suffered irreparable psychic/social/emotional damage. In general, I really don’t like to think of people as being damaged. When possible prefer to characterize them as having damaged views because I think those can be repaired much easier.

    This is why I expect the business to be inherently so dangerous. Not all men (or women) will get access to the service even if they complete the mandatory six month eval and training period. There will be tests, even as I don’t know what they look like yet. I share this because I think I do share a goal with everyone else posting here of reducing violence and don’t see a lot of other really viable paths.

    The most misogynistic men won’t need or want what I’m offering. They are already out in the “pickup community” and my marketing probably won’t even rise to their notice. They don’t want to change and I will only be able to help people who sincerely want to change.

    Paul S. is right – there are many men who’ve “failed” to establish relationships for reasons that aren’t misogynistic. The very belief that not having a relationship constitutes “failure” is pernicious social conditioning.

    I have a friend who complains about what she perceives as my isolation (likely because she feels isolated herself). I’ve never been happier in my life in regards to relationships. Whenever I was in one for long, I wanted out. Whenever I was alone, I felt lonely and wanted human touch, companionship and more, validation of my self-worth (which is probably the most common bad reason that people get into a relationship).

    There are men who are isolated for reasons that don’t have to do so much with a hatred of women as fear of them. That’s what tends to initially underlie a lot of hatred in my experience. Some of them can be helped. Their own self-loathing has to be addressed first.

  13. hysperia on 06 Dec 2009 at 8:57 pm #

    Wow. So interesting when a conversation about the massacre of 14 women because they were women turns into a conversation about men and their defenses.

    Thank you for posting this today Historiann. I was teaching first year law students on December 6, 1989. The shock and grief was immense. The outrage of having to actually argue with men about whether or not this a “simple” act committed by a madmen or actually had something to do with the fact that the students were women and the gunman hated feminists lives on today. Because on this 20th anniversary, my feminist sisters and I in Canada have had to do that all over again, even in this apparently most obvious of cases. The gunman had a rather dark personal history, it’s true. But I have known very many men (and women) who have suffered far worse and never killed a single person, never mind fourteen young women at a single go. The issue of experiences of personal abuse can shed some light but most often, only a little. My sisters and I cannot help but think that the men who want to focus on personality alone are waging what has been a hauntingly effective campaign to take the focus off of women and misogyny.
    In my country, the one where the massacre happened, much of our struggle over the last weeks has been about recapturing the high ground with respect to those arguments. Our government has seen fit to begin dismantling some of the small victories we had with combatting violence against women and to defund women’s advocacy groups based on just these sorts of “post feminist” arguments. I can assure you that there are still a lot of us pre-post feminists around and they’re not all as old as I am. Some of them were in those classes I was teaching on December 6, 1989. We are digging in and we will not stop fighting till we win.

    One last point. I found it unfortunate that Ann Bartow decided to provide a link to a Canadian government site for information on the massacre. Of course that sights sings its own praises of our Minister responsible for the Status of Women. She does little but parrot the agenda of the Conservative government which drastically cut funds for her department, attempted to get rid of pay equity legislation, has introduced a bill to abolish our country’s long gun registry – a registry set up as a result of women’s activism post-Massacre, and would like to de-fund every women’s action programme in the country because women are no better than members of other “left-wing fringe groups” that they hate. Ten days ago, a Conservative MP praised his province for making it difficult for women to get access to abortion care because they cause breast cancer and are part of a conspiracy to make women more sexually available. His government refused to demand his apology. There are so many feminists writing in Canada – including in all our major newspapers this weekend – I wish there had been links to some of that work. Oh well.

  14. KoshemBos on 06 Dec 2009 at 10:32 pm #

    “I still maintain that the absence of relationships with women should be considered a major warning sign that a man is capable of mass homocide or femicide.”

    This statement is too strong. Do we have empirical data to support? Individuals go through quite bizarre upbring and have difficulties with myriad of issues. The vast majority of such individuals are non violent. I would hate to predict crimes based on events some other individuals instigated.

  15. Historiann on 06 Dec 2009 at 11:43 pm #

    I stand by my claim that “the absence of relationships with women should be considered a major warning sign that a man is capable of mass homocide or femicide.” It is not too extreme. In fact, I’d say that it’s a problem that it’s so obvious but no one wants to talk about it.

    Unhappiness in romance isn’t what I’m talking about. All of the major mass murderers I’ve discussed in the past few years on this blog (or the single murder of Johanna Justin-Jinnich last spring)–Northern Illinois, V-tech, Fort Hood, the Pennsylvania health club massacre (as New Kid reminds us)–all of these were committed by men who were unable or unwilling to engage in healthy relationships with women. (What about the men who have recently lined up little girls and teenagers in school specifically to rape and murder them, as happened recently here in Colorado and in the Pennsylvania Amish community a few years ago? Clearly, it’s all of a piece.)

