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Talkin' Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism

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Revealing the invisible position of power and privilege in feminist practice, this accessible and provocative analysis elucidates the whiteness of Australian feminism. A pioneering work, it will overturn complacent notions of a mutual sisterhood and the common good.


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Revealing the invisible position of power and privilege in feminist practice, this accessible and provocative analysis elucidates the whiteness of Australian feminism. A pioneering work, it will overturn complacent notions of a mutual sisterhood and the common good.

30 review for Talkin' Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah Roma

    This book was wonderful. I have made a conscious effort to read more by Indigenous women and this does an excellent job of dissecting Australia’s feminist past and disrupting the notions of first and second wave feminists that women’s sole oppression is on the basis of sex. I came to realise that all of the feminist theory I had read had positioned race as ‘other’ as an interlocking part of feminism but that all women had the same type of oppression and shared the same experiences. Sexual freedo This book was wonderful. I have made a conscious effort to read more by Indigenous women and this does an excellent job of dissecting Australia’s feminist past and disrupting the notions of first and second wave feminists that women’s sole oppression is on the basis of sex. I came to realise that all of the feminist theory I had read had positioned race as ‘other’ as an interlocking part of feminism but that all women had the same type of oppression and shared the same experiences. Sexual freedom (I.e sexuality, contraception, extra marital sex), wages for work, and escapism from the domestic sphere are all white concerns, and race is just added onto that rather than a completely different way of experiencing the world and being a woman. I found the first three chapters a little hard to get through but I think that is because the main theses of ‘white is never presented as a race’ and ‘white people writing about indigenous women is not objective data’. Both of which I am very familiar with as they have come into dominant discourse in recent years as opposed to 20 years ago when the book was written - which is wonderful! It’s quite academic so it’s not as accessible as it could be, however, considering Indigenous women have constantly been positioned as less cerebral I didn’t mind and personally I am in a position to read it. Things I learned: * Freud used indigenous women as evidence of evolution positioning them between apes and white humans * the difference between slavery and indentured labour in Australia in the 1950s was that the government not free enterprise, controlled the terms and conditions of the trade. * Indigenous women were not legally entitled to be paid award wages until the 1960s but this money was handled by the manager of the reserve. * Radical feminists accept that there are both sex and gender differences between men and women. Adrienne rich has argued that because men fear women’s reproductive capacities they need to control women’s bodies. She asserts that motherhood as an institution underpins social and political systems. For her the normative form of motherhood is white motherhood. She states that motherhood has ‘withheld over one half of the human species from the decisions affecting their lives; it exonerates men from fatherhood in any authentic sense, it creates the dangerous schism between ‘private’ and ‘public’ life, it calcifies human choices and personalities. Motherhood as an institution has made some classes of white women prisoners of their bodies. Radical feminists fail to take into account that for other women, such as Indigenous women in Australia, motherhood meant having their children forcibly removed from their care. * The work of Radha Kumar on feminism and identity politics in India reveals the degree to which Muslim culture has reinforced men’s power over women by the use and construction of ‘traditions’ that position as subservient and inferior. These ‘traditions’ she argues, are a manifestation of muslim men’s need to assert their cultural dominance after British colonisation, rather than being orthodoxy. Kumar’s work shows indirectly the legacy of white colonialism where whiteness shapes the lives of muslim men. The invention of a tradition that did not exist prior to colonisation is a strategy to reclaim the colonised Muslim male self through the subjugation of muslim women. Whiteness is salient in shaping the lives of people of colour through its ideological presence in former British colonies. * Indigenous women could not participate in first wave feminism because they were not free. Their legal status as wards of the state empowered white protectors to circumscribe their movements, cultural practices, and behaviour. The removal of Indigenous girls from their families and the subsequent compulsory exploitation of their labour as domestic servants became official policy in SA some 17 years after the first-wave of feminists campaigned for and won the right to vote. * White anthropologists divided indigenous women’s experiences into a binary of ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary.’ Traditional being their perception of indigenous culture pre colonialism and contemporary being their lives on stations and reserves. However they did not acknowledge colonialism’s role in changing their lives or forcefully shaping their family structures. * For Huggins, talking about rape as everyone’s business breaks indigenous law and the racial damage it does far outweighs the importance of gender. * As Behrendt argues, white feminism tells Indigenous women “that their position in society is defined by their gender rather than their race, that the push for rights by white women will empower black women, that we are aligned with white women in the battle against oppression and that white women are as oppressed as we are.” * The white feminist anthropologist authorised herself to speak on behalf of Indigenous women and this authority was contested by the self-presentation of Indigenous women. Bell and the white editors’ response to the Indigenous women was to represent them as inadequate academics and unauthentic Indigenous women, mediated through the dialectical triangulation of the middle class subject position white woman, feminist academic and traditional Indigenous woman. They drew on the authority of white masculine modern foundationalist science and its discourse on radicalising “Other”, as a way of reinscribing the dominance of their subject position middle-class white woman in the debate. * feminist academics’ interaction with difference is a matter of choice not imperative: They live in a country where cities have been developed around invisible conveniences that give social preferences to whiteness in the location of municipal and other services. The design of suburbs and the naming of streets have been planned to serve white neighbourhoods and preserve their whiteness… The engagement with the “Other” remains predominantly, for these women, a dimension of their work practice - their public world - where their academic knowledges engage with difference to varying degree. This reduces the opportunity for their experiential knowledges about the “Other” to be interrogated. * we must participate in a society not of our making under conditions not of our choosing. Feminists exercise their white race privilege in the women’s movement because issues of importance to Indigenous women such as the preservation of culture are not part of the political agenda for white women. * When white women were demanding abortions, indigenous women were fighting for stricter controls over contraception, having been coerced into receiving Depo shots (illegal in Australia at the time) by the state * To change the power relations between these two groups of women is more complex than giving voice, making space or being inclusive within a white feminist politics of difference. The dominance of the subject position middle-class white woman diminishes the inclusiveness of a politics of difference in Australian feminism because it leaves whiteness uninterrogated, centred and invisible.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Livingston

