Deathscapes

Colonial Representations 2e - Challenging Colonial Narratives

Deathscapes

Challenging Colonial Narratives

Indigenous women are continually confronted with racist representations that seek to dehumanize and disempower them. Despite the assumptions made about their sexual availability, agency and capabilities, they continue to be the first to respond, challenge and protest false, racist representations made about them and their communities.

For example, Munanjali and South Sea Islander woman, Dr Chelsea Bond responded to former Labor MP Gary John who in 2015 referred to Aboriginal women as ‘cash cows’. She stated, ‘Aboriginal people have long been depicted as animalistic, not quite human, and accordingly were counted among the flora and fauna up until the 1960s. The depiction of Aboriginal women as cows more specifically suggests that we are not just animals, but that we are the most docile creature lacking agency over our own lives.’

Several Aboriginal women including Yorta Yorta woman Summer May Finlay responded to comedian Trevor Noah’s misogynistic and racist routine about Aboriginal women.  She articulated ‘Aboriginal women, like many other women of colour in colonised countries, have been and continue to be sexualised by white men….While you suggest that even if a woman isn’t “beautiful”, that they can still be sexually gratifying to a man  —I respond that Aboriginal women, like all women, exist beyond servicing men.’

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Following the death of cartoonist, Bill Leak, Darumbul woman Amy McQuire addressed a truth that other journalists shied away from, stating ‘The reason Leak’s cartoons were so hurtful to Aboriginal Australia is because they were not isolated. They were…the latest incarnation of a racist legacy which has portrayed Aboriginal men and women in the same way since colonization…While Aboriginal people and those who remember a different Bill Leak are told ‘not to speak ill of the dead’, and told to respect the man, it is very rarely that white Australia extends Aboriginal people the same courtesy.’

In the US and Canada, the issue of Native Women and Indigenous cultures being appropriated as ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes is a continual battle. Recently, in response to this a group of Native women including Amanda Blackhorse petitioned and protested the company Yandy who are profiting off the exploitation and oppression of Indigenous women. Similarly, the sexualization and fetishisation of Pocahontas in Paper Magazine and elsewhere, is an affront to the reality that Pocahontas was a teenage rape victim, a fact not represented in the Disney film. It also perpetuates stereotypes that continue to place Indigenous women in danger.

 


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