This piece was originally commissioned, but it turned out to not be suitable as a more personal take was wanted. I've decided to post this here, and will release the other one once it has been published elsewhere.
For a very long time, Aboriginal women have been active in the feminist movement and Aboriginal feminists have been central in the Indigenous movement. We have a long and proud history of strong women who speak their minds and who remain staunch in the face of disparity. Yet as Aboriginal feminists, the struggles we face are unique. Not only are we negotiating the hotbed of race politics in this country and how that permeates throughout the women’s movement, but we face gender politics from both the mainstream Australian community also within the black community. It is for these reasons that I feel Aboriginal feminism is, at this point growing, and a new generation of activists are engaging and tackling issues effecting black women today.
Due to the process of colonisation, what effects white women generally effects black women, however due to the intersection of race, black women face unique battles as well. Back when the women's movement was fighting to access to safe and effective contraception and legal abortion in this country, Aboriginal women were additionally fighting for the right to keep their children in the face of the legislation that led to the Stolen Generations. White women were fighting for economic independence separate from men (eg: so they were not forced to be married to have security) and the right to equal pay while black women were also fighting to be paid for their labour in the first place.
Whilst the fights of mainstream feminism have never been completely contrary to the fights of black feminism in this country due to the processes of colonisation, they have, at times, not been inclusive enough to allow for the additional levels of oppression black women face. We occasionally get accused of being divisive when we do bring up incidences of intersecting oppression. Our real battles sometimes remain unrecognised whilst a focus on feminist matters that would be considered quite secondary to a lot of black women rages forth. Sometimes, matters we would consider not particularly important in the black feminist movement can be the ones we get questioned on the most. One such example I can think of are the constant questions we get about women playing the didgeridoo. It is considered culturally inappropriate for women to play this instrument which is commonly interpreted by mainstream feminism as sexist. However, black women don't tend interpret it this way, rather it is seen as “men's business” and therefore a respected part of culture. If black women indeed do consider this sexist, then when it comes to the grand scale of what black women are facing, such as having their agency removed by policies within the NT Intervention, or the much higher rates of intimate partner violence experienced, or achieving twice the number of academic accolades yet only getting a smidgen of the recognition; all whilst facing racism; whether or not we can play the didgeridoo does not even rate as an issue. If it were an issue, it would be an issue for black women to challenge. White women challenging this would not only come across as an act of imperialism, it would also severely diminish our right as black women to enact change within our own communities.