In celebration of Columbus Day, let's travel to a time before Europeans came to America and fucked shit up.
Disclaimer: I am well aware that there are thousands of Native American tribes and not all of them follow the same practices. This article is referring to the large portion that does.
American Indians have always believed that “gender is a performance, not an identity.” Contrary to the ideology of the Europeans, they also believed that gender has always been culturally created, and it is not natural. To the natives, this meant that your gender was understood in terms of labor, and had nothing to do with who you were having sex with. Women were responsible for the planting and gathering, while men would do all of the hunting; but this was subject to change.
American Indians had a certain fluidity to their definition of gender, and nothing was set in stone. There were men who were more comfortable as planters and gatherers, and identified themselves as “women,” though that label was not used. And that was perfectly fine! Native Americans were able to switch genders multiple times without a problem, they encouraged multiple sex partners, and did not believe in monogamy for life.
They believed that it was IMPOSSIBLE and rather silly to own anything. Think about it… how can you own land? Dirt? The earth… a tree… It did not make sense.
Children were all raised in a community, and everybody was considered a brother or sister. (Magical, isnt it?) Those who were considered both men and women were called “Two spirits” or “Berdache” and were viewed as holy beings. Nowadays, they would be called queer, fags, and weirdos. (Notice a problem yet?)
The gender system among American Indians was matrilineal or matriarchal, which meant that your status follows the condition of your mother. The traditional dowry, that is associated with patriarchal beliefs, is replaced by a bride price. So instead of the woman’s family offering money or goods to the man, he is the one offering goods to her family.
Quick recap: Native Americans; gender = created & not natural; no labels, no problem; no property; matrilineal gender system.
This is all very different from the European gender systems that existed at the time, which was patriarchal and revolved around property. Contrary to the beliefs of the Native Americans, who had a communal sense of property, and believed that there was no such thing as owning land, Europeans used property to control everything around them -- including women.
Basically, if a man owned land, especially if he possessed an extensive amount of it, he had to make sure that his heir was his legitimate child (because he would obviously pass this land onto his son, and god forbid that he was not his biological seed). Now, what a better way to make sure that your son is REALLY YOUR SON, than making sure that your woman is ONLY having sex with you! This brought about a certain need to keep women and their sexuality constrained -- chastity belts and physical restrictions were common. (lol I WISH I was kidding.)
Native Americans + Europeans
Europeans believed that the Native Americans needed god and religion, and needed to be saved. They thought of them as savages and truly believed that they were helping instead of hurting - and they have no idea of the damage that they’ve done.
This was the beginning of it all. The British brought a sense of difference about gender, and it was because of the misunderstandings between African and Native American women that they were able to justify slavery, racism and sexism.
You just sat through a ‘Race and Gender in the Americas’ class and didn't even notice.