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DentrassiGOLD Member
3,044 posts
Location: Brisbane, Australia

this vague idea has been stewing around in my head for a while, and an article today was a bit of a reminder:

Didgeridoo is men's business: academic
September 3, 2008 - 10:27AM
2008 AAP

Women who heeded an American activities book and played the didgeridoo face infertility or worse for infringing men's business, an Aboriginal academic has warned.

An extreme cultural indiscretion had been committed and the book should be withdrawn and pulped, the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association said.

The Australian version of the American activities book - The Daring Book for Girls - includes a section on how to play the didgeridoo.

"I would say from an indigenous perspective, an extreme mistake but part of a general ignorance that mainstream Australia has about Aboriginal culture," the association's general manager Mark Rose told ABC Radio.

"We know very clearly that there's a range of consequences for a female touching a didgeridoo.

"Infertility would be the start of it, ranging to other consequences. I won't even let my daughter touch one."

Dr Rose says there is men's business and there is women's business.

"And the didgeridoo is definitely a men's business ceremonial tool," he said.

"It sends out that Aboriginal culture is tokenistic. That is the issue that perturbs me the greatest."

Publisher Harper Collins has refused calls to withdraw the book from sale.

theres a couple of areas that eek me here...

From the scientific perspective its somewhat hard to take this academic seriously when he links a wind instrument and female fertility - heaven knows how female tuba players can sleep at night! i like the 'or worse' bit... whats going to happen?!

claiming some sort of ownership over blowing into a tube and combining breath and vibrating lips is like trying to claim traditional ownerhip over using a stick. who knows whether it was an indigeous australian with a lump of termite-eaten wood, or an islander with a conch shell, or some pre-mesopotanian with a carved piece of wood or a bone, to work out a nifty trick about resonance?

Im not ignorant of Aboriginal culture, but in my values, the rights of women to do as they please is a more important concept that upholding indigineous traditions.

I seem to recall having a chat with Mr & Mrs Durbs when they were passing through brisbane last (i remember strange things sometimes) about current Indigineous peoples having the legal right to use their traditional legal system on their land over the court system the rest of our country uses. I thought about that for a while, and i concluded that i have no problem with that, as long as that does not interfere with an individuals rights - as there having been cases of rape of minors being claimed as traditional marriage rights. Two articles of interest:

who knows about the bias or accuracy, but its the most comphrehensive article i could find on the role of indigineous women pre 18th century.

and another one specifically to overuling 'traditional law' as a defence.

It really seems a balance between maintaining certain traditions but giving up the superseded irrelevant ones, but who am i - just some ugly white boy in a well paid job in the city - to dictate what is relevant to modern indiginous culture and not?

Is it culturally insenstive to speak out against traditional customs? Im either going to be accused of patriarchal sexist oppressing the rights of women to blow what they want, or culturally insensitive racist b*stard who doesnt have any respect for a 40000 yr culture.

Is it defeating the point whereby we try to maintain and embrace indigeous myths, ceremonies, traditions, but pick and choose which ones we DONT like and dictating that the indiginous are 'allowed' to maintain the others?

and obvious thought is the any number of ridiculous laws in the old testement.

i suppose the use of the word 'tradition' has often been used as an argument against 'change' - even if it might be for the best.

anyway - thoughts, rants, alternative viewpoints, thoughts on other potentially irrevelant 'traditions' for indiginous cultures that tread the quagmire of political correctness? are there cases when values other than womens rights conflict with indiginous practise?
Peace out.
D ubbrollsmile

EDITED_BY: Dentrassi (1220415831)

"Here kitty kitty...." - Schroedinger.

6,650 posts

Hmm - okay, is this another approach of: there should be no segregation depending on gender?

I agree. Women should not be prohibited from playing Didj just because they are women and they should not face open hostility for playing a Didj in public.

Put out a referendum that suggests the Aboriginal council to review their codex and I will sign it.

When it comes to activities in the privacy of your own home: Dare you come into my home and tell my daughter or wife what (not) to do... *shakes fist*

Now, what would be your stance of a mixed race festival where white women play Didj and face resistance from Aboriginal men? Would you say: "If you don't like it, move on!" Or would it be more the approach of: "These are natives and we basically are on their land, so we move on..."

Just curious.

Ade, I don't quite get what you are naming "double standards"

Originally Posted By: Adewhy is ok to respect the tradition of not showing the soles of your feet in thailand but ok to say that it's an outrage not to let women play the didj?

I guess you either forgot a negation in that statement, or I can't find the contradiction you like to point at.

IMO it's not ok to tell women not to play the Didj - it's not quite an "outrage", but it's not ok. And women can play the Didj - I just would not advise them to do it on Aboriginal sacred land or with (drunken) Aboriginal men present, but in general they can play... Same that you can point your feet in Thailand to whoever stands it - in the privacy of your own home. Maybe there are even Thai with a foot-fetish, who knows?

However I'm kind of confused whether this is about fighting for womens rights or minorities' rights or injustice based on race, religion or gender in general - or whether it is just another womens lib' reflex... like "OMG those macho guys, how can they?"

