This is relatively old news now, but I quit Google Plus (G+ from here on in). My reasons were relatively simple, and yet not at the same time. I had planned to write this post when I quit, but stuff happened and I didn’t. Stilgherrian’s piece at ABC’s The Drum today reminded me of why I was going to write, and effectively summed up what I was going to say, but I’ll lay out my reasons nonetheless.
Prior to reading First in their Field: Women and Australian Anthropology (edited by Julie Marcus) I had almost no understanding of what anthropology actually was. I understood that it was a study of people, but since there was also sociology, which I took to be the understanding of people in modern society, so therefore anthropology was the study of people now gone.
And then I read First in their Field, and learnt about Australian women breaking major ground (mostly unrecognised) in anthropology, creating fieldwork and what anthropology, at least at the turn of the 1900s was. I was disgusted to find out what anthropology actually was and the harm that it has caused.
This was brought back to my mind when I started reading Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism (edited by Jessica Yee). The second essay by Krysta Williams and Erin Konsmo has the following (pg 26 – 27):
First off, as has been well stated by many Indigenous Feminist before us, the idea of gender equality did not come from the suffragettes or other so-called “foremothers” of feminist theory. It should also be recognized that although we are still struggling for this thing called “gender equality”, it is not actually a framed issue within the feminist realm, but a continuation of the larger tackling of colonialism. So this idea in mainstream feminism that women of colour all of a sudden realized “we are women”, and magically joined the feminist fight actually re-colonizes people for who gender equality and other “feminist” notions is a remembered history and current reality since before Columbus. THe mainstream feminist movement is supposed to have started in the early 1900s with women fighting for the right to vote. However, these white women deliberately excluded the struggles of working class women of colour and participated in the policy of forced sterilization for Aboriginal women and women with disabilities. Furthermore, the idea that we all need to subscribe to the same theoretical understandings of history is marginalizing. We all have our own truths and histories to live.
and (pg 28)
All that the mainstream feminist movement is trying to claim today is merely a reflection of what an Indigenous person (including women, men, Two-Spirit, trans or different gender identifying people) sees when they look in the mirror. There is this feeling amongst “innovative thinkers” that we need to reach forward to build and/or discover a “new society” that includes gender equality. But we know that for us, as a community, this simply means a return to our Indigenous ways of life, a decolonization of our communities which will bring back gender equality. This is something that we have been fighting for and resisting since contact. However, being pushed forward by progressives while trying to hold onto and remember the past, honour our Elders and teachings – which being present – is a painful experience!
When reading First in their Field, the essayists wrote about the early female anthropologists living with various Indigenous tribes in remote Australia (well most of Australia at that time was remote). The essayists discussed how those female anthrpologists, with the exception of Daisy Bates who pretended to be a male spirit, accessed the spiritual realm of Indigenous women, learning about their ceremonies, their laws and how they fit into tribal society.
Prior to these female anthropologists living with the Indigenous inhabitants of Australia, white male anthropologists had determined that much like many white women at the time, Indigenous women occupied the domestic sphere, had no spiritual life and were much less than men, as they had been unable to access (and were not overly interested in) Indigenous women’s experience. The cut and paste of white society’s gender roles onto the gender roles of Indigenous Australians has no doubt caused the same level of harm as recounted by Williams and Konsmo.
The study of other societies as something less than white, European culture, as something you’d study as if looking at a collection of spores in a petri dish, thinking that you can study another society or culture without bringing in your own biases, issues and prejudices is just laughable and really wrong. There is no objectivity when studying another group of people, and no way to study another group of people without your presence making an impact on them (unless of course that society/culture doesn’t exist any more and you’re studying it from afar (such as Incan civilisations pre-Spanish invasion)).
The arrogance of my “ancestors” and the damage that they have caused Indigenous Australians makes me deeply ashamed and sorry that so much damage was done.
(Update: now with References)
One bit I left out of my blog post last night, or perhaps didn’t explain in the way I intended, is the direct harm that anthropology caused to Australia’s Indigenous inhabitants. Anthropologists were seen to be experts on Indigenous people and therefore were asked to provide advice to Governments and to fill roles such as “Protectors of Aboriginies” (First in their Field). If they did not come up with the idea of forcible removal of children from Indigenous communities, they certainly supported it. In Isobel White’s essay on Daisy Bates she states (pg 63 – 64):
By today’s standards many of Daisy Bate’s suggestions for the welfare of Aborigines seem impossible, absurd and an infringement of human rights. She believed that the Aborigines were on their way to extinction and her idea applied only to the declining number of those of full descent. She cared not at all what happened to the part-descent population, whose very existence she deplored. Consequently her suggestion for the full-descent population was to segregate them from all but minimum contact with Europeans so that there should be no more mixed unions. … Since she regarded them as incapable of governing themselves, they should be governed by a High Commissioner who, she insisted, must be a British, Anglican gentleman.
To no anthropologist would endorse a policy of taking children from their mothers and sending them to institutions where ‘civilised’ values and habits would be taught. But this was the policy in both Western Australia and South Australia where Mrs Bates was Honorary Protector of Aboriginies successively. The duties of these posts included reporting to the local police the birth or existence of so-called ‘half-caste’ children so that they might be seized, by force if necessary, and sent to an appropriate institution. Presumable Daisy Bates accepted this part of her duties and there is evidence that in at least one case she acted on it.
Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism, edited by Jessica Yee, 2001, DLR International Printing, Canada
First in the Field: Women and Australian Anthropology, edited by Julie Marcus, 1993, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Australia
Hello everyone and welcome to the 38th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival. Thanks for all the fantastic submissions and to everyone who wrote all the fantastic articles I’m linking to.
If at any point I have misnamed, mislabled, or misgendered someone, please let me know immediately so that I can correct my error. If I have included a post of yours that you would not like included, please let me know and I will remove it. Should any of my links be broken, just let me know and I’ll attempt to fix it.
It’s not his hysterical and easily disproved comments about the social ills of equal marriage that earn him this award, it is not the fact that he disappears single parents in his hysterical rant about how children need parents of both genders to be proper human beings, it is not the fact that he claims that conversion therapy for queer people is successful, it is in fact the usage of the phrase “stolen generations” that he deserves beating about the head and body with a large object for.
Brace for a new stolen generation
[title of the article]
The phrase “Stolen Generations” is an emotional phrase and he’s hoping to play on the emotions it raises and repurpose them for his own asinine “cause”. Van Gend uses a phrase that has particular meaning to those of Indigenous heritage in Australia, in a context which has nothing to do with the forcible removal of children from loving families and communities to be brought up by others away from their culture and community and identity.
The Stolen Generations (also known as Stolen children) is a term used to describe the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. The removals occurred in the period between approximately 1869 and 1969, although in some places children were still being taken in the 1970s.
The extent of the removal of children, and the reasoning behind their removal, are contested. Documentary evidence, such as newspaper articles and reports to parliamentary committees, suggest a range of rationales. Motivations evident include child protection, beliefs that given their catastrophic population decline after white contact that black people would “die out”, a fear of miscegenation by full blooded aboriginal people. Terms such as “stolen” were used in the context of taking children from their families – the Hon P. McGarry, a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, objected to the Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915 which then enabled the Aborigines’ Protection Board to remove Aboriginal children from their parents without having to establish that they were in any way neglected or mistreated; McGarry described the policy as “steal[ing] the child away from its parents”. In 1924, in the Adelaide Sun an article stated “The word ‘stole’ may sound a bit far-fetched but by the time we have told the story of the heart-broken Aboriginal mother we are sure the word will not be considered out of place.” (Wikipedia)
Van Gend’s usage is clearly appropriating other people’s history for a spurious cause, which is a big problem. It reinforces the cultural narrative of privileged straight (white?) man only paying attention to the history of the marginalised (and a history he would, the rest of the time, probably deny or defend) when it suits his purpose. He clearly did not consider the impact that his use of the phrase “stolen generation” would have on those that it directly applies to.
So van Gend, you’re the arsehat of the week – well done.
I’ve struggled with calling Kevin Donnelly racist, versus what he wrote being racist – but given the repeated racism in his article at the ABC, I can only say that he is racist based on his beliefs. I also thought about whether or not I should even give Donnelly airtime, but then decided that calling out his racist arsehattedness (yes, that is a word) was important – even though the commenters on the ABC piece did a great job of doing that anyway. Michael Stuchbery‘s response piece is also fantastic, and had it not been for his response, I wouldn’t have seen the original article.
The article penned by Kevin Donnelly was first written in July 2010, and what we’re reading is a revised version – so clearly he stands by his racist comments and sees nothing wrong with them…. Unlike me.
the ACL, now that Jim Wallace decided that tweeting bigotry was a great idea, vanished up it’s own arse, especially as the outrage on twitter and elsewhere has demonstrated that they do not have the wide support of Australia (Christian or otherwise) that they claim they do.
For those that missed it, Wallace tweeted (on ANZAC day no less) that:
Just hope that as we remember servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!
He later retracted his statement saying:
OK you are right my apologies this was the wrong context to raise these issues. ANZACs mean too much to me to demean this day, not intended
Note the lack of apologies to the LBGTIQ and Muslim communities… no instead we get a, “Oops, I shouldn’t have said this today of all days, I’ll come out and say this again at some other time and not feel even remotely guilty for erasing LGBTIQ service men and woman, and Muslim service men and women… oh and I’m totes justified in hating all of them because the bible says so.”
I moved to Fawkner (in Melbourne) about a year ago, and I love my neighbourhood. I love it’s diversity, multi-faith options (including the option of none at all), the shops, the parks, the friendliness. I love all of this, and I have especially love living in the area with the least crowded train line, which is also the least violent and racist train line that I have lived on for a while.
Until last night.
A thug, his friend and his friend’s girlfriend got on the train near Coburg. As he walked through the carriage he commented loudly that the train “smelt like immigrants” (whatever that means). He stopped and stood in the door way with his friends and continued talking loudly. He again proclaimed that he never knew that something could smell like immigrants until now, while his friend mimed violent acts to his girlfriend. The third time he opened his mouth to proclaim how everything smelt of immigrants, I said, “Hey! Shut the fuck up”. He did, and the girl turned and looked at me. The thug dropped his voice and got off at the next station with his friends.
Initially I was shocked that someone would say such a thing, especially on this train line, where (up until now) everything has been cool, calm and collected. The second time I was outraged and wondering if I should actually say anything to him to get him to shut up. The third time, I acted… and then immediately went into “Oh fuck!!!!” territory on the inside. Thankfully I can rely on two things, I’m female and less likely to attract violence (though my partner with me may have), and I can look really scary when I’m annoyed.
I acted because I want the train line I’m on to be safe for me (not a migrant) and everyone else (migrant or not). I acted because uneducated bigots who think that they have the right to spew hatred really annoy me. I acted because no one else was (a failing of mine).