Women and Gender Seminar: Heather Martel, Northern Arizona University

Friday, April 8, 2011

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Women and Gender Seminar

“The Gender Amazon: Indigenous Female Masculinity in Early Modern European Representations of Contact
Heather Martel, Northern Arizona University

Sixteenth-century European representations of indigenous American female masculinity or the “gender Amazon” suggest doubt about the dominance of Christian masculinity, civility and spirituality in first encounters. Texts and images portray indigenous women at work in the fields, carrying heavy burdens, and armed with bows and arrows for the hunt or battle. That these women were represented in terms of female masculinity sheds light on European experiences of those encounters, revealing cultural and spiritual ambivalence. Interestingly, these representations of indigenous female masculinity also seem to reveal early awareness of Native American women’s important ceremonial roles as spiritual and cross-cultural mediators.

Commentator: Cary Miller, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee