Margaret Wente describes December 6th commemorations as “a large helping of overheated nonsense” in her December 8th column entitled “Montreal massacre death cult.” She proceeds to claim that “women in Canada have never been safer than they are today,” that, while women still experience spousal abuse, “the laws are tough” and that Marc Lepine’s actions were “random,” the result of a troubled childhood and not an act of “homicidal misogyny.”
Wente says that December 6th is “an annual excuse for fevered breast beating” and that we need to “get a grip and move on.”
I considered ignoring Wente’s column for what it is: her most recent effort at feminist baiting. But I just can’t. I cannot ignore a column as hate-filled, inaccurate and misleading as this one.
It is, however, hard to know where to start my comments.
I could, in response to Wente’s self-satisfied contention that women make up three-fifths of all university students, suggest that she take a few more words to tell us where those university-educated women find themselves in the workforce; to tell us how many of them become heads of surgery or senior partners in law firms; to tell us, as a recent survey did, that women with post-secondary educations in Canada earn just 68 cents for every dollar earned by men.
I could point out that the “tough” spousal abuse laws to which she refers still allow men to breach bail and restraining orders with impunity and continue to abuse, and even kill, their partners while they are under court orders to have no contact with them.
I could ask her why she makes no reference to Canadian family law, which is a virtual prison for women with children who leave an abusive spouse.
I could challenge her assertion that “social tolerance of it [spousal abuse] has all but disappeared" by suggesting she read the comments made by friends and neighbours in newspaper accounts of domestic homicides.
I could compare December 6th, a national day to commemorate the victims of violence against women, with November 11th, an international day to commemorate those who have lost their lives in war, which I rather doubt Ms Wente would describe as either a “death cult” or “fevered breast-beating.”
But I think I will simply comment on her statement that women in Canada have never been safer than they are today. Whether or not this contention is true is debatable, but it is not actually all that important to this discussion.
Here is why.
December 6th is not about violent crime in general – it is about violence against women. The fact is that, in this country, more than one woman a week is killed by a man who says he loves her.
Hundreds are admitted to hospitals suffering from physical injuries ranging from relatively minor to extremely serious. The extent of and damage caused by psychological abuse cannot be accurately measured or quantified.
Thousands more women find support and safety in battered women’s shelters or from sexual assault and rape crisis centres. Still more stay in abusive relationships because they have nowhere safe to go.
The impact on children of being exposed to this violence is horrendous.
Safer than before? Maybe. But as these numbers indicate, we are still not safe enough. That is what matters.
That approximately 70 women a year are murdered in this country by a partner or former partner is simply unacceptable.
By way of just one comparison, the number of Canadian soldiers killed in the war in Afghanistan is 17 per year. And those are people killed in an acknowledged war, people who have signed on to risk their lives, who have been trained to defend themselves and who are equipped with weapons.
There is a war on women in this country and around the world, and it is a war that women are losing.
Taking one day a year to think about violence against women and to recommit ourselves to ending it does not seem unreasonable.
When we have created a world in which women are truly equal and in which there is no violence against women, I will be more than happy to get a grip and move on.
Until then, I intend to continue to honour the dead on December 6th.