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How I Sanitized the Feminist Outrage over the Montreal Massacre

How I Sanitized the Feminist Outrage over the Montreal Massacre

Ottawa Citizen

December 6, 2014

by Shelley Page

 

 

Ecole polytectnique massacre victims

 

I arrived in Montreal four hours after the killing was done.

Yellow tape wrapped l’École Polytechnique like a macabre Christmas present; surviving students gripped each other in numb disbelief.

I was 24, sent by the Toronto Star to write about the slaughter of female engineering students, all around my age; fourteen of them.

Looking back, I fear I sanitized the event of its feminist anger and then infantilized and diminished the victims, turning them from elite engineering students who’d fought for a place among men into teddy-bear loving daughters, sisters and girlfriends.

Twenty-five years later, as I re-evaluate my stories and with the benefit of analysis of the coverage that massacre spawned, I see how journalists— male and female producers, news directors, reporters, anchors — subtly changed the meaning of the tragedy to one that the public would get behind, silencing so-called “angry feminists.” We were “social gatekeeping,” as filmmaker Maureen Bradley later asserted in her 1995 film, Reframing the Montreal Massacre: A media interrogation.

It’s probably not much different than how the terrorism narrative was immediately elevated in the recent Parliament Hill shooting or how Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers was anointed a hero. But how we covered the unprecedented mass murder of women back then still matters.

It has been twenty years since a lone gunman killed 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montréal. The shooter intentionally hunted down women in his rampage, blaming feminists for his lack of success in life.

Created in 1995 in the pre-digital video days of A/B roll editing, this educational video about media literacy examines the media’s shaping of the Montréal Massacre to deconstruct media representations of violence, trauma and gender. Created with the financial support of the Canadian Studies Directorate and the Ministere de culture du Québec.

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[Video: “It has been twenty years since a lone gunman killed 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montréal. The shooter intentionally hunted down women in his rampage, blaming feminists for his lack of success in life. Created in 1995 in the pre-digital video days of A/B roll editing, this educational video about media literacy examines the media’s shaping of the Montréal Massacre to deconstruct media representations of violence, trauma and gender. Created with the financial support of the Canadian Studies Directorate and the Ministere de culture du Québec.”]