Category Archives: Lost Sisters

Pondering on the Purpose of Remembering

It’s December 14th and the memorials for the Montreal Massacre are done for another year.  This year December 6th fell on the date my column is printed – Tuesday.  The only positive aspect of the day was that I could write about it on the day of and not before or after.

This column was just waiting to pop out, although it took some time thinking about what to say, whether there’s anything new to say, something that will gain attention, something that will make people think differently about violence against women.  Something that could trigger an aha moment in someone.  I doubt I was successful.

The readers comments are always interesting to read.  I have to steel myself to them; very few comments in the online edition are favourable.  It was a quick discovery when my first column was published, the propensity for some people to be rude.  But everyone who deals with online comments knows that.  The favourable comments I receive come to me in my personal inbox.  They are a bright spot in my day and quick to respond to.  I try to respond to everyone who takes the time to write.  But I digress.

So it was with some trepidation that I came to read the comments after my column was published on the importance of remembering.  I know that although the comments were mostly negative, it was a good column and my point did come home to several people who went out of their way to communicate the significance of the subject matter to them.  And some of these individuals happened to be men.  I appreciate their “getting it”.

Before I write a column I read around the issue to see what others have written, don’t want to be redundant, and if there’s a better idea then I’ll trumpet that one.  The spark for this year’s column came from one written by Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail.  The idea that we need to “get over” our “death cult” obsession was a sentiment that at least she had the presence of mind to hold off expressing in print until after the day had come and gone.

In light of the tragedy in Kingston it’s a sentiment just a bit premature.

I posted a link to my column on my Facebook site and received some likes and a few comments.  But one friend in particular wanted to equalize the day, and advocate for an eliminate of all violence, which, of course I support.  It’s one of those “motherhood” statements – who doesn’t want world peace?  But that’s not what this is about.

Then, this friend argues, I diminish the tragedy that befell the 14 young engineering students who are subsumed by a movement larger than them: violence against women.  Like targeting women and shooting them in cold blood because they’re women isn’t somehow a manifestation of violence against women.  But that was just a one-off, is the response.  Ummm.  No it’s not.

I don’t have to scratch the surface of my memory too hard to painfully pull from it the facts of several particularly public cases that made the front pages of newspapers all around the Golden Horseshoe.  In one case, the woman ran from her house naked and screaming.  He ran out and clawed her back in before he shot her.

Then there’s the case of the guy with the crossbow who shot his estranged wife in the chest in the middle of the day in a busy downtown Canadian city.  Killed her cold.

No.  The Montreal Massacre may have been a one-off in its size and effect, but it wasn’t a one-off in its intent: to lash out at women for the woes of the world.  It can be the only justification for such an drastic action.  Burning the toast just doesn’t seem important enough.

Not every man is abusive toward the women in his life.  To think so would be to ignore the humanity that we all share, men and women.  The stats say that those who perpetuate domestic violence are typically repeat offenders.  One man can do a lot of damage to a lot of women.  That could be behind the reluctance of many men to believe violence against women statistics:  they just refuse to believe they, or their buddies, act in any way that is violent toward women.  It hasn’t been their experience.

And of course, what guy boasts about beating his woman to another man?

Before the Fall….

New page added!

I’ve added a new page to Women’s Story – Before the Fall.

This page will explore women in archeology and prehistory, so the work of Marija Gimbutas is a good place to start, although her assertion of an early matriarchal society has come under criticism since her death from archeologists who, well, don’t agree.

Women who know

I have a class on Monday nights at the Downtown Centre of the McMaster University campus, which is located at the corner of King and John, across from the John Sopinka Courthouse (which used to be the old Post Office).  My guy comes to walk me home so I look for him when I leave the building.  I couldn’t find him when I walked out so I asked one of the staff if they had seen him and she pointed across the street to the Courthouse.

My guy will talk to anyone; he has a special knack for connecting with people.  When we walk around, everyone says hi to him.  It’s really weird, sort of, how a person can make friends out of strangers.  He talks to everyone, as I said, but he uses that talent, particularly, to talk to street people, especially those with mental health challenges.  So when I saw him standing on the stairs next to a bundle of blankets, I thought, oh, he has a new friend.

He waved me over and I crossed the street to join him.  He introduced me to Dan, who was on a hunger strike for equal rights.  That’s interesting, I thought.  My guy said, listen to his story, Warmth (that’s what he calls me), so I shook his hand, introduced myself and asked him, what’s your deal?