    A brilliant and insightful book that feels like it was decades ahead of its time. A lot of the debates about race and whiteness have become much more mainstream since this was published, although the key issues remain. It's clearly a converted PhD thesis, so things get quite academic in sections - a working knowledge of Australian feminist academia would help, especially in the early sections. But it's clear and bracing and an incredibly bold piece of work. A brilliant and insightful book that feels like it was decades ahead of its time. A lot of the debates about race and whiteness have become much more mainstream since this was published, although the key issues remain. It's clearly a converted PhD thesis, so things get quite academic in sections - a working knowledge of Australian feminist academia would help, especially in the early sections. But it's clear and bracing and an incredibly bold piece of work.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    In this seminal text, now being re-published twenty years after its initial publication, Distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson presents an analysis of the historically-uninterrogated position of white identity in Australian feminism, and its effects on Indigenous women. She forwards the proposition that when white Australian feminist conversations talk about race, whiteness as a racial identity is not examined. She looks specifically at the way "difference," and the politics of differe In this seminal text, now being re-published twenty years after its initial publication, Distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson presents an analysis of the historically-uninterrogated position of white identity in Australian feminism, and its effects on Indigenous women. She forwards the proposition that when white Australian feminist conversations talk about race, whiteness as a racial identity is not examined. She looks specifically at the way "difference," and the politics of difference, and the "Other," operate in this specific realm of feminism: "As long as whiteness remains invisible in analyses 'race' is the prison reserved for the 'Other.'" That said, it is not a book "about how white women perceive their whiteness" and instead "reveals how whiteness as ideology and practice confers privilege and dominance in power relations between white feminists and Indigenous women." . Moreton-Robinson examines an extensive range of feminist literature, and from a methodological perspective looks at the self-presentation and representation of the two subject positions, "middle-class white woman" and "Indigenous woman." In addition to an examination of the existing commentary, chapter five of the book also contains commentary and conversations from a number of interviews Moreton-Robinson undertook with white feminists in Australia actively engaged in what they self-identified as antiracist practice. The text examines how whiteness dominates from a position of power and privilege as an invisible norm and unchallenged practice, how "white middle-class women's privilege is tied to colonization and the dispossession of Indigenous people." Through her examination of the "subject position middle-class white woman," Moreton-Robinson challenges the entrenched and assumed position from which white Australian feminists write, leaving their own racial position and the privileges inherent in that uninterrogated. . I found this a deeply thought-provoking read, and one I hope many readers will pick up both in Australia and internationally. The discussions about assumptions and privileges in perspective, and the commentary around white feminist discourse more generally, is certainly applicable beyond the specifically Australian experience that the text covers. For further reading, I'd highly recommend White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color, and also (one on my TBR) They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South. . Many thanks to UQP for a review copy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Minosh