    You’re free to disagree. I’m just noting that an inability to establish friendships or intimate relationships with women is a shared fact of these men’s lives. It should be interpreted as a warning sign by co-workers and therapists. Men who interact with girls and women as people, and not as things, don’t go on murderous rampages in which they turn living people into things (bodies, corpses.) I don’t think that’s a terribly controversial observation–or rather, that it should be considered controversial or “too strong.”

  16. Oroboros on 07 Dec 2009 at 2:41 am #

    Historiann, I have been thinking specifically of the Amish incident. That man referenced some childhood trauma that I don’t think has ever been explained publicly. It doesn’t excuse his behavior in the slightest, just as Charles Whitman’s brain tumor didn’t excuse his.

    I do think that both cases offer at least some explanation however. I’ve been intensely studying patterns of shame, guilt and blame. Too many people mistake understanding cause as somehow equating to blame and guilt (or alleviation thereof). I only care about it now as it helps to inform and prevent more harm. I can’t change anything any man has ever done. There’s nothing I can personally write that will make amends, nor am I particularly obligated to take on their guilt and shame. Still, I acknowledge I’m a part of the culture that created them and am not wholly blameless either.

    So, when I write about “men and their defenses” as hysperia notes, it is in the context of understanding why some men act as they do, primarily in the hopes of changing that behavior in the future. If I can intercept even one man headed for disaster and help him, is that enough? I’m here because I have some hope, but need help (feedback mainly).

    Again I’ll say that I believe almost all of the perpetrators we are condemning here were also victims and understanding that is important. If we can’t have compassion for the boys who are being victimized today, they will become victimizers of tomorrow (and vice-versa for girls who suffer and victimize apace). I’m sure many are children who didn’t get the love they needed from their parents (and who themselves suffered the same from their parents so that literally the sins of the fathers really are visited on the sons).

    Condemning what they did and memorializing the dead doesn’t do anything directly to stop the next Polytechnique massacre. It is still vitally important to both condemn and memorialize and I’m not critical of either. I’ve recently written on the need to memorialize the species we’ve driven extinction in North America, in part because I hope it will energize people to fight harder for the ones who are endangered but still with us. Funerals and mourning only go so far in the end and I’m not deluded about their significance even as I mean no disrespect in that acknowledgment.

    So, Healing Wounds of the Gender Wars has emerged out of my thinking of these problems.

    Also, since this is a memorial to women who happened to be engineering students I thought this was a good link today: The Science Boys’ Club Strikes Again.

  17. Katherine on 07 Dec 2009 at 6:19 am #

    I’ve been mulling over the issue of why so many of my students resist the label feminist. Bits of the answer seem to be related to the fact that my school is nearly 70% female. The women want boyfriends and frankly many (but not all) of the men are slackers or worse. So to get a date, women have to compete seriously against each other, and lower their standards. Both factors seem to inhibit identifying with feminism. Yes we need to work with women, but we also need to work with men, since they are the problem. This does remind me of an early post of the problems with boys.
    On another note, the Montreal massacre gave rise to the White Ribbon Campaign, men against violence against women. Many campus’ have chapters.

  18. Historiann on 07 Dec 2009 at 7:56 am #

    Oroboros, your interest in turning perps into victims here is unwelcome. I warned you before. You’re taking up a hell of a lot of server space to talk about things no one else here is really interested in. You have your own blog, so my readers who are interested can follow you over there.

    Please give it a rest here.

  19. Matt L on 07 Dec 2009 at 10:23 am #

    I have had positive associations with the fall and winter of 1989 due to the collapse of communism in 1989. Your post about the 20th anniversary of the massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique has tempered my nostalgia. I was an undergrad at a West Coast State University when the massacre happened. I remember being stunned and the vigil held on campus. I had forgotten all this in the last twenty years. Thanks for the reminder.

  20. John S. on 07 Dec 2009 at 12:14 pm #

    I wholeheartedly agree with Historiann’s suspicion that virulent misogyny is a major part of the pathology that accompanies these violent rampages. I am maybe less sanguine about the possibility of using it as an early detection tool–precisely because it is so widespread. I think that socially Americans have “normalized” misogyny to the extent that it would be tough, at least at first, to screen for it. (Anyone who abuses animals draws a red flag; hatred of women? not as much.) I hope this doesn’t sound cynical; it is just honestly my read.

    I am curious about the foreign context here. In America, of course, we have a God-given right to own guns such that even asking questions about limiting the access of the mentally ill to guns is controversial. In the US, these tragic incidents don’t lead to increased regulation.

