Far too often, I’ve heard radical queers and feminists, in their hipster garb, talking their academic jargon about checking one’s privilege and being accountable, and in the same breath mocking poor people. It’s not always explicit. Actually, in social justice circles, it hardly ever is. Many of you know not to say words like ghetto or white trash, or at least I hope you do, because of its classist and racist implications, but that seems to be where the anti-classist work stops. So, let me help you.
- Every time you push your vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian diet on people, remember that your diet is a privilege that doesn’t make you superior or more of an environmentalist, food justice champion, animal lover or good human. I know you know about food deserts. Well, you don’t have to live in one to not be able to afford to have a restrictive diet.
- Furthermore, poor folks went green along ass time ago. I don’t get why you feel so special about your mason jars and bicycles. Oh good for you for taking the bus when you could’ve driven. Do you want a vegan gluten-free cookie?
- Yes, Wal-Mart is evil. So, is Urban Outfitters. Get over yourself. The only reason why Wal-Mart is singled out is because poor people shop there and it is easier to distance yourself from the problem. So, stop judging poor consumers who are just trying to feed and clothe their families, and start working to dismantle capitalism, or at least organize for workers’ rights (preferably in a non savior complex kinda way).
- Your shitty college dorm room, apartment or shared house, does not make you poor, neither does shopping at Good Will.
- There is a difference between being broke and poor, much like the difference between acute and chronic pain. Learn the difference.
- For those of you who do work with poor folks, you are not special, and you are not a savior. Like I said before, drop the savior routine. It makes a big difference when you take the cues from the communities you are serving. And, just because someone isn’t a college educated career activist, doesn’t mean they don’t know what is best for them and their communities. So, don’t be a condescending ass when people don’t talk like you, and practice some real nonjudgmental allyship.
- Pro tip: classy, trashy, hood, ghetto, dangerous/sketchy/seedy (in reference to poor PoC neighborhoods), white trash, etc are all really classist terms and hella racist too. Think about it, why do we specify that the trash is white? Because all other trash must be brown, right? If you don’t have a claim to these words, don’t use them.
Anyway, the examples could go on, and if anyone wants to add onto this, please do. I just don’t understand how a community that prides itself on fighting body-shaming and slut-shaming, could be so unequivocally class-shaming. In your own words, you better check your privilege.
What’s that? No honey, the fact that the okimâwastotin (that headdress worn by clueless hipster girls all the time) is generally reserved for males in Plains cultures is not sexist or patriarchal. You can stop trying to ‘save us from sexism’ thanks.
In fact, we were centuries ahead of you in the gender equality department. There are of course a great diversity of socio-political traditions in our various nations, but one thing comes through loud and clear…our women held positions of power. Not merely over hearth and home, but politically as well. In some nations, women run the roost, and this without denigrating or subjugating men (in case you were worried).
Centuries of racist and sexist interference by European powers has taken its toll. We do indeed face sexism in our communities, to an extent unthinkable before Contact. It is sadly the case that the oppressed often internalise their oppressor, and the oppressor for us has always been racist, and sexist.
To combat this, we look to our traditions, which are egalitarian. Where men and women are respected and venerated. We do not fumble towards equality as sameness, as so many settler feminists insist we should (in our context only, as they often recognise this is a ridiculous approach otherwise). We revive equity. We acknowledge different gender roles, and recognise that the female is not subservient in our cultures.
When we discuss ‘women’s power’ and ‘women’s roles’, you hear echoes of your history. But your history is not ours. Our history speaks proudly of the strength of our women and our men. Gender roles were not created in our societies to elevate men and turn women into chattel.
You settler women have much to overcome. Your history is fraught with inequality and abuses. I am sorry that you come from such twisted traditions.
Do not attempt to transplant your historical circumstances into our Nations. You have no idea what the headdress means in our cultures. To claim that the restrictions on who can wear it are ‘sexist’ merely highlights this ignorance…your inability to see outside your own cultural norms, outside your own sad, sexist cultural history.
Colonisers always believe they have the right to define reality, particularly for those they have colonised. What kind of feminist are you, when you take part in these inequalities of power, and proclaim for us the meaning of our own symbols and traditions?
In case you’re not sure, it makes you a racist feminist.
It’s no exaggeration to say that American Indian women are missing from most media coverage, history books and classroom discussions. But at least journalism students, instructors and state educators in Nebraska are doing something to help end America’s ignorance of Native women and the contributions they make to their communities, their tribes and to the nation as a whole.
Last year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications published the magazine, Native Daughters. With a grant from the Carnegie Foundation and under the guidance of five university professors, students spent 18 months reporting and writing about American Indian women who are artists, activists, lawyers, cops, warriors, healers, storytellers and leaders.
Now the Nebraska Department of Education has also released a companion curriculum for the magazine. You can download it for free here.
Can’t wait even one minute more to learn about Native women? Here’s a teaser of what you can learn more about in Native Daughters—and what you can share with your students via the new curriculum.
1. “A lot of people think that us women are not leaders, but we are the heart of the nation, we are the center of our home, and it is us who decide how it will be.”–Philomine Lakota, Lakota language teacher, Red Cloud High School, Pine Ridge, S.D.
2. The art forms Native women practice stand as reminders of cultural endurance. “Their crafts survived the Greasy Grass (Battle of Little Big Horn), Wounded Knee One (1890) and Two (1973),” writes Christina DeVries in Native Daughters. “Their spirits survived the Trail of Tears, the Relocation and Termination program and continued struggles against cultural annihilation.”
4. Of nearly 2 million women enlisted in the U.S. armed forces, 18,000 are American Indian women. Their representation in the military is disproportionately high—and Native women are more likely to be sexually harassed, which increases their chances of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.
5. The number of Native women applying to medical school has increased since 2003, peaking in 2007 when 77 Native women applied nationwide.
6. In 2007, when Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet (Diné) was named president of Antioch University, she became the first American Indian woman president of a mainstream university. Not only that, but about half of the nation’s tribal colleges are led by Native women presidents.
7. Cecelia Fire Thunder (Lakota) became the Oglala Lakota Tribe’s first woman president. She has fought against domestic abuse, saying it’s not a part of traditional culture, and been a leader for women’s reproductive rights. In 2006, when the South Dakota state legislature prohibited abortion, Fire Thunder announced plans to build a women’s clinic on the reservation, and therefore beyond state jurisdiction. She was impeached by the tribal council, who said she was acting outside her duties as president.
8. Women lead nearly one-quarter of the nation’s 562 federally recognized tribes.
9. “Through the late 1700s, Cherokee women were civically engaged. They owned land and had a say during wartime,” writes Astrid Munn in Native Daughters. “But this changed after the tribe ceded large tracts of land to the U.S. government in 1795.” Since the mid-1980s, though, a generation of Native women activists, lawmakers and attorneys have been changing that history and working to empower women again.
10. Indian Country could never survive without Native women.
- Laura Paskus, from Ms. Magazine