Last week Rosie Batty took to the witness stand at the inquest being held for her son Luke’s death. In February this year her ex-partner Greg Anderson killed their 11-year-old son after training at the Tyabb cricket ground, in front of dozens of other parents and children.
How can anyone explain the murder of a child by his own father? How difficult it must be for a woman to believe that the man she once loved and shared a child with, could commit such an atrocity? But this is the reality and one that takes some time coming to terms with. It is also an important conversation that the community has not been encouraged to embrace.
Following Luke’s murder the media spent much valuable time discussing Greg Anderson’s mental health. After such cases of filicide it is common for the perpetrator’s state of mind to be rigorously examined and mighty effort made to explain why mental health treatment may have prevented the killing. And if a gun has been used as the murder weapon then the issue of gun control will also be a major focus of the media.
An ABC article featuring the story of Luke’s death told of Greg Anderson’s long history of mental illness with Batty stating: “He was in a homelessness situation for many years. His life was failing. Everything was becoming worse in his life and Luke was the only bright light in his life.” Excuses were made for his deplorable behaviour but still no-one asked why this man wanted to hurt the mother of his child so badly and make her suffer for the rest of her life by taking the life of her child. This is the issue that we should be discussing and I was pleased to hear Rosie began the discussion at the inquest into Luke’s death this week when she said: “It was to get at you… someone wants to make you suffer the rest of your life.” Forget about the mental illness and the homelessness – there is no excuse for this crime.
Similarly when on December 6, 1989, a man walked into the engineering school École Polytechnique de Montreal, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, declaring “I hate feminists,” killing fourteen young women, we take a look at how the media dealt with the issue. In I Hate Feminists, originally published in French in 2009, Melissa Blais examines the collective memory that emerged in the immediate aftermath and years following the massacre as Canadians struggled to make sense of this tragic event and understand the motivations of the killer. Blais explored the stories and editorials in Montreal and Toronto newspapers, texts distributed within anti-feminist “masculinist” networks, discourses about memorials in major Canadian cities and the film Polytechnique, which was released on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre. Mélissa Blais argues that feminist analyses and the killer’s own statements have been set aside in favour of interpretations that absolve the killer of responsibility or even shift that blame onto women and feminists. Blais concludes that the feminist analysis that views the massacre as a spectacular expression of everyday male violence towards women is dismissed with the emphasis on male suffering.
And once again the truth is less acceptable and even less discussed. In his suicide letter the gunman Marc Lepine wrote that he was committing suicide “for political reasons.”He stated that he had decided “to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to meet their maker.” He had decided to “stop those viragos.” He reiterated that “feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g., cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventive leave, etc.) while seizing those of men.”
There are no excuses for the murders committed by Lepine and Anderson. Their actions were premeditated and were those of men who couldn’t abide women getting on with their lives. Marc Lepine hated feminists so he murdered 14 young students; Greg Anderson sought to punish Rosie Batty for making a good life without him.
I Hate Feminists by Mélissa Blais will be published in Australia by Spinifex Press this month.