Gender Relationships; Salish Women’s Roles

Throughout different cultures we can see that the gender role that we in Western culture assume for men and women is actually not a universal system. Often within Western culture, the male is the dominant leader of the household although this is changing as we integrate other ideals. However, when looking at the Salish women, we can see that the male dominance is not an issue for them as they are very independent and often dominate through their actions.

“In the western world, men are expected to court women. In the Salish world, the adoption of this courtship tradition is in its infancy. In the original Salish cultures, it was the women who chose the partners and our women Elders who negotiated the marriage- if there was even going to be one. If a woman desired a man and no marriage was in the offing for her, there was going to be an affair of the heart, because women were free to indulge in sexual activity if and when they pleased. Unlike some other First Nation cultures, sex and morality were not that tightly connected (again, pardon the pun)” (Marcle. 4).

In western culture, the man asks the woman out on a date as well as the man asking the woman to marry him… females RARELY perform these roles. This is not saying they never do, but when it does, it is rare. This gives males a more dominant role to play within the relationship; giving him the power in deciding when, where, and how these proposals will take place. However, when looking at the Salish women, they dominate the relationship with their ability to decide the logistics of a relationship.

This female dominance and independence carries on in other areas of the Salish women’s lives. Women felt that they were much more important than the men in society as they were the ones who bared children. “The heroes in most of our flood stories are women- sisters who saved Elders, other sisters, their children, or sacrificed themselves for expectant mothers and the like. The women did not generally rescue men. At least, if any woman did rescue a man, that story did not get handed down in my family. I am not sure if this is true but my mother and grandmother used to say that women did not try to save the men because they couldn’t save both men and women and while it takes all the women to repopulate a village, it only takes one man” (Marcle. 6-7).   Women were seen as a valuable source for their communities, and from my understanding they have been appreciated for many years. As the women pass on these stories to their children, they continue with the idea of female dominance and superiority over men.

The women supported each other more than the men supported them. “The loss of her sister meant the loss of her assistance and the winter became increasingly difficult and fraught with hardship” (Marcle 8). The women’s reliance on their fellow women around them is unlike the Western society; although we do rely on our friends and family for help, our husbands are often given the role of provider and protector. Women’s dominance is also shown throughout their intimate relationship; women used their “bumblebee dance” or “weasel medicine” to seduce the men into doing what the women wanted, therefore getting them pregnant. Through Marcle’s story the men are made to seem dumb and uninformed about the basics in the world around them; for example not knowing where babies come from.

However, the men did help in a way; of course not in our stereotypical western way, but in their own way. The women saw the men as a way to have a baby, and we saw this through the two women’s discussion. One had already been impregnated by him and convinced the other women to do the same. We discussed in class how it was not that the women saw the men as less equal to themselves; they just saw the importance and need within their society for women.

Cultures have different views, opinions, traditions, ideals, and acts that they believe and perform however it does not make them unequal to us (western society), and should be looked at from a broader view. Often we become closed minded to ideals, such as gender roles and therefore shut out new ideas.

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Racial Differences of “Sexy”; White Women and Aboriginal Women

Race is a combination of one’s ethnic background, deriving from a family’s original place of origin. This form of categorization is often easily visible through appearance; black, white, Asian, Indian, etc. Unfortunately these categorizations also lead to many stereotypes based on their race. These stereotypes often emotionally hurt those involved, leaving hostility and resentment towards others.

Looking at the characters within Lee Marcle’s First Wives Club; Coast Salish Style we can see the hurt the aboriginal women feel being compared to the white’s. Women have a desire to be “sexy” or at least beautiful to men, however the character made a valid point; how often do you see an aboriginal women in a Victoria Secret commercial, or in a Cosmo magazine? Unfortunately I don’t think I ever have. She stated “First Nations people, particularly fifty-five plus women, are not billed as sexy anywhere by anyone; generally, coupling (pardon the pun) First Nations women with sex is done crudely, when it is done at all. There are no First Nations super models or sex icons out there, and procreative sex is spoken about without fanfare. There’s also a certain measure of disregard for the femininity and the beauty of the women being referenced” (Marcle. 2).  This character recognizes and feels the rejection from which the media puts out; representing specific race’s over others. Just out of curiosity I went onto the Victoria’s Secret Website; I found that most of the models were white females with blonde hair, with the exception of some with brown hair… but very few black girls and no other races were shown. A very large company which is to make women feel beautiful only promotes certain races; not declaring that only these women are ‘sexy’ but subconsciously portraying that message. I also looked at the La Senza website and they had only one model representing their product that was white female with blonde hair. The stereotypical view of beauty is media based, creating a very narrow focus for the public eye.

