Violence Against Women, 25 Years After Dec. 6

By Helena Zhu, Women Students Program Assistant, Access & Diversity

During my time working as the Women Students Program Assistant at Access and Diversity, I have come to understand more deeply that sexual assault remains prevalent on campuses, women continue to be underpaid in the workplace, and violence, particularly domestic violence, persists to be a reality for many women.

December 6th is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Canada established the day 25 years ago following an armed man’s killing of 14 women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal on Dec. 6, 1989. These violent acts were against women in the School of Engineering. They were targeted solely because they were women studying a program that had been traditionally viewed as a male discipline. As a non-engineering student, I wonder how this impacted and continues to impact women in Engineering and what the resonances are for women in what has been termed “non-traditional” workforces.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Montréal Massacre. Some could argue that progress has been made but I question if it has. American news outlet the Verge reported two weeks ago that Anita Sarkeesian, creator of the popular Tropes vs. Women video series and who’s work challenges online harassment and sexist representations of women in video games,  received a mass shooting threat because of her feminist perspective and challenges to video game industry – which is largely male driven.

Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak at Utah State University’s Center for Women and Gender on Oct. 15. However, the Director of the Center, along with other individuals, received an email from an unknown author who claims to be a Utah State student. The author threatened a “Montreal Massacre-style attack” if the Center did not cancel Sarkeesian’s talk. Faced with security fears, Sarkeesian cancelled the talk. Sadly, this is only one of many incidents of this nature.

Violence against women is not a women’s issue, it is an issue for men and people of all genders, as Dr. Jackson Kats, an expert on gender-based violence, argues in his TEDx talk. Campuses should be safe places to study, socialize, and learn. They should not be places of violence. It takes a society to eliminate gender-based violence, and with University of British Columbia’s 58,284 students, 10,041 staff, and 5,130 faculty, let’s take up this call to action and make change here on campus and at home.

I deeply believe in the value of education and awareness. Through my work, and through researching this blog post, I have become more educated about gender-based violence and its prevention. As university students, we have the privilege that many others don’t have, which is to challenge our thinking by engaging in dialogue and taking action. Below, you will find four Dec. 6 related events that you and your friends can attend and participate in.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
The Wayne and William White Engineering Design Courtyard

Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 12-1 p.m.
Simon K. Y. Lee Global Lounge, Media Room, Building 1, 2205 Lower Mall

Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 7-9 p.m.
Place Vanier Residence, Boardroom

Friday, December 5, 2014, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
SUB Main Concourse

What I loved about “What I LOVE About Being QUEER”


Post by Hannah Barath, Access and Diversity Co-op student.

At the end of September I had the opportunity to attend a screening and discussion of “What I LOVE About Being QUEER” with film-maker Vivek Shraya. Often when we hear stories from members of the queer community, we hear about discrimination and challenges they face. In his work as an artist, human rights advisor, and positive space coordinator, Shraya has met many young queer and trans individuals struggling with internalized feelings of shame, homophobia, and transphobia. This film was created to offer a positive alternative narrative. It is not meant to take away from the stories of struggling, but rather act as an accompanying story that supports and inspires.

In this film, 34 individuals share what they love about being queer. The result is a touching and impactful film that celebrates all that is queer. By interviewing a group of people varying in age, ethnicity, and gender expression, Shraya highlights the diversity that exists within queer communities. Not quite content with that, a Tumblr page where people can submit their own answers, as well as a book, was created to show an even more complex picture of the diversity within queer communities.

As expected, what people chose to talk about was quite varied. One of the topics discussed was sex. For some, queer sex is central to their identity, and for others it is just one of many things they love about being queer. Some love the physical aspect of it while some love that the absence of normative expectations lets them personally define what queer sex means for them. A film where queer sex is unabashedly celebrated is both wonderful and needed because it is something that is rarely talked about, at least in a positive manner. It also shows that there is nothing wrong with enjoying or wanting sex if you are queer.

The celebratory nature of this film isn’t meant to take away from the challenges queer individuals face in their daily lives. It is important that we remember to acknowledge these struggles. Queer sex is often demonized, condemned, and seen as unnatural. In order to change cultural attitude around queer sex we need to change the structures that support these attitudes. One way to make conversations around queer sex more positive would be to broaden sexual education programs beyond educating youth about sex for reproductive purposes. If instead, sex can be taught as something pleasurable it would only be natural to include topics such as queer sex and consent within the educational context.

In the discussion that followed the screening, Shraya said that he wants society to move beyond acceptance and tolerance, to strive towards celebration. With “What I LOVE About Being QUEER” he does exactly that, celebrating and connecting queer communities to each other while challenging mainstream narratives that surround queer identities. To explore, learn more about or take part in this project check out the “What I LOVE About Being QUEER” Tumblr and book. If you have time, make sure to check out more of Vivek Shraya’s amazing work.

Women’s Opportunity Awards

If you’re a woman student and a parent, the below award opportunity might be of interest:

The Women’s Opportunity Awards program assists women who provide the primary source of financial support for their families by giving them the resources they need to improve their education, skills and employment prospects.

Each year, more than $1.5 million in education grants are awarded to more than 1,000 women, many of whom have overcome enormous obstacles including poverty, domestic violence and/or drug and alcohol abuse. Women’s Opportunity Award recipients may use the cash award to offset any costs associated with their efforts to attain higher education, such as books, childcare, tuition and transportation.

In addition to providing the primary financial support for their families, eligible applicants must be enrolled in, or have been accepted to, a vocational/skills training program or an undergraduate degree program and must demonstrate financial need.

The deadline for applications is February 1, 2014.
Please visit more information. The application form is found at

If you have any questions please contact Pat McKenzie at re WOA

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

On December 6, 1989, an armed man walked into an Engineering class at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal. After he forced the men to leave, he said he hated feminists and started shooting the women in the class. Then he moved on and began shooting women throughout the school. At the end of his rampage, he had killed 14 women and himself.

This man believed that women were responsible for his failure to gain entrance to the school. He believed that feminists ruined his chances because of affirmative action in universities.

Every year at UBC we hold a memorial for the 14 women who lost their lives, as well as the countless women who have been victims of gender-based violence. Show your support.

Held at the Wayne and William Wright Engineering Design Centre, November 28, 12:30 – 2:00pm.



National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

This date marks the day that  an armed man walked into an Engineering class at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, taking the lives of 14 women because he believed they were responsible for his failure to gain entrance to the school. He believed that feminists ruined his chances because of affirmative action in universities.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the UBC memorial service held on Thursday 29 November, there are still a series of activities to help mark the day, remember those that lost their lives and remind us that violence against women continues in Canada and around the world.

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Vancouver Queer Film Festival

For 11 days, from August 16th until the 26th 2012, the Vancouver Queer Film Festival brings the very best in queer independent cinema from around the world to Vancouver. As the city’s second largest film festival, they privilege creative innovation and audience experience.

Each summer, this celebrated event brings people together to watch incredible films, talk to filmmakers and artists, engage in scintillating discussions, experience unexpected performances and paint the town pink!

For more information about the Festival visit