    This book is not what I expected - I guess I was thinking it would be more an exploration of Indigenous women's issues, since it's often talked about as an early work of Indigenous feminism. But it's actually very specifically about the relationship between Indigenous women and white women in various realms - in white feminist discourse, white women's ethnographies, white women academic works, as well as in Indigenous women's writings. Which is super interesting, just not what I thought it would This book is not what I expected - I guess I was thinking it would be more an exploration of Indigenous women's issues, since it's often talked about as an early work of Indigenous feminism. But it's actually very specifically about the relationship between Indigenous women and white women in various realms - in white feminist discourse, white women's ethnographies, white women academic works, as well as in Indigenous women's writings. Which is super interesting, just not what I thought it would be! I would like to read it again, more slowly, and probably with more context on Australia. Would also be very interesting to see an update from Moreton-Robinson in light of the increasing visibility of Indigenous feminism (not sure if that is present in Australia the way it is in the Americas, Aotearoa, and Sapmi, though).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Wattangeri

    "This book has shown that whiteness needs to be interrogated as a specific form of privilege. However, the real challenge for white feminists is to theorise the relinquishment of power so that feminist practice can contribute to changing the racial order. Until this challenge is addressed, the subject position middle-class white woman will remain centred as a site of dominance. Indigenous women will continue to resist this dominance by talkin' up, because the invisibility of unspeakable things r "This book has shown that whiteness needs to be interrogated as a specific form of privilege. However, the real challenge for white feminists is to theorise the relinquishment of power so that feminist practice can contribute to changing the racial order. Until this challenge is addressed, the subject position middle-class white woman will remain centred as a site of dominance. Indigenous women will continue to resist this dominance by talkin' up, because the invisibility of unspeakable things requires them to be spoken" (p.186) The author's critique of white feminism in Australia is an important work. Her analysis of white women's oppression of Indigenous women since invasion is thorough and how white feminism has failed to address white women's privilege is necessary if we are to address racism and oppression.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    The academic language used means that it can be very dry or even inaccessible to the casual reader. Having said that, this is an extremely worthwhile book, particularly for white Australian feminists.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shari

    Essential reading for all but in particular those that ascribe to the western model of feminism. It is quite academic in language so suggest pacing yourself through passages to be able to absorb the text fully. As relevant as ever.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andy Fleskens

