Many activists, writers, and communities are addressing the nexus of race, sexuality, and gender, and the ways these things combine to form a person’s identity. Indigenous Men and Masculinities accomplishes this by discussing aboriginal masculinity from various points of view. Arguably, the book takes a similar approach to that of an intersectional feminist: countering the popular opinion that gender equality is a movement inherently of or for women, and acknowledging that people of all genders benefit from taking a critical look at the patriarchy.
The timely text examines the ways colonization attempted to diminish aboriginal beliefs about gender, and as a result, aboriginal traditions and values from around the world. In the midst of our imperative nation-wide discussion about missing and murdered aboriginal women, the book urges us to address how colonization has affected aboriginal men and people of other genders by creating and enforcing a patriarchal society. The book cannot provide a clear-cut solution capable of abolishing or reversing these effects – we must first collectively face and recognize the atrocities committed by white colonizers.
Indigenous Men and Masculinities, which serves as a potential companion to Sam McKegney’s Masculindians: Conversations About Indigenous Manhood, comprises 16 essays authored by international scholars and activists. Most of the chapters address the ways white colonizers attempted to enforce patriarchy on a non-patriarchal society. The book argues that these Europeans introduced a harmful binary recognizing only two distinct genders – men and women.
The authors collectively describe a horrific “gendercide” of the aboriginal spectrum, including the belief in a third or other gender. “People who were recognized within genders other than ‘woman’ or ‘man’ were, and remain, integral to families, partnerships, and collective culture, religion, and governance,” writes Scott L. Morgensen in an essay titled “Cutting to the Roots of Colonial Masculinity.” “Their lives significantly informed Indigenous understandings of human potential and differences in ways that colonizers refused to comprehend.” The introduction of harmful European gender norms to aboriginal communities was reinforced in spaces such as residential schools, sporting arenas, and prisons. In several essays, the authors extensively discuss these spaces, how aboriginal people interact with them today, and how these interactions can be traced to colonialism.
At times the book uses obscure jargon (terms like “hegemonic masculinity” may not be accessible to the general reader), however this isn’t necessarily a downfall. This topic is in dire need of attention on both academic and personal levels, and these authors certainly accomplish that. The academic chapters about colonization, erasure, and assimilation are imperative. But the most stirring parts of the book for a general reader are the ones that are more personal and voice-driven.
In a chapter titled “Strong Men Stories: A Roundtable on Indigenous Masculinities,” McKegney chats with four indigenous men as they candidly discuss male role models, community, sex, gender, pop culture, and female mentors. McKegney says Masculindians was created “to address the lack of critical attentiveness to Indigenous masculinities by attending to the thoughts and work of Indigenous thinkers.” These crucial efforts, alongside those of critical thinkers, writers, and advocates, are carried on beautifully in Indigenous Men and Masculinities.