Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau,
Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte
These are the names we know; these are the names we have been told about…
These are the names for the women who didn’t have names. These names and the image above should be all the information you need to know what this post is about. This is my memorial. This is my thank you to these women, these women who taught me at the tender age of 13 that violence is wrong.
But I was never taught the signs. Never given the clues to what leads to that kind of behaviour.
I was raised a feminist. I wasn’t given feminist literature, taken on marches or ever lit a bra on fire. I was raised to never see obstacles because of my gender (or race), with the knowledge that I would have to work 3 times as hard to be considered half as good, but was told by my Mother (who raised me), my Aunt (who inspired me, and a fine selection of men (Uncle, Cousins) who always taught me to go for mine.
Then I met him…and still no one taught me the signs.
I was 17, impressionable and just out of my first romance. I had switched schools for academic reasons and like the Type-A overachiever I was, was taking a bunch of specialty classes: Politics, Script Writing, and Psychology. He was in all my classes.
He said things like “I never knew that girls as pretty as you could be so smart”… “you have great legs”… you’re reading that book? Impressive…” Always with a smile, always flirting. I fell for it instantly. We started to date and the compliments stopped.
I, Miss Type A, also had a part-time job after school. This money gave me the freedom to go to movies, go shopping, buy make up, books, comics, film and photographic paper (I was also taking Photography). One day he complained that my time spent at work meant time away from him and building our relationship. My smart-ass response was “are you going to buy my Always? Because that’s what me working allows me to…” He thought my allowance should be enough. It was our first fight.
We fought about sex…actually, we negotiated it. Once, he told me “if I can’t get it from you, I’m going to have to go elsewhere…” and proceeded to flirt with a girl that he knew I thought was prettier than I.
I once made elaborate (for a 17 year old) plans for us to alleviate his complaints that I had no time for him. He stood me up and called 5 hours later to tell me he had “hung out with friends and fallen asleep. What’s the big deal?”
In Politics class, he was the “star student” of the class and I, a novice. I had taken the class because I knew nothing about politics and wanted to learn. For our end of term paper (which he was supposed to help me with but bailed), I achieved an A+… he got a B (he wrote it the night before it was due). After comparing of our grades, he said the only reason I had gotten my A+ was because the teacher thought I was hot. In fact, he thought that I had achieved most of my grades on looks or charm because “(I) wasn’t as smart as (I) thought (I) was”. Actually, that year, I ranked in the 98th percentile for my district and the 95th percentile in Ontario. I had been reading at a 12th grade level since I was 6 years old. I got A’s without having to ever study for an exam. Yet, he constantly called me stupid, or silly or my favourite: uninformed. (But I had great legs).
We would argue, and I mistook it for passion. I thought we were having an “mature” relationship. But I was getting tired of it. Then I heard he made plans to go out with that “other girl” and I thought, “I’m done.”
I tried to break up with him over the phone. He’d change the subject. I tried in person after he dropped me home after school, he laughed it off. I finally wrote him a “Dear John” letter and placed it in his mailbox at school. He found me in the hall and ran up to me, grabbed me in a bear hug and said “Chiquita! What is this? You can’t be serious!” He laughed. He asked if I had met someone else. I said, “No. Everything I have tried to tell you is in that letter. We are done.”
Weeks went by and there was no contact. We broke for Christmas. One of his friends called me to invite me to a party and I declined, explaining that I didn’t want to see my ex at this party. He told me that my ex went to Blue Mountain with that other girl. I led his friend to believe that I had moved on as well, knowing that his call was not to invite me anywhere but to “report” back to my ex. School resumed. My ex and I kept respectful distances from each other. One day he came to me and said could we talk over coffee, clear the air. I accepted.
On the subway ride downtown, he mentioned the conversation I had with his friend in an off-hand manner. I laughed in his face and said “gotcha! I knew what he was doing, so I gave him something to report…” My ex was not amused that I had outsmarted him, again. He said instead of coffee, he wanted to go to the library and show me a documentary on Che that he thought would “open my eyes” I responded that I had no interest in Che and had agreed only to coffee. We began to argue. Publicly. At the corner of Yonge and Bloor. In the middle of rush hour. I realized that I didn’t need this and said so, turned on my heel and walked away…
He grabbed the hood of my coat and yanked me back so hard, I came off my feet.
No one stopped.
He grabbed my arm and said, “don’t you fucking walk away from me!”
I shoved him back and said, “Fuck off! Touch me again and I will call my boys!” (He hated that I had so many guy friends, by the way. The only reason they were friends with me was “because they wanted to fuck (me)”
No one stopped.
He shoved me up against a wall and said I needed to learn manners.
No one stopped.
He took me to the library because they were screening a film on Che (his hero) and thought it was important that I see it. I went to the phones and called my best friend (a guy), who wanted to know if I was okay. I was angry I said (I didn’t admit that I was scared) and on my way home. My best friend asked me to come to his house first so he could see that I was okay. I lied to my ex, saying I had to go home; it would be the only reason he’d let me go.
I looked at the bruise on my arm the next morning and thought “never again”. I realized that my spark had been diminished during my time with him, that my grades had suffered because I didn’t want to make him feel less smart, that my spunky sarcasm and my glam make-up had been muted. I thought “never again”. Friends who hadn’t heard from me as much were saying “welcome back”, I smiled a little more often. Those were the signs.
In Politics class, we did a module on feminism, and the teacher brought up those 14 names. I watched my ex’s face for signs. He said that they weren’t martyrs because they had simply been caught in the crossfire.
“Bullshit” I snapped. “He targeted them based on the simple criteria that they were women. Women who were smart, women who had achieved something, women who were more capable than he was. He was a limp-dicked wimp who couldn’t compete, so he committed a cowardly act and then killed himself!”
The class was silent. The teacher said nothing. I was shaking.
I looked at my ex and said “and it will never happen again…”