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The Montreal Massacre.

For women there are times when remembering is imperative, state the editors of The Montreal Massacre. They have brought together in one volume many of the responses of Quebec fiminists to the massacre at the engineering school of the University of Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989.

Most of the short pieces that appear in this book were written during the days and weeks immediately following the massacre and published in the letters to the editor pages of Quebec newspapers. The book contains several poems as well as twenty-one essays by Quebec feminists commissioned by the editors.

Such a large number and variety of authors would normally produce a dizzying range of styles and opinions. What truck me is the unanimity of analysis and purpose of most of the writers. The Quebec media initially portrayed the massacre as the isolated act of a madman. Writer after writer in The Montreal Massacre, however, exposes that viewpoint for what it is -- media manipulation at its worst. Voice after voice reiterates that the murderer was a misogynist whose actions were carefully planned and executed and whose targets were women. This was no random act of violence but a deliberate political act of a man who blamed women for all his problems and conducted a careful plan of reprisal. His act graphically illustrates how violence against women is condoned by our patriarchial society.

So many voices making the same point would render a lesser volume tediously repetitive. These voices, however, have enough power, passion, and strength of analysis to merit an even longer book.

The editors have arranged the pieces into effective groupings. The first analytical section focuses on the murderer's misogyn: "Fourteen women... were coldly gunned down with the premeditation of three thousand years of women-hating, reinforced by patriarchial societies built upon the domination of women and their children."

The next section examines the Quebec media's manipulation and deliberate censorship of details. Not until twenty hours after the murdres occurred did the Quebec public know for sure that only women were killed. This censorship was possible because in French, the masculine form of anoun is often used, even though a feminine form exists. A beautifully-crafted essay in this section details how the patriarchial structures of language contributes to the subordination of women.

A more optimistic section traces the long history of the feminist movement and helps to remind us of some of our gains. Ironically, these gains have incited more hatred.

One writer suggests that the increase in male violence heralds the ultimate demise of the patriarchy because "just before the fall of an empire, there is always a resurgence of hate and repression."

However, the final section, "Ministry and Magistrature," clouds what little optimism had begun to shine.

The voices in this section remind us that misogyny permeates all of society's major institutions -- the church, the university, the legal and political systems. A strong voice rounds out this section with a call for a public enquiry into the events surrounding that bloody December night.

Her call has in part been answered by this book. Readers are invited to piece together the fragments of memory and try to make sense of the carnage of Dec. 6 by viewing it as only one of the horrible consequences of unchecked sexism. No Quebec feminist will ever use the phrase "je me souviens" in quite the same way again. This recent translation of The Montreal Massacre will enable feminists across the country to participate in the imperative of that memory.
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Author:Freeman, Janice
Publication:Canadian Dimension
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Words:583
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