Guest Post by Naomi Munn
We of Generation X may whine about the suburban canned spaghetti we were forced to consume as our mothers left us alone; latchkey children babysat by the blue light of the television and imprisoned by the four walls of our sub-middle class nightmare. But there are greater fears inside our souls than abandonment.
We can plead for understanding of our loneliness, our cynicism and our pragmatism in the wake of raising ourselves. But for some of us, the pain of being broken cost us more than our optimism. The burden of our lost hope led to rage.
On December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine strolled into the engineering school École Polytechnique in Montréal and separated the women from men. He then shot the women to death, left to right, screaming
“You’re women; you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.”
Fourteen women died because of the twisted pain inside one member of Generation X.
Columbine was not the first tragedy where students killed out of pain – we started this fire ourselves.
Gen X Fends For Itself
Many of the parents of Generation X joined the Boomers as they burned their bras in the name of feminism. Our mothers protested, held “consciousness-raising” meetings and gave up Tupperware to instead store the sexual revolution. They left their husbands and moved their children to sprawling row-house ghettos. Women now living on the edge of society went to work for a living and left Generation X to fend for ourselves.
These mothers paid for their ideals, their feminism, with struggles for equal pay and equal rights; with long hours and little money and bitterness about the unfairness of our society. But the Generation X children they left behind paid for our equality with our lives.
Many of our generation were college students in 1989 – Canadians watched in horror as the CBC news broadcast live pictures of women who bled to death in chairs, slumped in the grey-walled cafeterias that were so similar to our own. We huddled in stairways and in groups fainting on the floor. We were the daughters of women who fought so hard to give us access to careers never thought possible. We were the young women who desperately wanted to become the source of our own wealth – to never depend on our absent fathers or our future husbands.
We never thought we’d have to die for our ambition.
In the Shadow of the Montréal Massacre
Living in the shadow of the Montréal Massacre meant nightmares for Generation X north of America. While American young people were struggling with the possibility of war over oil, we struggled with war against ourselves. Marc Lépine was one of us – a broken child abandoned by his father, raised alone by his mother.
Growing up Generation X in Canada meant more than feeling alone; at that moment we began to feel afraid. Struggling for gender equality became a practical struggle for our ideals. It meant not complaining when a professor felt your breasts from behind, because at least you were alive, and studying for a career most women would not have attained 10 years before. It meant hiding in your dorm room at night and rushing from class to class in the daylight in the hope that our university wouldn’t be the next target. It wasn’t isolated, and we were terrified. We were women on the cusp of independent adulthood – but only if our society let us live.
While the violence ended and we went back to our studies, we did not forget those left behind. Stones mark the night that one of us turned on us all – monuments across Canada dot the landscape and remind us that the pain of isolation, the torment of making children grow up too soon can rend the soul into many fractured fragments.
And many of us still wonder about the steep price we paid for our mothers’ ideals.
Do you remember the Montréal Massacre?
Naomi is a Canadian writer now living in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region. Born in the last gasp of the 60s and a survivor of the Jewish single-mother ghetto, Naomi balances the ambitious goal of finding the meaning of a spiritual life with raising a family. Devoted to Judaism, she often writes about the mystical life. She blogs at Writing for Life.