Hailing from a society where the line between the public and the private is conveniently blurred, it’s not hard to believe that the spectrum of conventional morality suppresses a woman’s personal identity and agency, rendering them as outcasts within their own community. Campbell in Halfbreed aims to highlight the “joys and sorrows, the oppressing poverty, the frustrations and the dreams” of being a half bred women in a racist country.
Modus Operandi of the oppressive social fabric that reinforces the“second sex” status of women as proposed by Simone De Bouvoir, rendering them at a marginal position in the phallocentric society. In “When The Goods Get Togeather”, Lucy Irigary talks about the commodification of sex in the corrupt institution of marriage where women are traded as objects; in context of Halfbreed all these prejudiced mechanisms operate within the framework of the colonial society.
Maria narrates how when young, she was her father’s favourite child, but it slowly changed as she grew up. She speaks up about the jealousy and anger she felt on this gender discrimination and prejudice. “At the age of seven I was kept home with momma and the old ladies while my brothers went with dad to the store and to the homes of his friends.”
In “When The Goods Get Togeather”, Lucy Irigary talks about the commodification of sex in the corrupt institution of marriage where women are traded as objects; in context of Halfbreed all these prejudiced mechanisms operate within the framework of the colonial society.
This incident highlights the plight and helplessness of a woman which beings at early age itself where she is made to fit into a box of repressed desires and lost opportunities. Virginia Woolf, in A Room Of One’s Own (1949), vividly portrays the unequal treatment given to women seeking education and alternatives to marriage and motherhood. Women had limited authority and were considered as an extension of the male identity. This self-induced inferiority complex was deeply internalised by the Metis women. Maria recalls her family trips to a nearby town where drunk men in the dark of the night molested and physically assaulted women to seek vengeance. In this climate of degradation and social oppression, a woman’s body becomes the sight of communal violence.
“They ripped clothes off women, hit them with fists or whips, knocked them down and kicked them until they were senseless”.
Campbell further highlights linguistic oppression through her narrative. A critic says, “The White education has created a confusion among the young they are neither able to identify themselves with our own communities nor able to associate with the whites.“
As Maria grew up she realised the horrors of abject poverty which forces women into prostitution. Selling their body to make ends meet. She was married to a white man in belief that it will give her a shot at a more respectful and privileged life as compared to the one she lived as a “halfbreed”. However, the marriage turned out to be a nightmare. Her husband Darrel was always engaged in infidelity. Eventually her children were taken away which broke her spirit completely. Darrel withdrew all monetary support and she decided to make her own living. After they moved to Vancouver, Maria entered the ugly world of prostitution, where she completely detached herself from the reality so she doesn’t feel any pain or suffering. To numb her agony she started using drugs.
Women had limited authority and were considered as an extension of the male identity. This self-induced inferiority complex was deeply internalised by the Metis women. Maria recalls her family trips to a nearby town where drunk men in the dark of the night molested and physically assaulted women to seek vengeance.
Breaking away from the degrading vicious cycle her life had become, Maria started her political career. She met Ray and her life changed, though she engaged in gambling but was able to win a lot of money. Recalling Cheechum’s (her great grand-mother) words she decided to move out of the rut her life had become.
She fell victim to critique of the women from her own Metis community who believed awakening and political activism as outrageous. Internalized beliefs in Metis women limits them to overcome their own bias and subjugation, rendering them to live at the disposal of a phallocentric society. Campbell highlights how not only men but women also become active agents of patriarchy.
Reading about Maria’s life and experiences in Halfbreed opened my eyes to the systematic oppression as men conveniently monopolize power and politics in the society.
Falguni is a Literature and Psychology student at the Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi. Currently working as a freelance PR Professional and Content Writer for online publications. Apart from the daily grind she takes photo walks to old cities and historic places to capture fragments of narratives for her photo blog. You can find her on her Instagram.