    An extremely powerful read. Articulated so clearly and shone light on something that can easily be invisible - how history and society can shape our own personal bias. Such a perspective of colonialism, race and feminism is invaluable and important for all Australians and others to read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    This was technically my second read but may as well have been my first, given how little I understood or engaged with the book when I read it two decades ago. And it is a shame because there is a lot here to engage with: the relatively small volume is densely packed. The book's basic premise in some ways now seems simple enough: at the centre of feminism is an unexamined, incontestable default subject perspective of middle-class white woman. The perspectives of other women, especially Aboriginal This was technically my second read but may as well have been my first, given how little I understood or engaged with the book when I read it two decades ago. And it is a shame because there is a lot here to engage with: the relatively small volume is densely packed. The book's basic premise in some ways now seems simple enough: at the centre of feminism is an unexamined, incontestable default subject perspective of middle-class white woman. The perspectives of other women, especially Aboriginal women, are always constituted as Other. The book seeks to make Whiteness present, seen and critiqued as a powerbase: "Whiteness is so pervasive as an invisible norm that race, as difference, still belongs only to women who are not white in Australian feminism". Behind this idea, however, is a rich detailed analysis and argument. I suspect that there are other white women, like me, who have delayed engaging with this book because of the discomfort of being seen, and not in a flattering light. Moreton-Robinson's zeroing in on this concept: that feminisms construction makes white womanhood invisible and unchallengeable at the same time is pretty much irrefutable. In the third chapter of the book, Moreton-Robinson details the ways that Indigenous women have been studied, critiqued and summated by feminist anthropologists. This looms constructively and inescapably over Chapters four and five, in which the lens is turned towards feminist academics, making the discomfort part of the point. Moreton-Robinson is never hyperbolic or mean: this is frankly one of the most rigorous thesis-sprung books I've read, and her concern is systemic power, not personalities. But her clear eye to treating white feminism as a subject is itself a reminder of how rarely this is done without some concession to the feelings of the privileged. This is an academic text, and its critique inevitably revolves around academic feminism. Which is not to say that do not apply to activist and femocrat circles, because they very much do, but rather that the lens of explanation is very specific, as you would expect from a work coming from a thesis. Part of the strength here is how Moreton-Robinson treads the line between wields the tools of women's studies discipline in particular and undermining them. Chapter Two, for example, is a breathtakingly thorough* critique of modern feminist thought. It is a literature review for the ages, but also firmly establishes the main thesis. Moreton-Robinson argues that the issue is not just who gets the default position, but that feminism, as a school of thought descended from the Enlightenment, has essentialism at its heart that prevents it from recognising different ways of being human. Indigenous epistemologies, which carry fluid approaches, are silenced by this framework. Moreton-Robinson also explores how the subject position of middle-class white woman supports gender norms, acting against the interests of all gender equality. There's a lot of history packed in here too - of feminist discussions of race; of Indigenous women's struggle in particular. I did find myself constantly wanting Moreton-Robinson to broaden her focus in those histories, but I think that speaks to the quality of her analysis rather than gaps. I had promised the book (No ebook - I had to go old school!) to someone else, but I think I might buy him a copy instead because I want to retain/revisit this material over time. It would be nice if in the last two decades this book had become less relevant. But really, reading this in a week with no less than two court proceedings relating to Aboriginal deaths in custody, neither of which have been mentioned by white feminist media - not to mention the destruction of sacred birthing trees in Victoria - the following passage hit pretty hard: "In this struggle [for self-determination], Indigenous women are politically and culturally aligned with Indigenous men because, irrespective of gender, we are tied through obligations and reciprocity to our kin and country and we share a common history of colonisation. Individual accomplishment, ambition and rights are essential values of the white feminist movement, whereas the family and kinship system in Indigenous communities means that Indigenous women's individual aims and objectives are often subordinated to those of family and community. Culturally and politically it is an irrelevant luxury for Indigenous women to prioritise white feminist issues over Indigenous issues for the sake of gender solidarity." Moreton-Robinson finishes on a call for feminists to theorise the relinquishment of power. The book is not an end-point: it was supposed to be a beginning. *I was mildly disappointed that Moreton-Robinson did not include Angela Davis - who does appear in the references - in this, but the fact that I have such a point gives a sense of how exhaustive the number of thinkers here was.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura Tran

