Putting together last week’s Indigenous Honi saw me focusing and reflecting on my cultural heritage and identity. However I realised that my Aboriginality is only one important aspect of my identity. As an Indigenous wom*n, my identity is not only shaped by cultural influences but also by the way in which society views and understands my gender. In writing this piece I began to reflect on what I know about Aboriginal wom*n and more specially Aboriginal feminists. My conclusion was, not very much.
The history of feminism in the Australian context is more often then not dominated by the narrative of white feminists. The ‘first wave’ feminist movement was shaped by the desire for wom*n to gain the right to vote — a brilliant movement that changed a lot of people’s lives. However, did all wom*n get the vote through the suffragette movement? No. Aboriginal wom*n did not gain their rights to vote until the 1960s.
Similarly during the ‘second wave’ feminist movement wom*n fought for their rights to their own bodies and the legalisation of abortion as well as more government support for childcare. At the same time, Aboriginal wom*n were forced into sterilisation as their children continued to be taken away from them.
This is by no means a way of diminishing the work and suffering of white feminists but rather a way to critique past movements in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of why an intersectional approach to feminist and wom*n’s rights work is needed. Wom*n cannot hope to achieve equality while neglecting the needs and suffering of Indigenous Wom*n, Trans wom*n and Queer Wom*n.
I want to acknowledge the incredible spirit and courage of our Aboriginal mothers, sisters, cousins, and friends. I want to acknowledge the continual suffering of Indigenous wom*n as their land, culture, rights, and children were taken from them.
I also acknowledge the great steps indigenous wom* have and are taking to connect with their culture and make real change within the community.
Lastly I want to acknowledge the wom*n within the Indigenous collective and encourage them to continue to celebrate our culture and identity as we continue to break down barriers and understandings of what it means to be Indigenous wom*n.