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Indigenous Women “Pulling the Weight” in Home Life


Graduate School of Social Service Assistant Professor Jenn Lilly, Ph.D., has published two new articles exploring gender relations and home life among Southeastern Native American tribes.

The first, titled “All Work and No Play: Indigenous Women ‘Pulling the Weight’ in Home Life” and published in the Social Service Review, uses a framework “to understand the experiences of gender dynamics in home life responsibilities among two Southeastern tribes.”

Read the full abstract here:

The invisible labor of household management, including child care, housework, and financial responsibilities, is a contemporary form of historical oppression adding strain and contributing to mothers’ role overload, depression, distress, and health impairments. The purpose of this article is to use the Framework of Historical Oppression, Resilience, and Transcendence to understand the experiences of gender dynamics in home life responsibilities among two Southeastern tribes. Reconstructive analysis from a critical ethnography with 436 participants revealed the following themes: (1) moms “mostly pulling the weight”; (2) women and child care: “We do it all,” and men—“If they’re there, they’re there”; (3) financial imbalances; and (4) women’s resilience and resistance. Despite experiencing the resilience of gender egalitarianism prior to colonization, women persistently experience the effects of the historical oppression of patriarchal colonialism through being overburdened and undervalued in home life. Decolonization is needed to reestablish gender egalitarianism to redress this patriarchal oppression.


The second piece, titled “’When You Come Together and Do Everything, It’ll be Better for Everybody’: Exploring Gender Relations Among Two Southeastern Native American Tribes” and published in the Journal of Family Issues, analyzes Native American gender relations and the risks associated with historical oppression.

Read the full abstract here:

Prior to the imposition of patriarchal colonial norms, Native American (NA) gender relations were characterized as complementary and egalitarian; however, little research has explored gender relations within NA communities today. This study used a community-based critical ethnography to explore contemporary NA gender relations with a purposive sample of 208 individuals from the “Coastal Tribe” and 228 participants from the “Inland Tribe.” After participant observation, interviews, and focus groups were conducted, a collaborative approach to reconstructive analysis was used to identify themes in the data. Within these communities, gender relations tended to reflect egalitarian and cooperative but gendered norms, and participants provided examples of how tribal members are transcending patriarchal colonialism. Through the lens of the Framework of Historical Oppression, Resilience, and Transcendence, we theorize how these gender norms may protect families from risks associated with historical oppression and promote family resilience with implications for research, practice, and policy.


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