    What an important text. This book encouraged me to think a lot about feminism while reflecting on my own initial reluctance to its ideals and practices as a woman of color. Moreton-Robinson's razor-sharp critique of whiteness and white feminism is startling, such that I never realised how the academe severely and desperately lacks the language to talk about the invisible white privilege made normalised in (feminist) discourses. The book is so mesmerising that I was forced to critically reflect u What an important text. This book encouraged me to think a lot about feminism while reflecting on my own initial reluctance to its ideals and practices as a woman of color. Moreton-Robinson's razor-sharp critique of whiteness and white feminism is startling, such that I never realised how the academe severely and desperately lacks the language to talk about the invisible white privilege made normalised in (feminist) discourses. The book is so mesmerising that I was forced to critically reflect upon my own engagement with my racial identity and whiteness, contemplate on the subjectivity of the Asian feminist (influenced by the collective of specific herstories, subjectivities, epistemologies, and cultures), and questioning the lack of conflict dynamics between Asian women and feminism. The book is intellectually stimulating and reads extremely well for a sociological theorist junkie which I am. Subversive in every sentence, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    A key feminist theory book. It challenges assumptions in the discipline and articulates the tension between academia and privilege and the everyday experience and expression of people at the intersection of race and gender

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Brilliant and profound - an honest and incredibly well researched and formulated response to Australian feminism. 5/5

