Rather ironic that on the same day that all the brain sex! articles came out, in the morning on BBC Radio 4, the Today news programme ran a feature on the women who, during WWII, worked as secret agents for the British government, over 80 of whom were dropped behind enemy lines in Europe. One of the interviewees described how the women went through the same physical paramilitary training as the men, what was, at the time, described as “the art of ungentlemanly warfare.”
The programme is still available for four more days, the feature starts around the 1h 19min mark.
On a related note, and also in the news a lot at the moment, the preparations for the 100th anniversary of WWI in 2014, including the arrival in London of “sacred soil” from 70 battlefields in Belgium, helps put paid to the MRA myth that wars prove that men are seen as ‘disposable’. Soldiers, at least when the wars are safely in the past, are lauded and valorised, nobody pays this much attention to dead women in the mainstream, or goes to these lengths to memorialise them.
There is, of course, a kernel of truth to this claim, but it is not true that men as a whole are seen as disposable; certain classes of men are, wars are much better understood as old powerful men sending young, comparatively powerless men off to die on a battlefield. As I have pointed out before, MRAs take what is a class issue and distort it to claim that all men are oppressed. As Robert Jensen puts it so well, lots of men are powerless, but no men are oppressed as men.
1989 – A lone man walked into an engineering class at L’École Polytechnique at the University of Montréal. He separated the men from the women and told the men to leave. After the male students complied, the man declared his hatred of feminists and began to shoot the women with a semi-automatic rifle. While police forces stood outside, Marc Lépine went on a rampage, shooting and stabbing the women at the school. He then shot himself.
He left behind a note that included a list of prominent Canadian feminists whom he planned to kill. It was clear that these women engineering students symbolized the progress of women’s equality. Lépine’s actions could have pushed back women’s demands for increased equality through social change. However, women organized in defiance of his attack.
Women rose up to demonstrate in towns and cities across the country. They connected Lépine’s acts of violence to the everyday sexism to which women are subjected. Women dedicated themselves to feminist organizing to bring into reality their expectations of freedom for the present and the future.
The 14 women who were killed as feminists:
Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte.
Among his list of 19 feminists he planned to kill were:
A freelance journalist, the first woman firefighter in Quebec, a television host, the vice-president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, the Quebec Immigration Minister, the first woman police captain in Quebec, the Canadian champion of the 1988 Chartered Accountant Exams, the former vice-president of Montreal Trust, a radio sports show host, and a transition house worker.