Dan peered at me from under the brim of this baseball cap. He seemed young

Long story, short; you can see all 160 acts of abuse (as he calls them) on his blog:

His ex withheld some vital mail that caused him to fall out of the process of some sort of discrimination suit.  He wants the police to investigate, because it is against the law to tamper with someone’s mail.  They won’t.  The Attorney General doesn’t care either.  This has been going on for some time with no satisfaction to Daniel.

Apparently the issue has gotten so bad that his fiancé has been hospitalized because of the harassment (I think.  I should have read all 160 acts to the bottom – I bailed at 25….).  I’m all for a good cause, but this one seemed a little much.

The system, he says, pushes men to violence.

I’ve heard that before.  And sometimes I come close to believing it when I hear stories of women behaving badly.  And we all know that they can, behave badly, that is.  But that’s their business, I guess.  Or is it?

We women all know at least one other woman who has acted crazy in the name of “love”; who has cheated on her boyfriend or husband out of revenge; who has abused her partner with insults; who has gone out of her way to make him pay, however payment is defined.  It may be for something he did on purpose, but sometimes it’s just because of the way he is.  And she can’t accept it.

However, women can be quick to claim “victim”; we have defined it.  Women have been advocating for their beaten sisters for at least 30 years, for most of my adult life.  I was raised with this issue in the newspaper, on the news, and in the homes of my friends.  But as someone who reads stories from the past, I know that the history of domestic violence didn’t start in the 70s.

Fifty years ago, the police might very well have cautioned an abused woman that she ought to behave rather than scold the man for hitting her, never mind lay any charges.  Men didn’t get involved usually unless she was his sister, and then it was certainly a private matter, one hidden deep in the family.

This isn’t about men beating up women.  There are enough women talking about that.  Precious few men seem to care, but the women are all over this issue.

But women aren’t all over the issue of the woman who behaves badly.  No one wants to talk about her or her effect on the sisterhood.

What about those who make false accusations against men for revenge, perhaps, or some other twisted motive?  I man I know calls them “women who know”; women who know how to work the system so that it works in their favour and against the man.  A woman who knows can have a man kicked out of his house and paying child support for children that aren’t his, either biologically or legally.

Women who work in domestic violence follow a principle tenant that says:  believe the woman.  No matter what.  It comes from a long history of women not being believed.  It’s hard sometimes to do that, because somethings, sometimes, you know, you just feel, it’s not true.  And sometimes it’s not true. Sometimes the woman needs more help than she bargained for.  But she still needs help.

Deloitte girl quits after sending email asking colleagues to vote on office’s most attractive men | Mail Online

Deloitte girl quits after sending email asking colleagues to vote on office’s most attractive men | Mail Online.

So –

Some women don’t get it, apparently.

‘This probably massively violates HR equal opportunities policy, but never mind! It’s all for fun and a bit of a laugh.’

The email was only intended for a small group within her office, but was quickly forwarded outside the building and within hours was being read by millions of internet users as far away as New Zealand, the USA andAustralia.

There is no privacy online.

via Deloitte girl quits after sending email asking colleagues to vote on office’s most attractive men | Mail Online.

Welcome to the Vixenhood…

We have all been agog this week with the events that have transpired at the Wood’s mansion in Florida.  The web has been busy with updates and playbacks of the sorry situation that yet another sad man has gotten himself into.  What was he thinking? we have all been asking each other as we analyze his predicament.  I hear the men are laughing over at TSN.  And if they are playing true to type, the late night laugh masters are making hay with Tiger’s humiliations.

Perhaps we can commiserate with his wife, surely an innocent in all this – although some would say that in marriage there is no innocence – but to have her husband’s dalliances with cocktail waitresses,a so-called publicist (just whose career is being promoted? wink, wink) and only who knows how many others, bandied about in bars and boardrooms, around water coolers and even the dinner table is not what a wife wants to have to bear.  Even the best wife.  No one, really, wants to be that martyr.

A conversation starter it surely has been.  If you’re in a relationship and you’re not talking about it, it may be because there’s some danger there.  Who wants to open that can of worms? you might be thinking.  These events provide us with an opportunity to reflect on our behaviours as a culture, for Tiger is not alone.  Let’s see, how many prominent men have subjected their families to public comment because of their wanton ways?  Eliot Spitzer, David Letterman, Mark Sanford, John Edwards….

What I have found interesting in this story is not the indiscretion of a young man too rich for his britches and full of his place in the world.  It is that even with his famous face and busy life, there were at least three women who seemed to have no problem in having an affair with a married man.  And that number has grown in the days since to nine.  If this isn’t an issue for the sisterhood, I don’t know what is.