    In Canada, however, I had the impression that regulation was stricter (partially why these incidents are less common). Did this tragedy lead to tighter laws about the purchasing/carrying of guns, in addition to galvanizing action against violence against women? Like I said, I am not familiar with the Canadian context.

  21. Mary on 07 Dec 2009 at 12:19 pm #

    Since I was raised in the postfeminist world (I was born in ’86), I think maybe I help untangle why so many of my peers resist the label feminism. First, it was not until I went to college that anyone I knew started referring to feminism in a positive way. Throughout my childhood, the term feminism and “femninazi” were used almost interchangeably among the adults I most often had contact with. I couldn’t have given a good definition of feminism until my freshman or sophomore years of college—and it wasn’t until my junior and senior years that I understood that not all feminists agree.

    Second, the pro-life lobby has done an excellent job turning feminists into women who hate men and will stop at nothing to “murder” their unborn “babies.” This argument is not new, but abortion is the first political issue I was made aware of. This may have to do with the fact that I was raised in a devout Catholic family, but the late nineties and Bush years were a particularly successful time for the pro-life lobby. Many of my peers who state they believe in gender quality are also pro-life and some feel that to identify as a feminist would be to brand themselves as “pro-abortion.” I also think that the demonization of Hillary Clinton helped young women of my generation distance themselves from feminism. Clinton was constantly attacked for her “aberrant” femininity and, thus, failed to become a role model for many young women.

    Finally, as perpetua points out, my generation really has no concept of how difficult it was for our mothers (many of whom are around Sarah Palin’s age and never considered feminism an issue themselves) and grandmothers. Many think that suffrage is the only issue that ever mattered, and don’t realize that most women didn’t have lines of credit until the 1970s.

    Also, I don’t agree that most men these days are “slackers.” I have always been part of a high achieving group of young people, and the men of my acquaintance have always done as well if not a little better than their female counterparts. The reality of entering the job market as a ’07, ’08, or ’09 college grad is that you to distinguish yourself from the pact–undergrad degrees just don’t guarantee jobs anymore. I think this upsets white men who think that college degrees entitle them to stable careers and families.

  22. KrisT on 07 Dec 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    An important component in this tragedy is not just that this man had trouble with women. If his criteria for killing was simply ‘must punish a lot of women’, he would have walked into a school or classroom in Montreal where one would find a lot more women than men, like the nursing school at McGill, whose female/male ratio is much, much higher. It was women who had the audacity to pursue goals outside of the sphere he felt women should inhabit.

    He chose an engineering school specifically because he felt that he was a *victim* of feminism, because he believed that he was denied entrance to the École Polytechnique as a direct result of affirmative action, which he felt robbed him of his rightful place in the school by giving it away to a woman. It should be noted that he was denied because he did not have the pre-admission credentials necessary to be admitted.

  23. Historiann on 07 Dec 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    Yes, KrisT: this was a big component of the contemporary coverage 20 years ago. He took as evidence of their feminism the fact that they were engineering students. And you’re exactly right about his poor credentials. Somehow the other male students weren’t to blame for his failure, though; the minority of women students were murdered for taking “his” place.

  24. Toonces on 07 Dec 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    Don’t forget the German kid — he was a misogynist, too:

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/03/11/germany.school.shooting/index.html

  25. Historiann on 07 Dec 2009 at 8:05 pm #

    Toonces, thanks for the link. This was especially interesting:

    Most of the victims at the school were female — eight female students, three female teachers and one male student, said Heribert Rech, interior minister for Baden Wuerttemberg region.

    Rech said: “They were completely taken by surprise. Some of the victims still had their pens in their hands.”

    Kretschmer opened fire in three first floor classrooms, including a physics lab where a teacher was found dead behind her desk, Rech told a news conference.

    So, is there also a pattern perhaps of targeting women in sci/tech fields, I wonder? Or just a creepy coincidence? (But the story you linked to suggested that the perp selected victims carefully.)

  26. Oroboros on 07 Dec 2009 at 8:21 pm #

    I suspect it mostly goes to statistics. More men in science and engineering = more angry men in science and engineering. Are there other fields (aside from sports where competition isn’t direct) that have as wide of a gender disparity?

    I also suspect many choose science because it satisfies their needs for logic and rationality. Many men perceive women as extremely irrational. An overemphasis on the faculties of reason is often the result of their inability to cope emotionally.

  27. lily on 07 Dec 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    I also suspect many choose science because it satisfies their needs for logic and rationality.

    ummmm…….science is no more logical than an other area of expertise or occupation. That’s just another male fantasy that women have bought into. Very similar to the ‘men are logical and women emotional’ silliness.

