Ruth Hopkins: White feminists continue to sideline Native women

Zitkala-Sa was a Yankton Sioux writer, educator and activist who fought for the rights of Native women in the early 1900s. Photo by Gertrude Käsebier

Writer Ruth Hopkins, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, calls on White feminists to address racism within their ranks:
White feminists tend to ignore the demographic most effected by sexual violence: Native women. There’s an epidemic of missing and murdered First Nations women in Canada. The feminist movement could assist Native women by sharing their global platform with us and acting as allies, where we all insist that governments, communities, and the media do more to stop our women from being stolen, raped and murdered, while also continuing to search for the lost ones who must come home.

White feminists also need to take responsibility for the role white women have played in racism in America. White women have always been active in terrorist organizations like the KKK. Because racism and misogyny are so entwined, they must be jointly addressed if we truly desire to dismantle either one.

Personally, I don’t self-identify as a feminist- although I agree with much of the feminist platform: equal rights, equal pay, reproductive rights, etc. However, I part ways when it comes to who I am as a Native woman.

You see, I do things as a strong, empowered Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) woman that non-Native settler feminists do not understand, nor do they seem to want to. Through their colonial lens, they view sacred women’s ways as submissive rather than humble. For instance, they assume that because I wear a long dress or skirt to ceremony, that I’m being treated as an inferior. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wear my floor sweeping skirt out of respect for my ancestors, the brothers and sisters in my circle, and myself. To wear the skirt is an honor. When we cover our power of creation in modesty and dignity, we are shining examples of feminine beauty and the power of the deity White Buffalo Calf Woman herself flows through us.

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Ruth Hopkins: The Problem With White Feminists (Indian Country Today 8/3)

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