On December 6, 1989, Marc Lepine, age 25, walked into l'École Polytechnique in Montreal, entered a classroom and separated the men from the women. Then he started killing people. When he was done, 14 women were dead with another 10 injured. Only four men suffered injuries. The names of those fourteen women are inscribed on a plaque outside l'École Polytechnique de Montréal (click on the image to see a larger version and read teh names.) Lepine wasn't gunning for the men. He told the people around him that he was 'fighting feminism'. Lepine was clearly insane, but his madness was an extreme reflection of much of society's views on women and sex. It wasn't a one-off and unless we are willing to leave the dark ages behind, it will happen again and again.
Enlightened society claims to value women and to care about their rights; that a female child is just as valuable as a male child. If this is true, and we are ready to leave the dark ages behind, then what are you willing to give up in order to make that happen?
Hatred of women has its roots in the way we educate our children. It seems innocent at first, but the message that women aren't as good as men, that boys are better than girls, goes on to be reinforced throughout life in churches around the country and the world. Religious tradition is rife with it's oppressive obsession with the bodies of women. Enshrined in the scriptures are the justfications for keeping women silent and subservient to men, for rape, for witch burnings, for forced marriages, for honour killings, and the vilitfication and disgust that surrounds the female birth canal in so many cultures even today. On one hand, we talk of the evils of rape, but Scripture makes it clear that it was the woman who tempted Adam with her femine wiles. Her first crime, of course, is the result of her vanity and weakness of character (courtesy of her creator) which causes her to listen to the serpent and break God's commandment in the garden. Right at the very beginning, the stage is set for women to take the blame for all the ills that follow.
Religion is the spectre of the Dark Ages, a ghost that continues to haunt us into the present. The Dark Ages are the inevitable consequence of what happens when religion has its way and decides our fate. To move forward is to bury that cast out that spectre once and for all. We, as a society, need to look at our holy books, accept that much of it is not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense. We need to innoculate our children against its pathological effects so that another Marc Lapine does not grow up thinking that his female companions are less than equal, somehow dirty because of their sexuality, and therefore worthy of contempt and hate.
Before you cast your first stone at me, let me fully admit that not all religious people, or religions, treat women with equal contempt. Not now, in 2012. Women have made great strides in our society and our modern churches, at least here in the West, would not allow or condone the kinds of violence that Lapine was guilty of. Nevertheless, religion is largely responsible for keeping these ideas alive; the recent U.S. presidential election gave us plenty of examples of men explaining how this or that wasn't really rape, or how God really expected women to behave, or how religion should have the say (not just 'a' say) in women's reproductive choices. Western religions can pat themselves on the back all they want, but their constant obsession with women and sex keeps the cycle of violence going. Worse, it provides an excuse for those who would continue the cycle of violence.
Religion is not the reason for our somewhat more englightened age. The rejection of religious doctrine is. If the church, whatever church you like, has become more enlightened, it is because it has been dragged kicking and screaming into the light. There, faced with the brightness of reason, is has given in to some of our demands. But religion is nocturnal and it yearns for the safety of the darkness, where it can hunt unseen.
And so I close by asking once more. What are you willing to give up so that the events of December 6, 1989 do not repeat themselves again and again?