The Violent Triad of Masculinity: Warriors, Soldiers, Fighters

Tyson Yunkaporta, a Nungar-descended Murri man, blogs at suite101. His posts are insightful and thought-provoking. Add him to your blogroll if you’re at all interested in the Australian blogworld.

Today’s post just made me sad: “Native Rites of Passage Today: Aboriginal Manhood Roles when Traditional Initiation Is Gone”

This story encapsulates, for me, the very major part of what is so essentially wrong with the patriarchal construction of gender roles[1].

Yunkaporta explores the issue of boys becoming men in a world where traditional roles for Indigenous boys are not necessarily an option any longer. He tells the story of a class of adolescent boys in remote New South Wales who were struggling with the issue of what masculine roles meant to them.

The class was unable to identify a single masculine role that did not centre around conflict, dominance, and violence. These are the only roles they see as available to them.

Warriors

Warriors are who we are and where we come from. Our ancestors lived by a warrior code. Violence was structured and had rules, so that it made the community stronger, not weaker. Today we still have those strong warrior behaviours, but we have lost the code. This makes our community weaker.
[…]

Soldiers

The Europeans who invaded our country were a people of soldiers. Soldiers do what they are told, even if it is wrong. Soldiers have discipline from outside and inside themselves. They usually destroy things rather than create things. They have strict rules in their work, but not in their life, which can make a lot of problems
[…]

Fighters

This is what we have become today, from fighting for our rights and fighting to survive, and even fighting each other. There are strengths to be found in this way, but a lot of problems to overcome. We need to find new ways of becoming men that build on the strengths of old ways and new ways together.
[…]

While I can see the reformist, baby-steps, individual possibilities in a positive construction of a “Fighter” role, I’d like to see discussion on gendered roles go a step further.

If only we could all of us, all people, commit to moving towards a world where it is possible for all male children to become male adults without subscribing to an identity of violence. Where masculinity is not equated to ferocity. Where the warmongers are not considered the pinnacle of humanity. Where humans can define themselves in terms other than their place in a hierarchy of dominance maintained only by the constant threat of aggression.

Only then can gendered hostilities cease.

~~~

[1] I’d like to make it very clear here that I am not talking only about indigenous society, but about the Patriarchy in general.



Categories: gender & feminism

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2 replies

  1. Thanks for the link, Lauredhel. There’s an unfortunate dearth of thoughts and writings of aboriginal people still, and no less so on the bloggosphere.
    This is particularly interesting to me as at the moment, as I’m working with Jane on a dictionary of Kaurna, one of Tyson’s ancestral languages, so it seems.

  2. If only we could all of us, all people, commit to moving towards a world where it is possible for all male children to become male adults without subscribing to an identity of violence.

    Amen. Of course, one of the major problems is, even amongst parents who see themselves as progressive, per Gloria Steinem:

    We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.

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