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tarmia

    For a whole month I've been resting on my feeling about this book. It is important, incomparably so, but I suppose that for me this does not outweigh how hard (in two ways) I found this book to read. Hard because of what it was telling me, having to sit with my discomfort, something I went into this book knowing I would have to do. And hard because I found it difficult to move through...to read and to take in. I am a PhD student, so I am well versed in academic speak and language. But I am also For a whole month I've been resting on my feeling about this book. It is important, incomparably so, but I suppose that for me this does not outweigh how hard (in two ways) I found this book to read. Hard because of what it was telling me, having to sit with my discomfort, something I went into this book knowing I would have to do. And hard because I found it difficult to move through...to read and to take in. I am a PhD student, so I am well versed in academic speak and language. But I am also a huge advocate for the concept of approachable and digestible academic scholarship. And that academic scholarship shouldn't be dry and hard to get through. Moreton-Robinson's book was her PhD thesis, and I can see this from reading that (and I mean this wholly as a compliment). I loved the chapter on the life-writings of Indigenous women, that personal connection was a life-line. I got so much out of this book and I need to extend my thanks to Moreton-Robinson for such words existing, and for such knowledge and education from and through her words. For the content this book is 5 starts. But as I read it, I felt that there were sections I had to read over 5 times to even understand a semblance of what she was trying to communicate. For that reason I have to take my rating down. But please read this. It is important and irreplaceable knowledge.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    As with Living on Stolen Land, I don't want to be the white woman talking about and appropriating an Indigenous woman's words. So if you've been thinking about reading this book, do it! This review is intended to prod people into doing so, and in no way is a substitute for Moreton-Robinson's own words. I saw Aileen Moreton-Robinson at the Broadside feminist festival last year and she was intriguing. On the panel I saw, about women of colour and how they approach feminism, she was the oldest by p As with Living on Stolen Land, I don't want to be the white woman talking about and appropriating an Indigenous woman's words. So if you've been thinking about reading this book, do it! This review is intended to prod people into doing so, and in no way is a substitute for Moreton-Robinson's own words. I saw Aileen Moreton-Robinson at the Broadside feminist festival last year and she was intriguing. On the panel I saw, about women of colour and how they approach feminism, she was the oldest by perhaps a decade or more, and she seemed to get quite impatient by what some of the panellists were saying - and how they were saying it; she told them (in a poor paraphrase) that feminism is a white woman's thing and they, not being white, needed to think differently - and maybe white feminism wasn't actually what they needed. That's a very poor paraphrase, actually, but I think it gets some of the sense of what she said - and for me, as a white feminist in the audience, it was eye-opening and kind of stunning. I am in a weird halfway place I think between second and third wave feminism; I don't think I think that all women are sisters and experience oppression in the same way, but I've definitely had to work on fully manifesting intersectionality in the way that I think and act. The panellists too were intrigued by how Moreton-Robinson spoke; at one point someone (only half-jokingly) suggested the panel should be the rest of them asking Moreton-Robinson questions. The other thing that really stuck in my mind was the fact that this book was published in 2000, and Moreton-Robinson had never before been asked to speak at a conference in Australia about it. Never. Nineteen years of a book that was the first Indigenous Australian interrogation of feminism... and conferences have ignored it, and her. That's a disgrace. There is, at least, a 20th anniversary edition out this year, and Moreton-Robinson seems to have been on some programmes (ABC Radio, The Drum), so that's a bit of an improvement? So, the book. It took me quite a long time to read, partly because this year I have been struggling to read new stuff - which I think is the case for many people - and partly because it's been a while since I read any theory; it's not every chapter, but several deal with anthropological theory and feminist theory so I knew I needed to read it slowly to actually absorb what was being said. Rushing through would have been a disservice to the book, and I wouldn't have really appreciated everything being discussed. Throughout the book Moreton-Robinson talks about "the subject position middle-class white woman" which I found challenging, in some ways - because as she points out, women like that/women like me are indeed accustomed to being the default. And even when I am aware that I am those things, constantly having it pointed out (like Indigenous women, like African-American women, like... etc usually experience) is a novel experience. And an important one. And is one of the core points of the entire book: feminism - especially as it was in the late 1990s, in some corners I think it may have changed a bit in the last two decades - has been developed by white women with themselves at the centre, and while we're busy interrogating various positions of power etc we forget to think about how, even in our gender oppression we massively benefit from (and help to support) racial oppression. Moreton-Robinson begins my talking about how Indigenous women have presented themselves in their life-writings, pointing out the differences in those experiences compared to middle-class white women. She then tackles a massive job in looking at how various feminists have theorised 'difference' and 'race' over time and in different places - mostly white feminists, since they have been the most significant for Australian ways of thinking. And along with a whole bunch of interesting things here the main take-away for me is that white feminists haven't considered that they are white; that they (we) have race/colour/ethnic position. And then the third chapter was perhaps the most gut-punch, from a historical point of view: she gives an overview of how white feminist anthropologists have talked about "Indigenous women" and all the ways that has been part of the colonising process, which chapter 4 also continues to interrogate. All of the preceding stuff is incredibly important and could have stood by itself. What Moreton-Robinson then does in chapter 5 is present interviews with white feminist academics (ask me how hard it's been to remember to put 'white' at the start of each nominal group... hello privilege), about how those academics think about race and present it in their courses and interact with people from different ethnic backgrounds. And this was illuminating and also for me challenging: who do I interact with and why, how do I present an anti-racist stance in my teaching and also live it in the world, and so on. Finally, the last chapter presents a history of how Indigenous women (up to 2000, which I think is important to remember, since more will have been done and said since then) have challenged white women and their intentions and words. Which was its own version of challenging mostly because of how white women have responded to being challenged (often, badly). This book won't be for everyone; I know that reading theory isn't going to be appealing for many. But the ideas and challenges that Moreton-Robinson present are vital for us middle-class white women to hear and acknowledge. If you ever get a chance to hear her, please do so. If you think you can cope with some theory, please get hold of this book and read it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Henry