She went on to say “Don Brunswick is a comic; he looks funny, and he has funny looks, so when he says “I saw a beautiful Ojibway woman, once” and makes a face, people laugh. When he follows that with “It could happen”” (Marcle. 2).  These aboriginal women’s beauty is made out to be a joke, but do they really realize the impact their words could have on people? They are stereotyping a whole race’s beauty as “ugly” without considering the repercussions on the people. She stated “Underneath his joke is the disqualification of the sexiness of an entire nation of women” (Marcle. 2). These comments can emotionally hurt many people. What makes media portray white women as sexy and beautiful but no other races? Perhaps they are trying to provide for the masses instead of thinking about the bigger picture (which includes all women).

In the short segment “Laundry Basket” this aboriginal woman understands the stereotypical view of sexy. She writes stories and they are often rejected due to the content not being widespread enough. She writes “Romance among Indigenous people is so subtle that Canadians would not recognize a love story about us if they fell on it” (Marcle. 52). Like every culture, they have their own way of representing ‘sexy’ and romance however the media within the Western world is so dominant we forget how to accept other types. For a nation that is apparently so accepting of other cultures, we often act and think differently towards these other ideas.

What is Sexy?

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What is Sexy?

Sexiness in women can be portrayed and looked at in so many different perspectives. What one person thinks as sexy, the other may not. Social media affects our culture so much considering the ways in which we think, act, and perceive the world around us. In Western culture the media is around us everywhere we go. Billboards, TV shows, commercials, music, social networking cites etc. and in each one often shows slim, tall white girls who are wearing little to no clothing.

However, the western worlds ‘perfect’ view of a women is not always attainable. How many women are sizes 6 or larger? In the world of modelling this is considered a ‘plus size.’ What the media portrays as ‘sexy’ influences society… which in result creates many self-esteem issues. The media often looks at Jennifer Lopez as ‘bigger’ but really she is much smaller than the average Canadian women. How are these views healthy? EXACTLY. They are not. These views infect the minds of young people, creating much pain and havoc in their lives, as well as giving men an unrealistic view of what a women is to look like.

While examining First Wives Club; Salish Style by Lee Marcle, I saw many ideals of ‘sexy’ but also how the characters were confronted with issues connected to this. In the first story she states “Today’s society is focussed on imaging sexiness only through youth, but many of our Elder’s don’t but into that and, of course, neither do I” (Marcle. 1). Like she said, the youth are given the ideal of ‘sexiness’ but not the adults? Weird right? So if I understand this correctly… they want young girls to look sexy, but act like ladies? Easier said than done in my opinion.

We want our teens to stay pure and keep their morals however continuously bombarding them with images of people their age are being “sexy.” This whole concept seems twisted to me. Every day we are smothered with the idea of sexuality and yet are asked to do something different with ourselves. She stated “Western society’s values have always confused me. On the one hand, sexiness in young women is desired. On the other hand, a women actually engaging in sex has been considered immoral for a long time” (Marcle. 2). We put our young people in a HARD position. Be sexy, but stay pure. Instead we should be teaching our youth to dress modestly and therefore it would make it easier to stay pure.

Women are constantly faced with challenges by the media, however that of self-image seems to be the most predominant. Sexy should be looked at as the way you feel; healthy, fit, and comfortable in your own skin. Media should not have the right to inflict their opinions on society, however regardless of right or wrong, they do. Many companies such as Nike and Dove have begun new initiatives to enforce healthy at all sizes as beautiful, creating a broader form of the term ‘sexy.’ As women continue to be themselves, and respect themselves the view will change. This resistance to social norms and ideals will create new ideals for the future.

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NWAC

National Women’s Association of Canada

Empowering Aboriginal Women

 

I am really glad to see there is an association for this; however it also makes me wonder WHY these women (and such a particular focus… not just all women) need empowerment. Shouldn’t they be equal to the other women and nationalities within Canada?

What is Resistance?

Resistance is known as “The action of resisting, opposing, or withstanding someone or something” (OED). When thinking of resistance I often think of a fight or struggle against a strong force. However, I also think of how strong you feel after pushing through struggles and resisting things you don’t want in life. The most invigorating thought is to be not only surviving, but thriving as well!

In Lee Marcle’s First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style we see the resistance these women face. Resisting racial segregation, gender exclusion, and as well their age being a contributing factor, these women accomplished many dreams and proved to be strong and determined. They resist the normative roles that are placed on them, often from society, men, other races, media, or even the way they perceive the world around them. These restrictions did not leave them repressed but rather shaped their character.

In this blog I will be expanding on how these characters survived and thrived during these times of resistance, and how although they were continuously challenged they didn’t back off, but rather dove into the challenges. The emotional challenges that they face are relatable, therefore creating a connection with the reader.    Image