I’m all for privacy in the bedroom.  Quite frankly, it’s none of our business who Tiger Woods gets into bed with nor what he does when he gets there.  However, the salacious nature of sexual scandal seduces us; like the pull of a magnet, and our attention gets drawn into the details and we can’t look away.

What I see is a sorry state in the sisterhood.   Or shall we say, the vixenhood.

I suppose women have been cheating with other women’s men for thousands of years.  Nothing new here.

And I suppose that the women’s movement has fought for the same rights that men have enjoyed on the grounds of equality and have advocated for women to have the freedom to live their lives fully; to take advantage of all of life’s wonderful opportunities.  But does that include another woman’s man?

The women’s movement, from its beginning, has been busy trying to find ways to get women to live with respect either independently or with a partner, or partners, for who is to judge another, really?  But honesty is the mark of an equal relationship and we should demand that be the case with our partners.  We don’t have to accept behaviour that demeans our role in the family, for in family is where women find their faith, no matter what the mater.

But this isn’t about Tiger, this is about women who should know better.

It’s not like it’s a secret rule, it’s two of the commandments.  Two.  The one about adultery and the one about your neighbour’s wife, or husband in this case.   Good thing we don’t stone people for such behaviour in our culture.  Instead, we give them millions of dollars for their story; they hire publicists to capitalize on their fame, and then wipe their mouths and say they’ve done no wrong, as a friend of mine likes to say.

The women’s’ movement has fought for women so that they don’t have to be dependent on any man.  It’s nice to have one around, they’re fun to play with, intelligent to talk to, and have those big strong muscles that the Y chromosome gives them.

But really, sisters, there’s lots out there, go get your own.

Today we remember…

It’s the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.  Do you remember where you were on that day?

I do.  I was a young mother of a daughter, aged 8.  I was about to get pregnant with another one in a few months.  But that’s another story

I remember I was in a car, listening to the news.  It unfolded slowly:  there’s been a shooting at a school in Quebec, a man with a gun went on a rampage and shot a number of students, most of them women (it was the first report, no one was sure of who had been hit).  I remember thinking, specifically, “I hope it wasn’t because they were women.”  It seemed absurd, actually, and I said it out loud.  The person I was with rolled their eyes and said something like, you always think everything has do with being a woman.

Well, for me, it does.

Too bad it was true.  So true, he confessed it in his own words, written in a hate-filled manifesto that blamed women for the trials and tribulations in his life.  He spewed his hatred at the women with each bullet in his gun.

To the rational person his reason, well, wasn’t.

Rational people across Canada mark December 6th with silence, some will march in rallies; all will recall the lives that were lost that day.  Sadly, too, we also call to mind the countless number of fallen sisters who have died at the hands of men who once claimed to love them with all their hearts.

My partner doesn’t believe that women can stop male abuse.  He says men have to do the work to stop the violence.  I’ve looked online to see what resources are provided to men who are confused with their place in life, angry at the world and looking to blame the women who love them.  I was shocked to find nothing in the way of prevention and precious little in the way of treatment.  Jail seems to be the big stick we hit them with.  There’s understanding for you, that’ll make mad men come around.

Woman abuse is the ultimate expression of misogyny, that is, the hatred of women.  How else do you understand the way that some men think they can behave?  Men who hit may say, no way, we love our women, but she…..   There is no “but”, buddy, except that there is something drastically wrong with your thinking.  And we all know the desperate condition of mental health services in this country.  Make no mistake about it, misogyny is a mental health issue.

I was involved with a women’s group a number of years ago.  It was around the time the White Ribbon Campaign was gearing up, maybe its second year.  The White Ribbon Campaign promoted male solidarity with woman abuse activists by men wearing a little white ribbon, pinned to the lapel of a jacket. Or used to, I don’t know if they do that anymore.  I haven’t seen one in a while and think I would have noticed it.  In any case, the group I was with was handing out packages of ribbon and pins for us to cut up and assemble.  I thought this was supposed to be a men’s initiative, I wondered to myself, as I packed away the little baggie in my briefcase to carry home.

I spoke my mind later as I pulled my partner (at the time) into a ribbon cutting party.  I have to say that I griped about it quite a bit.  Why am I doing this, I asked him (rhetorically, I might add, for I wasn’t really interested in the answer).  Here we are again, the women, organizing the solution to the problem.  And I guess if it’s our problem we sound find the solution, just like birth control, but it’s taking a hell of a long time to get guys to get with the program.

So when my guy says that men have to do the work to stop male violence, I stand up and cheer, clap loudly and say is anyone listening?