I'd treat it same way as the catholic church: I'm not listening what they think about female priests (btw. I do the same with Buddhists and their stance on female monks or nuns)...

the best smiles are the ones you lead to wink

489 posts
Location: Perth

Quote:Now, what would be your stance of a mixed race festival where white women play Didj and face resistance from Aboriginal men? Would you say: "If you don't like it, move on!" Or would it be more the approach of: "These are natives and we basically are on their land, so we move on..."

Hmm, interesting situation...
It would really depend on what kind of festival I guess. Say, big day out, and one band had a white woman playing didj - ok.

Maybe a festival especially to celebrate multiculturalism - It's not really that woman's culture so I could see why they take offence (but that's kinda like white people doing dot paintings and then selling them... grey area)

But then who's to say that the white girl wasn't adopted by an Indigenous couple and raised in that culture, being taught how to play the didj by her 'father'.

I don't agree with the 'these are natives, this is their land' argument. because then the whole of Australia is their land.. and then I can't do what I want in my own home...

So my answer is - depends on the festival, the white woman, her connection to the culture etc.

StoutBRONZE Member
1,872 posts
Location: Canada

Hi Ade

By "at home" I was meaning in your home country and was using that term in contrast to being abroad, so I was meaning out in public as well as in privacy.

You've made a conscious choice to respect those traditions, and that's fine. Would it be safe to assume that you derive more pleasure from respecting those traditions than you would for actually playing the didge ?

Really, I have no interest in playing one of those either, but as a matter of principle, I'd be choked if someone told me I couldn't play one because of some factor I had no control over ( like my receding hairline )

I mentioned far left because, if someone were to take one of these stances ( feminism, anti-racism ) and stick to it, those conversations end up going further and further into that particular stance with all it's attendant rhetoric.

We're all reasonable people here, capable of exploring these sorts of issues without turning the thread into the inevitable train wreck that it were to become were we to "square off" using the assumptions needed to subscribe to one of those philosophies.

For the record, I support the feminist ideal on this, but only in a small p progressive ( small l liberal, for you Americans ) so I'm one of those progressives that big p progressives love to hate.

Rouge DragonBRONZE Member
Insert Champagne Here
13,215 posts
Location: without class distinction, Australia

I think it's also largely what is actually culture versus what's been imposed.

Hasn't someone already said that didges are only from a certain percentage of Aboriginal communities, it's just that the community as a whole has picked up on it? People who never traditionally played it shouldn't complain about tradition since they're not exactly being traditional themselves.

As opposed to Thailand where it seems to be a universal culture (for there anyway. I don't know about the situation with feet in Thailand, I only know about it in the Middle East). Plus it's universal with men and women, so there's no gender discrimination.

That's why I see it as two different things.

i would have changed ***** to phallus, and claire to petey Petey

Rougie: but that's what I'm doing here
Arnwyn: what letting me adjust myself in your room?..don't you dare quote that on HoP...

AdeSILVER Member
Are we there yet?
1,897 posts
Location: australia

Originally Posted By: FireTom
However I'm kind of confused whether this is about fighting for womens rights or minorities' rights or injustice based on race, religion or gender in general - or whether it is just another womens lib' reflex... like "OMG those macho guys, how can they?"

exactly smile

I'm confused too - mind you I've got the flu and my brain is not working...


there seems to be the rights of the individual

and the rights of the tradition or culture

and what I'm seeing in the didj example is where I feel that my rights as an individual to do what I want are in conflict with the rights of a culture to say 'this is our way, please respect it'

therein lies the paradox

is that right? shrug

hamamelisBRONZE Member
756 posts
Location: Bouncing off the walls., England (UK)

I think a large part of the 'difference' is- no-one points their feet at people as a hobby wink

And also, I have read that only one Aboriginal group traditionally had a taboo on women playing the Didj- in another area, women could have the didj 'dreaming,' while in most other areas with a tradition of playing the didj there was no taboo, though women rarely played in public (this was from a learn to play didge book, I don't have the wording) - according to that book, the 'taboo' was mainly spread accidently by anthropologists, who kept asking if it was supposed to be a phallic symbol in areas it was never played..

I do like playing the didge (not even an Aboriginal name, by the way) even if I am awful..


If that's okay with you?

simtaBRONZE Member
1,182 posts
Location: hastings, England (UK)

Originally Posted By: Jessi_kittyThis may be a dead thread, but I'm curious as to why only one person has brought up the fact that we ourselves, as modern fire dancers, are practicing a performance art that, at its foundation, is based on Maori poi/hapahaka.

If a traditional dancer expressed outrage against a poi spinner performing, what should be that performer's reaction, based on our discussion here?

I'm curious because I'm proposing a project that concerns these very issues in fire dancing and will be traveling both to AU and NZ to interview and learn. This discussion surprised me with its lack of reference to the very purpose we're all here for. Is it because we don't think of modern as based on traditional or is there another reason?

some of those issues touched on in this thread
[Old link]

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