3 January 2012

Reflecting on the Right-Wing Response to Violence Against Women

When Montreal Massacre memorials were about to take place in early December, Big City Lib had reported on plans by the Jewish Defense League and Canadian Hindu Advocacy to demonstrate at a vigil at the University of Toronto. Despite a request by the University to not attend, they did anyway. At the time, we didn’t want to help JDL and CHA in their efforts to co-opt the day of remembrance, so we kept the focus on the victims. But we feel this deserves commentary, and more than enough time has passed to respectfully do so.

Those unfamiliar with the JDL and CHA should take a look at an earlier post by Nosferatu explaining some of their links to each other.  But suffice it to say that they are two hate groups united by mutual Islamophobia, who predictably joined the chorus of right-wing kooks attempting to use Marc Lepine’s ethnic origins to undermine Montreal Massacre demonstrations.
Here’s what appeared on the JDL’s website prior to the planned demonstration:

Marc Lepine’s father Liess Gharbi was an Algerian immigrant, a Muslim Extremist  who taught his boy how to hate women.” 

And here are excerpts of what was said by Meir Weinstein and Canadian Hindu Advocacy’s Neal Karia (it's generally accepted that 'Neal Karia' is just Ron Banerjee using a pseudonym, fyi) in comments left on Big City Lib:

“There is no attempt to hijack this event. Someone has to speak out against evil such as honour killings. JDL is pro women rights.”  (Meir Weinstein, JDL)

“The Mark Lepine massacre had nothing to do with Canada or Canadians. we believe it was an Islamic crime... which occured in Canada thanks to the Cdn govt letting in hordes of radical Islamist monsters from a stone age cult.. and Islam bears 100 percent responsibility for it.” (Neal Karia, CHA)

“Not only are we not hijacking the memorial, we are adding to it and providing a dimension that Islamo fascists like to ignore and cover up. Those who 'memorialize' those women without actually naming the root cause for their fate... ie radical Islam.. are actually spitting on the graves of those victims.”

“The spirits of those women are undoubtedly thanking CHA and JDL for honouring their memories correctly.”

“Our great organizations have been overwhelmed by support from Muslim and non Muslim women for our heroic stand and courageous battle and righteous conduct. 

We are truly heroes and deserve to be lionized.”
(Neal Karia, CHA)

“Tomorrow, we will have dozens of posters with pictures of Islamic women being stoned to death and acid thrown into the faces of Muslim women. 

Our camera person will get some nice shots of this. We'll post em here and on our websites.”
(Neal Karia, CHA)

Marc Lepine’s father was an Algerian, non-practising Muslim who left his family when Lepine was seven. His father was a misogynist and an abuser, and his son hated him so much that when he was 14 he legally changed his name from Gamil Gharbi to Marc Lepine, taking his mother’s surname. He was raised by his mother, a former Catholic nun who later rejected religion. Lepine was baptized a Catholic as a baby but was described by his mother as a “life-long atheist.” Despite his half-Algerian background, as a teenager he admired Adolf Hitler. Trying to blame Islam for Lepine’s actions makes little sense because his father himself rejected the practice of Islam. It would make about as much sense to blame the murders on Catholicism because his mother, who raised him during much of his formative years, was once a Catholic. That matters little to those equally invested in spreading racism and Islamophobia and in undermining the women’s movement. In recent years, Lepine’s half-Algerian origins are something that has united extremists across varying backgrounds – from the kooks at JDL and CHA, to the “principled conservatives” at Free Dominion, to the white supremacists on Stormfront:

Follow-up on Big City Lib by someone who was there indicates that the Dec. 6 JDL/CHA demonstration was a bit of a bust, and that the organizers left after a woman from an Islamic centre began speaking:

"i went and joined in as a marshall. the JDL and ron banerjee and other assorted creeps were there, and were shushed by a number of women as they talked through part of the ceremony. they were told "no banners" and "no interruptions." ironically, they left after a woman from the noor centre spoke about how this friday many mosques would be speaking about domestic violence. i can't tell y'all how creepy it was to be at a commemoration december sixth with the JDL and company. there were no confrontations -- they knew they were being watched -- and there was nothing they could do but attend somewhat silently. got to wash it all off now."

What is as offensive as the racist intent to peg the Lepine massacre as an “Islamic act” are the efforts of JDL, CHA, and others to silence women about the realities of violence and misogyny. In the words of CHA’s Neal Karia:

“… women are not being killed at the hands of 'men', they are being killed by Islamic men. Big difference there.”

It’s a curious re-writing of reality. By 1989, the year of Lepine’s murderous rampage, the neo-conservative backlash against feminism was in full swing. The 80's had been a period in which such ideas had gained much traction, threatening as it was to conservative men that women's increasing legal, political and professional equality might diminish the power and status they were once entitled to simply for being male. Lepine's views fell in line with this rhetoric, and they were not unusual. Of course, in the land of Free Dominion (otherwise known as Opposite World), the reverse is true. The Lepine murders weren't just the fault of Islam, they were also the work of feminists, "lieberals" and "multicultists". Edward Kennedy, in that subtle and elegant way he has with words, called one of the survivors an “airheaded ditz” for daring to support gun control, and identified the only thing that in his mind could have prevented the tragedy: arming more men.

