The Conquest of The Female Body
Native American women's conquest used as a template for the conquest of modern women of color’s bodies.
“The various ways in which race and gender intersect in shaping structural, political, and representational aspects of violence against women of color” — Kimberly Crenshaw
1942 marked the Europeans accidental discovery of the New World in which a new chapter of humanity began. The discovery began the fight for colonization of the New World. The Europeans for the most part looked at the New World and the people who inhabited the New World as a source of profit. The New World was not a place to permanently settled but a place full of resources to exploit and get rich from. Essentially, the discovery was a gift sent from god to the European settlers but for the natives it was the start of a never ending nightmare.
Native American’s society was based on a matriarchal society, which is when the power to rule is derived from the mother’s side. As result, they valued women and designated specific power structures for women. In contrast, the European power societies were patriarchal and religious societies who don’t always regard women as a form of power. Yet, Europeans managed to overlook these differences in the hope of making a profit. However, these economically based alliances are easily dissolved and what seems to follow is war. Since the Native Americans were defeated by the Europeans and as a result their culture, values, and how their society is structured was drastically changed into one that fit the the European standard. Particularly they shaped it to fit their patriarchal values.As Kimberle Crenshaw has stated patriarchy is directly linked to racism. So in essence the Native Americans were the first colored group of people who experience the violence of racism that current minority groups experience on the daily now.
The Europeans expected Native Americans to alter their gender roles in conformity with European culture prerogative. In particular men were directed to forego hunting in favor of agriculture duties, and trained women in “household skills”. They were encouraged to adopt English work habits, individual ownership of land, European taste in material culture,and values structed by a market economy. These new ideologues gave the Native Americans society new definitions of what it meant to be a man and a women. For men it meant you had to be able to provide for the family unit in order to be deemed man enough. Men specifically were regulated in the sense that they have to constantly prove their worth and their manhood in this capitalistic society. In this society capitalism was directly link to conquest and violence. So for men of color who don’t necessarily directly benefit from the dominant systems in place they are made vulnerable not only to produce violence but to be subjected to violence themselves. They are constantly trying to prove their worth in order to gain some access to the resources and power. Yet, for the most part they are rejected this access which has led men of color to lash out in violent outbursts. These violent outburst are for the most part targeted towards the women of color. Who for the most part have been regulated into becoming like their European women who are docile and complacent to men’s rule.
Essentially, Native American women and men bodies were regulated in order to fit these European standard. The forced assimilation of Native Americans enabled the violent project not only towards native male bodies but specifically the native women’s body. The native women’s body became this symbolic threat to the European way of life. Mainly due to how culturally, economically,and politically valued the Native women’s body was in Native American society solely based on their ability to produce life. The gender rule that were in place did target both aspects of what it meant to be a man and women. However, what it really did was put women in their place through the process of dehumanizing and exploiting them for their ability of being able to produce life. The female body has now been dehumanized and objectified as a mere object of production that men have frantically strived to control it.This need to control the female body stems from the capitalist and patriarchal ideologies that came to embody the term womb envy.
The womb envy that men have is that they biologically can’t produce the ultimate product ie. a baby. This consequently has led to the regulation of native women’s bodies that has become a template to regulating the countless bodies of modern day women of color. This has enables for the disenfranchised of women who are left vulnerable to men’s violence.This violence takes on the form of the laws strategically implemented to control the female body for example, one of the earliest forms was through the 1683 Crime of Fornication . A current example would be the pulled state funding for the organization, Planned Parenthood, which provides many resources for the care of women’s body. One that is probably the most controversial of them all is abortion. It’s not a coincidence that men are the ones passing laws that dictate the lack of control women have on whether or not they can exercise their ability to reproduce.
As an women living in this capitalist, heteronormative, imperialistic, and patriarchal society I have to ask myself, just like every women should, who is my body for? Is it for myself, for my family, for my community, or is it just a mere object of to profit from. Everyone has their own opinion on the female body and yet not many have really stopped to think what a female body means to a female. For me the female body is an immense source of power that can create and dismantle any civilization. Instead of fearing it and frantically trying to control it we should value them because without females there would be no us. However, if we have learned anything from history is that it’s not that simple to dismantle or to even question the dominant systems in place. It would be nearly impossible to radically change the way in which this society’s views and values the human body. With that said, I truly believe that women should have the rights to control their bodies because it’s not a man’s place to do so, and it will never be.