Academic journal article Ethnologies

The Ribbon and the Rose: Visual Rhetorics against Violence to Women

Academic journal article Ethnologies

The Ribbon and the Rose: Visual Rhetorics against Violence to Women

Article excerpt

Apres le massacre, le 6 decembre 1989, de quatorze jeunes femmes a l'Ecole polytechnique de Montreal, des groupes anti-violence de femmes canadiennes et une campagne, a present internationale, d'hommes contre la violence faite aux femmes par les hommes, ont adopte un certain nombre de signes visuels (qui se remarquent) en signe de commemoration et de protestation. Les differences frappantes, sous-jacentes aux choix des hommes et des femmes, refletent, au niveau discursif, les tensions concernant la question de savoir s'il etait convenable ou a-propos que des hommes protestent contre la violence faite aux femmes. Pour explorer ces tensions, cet article utilise une methode d'analyse rhetorique qui << cartographie >> les associations entre les images des femmes et les images des hommes, situe ces associations a l'interieur de leurs contextes particuliers et suggere quelques effets possibles de ces images et de leurs messages sur des publics varies. Tandis que certaines activistes redoutaient que le ruban blanc des hommes--plutot que la rose des femmes ou d'autres symboles--ne domine l'imagination publique en tant que protestation generalisee contre la violence faite aux femmes, une breve campagne conjointe montrant cote a cote le ruban blanc et la rose a represente pour les hommes et les femmes la possibilite de travailler sur et a travers les inegalites qui exacerbent les differences de genre.

After the December 6, 1989 massacre of fourteen young women at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, Canadian women's anti-violence groups and a now international men's campaign against men's violence to women adopted a variety of resonant visual images in commemoration and protest. The striking differences underlying women's and men's choices of images also reflect tensions at a rhetorical level about the appropriateness of men speaking out against violence to women. To explore these tensions, this article uses a method of rhetorical analysis that maps associations among "men's" and "women's" images, situates these associations within particular social contexts, and suggests some possible effects of these images and their messages on various audiences. While some activists feared that the men's white ribbon--rather than the women's rose or other symbols--might dominate the public imagination as a generalized protest against violence to women, a brief joint billboard campaign displaying the white ribbon and the rose side by side represents the possibility of women and men working with and through the power inequalities that exacerbate gender differences.

A National Tragedy

In the late afternoon of December 6, 1989, at the University of Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, fourteen young women were shot and killed. Ail but one were students in the School of Engineering. The killer, twenty-five-year-old Marc Lepine, walked into the school carrying a semiautomatic rifle, shot one woman in a corridor, then entered a classroom and ordered the women to one side of the room. "You're all a bunch of feminists," he shouted, "and I hate feminists" (Bergman 1991: 18; Came 1989: 14; Scanlon 1994: 75). He opened tire on the women. Six died. Lepine then made his way to the cafeteria, "firing at diving, ducking students as he went" (Came 1989: 15), and there, killed three more women. Going back upstairs to another classroom, he opened tire once more, and four more women died. Finally, the killer shot himself. His suicide letter, not published until a year after the killings, said that he wanted "to send the feminists, who had always ruined my life, to their Maker [...] the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women [...] while seizing for themselves those of men" (Wildemar 1991: 180-81).

For many Canadians, this "American-style carnage" (Pelletier 1991: 33) shattered an image of Canada as a relatively safe and peaceful country. Yet what most profoundly shocked Canadians from coast to coast was not only the killings, but also the hatred of "feminists" that inspired them. …

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