Poster “backhoe”, who seems to have missed the part where Lepine killed himself, agreed:

Neither of these men are the first to suggest that if someone at the school had been armed, they might have been able to take down the killer. And they certainly aren’t the first to say that the “obedient politically correct males” created by the feminist movement were to blame for the men in the school not saving the women – Mark Steyn quite famously made that claim. But it’s very telling that it doesn’t occur to either Edward Kennedy or backhoe that if another gun could have stopped the massacre, it might have been a woman wielding it. No, that takes a man, with his big strong trigger finger and natural instinct for protecting little ladies.

And that type of macho, paternalistic posturing is precisely the problem. Neal Karia thinks he is a hero among women, deserving to be lionized for speaking on their behalf and negating their own experiences. Edward Kennedy uses profile photos of himself taken many eons ago as a young man, and many of the other geriatric male posters on Free Dominion similarly fantasize that they are still in the prime of their youth and masculinity (which we’d guess was not as impressive as they think it was). But the attitude that men are the protectors and saviours of women is not uncommon even among leftist, so-called “progressive” men. It’s quite a sinister idea - that women need to depend on men for their survival. They’re taught that men are dangerous and they need to fear them, but they’re also told that they need to go to men for protection. And statistically, the men women are most likely to trust for protection (fathers, husbands, boyfriends, friends), are the ones most likely to hurt them anyway.

Which gets to the heart of December 6 memorials. Since 1991, the date has been commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Vigils and demonstrations are held to honor the victims and to bring attention to violence against women. But they also go beyond that – they speak to the constant threat of male violence that looms over women’s heads each and every day. Almost as soon as young girls are able to understand the sentiment, they are taught to fear male assault.  We teach girls to be afraid of men, the dark, and the streets. We don’t tell them that the streets are the place where they are least likely to experience violence. We don’t tell them that it is far more likely to occur among those familiar places and people – the home, the family, partners, friends, acquaintances - where we try to keep them. As a society we think nothing of demanding that grown women travel in packs, watch their drinks, monitor their clothing, stay away from the streets after dark.  Women live with the promise that if they don’t behave, there’s a very good possibility that they could be subject to men’s violence. We keep women in this constant state of fear about male violence because it allows us to demand nothing of men. It allows men to continue the fantasy that they are the noble guardians of women, which is really just a method of control. Women are not children and they don’t need to be protected. They need to be respected and treated like human beings.

22 years after it occurred, it is sometimes difficult for the public to understand why we continue to remember. It’s easy to say that the massacre was the work of a lone, crazed gunman. It’s easy to blame Islam, and to pretend that violence against women is something that only happens among certain demographics.  It is more difficult, and more honest, to recognize that a misogynistic monster on the prowl for women to hurt is precisely what we teach women to fear every day, and that the Lepine massacre was one very loud reminder of that fear.

Lately, we’ve seen more media coverage of honour killings and gender violence among non-white communities. We’ve seen racists responding to stories like the Shafia family murders and the horrifying attack on Rumana Monzur with mock-outrage designed to justify their own hatred. Lost amidst the cries of “send them back!” are the voices of the victims, who would also be among the ones to be “sent back” and are being doubly disrespected and silenced. And lost among the discussion of gender violence in Muslim and non-white communities is a similar discussion of Western, white men’s cultural imperative to control women through violence or the threat of it.

Because sadly, hatred of women and violence against them is not something that is limited to any one community, religion, or ethnic group. To end it we need to contextualize it. To end it we need to make the connections that were always there but are rarely spoken about. To end it, men need to start talking to each other about how to change male culture, and stop pretending that misogyny and abuse is only something that happens in other places or in other communities. 


Anonymous said...

Wow. I mean wow. This is incredible! This really speaks to my experience too. Thank you for writing this!

Anonymous said...

Lol wow so let.me.get this straight. If I speak against the Jewish defense league I'm.racist. but.its ok.for.you. you guys are the biggest facists of anyone.

NomDeGuerre200 said...

@ Anonymous 2:

You say that like we know who you are. But assuming you're a WN - anyone can speak against the Jewish Defense League, but it would be racist to imply that the JDL represents all or most Jews. Much like it would be racist to imply that Kevin Goudreau's White Nationalist Front represents all or most white people.


And we are NOT facists. We love people of all faces.

Anonymous said...

It's awesome how we can get some names and faces of your supporters via twitter ;)

NomDeGuerre200 said...

The fact that you think that is in any way significant (or that you think we didn't realize you could see our followers), is funny.

Nosferatu200 said...

They are just so CUTE when they're trying to be intimidating, aren't they Nom?