    “Challenges to feminist practice and the development of new theories inform feminists of the multiplicity of differences, but whiteness is not positioned within the new theories as a “difference”. Australian feminists live racialised lives in a racialised society, yet whiteness remains uninterrogated in feminist theory and practice. This discrepancy remains invisible, unmarked and unnamed, yet it is enmeshed in a politics of difference.” Reading this book was not an easy undertaking, it was a re “Challenges to feminist practice and the development of new theories inform feminists of the multiplicity of differences, but whiteness is not positioned within the new theories as a “difference”. Australian feminists live racialised lives in a racialised society, yet whiteness remains uninterrogated in feminist theory and practice. This discrepancy remains invisible, unmarked and unnamed, yet it is enmeshed in a politics of difference.” Reading this book was not an easy undertaking, it was a real challenge, and I’m sure there were parts of it that went over my head due to the academic language used. Having said that I tried really hard to learn and understand as much as I could and I do feel I learnt a lot. My number one take away was the problem of the connection between race equaling BIPOC and not white people. “That is, whiteness is treated as the norm, against which all differences are measured” (Reddy 1994:12) White feminists expect Indigenous women to come to the party so we can band together to fight our common oppressors, men and the patriarchal system. However as Moreton-Robinson explains, white feminists and Indigenous feminists are not the same. They are different and it is the inability of white feminist to see this difference and acknowledge and understand the privilege that comes with being white, that stops white feminists from stepping back and relinquishing that power or using that power and privilege to shine a spotlight on those that are more oppressed than them. Its hypocritical to demand Indigenous women join white feminists because we are the same and we fight the same fight, when white feminists benefit from the system of oppression that marks Indigenous women as different. This book is hard work but definitely worth it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pip

    Talkin' Up to the White Woman critically analyses the institution that is White Feminism in Australia and calls on white women to acknowledge the integral role that whiteness plays in legitimising their racial and post-colonial presence that allows them greater power when differentiating the 'norm' from the 'other'. Whiteness must be made visible as the central racial category upon which all institutions, not just feminism but all that it advocates for and against and within (politics, sexual fr Talkin' Up to the White Woman critically analyses the institution that is White Feminism in Australia and calls on white women to acknowledge the integral role that whiteness plays in legitimising their racial and post-colonial presence that allows them greater power when differentiating the 'norm' from the 'other'. Whiteness must be made visible as the central racial category upon which all institutions, not just feminism but all that it advocates for and against and within (politics, sexual freedom, education, economic equality, anti-violence), are built on and continue to be defined by, in Australia. By normalising this strain of feminism, that of the white, middle-class woman, it automatically sets Indigenous women apart as the radical 'Other'. For Indigenous women to participate in feminism they must either be 'civilised into white womanhood' or overtly racialised as the token 'Black representative' - invited for the sake of image than any meaningful involvement. In order to be truly inclusive and representative, feminism must firstly recognise its inherent whiteness and then interrogate the structure of racial power that is fused with the feminist debate. If feminism believes that no female is equal until all female is equal, then it must shift its focus to centralise the voices of Indigenous females in this country, adopt a willingness to listen and to invite Indigenous peoples to speak about what they know about, rather than be talked over or pushed to the margins by non-Indigenous folk who think they know what's best for us.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan Steggall

    ‘Talkin’ up to the white woman’ is a small book with a very powerful message for all Australians in particular ‘white feminists’ who, for decades, have ignored their privileged position vis-à-vis race. I quote: ‘White feminists have either positioned Indigenous women as anti-feminist or they attempt to include [us] by requiring [us] to assimilate white feminist thought’. Whiteness is normalised and ‘imbued with power’ and Aileen Morton-Robinson is highly critical of white feminists’ belief that ‘Talkin’ up to the white woman’ is a small book with a very powerful message for all Australians in particular ‘white feminists’ who, for decades, have ignored their privileged position vis-à-vis race. I quote: ‘White feminists have either positioned Indigenous women as anti-feminist or they attempt to include [us] by requiring [us] to assimilate white feminist thought’. Whiteness is normalised and ‘imbued with power’ and Aileen Morton-Robinson is highly critical of white feminists’ belief that they ‘think, feel and act like and for all women’. What becomes clear in reading this book is that the subject positions of white feminists and Indigenous women ‘speak out of different cultures, epistemologies, experiences, history and material conditions which separate our politics and analyses’. The writing is dense, theoretical and sharp. I hope I have taken its messages on board for further reflection – as an Australian woman located firmly within the ‘subject position middle-class (highly educated) white woman’. To communicate her message to a wider readership, Morton-Robinson, could perhaps compile a publication along the lines of Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, to fulfil her aim of: ‘stimulat[ing] new ways of thinking about racial inter-subjective relations and contributes to the development of understanding, respect and appreciation of each other in the struggle for racial justice and Indigenous rights’.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lise Frances

