Jessica Yee is a writer, educator and activist around youth & women’s rights. She is the founder of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network.
This is also part of a series of guests posts leading up to, and marking, the 20th anniversary of the Dec. 6th École Polytechnique shootings. Read previous posts here.
It’s December 6th 2009, and many people have been asking me what I’m thinking today. What do I think about this day where 20 years ago, a man walked into a Montreal engineering college and shot 14 women, specifically because they were women. Interestingly enough, I had to fight to have a female Aboriginal Elder open and be present at the event I’m speaking at today because the organizers “didn’t want to detract from the meaning of the day” by me asking her to say some words. It’s the 20th anniversary of the École Polytechnique shooting, and people keep asking me, so what do I think about that?
I’m thinking a lot of things in fact. Yes, I’m from the next generation of women who were too young to remember when the murders actually took place, but I suppose I belong to the current generation of women who identify themselves with feminist politics and have heard from the foremothers of this movement in Canada about the significance of remembering the day, and to never forget it. They say, “Women Won’t Forget” on December 6th. But as a young, sex working, multiracial, bisexual, two-spirited, Aboriginal woman, I think that sometimes, especially at these December 6th type events, women DO forget a few things:
Sometimes women forget that as Aboriginal women, we are five times more likely to die of violence than any other race of women in Canada, and that women have been going missing and being murdered in our communities by the thousands, for hundreds of years.
Women forget that while we show up to vigils and talk up a nice speech about some “poor prostitute” who died on the streets, we simultaneously judge, shun, and degrade current sex workers and speak against decriminalization - something that might actually help protect us.
Sometimes, women forget that same-sex violence should be taken as seriously as man to woman violence and that we really don’t talk about violence in the queer community as often as we could.
Women forget that Elder violence is very real and is happening, but also that a lot of it is committed against young women, who deserve the opportunity to speak for ourselves as youth, not be spoken for by yet another generation of first or second wave feminists that don’t want to give up their power yet.
And if you are reading this and thinking to yourself “well, I don’t forget that on December 6th” please, don’t expend your energy to get mad at me. Direct that passion towards reminding another woman now that you’ve read this, or someone else for that matter who is forgetting, or who just doesn’t know.
For the record, I refuse to have another argument with someone about what this day is “only” supposed to commemorate.
What about you?