The Silencing of Women in the Stifling Culture of Aboriginal Unity by Mrs Vera West

What happens when feminism clashes with multiculturalism? It seems that multiculturalism wins. As reported in “‘Women Silenced’ in Stifling Culture of Aboriginal Unity,” (The Weekend Australian, October 1-2, 2016, p. 7), in the 1970s many female Aboriginal leaders put ethnic solidarity, “standing as a people” over feminist issues.

According to indigenous researcher Suzanne Ingram, Aboriginal women are still facing racial solidarity pressures, serving as “solidarity stewardesses serving a sophisticated silencing agenda,” on issues of domestic violence in their communities. Ms Ingram believes that the issue of “silencing” has got worse with women who speak out about black-on-black violence being seen as engaging in betrayal.
Her paper “Silent Drivers/Driving Silence – Aboriginal Women’s Voices on Domestic Violence,” published in Social Alternatives (vol. 35, 2016, pp. 6-12), cites alarming statistics that “intimate partner violence” can be as high as 38 times greater for Aboriginal women than non-Aboriginal women.

White feminists are failing to address the issue of Aboriginal domestic violence and priority has been given to male-led social justice issues such as constitutional recognition. Something clearly needs to be done about Aboriginal women suffering in silence, so good work for this Aboriginal woman speaking out. However, challenging the status quo comes with its risks, and I pray that her career will not be harmed, given the culture of “silencing.”

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