Twenty Five Years Later, What Now?

There were three big things that happened in 1989, only two of which I remember: my baby sister was born, the Berlin Wall came down, and a guy went into a classroom at a college in Montreal and shot a bunch of women because he was pissed off that he didn’t get in.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is the one I don’t remember.

I was reminded on Facebook today that today is the 25th anniversary of the massacre at L’Ecole Polytechnique (please forgive the lack of accents, I have not a damn clue how to do them on my laptop), and it brought with it a lot of emotion, the biggest of which is the question I distinctly remember asking my mother after overhearing her and my father talking about it: “why?”

Even my four-year-old brain knew that it was wrong and was something that shouldn’t have happened.

I still have a tough time wrapping my head around it, even now that I’m attending a tech school in a science field. A school that has taken great strides to even out the gender ratio, and in my mind has done a pretty good job. When I came here, based on stories I had heard I was only expecting to see a girl only occasionally, and that’s pretty far from the truth. Of course, most of the stories I heard from my parents, who went here in the Stone Age and their papers were turned in written in mammoth blood on leaves or something. But while I didn’t remember exactly when the massacre occurred, it did cross my mind from time to time, along with a new question:

Can it happen again?

I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a feminist. *GASP!* a woman in the sciences, not all about women’s equality and liberation, THE HORROR! Truth be told, it’s not so much that I’m anti-feminist, it’s really more to do with the fact that I’m selfish enough that as long as I’m getting paid equally for equal work, I really don’t give a shit what goes on anywhere else and with anyone else. The whole shirtgate scandal I seriously thought was blown way out of proportion and I kept my mouth shut on it until now because I really didn’t find it worth my comment above and beyond to say that bring in the fashion police, sure, because the shirt was incredibly ugly. But the potential for violence against women simply because they’re lacking a Y chromosome does bother me, and quite a bit at that. The fact that someone would get so pissed off over nonacceptance to a school that he would blame it on women and then go on an armed rampage – in Canada, no less – kinda frightens me a little due to the simple fact that it has the physical possibility it will happen again. We’ll forget for a minute here that the Quebequois are a different breed of Canadian who despite sometimes being overly conservative do throw an AMAZING party centred around overly-boiled maple syrup poured into snow to point out that anger and fear are two emotions that transcend cultural mindsets. And while I think that we are due for a cultural shift, at least here in America, I think that it is going to take way too long for that to happen, and that something needs to be done NOW.

The question is: what?

Some will say we need better gun control, some will say that we need to make everyone believe in equality, some will say that we need better mental health services. Unfortunately, all those take time, and given the amounts of school shootings in the news lately, it’s only a matter of time before another Marc Lepine runs into a classroom with a semi-auto targeting women. Having said that, I really wish media would stop their 24/7 coverage over these kinds of events, but that’s another story for another time. Women shouldn’t have to find themselves constantly on the defensive just because of their sex, yet here we are, in the 21st century and still having to prove to the occasional random jerk that we’re freaking equal.

Thankfully, that occasional random jerk is just that – occasional and random. The comment I most often hear when I tell men what I study is “wow, that’s hardcore.” Yes it is, thanks, and fortunately I’m at a place where I really don’t have to worry about someone coming into my lab with a gun unless he’s got a freshly killed dear slung over his shoulder. Which, not gonna lie, would be awesomesauce since I’ve been wanting venison something fierce, even though the kinds of labs I hang out in would be a really bad place to process one of those. But the fact that something like the Montreal Massacre has the possibility of even happening is awful and we really need to find a way to end this possibility.

I consider myself to be incredibly lucky that I have yet to experience some of the awful things that I have heard my fellow women in STEM go through, and I hope that I will continue my string of good luck. Although I will take this moment to say that this may have something to do with the fact that what many women find to be inappropriate comments I don’t find inappropriate – and if I do, I shoot back with something equally inappropriate. I have a wee bit of a reputation of being a woman to not mess with, and I do think this contributes in part to my lack of dealing with the crap – people are simply scared shitless of me. I’m cool with that, I don’t do what I do to make friends, I do what I do to change the world.

I guess what I’m trying to say in the end of all this increasingly drunken rambling as I down yet another tasty beverage from the Keweenaw Brewing Company is that the Montreal massacre shouldn’t have happened. And that the Montreal massacre can happen again. Until such time as we stop looking at women as different people, it can happen. Until people remove their heads from their colons and see that there are women out there in the STEM fields, doing awesome things and making a difference, it can happen again. And until we finally wake up and get it through our thick skulls that women can and should be in STEM, it can happen again.

So how about we remove heads from colons, knock some sense into them and stop looking at women as different people and stop it from happening again?

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