This week’s lesson was on the role of Indigenous women within their own communities, the Indigenous concept of gender, and the different gender roles. The lesson also differentiated between gender and sex, providing a very clear and understandable explanation. It raises the question: Why is there such confusion around gender and sex?
Perhaps this confusion is the greatest damage inflicted by the patriarchal system. By instigating a system where there was no distinction between gender and sex, all genders have been oppressed. Men have been raised to perform certain duties, duties whether they wanted or could perform. Women likewise. And no other choices were ever available. After reading this week’s lesson, I’m beginning to suspect that these strict roles were necessary for leaders who wanted control over the population. The arbitrary roles certainly weren’t for the benefit of society.
In today’s world, it is clear that not every man desires or is capable of providing the financial support necessary for the family. And not every woman is the preferred choice or wishes to nurture the children. In the Indigenous world, children were allowed to express their own personalities, talents, and skills without fear of shame or categorization. And this ability contributed “to the community by capitalizing on the skills of each individual and utilizing each community member’s intelligence and passion to the fullest extent” (p.7, Week 9 Reading: Indigenous Women). Only a system that was focused on control rather than progress would deter their members from expressing their natural talents and skills.
The patriarchal system was the perfect system to implement the colonization practices required to oppress and remove the Indigenous population from achieving success and acceptance in the mainstream society. If the patriarchal system had not existed, I doubt that colonization would have been as effective. And no-one can deny the continuing existence of both the patriarchal system and colonization.
Since the 1970’s, Indigenous women have been challenging the discriminatory provisions against women in the Indian Act. In 1971, the Federal Court of Appeals acknowledged the discrimination against women in the Indian Act. Yet in 1973, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the claim that the Indian Act violated Canada’s Bill of Rights. Yet, for a different trial, the United Nations Human Rights ruled that Canada had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because equal treatment had not been given to an Indigenous woman.
Disturbingly, it was not until 2011, yes this very decade, that a bill was introduced that addressed the discriminatory provisions against women in the Indian Act. This clearly illustrates the strength of the patriarchal system in preventing the equality of all people within a society. Since the patriarchal system benefits only a very few, and even most men are discriminated against within this system, why do we, as a society, insist on keeping it?
Week 10’s lesson: Indigenous in the City
You can access the MOOC through: https://www.coursera.org/learn/indigenous-canada#faq