Lydia’s Library Books


CoverMaking Space for Indigenous Feminism is a collection of writings by Indigenous scholars who employ a feminist analysis in a very critical way to analyze inequities in power relations (native and non). It’s a short book, with sixteen contributions. Joyce Green, in Taking Account of Aboriginal Feminism, explains why this may be.

Even where contemporary social relations are understood to be shaped by colonial and patriarchal practices, Aboriginal women are reluctant to use a gendered analysis to criticize Aboriginal men. Indeed, feminist analysis is widely considered to be divisive, corrosive of family and community, culturally inappropriate and even colonialist. A number of prominent Aboriginal intellectuals have dismissed feminism’s relevance for Aboriginal women while others have celebrated Aboriginal women’s traditional and maternalist roles to the exclusion of analysis of gendered power relations.

Considering feminism’s historic disregard for the racial identities of women of color (while assuming that all women can unite under some sort of ‘sisterhood,’ putting their womanness first), this makes sense. Feminism alone is not ‘for everybody,’ but “aboriginal feminism,” as outlined by Green and others,

“brings together the two critiques, feminism and anti-colonialism, to show how Aboriginal peoples, and in particular Aboriginal women, are affected by colonialism and patriarchy.”

This seems to me to be pretty necessary: native women have had to put up with a lot of bullshit. Colonialism and land theft, sexist legislation (this piece talked a lot about Canada’s Indian Act in this regard, and off the top of my head I’m reminded of the Hyde Amendment), forced sterilization (esp. in the US in the 70s, in the years between Roe and Hyde), economic oppression, and more. As a non-native woman, I’m really not one to talk. But historically, this is a group that has been given the least and taken from the most, and now it’s been reported that one in three American Indian women will be raped in her lifetime. That’s not just sexism.

Another topic addressed in this chapter was tradition, and how invoking it in opposition to feminism has been a very negative force for indigenous feminists. As a white girl, it’s made me think about where to stand in regards to tradition and culture. It’s been my thought for a while now that the voices that are most important in any community are those of its members- meaning, by commenting on (for example) gender relations in a native community, I would be undermining that community’s members and what they had to say. I would be an outsider voice. Reading this piece has not changed my mind in that sense, however, it has taught me a lot about what those voices are saying. Green says that feminism is thought to be a destroyer of traditions, however, she makes it clear that “tradition is neither a monolith nor is it axiomatically good,” and that “there are a number of versions of tradition… there are many who claim to be authoritative on this subject… [they should not] be permitted to deny others a voice.” This definitely brought to mind the common notion that native cultures are stagnant and only exist in the past, which allows for the dominant culture to ignore native people and dismiss their voices.

What has this piece made me want to learn more about? Legislation, definitely. This piece focused on Canada (oh, forgot to mention: Green uses the word Aboriginal to talk about native tribes in Canada and Indigenous to talk about the rest of the world), but for my own purposes I’d like to learn about more recent US legislation that’ve impacted native people. I know a lot about the 1800s, but I’d like to go further.

A note: what I’ve written here isn’t supposed to be a college paper, not is it claiming to be a definitive source. This blog is informal. I didn’t write about everything Joyce Green wrote about. You should read it! I’m just writing about what it made me think about and how these ideas are influencing me.


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  1. * Ilima says:

    here are a couple of blogs that may raise your awareness of the large(ly ignored) Hawaiian independence movement.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 11 months ago

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