Special to APTN National News
Misogyny means veiled women hating behavior, but what does misogyny mean in our culture and in our communities today? It means that we are being left out.
Many Indigenous people, however, are not conscious of how they are actively misogynist or how they are passively contributing to perpetuating misogyny. That’s where I started.
I was not aware of my own self-hate or how my own behavior contributed to my oppression as an Indigenous woman. Today, I understand that what misogyny boils down to is the unfair distribution of power because, in reality, most people with the power don’t instinctively or willingly like to share their power and, in that respect, our Indigenous men are no different.
Oh, Indigenous men, especially our leaders, pay a lot of lip service. For example, saying how we are the life givers and say we are more powerful than them and that we should walk in front when we are marching.
To that end, most recently, at the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in Assembly gathering, our national chief shared with the world via “live stream” that we, women, are one of the Sacred forms of water because we create the water within our bodies where every human life begins. But, how does that powerful truth, that powerful spiritual understanding and philosophical reality actually manifest in the daily lives of Indigenous women in our communities, on and off reserve? It doesn’t.
The biggest challenge we face as women in our communities is a double-edged sword and both edges are seriously “Sacred Moose”!
First, and especially outside Canadian cities, we have the Born Again Christian movement that spreads the idea that being made from a man’s rib, we women are somehow “less than” and thus not meant for leadership.
And, second, we have the traditionalists who, ironically, also say that a woman’s place is “traditionally” not in leadership and that we can’t wear headdresses.
Both these perspectives tell us as Indigenous women that we are to be content to be the “real” power in the background and to do anything else as a woman is seriously frowned upon and suppressed through clear and deliberate misogynistic behavior manifesting in isolation and unemployment for many of our most powerful and intelligent Indigenous women.
However, thanks to the pain and hard work of the families who have lost their loved ones, the world now knows the misogynist truths of our communities. The world now knows we are murdered and missing more than other women in Canada, simply because we are Indigenous women. And, most recently, the world is learning how police forces in Canada routinely abuse us; apparently again just because we are women and especially because we are Indigenous women.
But, rather than calling for an end to male violence against women, our Indigenous leaders are calling on us to modify our behaviours as Indigenous women as if we are the problem.
So, where I see the link to misogyny and our leadership is in the fact that no one really likes to talk about the truth that much of the male violence against women we live or die with is the violence of the men we know, love, elect or hire within our communities. And, for me, and for most at the end of the swinging fist, it is no longer enough to say “oh, but our men have been so hurt by colonization”. I’m just plain tired of that bullshit excuse.
We’ve all been hurt and continue to be hurt through Canadian colonial legalized racism and the colonizers correspondence is addressed specifically to the chief, who is usually a man, and often no one else sees the mail, not even the councillors!
Of course, there are exceptions in our leadership – good chiefs, like Chief Clarence Louie who has gotten famous for saying that our people should “get over it and get a job”! I agree with him and add that our Indigenous leaders should get over being threatened by powerful intelligent Indigenous women and get some therapy because we women can read and write now, too.
Because it’s 2016.
I’m not here to beat up our men. I’m here to say “move over”. I’m here to say that in this day and age, in this time, we as Indigenous women must take our rightful place; which is wherever the hell we think that should be.
Just like the women we saw at Oka over 20 years ago and see at Standing Rock today, we Indigenous women are not afraid to fight for our land.
We are fierce and are mothers.
But, what we are not doing in large enough numbers is braving the violence in our own homes. We must be willing to draw the line as women – I know – I’ve done it – I’ve risked my own life to end violent relationships. I’ve stood my ground until I found I was standing beside a man who respected me in whatever way I chose to express myself. In fact, we just celebrated 24 years of marriage.
Outside our homes, in our communities, seeking political office is a little more challenging as Indigenous women and the misogynist facts are reflected in the small numbers of us in formal leadership. On this front, my advice to all voters and especially to our women who make up at least 50 per cent of the voters is – stop electing your dumb cousin.
Elect people of all genders, including LGBT, who are actually not self-interested and fear-based and are capable of doing the work that we need done for the good of all.
In closing, this came to me today – So the birch tree says to the spruce tree, “Hi, I’m a birch tree.” And the spruce tree says, “Oh, I don’t care that you’re a birch tree, I only see trees. We’re all just trees. We’re all the same.” Birch tree “Huh? WTF?”
This Oped was reviewed, edited and approved by Elder Jacinta Wiebe, B.A. ABV, B.Com.Hons
About the Author: Joan Jack is Aanishinaabe Ikwe, from the Berens River First Nation, which is a fly-in community located approximately 270 air kilometres north of Winnipeg on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba and is the eldest daughter of three children and lived in Berens River until she left home for high school and college/university. Though she left her home in Berens River to attend high school in Winnipeg at the age of thirteen, Mrs. Jack has maintained a strong and clear dedication to her people, her community and land. Jack is a lawyer and in 2012, ran unsuccessfully for the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.