'Colonial patriarchal masculinity' keeps #MeToo stories inside Indigenous communities
Indigenous communities have seen their own influx of stories of sexual assault following the rise of the #MeToo movement. But Lindsay Nixon said these stories were surfacing in Indigenous communities well before that.
Nixon, a Cree-Métis-Saulteaux writer, said communities were reading prominent feminist writers and raising the discussion themselves.
"[They were] sharing knowledge about the fact that they had experienced a lot of violence and harm and hurt at the hands of Indigenous men in their lives," Nixon said.
And yet, these stories still haven't reached the mainstream — because people are often unwilling to take them outside the community.
"[We believe] critiques of masculinities and harm within the community should be happening within the community," Nixon said.
"We did survive a genocide together so I think that we still are a relatively close-knit group of people."
But Nixon said the reason is more complicated than that — it's a struggle about not wanting to further the suffering of Indigenous men, a topic they wrote about in an essay for The Walrus.
"Many of us have Native brothers and fathers and we know and have witnessed the increase of criminalization that they've experienced in their lives," Nixon said. "We would never want to bring those forms of violence into their lives."
It's this sympathy Nixon feels when they think about their brothers who live on Regina's north side. They're often criminalized for who they are, Nixon said, but it's also in part of the environment they're in.
"I see them doing this thing, like they kind of 'warrior up' on the streets, but then get involved in street crime," Nixon said. "It's not just that toxic masculinity hurts women and two-spirit, it's also hurting men and it's further creating these places where the only sort of access they have to empowerment becomes to re-criminalize themselves."
Nixon said an absence of self-worth is one of the biggest challenges to overcoming issues of masculinities within Indigenous communities. But in their journey of reclaiming teachings from their Cree, Métis and Saulteaux ancestors, they said it's rubbing off a bit on their brothers, too.
"They're starting to reclaim those things too — and just watching their language change alongside me and how my research on my writing has really emboldened my family to really heal themselves," Nixon said.
Although there needs to be work done on the macro level, Nixon said much of the work comes from within the person.
"It's important that men should take on their own projects of resurgent positive masculinity," Nixon said. "But also that we should be talking generally about the oppressive nature of colonial patriarchal masculinity.
"It won't heal unless we're all talking about it and working towards changing the structures of our communities."