In December 6, 1989, a lone gunman entered an engineering classroom at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. Armed with a semi-automatic rifle, Marc Lépine ordered the men out of the room, leaving the women behind. Lépine began shooting. At the end of his massacre, 14 women were dead.
Fast-forward to May 23, 2014. Elliot Rodger in Santa Barbara, California, killed six people in what he described as a “day of retribution” for years of supposed rejection by women. I believe these two attacks were carried out for the same reason: misogyny.
In both cases, the media and the psychological community have attempted to label these men as disturbed individuals suffering from mental illness. Though Marc Lépine and Elliot Rodger may have been mentally ill, these men carried out these attacks because of their hatred for women.
Marc Lépine sought out women attending École Polytechnique whom he believed were feminists. He also compiled a list of prominent women whom he planned to kill. These women represented a threat to Lépine’s position as a man. Lépine believed women were not entitled to basic autonomy. Lépine’s actions were influenced by mainstream sexism.
Men have always denied women their autonomy. Since entering the workforce, women have always struggled for workplace equality. Rape crisis centres and transition houses have always responded to thousands of calls from women experiencing male violence. Canadian women have always struggled to experience the same liberties and freedoms as their male counterparts. Marc Lépine was a madman who executed 14 women; however, he was also a man who learned misogyny very well.
The massacre carried out by Elliot Rodger in Santa Barbara is an extreme example of what happens when men are taught to feel entitled to women’s bodies. Rodger killed four men and two women because he wanted to punish the “sluts” who refused to have sex with him. In his manifesto, he commented, “How dare those girls give their love and sex to those other men and not me.”
Rodger’s entitlement to women’s bodies is no different than the men who rape women or purchase women for sex. All of these acts and the massacre in Santa Barbara are based on a historical belief that men should have unlimited access to women’s bodies.
Both serial murders were predetermined, women-targeted, and public. Both massacres were followed by conversations by mainstream media ignoring the inherent sexist nature of these crimes. Both massacres punished women for exercising their rights to education and to control their bodies.
The only way to prevent future sexist violence is to end sexism and guarantee the safety and equality for all women.