“I want to look at the world from a feminist perspective,” said one North America’s leading First Nation’s feminists.
Speaking to a packed University of Toronto audience on Wednesday night, writer and activist Lee Maracle outlined her vision of the link between globalism, feminism and Aboriginal societies, past and present.
Maracle was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1950 and wrote her first book, ‘Bobbie Lee’ in 1990 about her discovery of her feminine powers, her writing skills and finally, what she can do for women in today’s world.
She was one of the first writers in the Aboriginal nation to be published in the 1970s, writing nearly 10 well-known books, poems and anthologies. She was also one of the first founders of the En’kown School of Writing in Penticton, British Columbia.
“In the beginning,” Maracle said, “we started out with 10 post-secondary students and in one month, we had a thousand. Out of the thousand, 808 were women.
“The tribes and men in our community couldn’t believe it and they tried to increase the number of male students, but we were still 60 per cent of the school’s population and they still haven’t been able to reduce the female population.”
According to the United Nations there are 350 million Aboriginal people in the world, yet most are disinherited and abused. Women and children, said Maracle, suffer the most.
Maracle received the J.T. Stewart Voice of Change Award in April, 2000 and was the Ann Decker guest professor at southern Oregon University.
“Some guy will get a five-year appointment,” Maracle said “and the woman will get a three years for the same project. Yet in any case, for the woman, (it means) less job security, less money and the same responsibilities of feeding your family. In this time, especially now, it’s particularly terrible.”
Evelyn Ward, a second-year OISE student, was on hand to hear Maracle speak:
“Feminism is actually a term I don’t really like,” Ward said. “I think we need to respect and accept both genders and yes, there are certain roles that are different for men and women.
“There’s no real definition of global feminism, but if you’re thinking in terms of it, for me, it means putting up a whole and unified front against hard times,” she said.
And unity against hard times is one of the values inherent in feminism, Maracle said.
She defines global feminism as women thinking of each other, coming together as a whole, without letting the male population dominate them
“In order for human beings to mature, we need to enhance women’s status in our society. Its one world here, one humanity and women have a lot to offer right here, right now,” she said.