What is it about this place?
For me, it is all the negative stereotypes about Aboriginal women that you can think of: subservient to dominating and violent Aboriginal men; bad mothers, negligent mothers, mothers who eat their own babies; poor Black women on welfare; drug abusers and alcoholics; violent women; ugly women; unfeminine yet free to be sexually exploited and denigrated women; sexually promiscuous women; women whose sexual misuse is eroticised; women who sully the white men who sleep with us.
This place is the impact these stereotypes have on the way Aboriginal women are treated in the media and in the court of public opinion. It is the stereotyping of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women within the legal system. It is the way in which Aboriginal women’s experiences of sexual assault and domestic violence are reported in the media. It is Aboriginal female victims reported by the media as promiscuous, drug and alcohol abusers, neglectful mothers and more. It is Aboriginal women who are unheard, misheard and not taken seriously by the legal system when they should be supported in the aftermath of a sexual assault or gendered violence.
This place is the unique combination of racism and sexism and the interplay between the two, evident in the injustices suffered by so many Aboriginal women. It is how this interplay, overlap and double oppression can have serious consequences. It is Indigenous women experiencing oppression because they are both Black and female. It is this unique experience creating a complexity that must be acknowledged and addressed. It is this form of marginalisation that many Indigenous women have felt and spoken out against for many years.
What is it about this place? ... It is the complex and strained relationship between Aboriginal women and white women. It is the oppression of Black female domestics by white women masters.
What is it about this place? For me, it is the stark differences between Indigenous feminism and white feminism. It is the complex and strained relationship between Aboriginal women and white women. It is the oppression of Black female domestics by white women masters. It is white women’s morality and the alienation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from first-wave feminism. It is the exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from the second-wave women’s movement, then the inclusion of Indigenous women as ‘different’ and ‘other’, with hardly any recognition that white women have race too. It is the term ‘intersectional feminism’ being used incorrectly to mean the inclusion of difference and cultural diversity, rather than any real understanding of the multiple oppressions that Aboriginal women face. It is the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who believe that they are discriminated against based on their race, first, before their gender. It is Black feminists rejecting white women’s calls for equality between the sexes in favour of equity.
For me, this place is the power of Black women speaking their truth as survivors of sexual assault, violence and abuse. It is all of the stories of Black women never being taken seriously. It is the #MeToo movement not hearing all the times that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women did not speak out, for fear of further stereotyping our men. It is Indigenous women not wanting to report sexual harassment, assault, violence and abuse so as to protect their community from being attacked by racists. It is Aboriginal women still speaking out against Aboriginal male perpetrators, despite all the complexity in doing so. It is us still speaking out, despite being disparaged, harmed and dismissed by white police and authorities.
For me, this place is the power of Black women speaking their truth as survivors of sexual assault, violence and abuse. ... It is Indigenous women not wanting to report sexual harassment, assault, violence and abuse so as to protect their community from being attacked by racists.
Sometimes, this place is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women standing beside their men, not as victims, but with the understanding that the legacies of trauma and dysfunction impact us all. It is Indigenous women prioritising collective community over individual rights. It is that space that so many Aboriginal women occupy, a space that exists between reporting, not reporting and carrying out our own forms of justice.
What is it about this place? For me, it is the ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have formed their own feminism for themselves. It is Black on Black love. It is the Indigenous feminism I experienced before I even knew the term feminism existed at all. It is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women lifting each other up. It is our own self-determined solutions to the violence created by colonisation. This place is the strength and dignity of Black women in the face of denigration and oppression.
*Author's note 1: I would like to thank all the Black women who gave me advice in writing this piece. I want to thank them for the wisdom and guidance that have explicitly shaped the writing of 'This Place'. Before I even know about feminism, I was encircled and guided by the knowledge of other Aboriginal women, and I am forever grateful to continue to hold their support.
*Author's note 2: I purposefully use the terms 'Indigenous', 'Aboriginal', 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander' and 'Black' as self-identified umbrella terms. I do this for ease of writing, while acknowledging that English language interpretations, as well as Western and European understandings of our identities and cultures, are largely incorrect.
This is an extract from 'This Place' by Eugenia Flynn, featured in #MeToo: Stories from the Australian Movement (Picador)
Eugenia Flynn is a writer, arts worker and community organiser: Eugenia's thoughts on the politics of race, identity, gender and culture have been published widely.