The tragic, joyous meanings of Dec. 6

Today, Dec. 6, is my daughter’s birthday. Seven years ago, I went into labour on Dec. 5. I desperately did not want my baby to be born on Dec. 6.

Since 1989, this date has been one of sadness and fury for me. On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lepine killed 14 women at L’École Polytechnique, damning the women in the engineering program as feminists and pronouncing his hatred of feminism, which he declared had ruined his life.

I did not want my baby to be born on this wretched day of massacre and mourning.

But then, Isabel was born — on Dec. 6, 2004.

And with the birth of my beloved daughter the significance and meaning of this date became even more poignant. Now, on this day more than any other, I have to hold on very tightly to manage the tension between devastation and rage, on one hand, and joy and determination, on the other.

For the last two decades years on this date, I have spent a good part of the day mourning with other women and participating in vigils and actions of various sorts.

But for the last seven years, on this day, I have also had the great joy of celebrating the birth and life of my daughter. I revel in the silliness and fun of children’s birthday games, the wonder of birthday wishes, the thrill of watching a child tear open birthday packages and the deep pleasure of reflecting on the year gone by — the changes, the challenges, the adventures — and imagining the years to come.

It is precisely because life can be so wonderful and beautiful, that my anger also rages on this day.

What Marc Lepine did on this day 22 years ago is emblematic of the violence and misogyny that undermines and destroys the lives of women and girls here and around the world.

And it is for this reason that we are all called upon to confront the reality that every women’s shelter in this country is full and there is a shameful lack of affordable housing available to women and children trying to rebuild their lives.

We are called upon to confront the plethora of wicked ways in which women are dehumanized and brutalized from the rape of vulnerable seniors in nursing homes, to the murder of girls who “shame” their fathers, to the beatings of women who have inadvertently done the “wrong thing,” to the blaming of women whose short skirts inspire some to call them sluts and accuse them of inviting rape, to the trafficking of girls as young as 11 for the purposes of sexual slavery. We are called upon to ask ourselves what we are doing to end violence against women.

Many people will don a white ribbon today as a symbol of their commitment to ending gender-based violence against women. (The late Jack Layton was one of the co-founders of the White Ribbon Campaign, which has now blossomed into a global movement of men working to end violence against women.) What will you do?

My day will include hard conversations about women hurt and women lost. It will also include conversations and activities to reaffirm and rejuvenate our dogged feminist determination.

And of course, the best and most important part of my day will be celebrating my daughter’s birthday. We will sing and dance. Once I have tucked her into bed after reading way too many stories because she can’t sleep from all the cake and excitement, I too will be sleepless, full of joy and gratitude for my daughter. I will reflect on the ways in which feminism has given me the great life I have and my daughter the life she has and will have. And I will recommit myself to the feminist activism that I know is essential not only to the well-being of my daughter, but to girls and women around the world.

And I will think, what a wonderful day to celebrate the birth of my daughter.

Sarah Blackstock is director of advocacy and communications at YWCA Toronto.

Toronto Star – Meaning of Dec 6                     REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF THE TORONTO STAR

One Comment

  1. Yvette R
    10 years ago

    Wow! What a great article. Like Sarah I have mourned on December 6 since 1989 and only in the past 4 or 5 years was I able to alter my own way of dealing with this day and the hurt and anger it brings. Rather then waiting until after December 6 to put up my Christmas tree I now put it up on December 6 in celebration of the women lost and lives touched by the tragedy of Dec. 6 1989. I work with teen moms and a few of them have had their babies on December 6 and like Sarah that is a true reminder of the cycle of life.
    We mourn the deaths but we celebrate the lives of 14 amazing women!!