  28. New Kid on the Hallway on 07 Dec 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    I heard one story from a man who, at age 9 told a girl he liked her. She turned right around and told her friends and they laughed at him as a group in front of his friends. That man’s problem is deeper than simple rejection. The rejection turned into a public humiliation.

    With all due respect, hasn’t everyone experienced something like this? I mean, seriously, I don’t know anyone who perceived their romantic experiences (while going through them) as smooth sailing, or felt that they always got the attention they wanted from the people they wanted it from, or didn’t feel humiliated about something in elementary school. But people get over these things, if they’re not somehow otherwise damaged.

    Of course if someone has a mental illness they deserve treatment–I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. Nor am I saying it’s okay for children to humiliate each other. It just seems to me that if this kind of an experience is traumatic enough to prevent romantic relationships for life, there’s something else going on. The girls laughing is a catalyst, not a cause.

  29. Oroboros on 07 Dec 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    lily, it is all silliness, but it is also how a lot of boys see the world. I reject sexual determinism and dualistic views of gender, even as I acknowledge there is an apparent duality that most of the culture puts tremendous amounts of energy in to maintaining. Sometimes identifying it gets me into trouble without sufficient additional clarification.

  30. John S. on 07 Dec 2009 at 9:37 pm #

    Regarding the fact that so many of the women targeted are in science and tech fields: I think this relates to KrisT’s and Historiann’s points about affirmative action and how gunmen perceive it has affected them. Science, math, engineering–these are all “naturally” male fields, so women in these programs must be there through some kind of “unnatural” means that keep deserving men out.

    I don’t think that there’s any causal link between this logic and homicidal rage. I do not, for instance, think that Larry Summers poses any threat, even though I think he subscribes to modified versions of these views. But for already disturbed individuals nurturing grievances about how the system is harming them in particular, I think this dynamic can help convince them that women are appropriate targets for their violence.

  31. Historiann on 07 Dec 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    Oh, don’t count old Larry-boy out. We truly don’t know what he’s capable of!

    New Kid wrote, “Of course if someone has a mental illness they deserve treatment–I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. Nor am I saying it’s okay for children to humiliate each other. It just seems to me that if this kind of an experience is traumatic enough to prevent romantic relationships for life, there’s something else going on. The girls laughing is a catalyst, not a cause.”

    Right on. Girls laughing at boys is a provocation only if the boys think they’re entitled to something else from the girls. It’s this sense of entitlement, not the hurt feelings, that is the problem.

  32. Dame Eleanor Hull on 07 Dec 2009 at 11:32 pm #

    Steve Kazmierzcak, the Northern Illinois University gunman, had a girlfriend. I have not heard that there was anything unhealthy about the relationship. It would be nice if there were some easy way to diagnose people who will become killers, but even if you’ve found it, it doesn’t reveal all the potential shooters.

  33. truffula on 08 Dec 2009 at 12:39 am #

    Please bear with me for a moment.

    Can I just express how maddening it is to read in this thread about traumatized men and poor elementary school boys who were laughed at by some girls at some point in their lives? Sure enough, Historiann, it’s only provocation for the boys if blah blah blah, but really? A girl does not even have to leave the safety of her own home to be laughed at or otherwise reminded that she will never measure up. Just turn on the television, just open a popular magazine, just read the city newspaper.

    I was half way through my second senior year as an undergrad in an engineering program (there were interesting classes yet to be taken, really) when this happened. Back in junior high school, we girls interested in science & engineering learned at our gender-segregated “career day” that the future was bright in keypunch data entry. A high school science teacher told me I’d never be able to compete in science. It was a relief to get to college and find professors who cared first and foremost about the quality of my work. (At least it seemed that way. Now that I see how some of my peers in the professorate carry on, I’m less sanguine.)

    Please, can’t I have just one day to reflect on the challenges those young women had already overcome and how pointlessly it was taken from them without being told that it’s all my fault?

    Ahem. Carry on.

  34. lily on 08 Dec 2009 at 8:25 am #

    …most of the culture puts tremendous amounts of energy in to maintaining.

    Actually, it’s seems to be mostly men who are trying to desperately maintain this fantasy, including a few male commenters on this website.

  35. Historiann on 08 Dec 2009 at 8:33 am #

    trufflula, I’m with you entirely. I said in my first comment here that I wanted this thread NOT to be about teh poor, poor menz.

    I think your perspective on your own education is probably accurate. One victory for feminism in the past 40 years is that I think we have pretty successfully made undergraduate educational environments for students mostly bias-free. That’s not to say that there isn’t any gendered axe-grinding–just that it seems for the most part to be confined to the faculty and perhaps in graduate education. (At least, like you, I feel like my college and even grad school experience was egalitarian; my life as a faculty member, not so much.)

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