    This book is very very heavy in academic speak and so can be an awkward read (had to check the dictionary a few times!). I have a Master's degree so I am aware of academic speak but this is, as I said, very heavy with it. Understandably so with the original purpose of the book taken into account. However, the understanding I have gleaned, of myself, of white privilege, of the layered effect of colonialism, of white Australia, has been mind blowing. I wish she would do a rewrite to make this knowle This book is very very heavy in academic speak and so can be an awkward read (had to check the dictionary a few times!). I have a Master's degree so I am aware of academic speak but this is, as I said, very heavy with it. Understandably so with the original purpose of the book taken into account. However, the understanding I have gleaned, of myself, of white privilege, of the layered effect of colonialism, of white Australia, has been mind blowing. I wish she would do a rewrite to make this knowledge more accessible. I would absolutely read that. This is a must read for anyone who thinks they understand how white Australia has impacted our First Peoples. (And those who don't of course)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris Sharp

    Some notes: -If you feel like you're lost in some of the language, I didn't realise it initially but there's notes prior to the index that can explain some of it, otherwise Google was helpful viz. 'subject position', 'subjugated knowledges' -Get the 20th Anniversary Edition as it has an essay in the back addressing criticisms of the original book. -I read Ruby Hamad's White Tears, Brown Scars first, which I found easier to read as the language was simpler. That book relies a lot upon this one thou Some notes: -If you feel like you're lost in some of the language, I didn't realise it initially but there's notes prior to the index that can explain some of it, otherwise Google was helpful viz. 'subject position', 'subjugated knowledges' -Get the 20th Anniversary Edition as it has an essay in the back addressing criticisms of the original book. -I read Ruby Hamad's White Tears, Brown Scars first, which I found easier to read as the language was simpler. That book relies a lot upon this one though, and is written from a different.. subject position? Am I using the term correctly?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Angela Clarke

    Such an amazing read. Lucid and intelligent. I learnt a lot about Australian feminism. Morton-Robinson 20 years ago asked feminists “to begin to consider how to theorise giving up power in order to effect a more just and equitable world” she now asks us to privilege “Mother Earth as the epistemological and ontological centre of our theorising and activism, for her and for our survival as humans”. Challenging but inspiring words - a must read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jayden Davidson

    A truly insightful book working through the disjunction between the experiences of white and Indigenous women, and the quasi-solidarity that the former expresses fire the latter. As Moreton-Robinson shows white feminism must be self-reflexive and acknowledge the role that it plays it universalising the experience of white women.

  22. 5 out of 5

    ari

    3.5/

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate Walton

    The last two chapters of this were especially excellent; I expect I would have got more out of the earlier part of the book if I was trained in anthropology and/or an academic.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tamzen

    I'll be reading this again. I'll be reading this again.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Really great knowledge and should be essential reading. Would have given 4 stars, however the academic language makes this an inaccessible read for many.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ma

    Essential reading for every feminist

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine Pilbrow

    A must read for all, especially female identifying, people living in Australia

  28. 5 out of 5

    Not Without Bias

    I consider this book essential reading about the whitewashing of mainstream feminism. Whilst it's geographical context is Australia, it has global relevance. It is written for an academia audience and unfortunately wont be accessible to everyone for this reason. I consider this book essential reading about the whitewashing of mainstream feminism. Whilst it's geographical context is Australia, it has global relevance. It is written for an academia audience and unfortunately wont be accessible to everyone for this reason.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Lynn

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

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