Sunday, December 6, 2009

"If you say you're not a feminist, you're almost denying your own existence...

...To be a feminist is to be alive."
- Margaret Cho

It was almost 20 years ago *exactly* that I had my first feminist awakening, though I wouldn't have called it that at the the time. I was 15 and passionate about very little but partying, carrying on and trying to be accepted by my peer group. I had had my introduction to the greater human rights community about a year earlier, but it was all a little bit "big" for me to get my head around . The problems of the women of the world certainly would never come to affect me and my life in small town Ontario.

I'm not sure if it was the next day or the day after that that I saw the newspapers and saw the "honour roll" of young women's faces, with their names and ages listed below, but the events at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989 changed my life forever even though I was miles and miles from the blood and fear. What was becoming clear to me was the fact that there were men in this world who hated me.

They hated me, not because I had done anything to harm them, but because I was a female who had the crazy idea that women were equal to, but different from, men. I was young teenager moving far too quickly to adulthood, but I understood at that moment, on that day...

by looking at the faces, the names and the ages on the front page of the newspaper...

that my life as a woman in Canada would never be the same.

I was 15 years old and I was taught the lessons...

- that there were men in my own country who would like to kill me for going to school.

- that there were men in my own country who were threatened by my mere existence on this planet.

- that there were men in my own country who saw me only as a house cleaning, 5'6" blow job & baby birthing machine, there to pander to the whim of any man who would graciously have me.

That's a big moment. That's the kind of moment that inspires fear and loathing, but also a little bit of hope.

By the time I was 25 I had fully embraced the feminist descriptor for myself, but it probably took me another 5 or 10 to fully accept the responsibility that goes with that.

I'm not a "Feminism 101" type, but I do subscribe to the radical notion that women are human and equal and have the right and ability to make their own choices... even if those choices aren't what I would agree with. Autonomy and choice. That's what feminism is to me.

When I think Geneviève, Hélène, Nathalie, Barbara, Anne-Marie, Maud , Maryse, Maryse, Anne-Marie, Sonia, Michèle, Annie, Annie and Barbara, I'm sorry that it had to come to this. I think of them often, not just on this anniversary, but when I think about the responsibility I have for my own life.

It was in their lives ending that I started my own and I feel as though I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I will never forget sitting down at my parents' kitchen table with the front page of the newspaper looking at those faces, names and ages.

I will never forget.

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