I'm reading a truly excellent novel right now, called The Polished Hoe, written by Austin Clarke (see link in sidebar). It is about postcolonialism, race, and sexual exploitation, some of my favorite themes, right? In it, the main narrator is talkign about her history with her sexual exploiter, Mr. Bellfeels, and touches on feminism, and its applicability to women of color, and women in the postcolonial world. I've heard this sentiment expressed in theory and personal statement before, but never this explicitly or elegantly.
" "That was done in times when a woman, with no education to speak of, didn't know the term 'feminine-suffrages'. We knew we were feminine-minded-women, though. That was driven into us, by instinct...
"There was no feminine-suffrages in my time, Constable. But we still knew what was happening to us, in this Island. As women, we didn't comport ourselves with the talk of English suffrages-women. But that voice was buried inside our hearts. And although we could not, dare not, shout-out a dirty word in Mr. Bellfeels face, or pick up a rock-stone and pelt it at Mr. Bellfeels, and break his arse... Pardon my French!...and watch his head burst-open like a watermelon, and that the blood spurt-out like the water from a water-coconut, all those thoughts and buried acts, and stifled wishes concealed in our craw, were always near the top, near to erupting. We couldn't act like this modern generation of dark-skin women I see walking-'bout this Village, in dresses of African print; and wearing their hair natural; uncomb. But the plot of defiant words and Africa was already hatching inside our heads. Yes. "-Austin Clarke, pg. 59-60, The Polished Hoe
There are very few things that I would say are truly indigenous to the human spirit. Heck, some of the time I don't think I believe in 'the human spirit'. I do think that a desire for liberation is indigenous to the human spirit, I think that the ways that people go after that goal vary drastically over time and space. But it's always there, bubbling up under and against oppression, pushing for resistance anywhere that hegemony gives it a space. I think one think that I like so much about this passage is that it conveys that bubbling, and the very visceral ways in which that manifests itself. I also really appreciate the fact that she identifies this "feminine-mindedness" with exploring and expressing their African heritage. This is not something that white-liberal-middle-class-feminism would take for granted.
The fact that this particular expression of resistance would not be takend for granted brings up another issue with truly believing in indigenous feminisms. It is total hogwash to say that everyone has an indigenous desire to have the right to vote, or access to birth control and higher education, or any of the other gains of the feminist movement in the First World. They might, or they might not. Really believing in indigenous feminsim and having faith in it means taking it on its own terms, and in its own manifestations every time.