The Colonization of Gender
After reading a post on the Minnesota Nice blog over at bitchmagazine.org about the many ways people can and do repeatedly “come out”, I followed a link to Trevor Hoppe’s blog and podcast (The Gayest Podcast in Michigan). After partaking of some compelling reading and listening, I hopped over to check out Beyond Masculinity. From the website:
“Beyond Masculinity is a groundbreaking collection of 22 provocative essays on sexuality, gender, and politics — all written by gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer men. Part audiobook, part-blog, and part-anthology, [it] brings together a smart, diverse group of queer male writers all critically examining maleness and the construction of masculinity and gender norms for men. Contributions focus on five key areas: Desire, Sex and Sexuality; Negotiating Identities; Queer Feminist Politics; Beyond Binary Gender; and Transforming Masculinity.
Did we mention that it’s free?”
Leaving aside the (interesting) subject matter for a moment, I just want to bask in the amazingness of a free online book/audiobook interactive project. Nice work, Trevor (he edited the anthology). If anyone is aware of similar projects happening, please post links!
I have only just started reading and listening to the anthology, and already I’ve come across a really intriguing piece by Qwo-Li Driskill, a Two-Spirit indigenous scholar of Cherokee descent. Hir piece explores the connections between the colonization of Native peoples and the violent introduction of a gender binary that didn’t exist in a starkly delineated fashion prior to colonization. S/he discusses the importance of duyuktv—balance, truth & justice—in pre-colonial Cherokee culture, and the ways in which strongly enforced European gender norms contributed to the devastation of this central component. S/he calls upon (for some reason, only male-embodied) Two-Spirit people to recognize the role they can play in healing, rebalancing and strengthening their communities. Not only is the article amazing, but to top it off the entire story is modeled on a traditional Stomp Dance.
You’ll just have to check it out for yourself – and I highly recommend listening to the audio version, if you have that capability.
Driskill mentions the writing of several Native feminists in hir article, among them Wilma Mankiller. Mankiller received recognition and wide respect for being the first female chief of the Cherokee nation, and for her accomplishments both in this role and as a community activist. She co-edited The Reader’s Companion to U.S. Women’s History. Her autobiography, Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, received praise from the likes of Alice Walker and Gloria Steinem (that bastion of oblivious mainstream white feminism). Steinem, a personal friend of Mankiller’s, also wrote the introduction to Mankiller’s Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women.
Sadly, one of Mankiller’s “accomplishments” in 1992 (attempted first in 1988, only a year after she was elected chief) was to legally solidify a questionable set of criteria for citizenship in the Cherokee Nation which ultimately excludes all Cherokee Freedmen[sic] from the rolls. I actually didn’t even realize that the Cherokee, along with several other tribes, ever had African slaves. That’s not something I’m at all qualified to talk about, I’d be in wayyy over my head. But from 1992 until the present, the descendants of those slaves have been denied not only citizenship in the nation they helped to build, but their very identity and cultural history – thanks in part to the work of this “feminist” activist. Yes, that word is in quotes for a reason. As many women have stated throughout the history of feminism, what good is a movement that excludes certain skin colors and economic groups?
At first I wasn’t sure whether Wilma Mankiller’s actions should necessarily be critiqued within the framework of mainstream white feminism. But clearly that is the framework she herself has chosen to work with. Even though the actions I’m pointing to were undertaken over 15 years ago, they still affect people in seriously f*ed up ways. And she is still an active, respected member of the mainstream feminist community in spite of this. It’s really upsetting to find yet another example of someone whose behavior has promoted and further institutionalized racism who is also active in the most visible form of feminism in this country.