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Reempowering ourselves : Australian Aboriginal women
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Bronwyn Fredericks
The arrival of the colonists, the invasion of Aboriginal lands and the subsequent colonization of Australia had a disastrous effect on Aboriginal women, including on-going dispossession and disempowerment. Aboriginal women’s lives and gendered realities were forever changed in most communities. The system of colonization deprived Aboriginal women of land and personal autonomy and restricted the economic, political, social, spiritual and ceremonial domains that had existed prior to colonization. It also involved the implementation of overriding patriarchal systems. This is why Aboriginal women may find understanding within the women’s movement and why feminism might offer them a source of analysis. There are some connections in the various forms of social oppression, which give women connection and a sharing on some issues. However, imperialism and colonialism are also part of the women’s movement and feminism. This essay demonstrates why attempts to engage with feminism and to be included in women-centred activities might result in the denial and sidelining of Aboriginal sovereignty and further oppression and marginalisation of Aboriginal women. Moreover, strategies employed by non-Indigenous feminists can result in the maintenance of white women’s values and privileges within the dominant patriarchal white society. By engaging in these strategies feminists can also act in direct opposition to Aboriginal sovereignty and Aboriginal women. This essay states clearly that women who do not express positions or opinions in outright support of these activities still benefit from their position by proxy and contribute to the cultural dominance of non-Indigenous women. I argue that Aboriginal women need to define what empowerment might mean to themselves, and I suggest re-empowerment as an act of Aboriginal women’s healing and resistance to the on-going processes and impacts of colonization.