It is the little things – a reflection on yesterday’s memorial

Yesterday, many took a moment to reflect on the horrible massacre of fourteen young women at École Polytechnique. There were many excellent pieces were written to commemorate that horrible day twenty two years ago, but this especially caught my eye.

I want you to remember fourteen women who were killed simply because they were women who wanted to know more.

The post from The Independent reminded readers that this was a horrifying incident that is often repeated in small and large actions world-wide.

We know that in North America women are protected under the law against gendered violence and attacks. However, that doesn’t always translate to societal norms. Women are still subject to domestic violence in rates higher than men, women are still subject to sexual harassment almost every day in almost any situation, and women are still expected to explain why they need to keep fighting for equal rights.

Questions raised ask why women still continue to fight under the cause of feminism, and why women’s groups and funding is still demanded. We fight – and yes, I use this word purposefully, because we must. Because women’s shelters are still over crowded and in high demand. Because it was ONLY 22 years ago when a man armed with a shotgun targeted women who simply wanted to learn more, and only five years ago when a gunman opened fire at Dawson College.

There have been more instances of this, of women being targeted for demanding better.

This was one action, one of many, and it seems daunting to contemplate how we can stem the tide of gendered violence – but it only takes small things to change the way our communities view the women’s rights. It is as simple as not just telling little girls they are pretty, but also telling them they are smart. It is reminding our sons, nephews, grandsons to be kind to everyone and not bother with petty differences such as what are “girls” things and what are “boys things”. It is reminding a teacher to not assign blue for boys and pink for girls. It is slowly changing they way we view gender differences and respecting people’s individual choices – not expecting they made them because of their gender.

It takes big actions too. It takes women’s groups, marches, a recognition we still have a long way to go. It takes pay equity, universal childcare and the right of a father to take paternity leave to care for his children so their mother can go back to work.

It is also the little things that can reinforce negative attitudes. Such as the Lethbridge MP who celebrated the death of the long gun registry with a two finger salute.

Long guns kill women. They are the primary source of death resulting from violence in a domestic abuse situation in rural areas.

Last month the Canadian government eliminated the registry, against advice from victims advocate groups, from law enforcement organizations, and the outcry of many women’s organizations who see the direct cost of gun related injuries. Since the registry 2/3 fewer women had been killed as a result of injury from a form of long guns.

Another small act is to ignore what this means for women in rural, hard to reach areas across the country. But an even smaller act is never forget the signal this sends. To remember and remind others what it means for our government to take away a form of protection and what could potentially be life saving information.

The victims and survivors at Dawson College and at École Polytechnique have not forgotten. Neither should we. It is the little things that keep it going.

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