Twenty-four years ago today, December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine murdered fourteen women and wounded ten women. He entered École Polytechnique de Montréal with a Ruger Mini-14 and a hunting knife for the purpose of “fighting feminism” by murdering the female engineering students there. He began his violence in a classroom where first he ordered the students to separate into men and women. He asked the female students in French if they knew why he had singled them out.
One student answered no, and Lépine explained, “I am fighting feminism.” Nathalie Provost attempted to defuse the situation: “Look, we are just women studying engineering, not necessarily feminists ready to march on the streets to shout we are against men, just students intent on leading a normal life.” Lépine replied, “You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.” He opened fire and killed six women. Lépine continued through the school, committing more murders and assaults (gun and knife). Finally he killed himself. Contained in his suicide note was a hit list of nineteen more Quebec women whom he considered feminist figures.
In response to the École Polytechnique massacre, Canada designated December 6 National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. On this day we also remember all violence against women: we call attention to partner abuse and violence against women which is especially overlooked, like the violence so many Aboriginal women face.
24 years ago today, fourteen women died because they were women.
38. Eartha Kitt (Catwoman)Born in the South of the US on a cotton plantation and raised in Harlem, the self professed sex kitten was one of the most distinctive entertainers in the history of cabaret, stage and film. Born on January 17 1927 , Eartha Kitt was raised by a woman called Anna Mae, who she believed was her mother. The singer later said her father was the son of a plantation owner and had been conceived by rape. She was named Eartha after a year’s good crop. She lived in poverty until her mother met a new husband who rejected Kitt because she was a mixed race child. Described by Orson Welles as the most exciting women in the world when she played Helen of Troy in Dr Faustus, Kitt’s most famous part came as the exotic feline, Catwoman in the Batman television series from 1967-8. Originally, Kitt began her career as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company and made her film debut with them in Casbahin 1948. A talented singer with a raspy voice enriched with sultry tones, her hits included songs such as I Want to Be Evil, Just an Old-Fashioned Girl, C’est si bon and Santa Baby which was released in 1953. She possessed a strong, independent personality which matched her growling vibrato voice that lingered around the theatre long after she had finished singing. Her fierce personality erupted at the height of her fame at a White House luncheon party given by Lady Bird Johnson, the president’s wife, in 1968. Kitt was asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War and erupted into a doomed speech. Kitt replied: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kid’s rebel and take pot”. She was promptly blacklisted and effectively forced to work abroad, particularly Europe.