1/15/13

Is This Okay?

Is This Okay?
A new segment I'd like to begin, which opens a discussion about cultural issues that face us today

Yes people, that is actually me, Sasssquatch, a caucasian female, decked out in traditional Native American garb I purchased at the 2010 Powwow
I wrote a whole post about it on my blog back in the day click here

This was before I took more Racism in America and women's studies classes, in fact I almost completely forgot about this photo in general until I got in this heated argument with my friend Paisley about caucasian women dressing up as provocative native American women for Halloween. I got so heated explaining about how those cheap costumes are not only portraying a stereotype but also a reminder of the sexual exploitation of the Native American women. Not to mention a bit ironic assuming the owner of this costume is caucasian because you know we did start a massive genocide of the Native American people and force them on the reservations and killed a shit ton of the native buffalo and were just overall assholes for so long and now we are gonna enforce a stereotype in the form of a cheap costume that comes in a bag. What hurts is just the fact that the sexual conquest and dehumanization of Native women was a tactic for colonization for centuries and its shitty to think that many Americans are still ignorant to that fact and can dress up in a provocative manor, as if it is just any other provocative halloween costume. Almost like we've forgotten everything that happened in history! 

But what I want to know is, was I okay in 2010 to take that photo?
I can honestly say I am a lot more educated on the struggles of the Native people, and all the shit they went through in history and I have an idea what they go through today. But thats just it, I have an "idea," I, being caucasian will never fully understand their pain and the intense sadness that came along with manifest destiny, and  heck the first American settlers. Thats what makes me feel the most guilty I think, I'm related to not only slave owners and the last confederate to surrender (horrifyingly true) but I also had ancestors on the mayflower who stole land that was not rightfully theirs. And with white privilege I am still benefiting from all the horrible crimes my ancestors committed while many minority groups are still at a disadvantage due to white privilege and I hate that so much.

More over, when do things become "no go" in fashion? 
Should I take that photo down immediately? No one has out right said that it offends them because while I was ignorant at the time, I didn't do it out of disrespect. But I guess that is always the argument when fringe moccasins go into style, or when clothing with a geometric print is labelled as "navajo" or when, idk, Gap came out with a shirt that said "Manifest Destiny" across the chest. But doesn't fashion come from all sorts of realms? I mean its hard to say what specific geographic areas inspire what we wear today, but I do think its cool that Native American culture does have an influence on the fashion world, even if it is a bit askew. I personally find the fashion of the culture absolutely magnificent, I think the attention to detail and the history of what they wear and not to mention the functionality make it spectacular. 

But should the fact that the modern take on fashion is riddled with ignorance make Native Fashion sacred to the general American public, much less world wide fashion community? I mean, imagine if we based all parisian fashion off of really outdated french stereotypes where we had everyone wearing berets and stripes and twiddling their handle bar mustaches while eating baguettes down the run away. Kanye West would stand up during the fashion show and call "RACIST" on that. So why is it okay towards Native Americans?

Which brings me back to my question, is my photo okay?
I got all my items from a Native American pow-wow. I was so enamored by the culture I wanted to buy as much as a could and pay tribute to the beautiful fashion. But considering I will never know the pain that the Native people will feel, and the fact that my historical lineage is murky with blood and theft does that mean that I am not allowed to even appreciate their culture? 

Looking back on this photo I'm gonna say that even though my intentions were good, but it is NOT okay. Too much has happened in this country between the Native people and the white people for us to still misrepresent them. However I think they can serve as a source of style inspiration as long as its politically correct. There is a huge difference between appreciating and appropriating a culture and the line between the two is quite obvious. Visiting places, learning about the culture from THEIR perspective and acknowledging your privilege as a white person and a white person during that time in history are great ways of appreciating another culture. However leave the dressing up to them, cultural appropriation, especially when done by a white person, will never ever be okay.

What do you think about this??
Let me know in the comments
Also lets have an open dialogue, did I say anything offense because that is not my intention at all
lets not get angry but just talk?

Have a wonderful day
xoxoxo
Sasssquatch

10 comments:

  1. I feel like there is a major difference between embracing the beautiful textiles of the Native American culture as a way to celebrate it, versus exploit it like companies like Urban Outfitters have in the past. (http://jezebel.com/5889702/navajo-nation-sues-urban-outfitters-over-the-navajo-hipster-panty).

    It becomes a weird gray area because when large amounts of a culture's native garb is worn it can be both disrespectful (see the slutty Native American or slutty Irish girl costumes), and a respectful exploration of the culture (such as a friend of my mother's Caucasian friend who has embraced the traditions of our local Native American tribe and teaches others about them while wearing traditional Native American Costume or the girls who aren't Irish, but compete in Irish step dancing while wearing the traditional outfits.)

    I guess it depends on your purpose. Is it because the item is beautiful? Is it because you want to experience a different culture? Do you understand that there is a culture connected to what you're wearing? This question is certainly food for thought in today's inspiration from everywhere world.
    -Megan A.K.A The (long winded) Zombie Sockmonkey

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  2. I get what your saying sometimes, people being so ignorant and everything gets in their way to actually think about common stuff , like the "AZTEC" print ,to me that's offensive because nowadays it's nothing alike to the true Aztec art, and as part of my culture I get truly disappointed with the destruction of the such beautiful pieces as Aztec art, it's actually so frustrating that people don't even have a clue, like they're totally clueless about simple stuff as provocative costumes or the decrease of respect to our antecedents

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  3. I think you make some very valid points - I actually got a bit peeved this past halloween when I saw a few girls in "Native American" costumes. It also bothers me when guys dress up as stereotypical Hispanics, with sombreros and panchos. It's slightly racist. You don't see anyone dressing up as a Caucasian for Halloween, do you? It's a very touchy subject but I think you hit the nail on the head.

    www.ee2be.wordpress.com

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  4. First and foremost I wanted to thank you for writing this post because it is so relevant in today's trends and like Megan said, there is much exploitation of Native Americans in the fashion world. But to answer your question, in my opinion, yes it was wrong, although your intentions were not to do wrong, you still promoted a certain stereotype in the form these photos were taken (this one at least), even if to you it was to pay tribute(which i think you can do but it can be a daunting task and its easy to do wrong. I think if you are being genuine and also trying to educate then it can be okay but again its hard to not cross over into stereotyping. and if that is what your intent is then forgive my quick conclusions). However with that said, you didn't know any better(not that it makes it okay) but you've learned about the issue and that is where things begin to become okay because now, not only will you not continue to perpetuate the stereotype, but you can also educate others around you and call people out when you see the injustice. Now back to the exploitation thing, one thing that I do find good about your situation is that you did purchase these items from an actual Pow Wow which means whatever Native American tribe you purchased from, got the funds directly. A lot of people don't realize how much the united states continues to screw them over, monetarily. Some companies refuse to pay and like the urban outfitters situation, the Navajo were forced to take legal action. but also I mean the government still continues the injustice, just during this last election mitt romney planned on cutting the already underfunded Indian Health Service by $415 million, which is just plain fucked up. And on a side note, something that has always bothered me, is that we as a society still use the term indian in public schools, and also how we as a society still recognize columbus day. which continue to put down Native Americans, even if its in a subtle way. Now back to your original post, should you take down the photos or worry about them, no because that is in the past, no need to fret over some past actions, now if you feel inclined to remove them then you go ahead, but don't spend time feeling too remorseful because whats done is done, you've learned better so move on.

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  5. While you have an extremely sensitive (and well written!) approach to the issue, I agree that this is a form of culture appropriation and is not alright. I admire you greatly for posting the image and publishing your reconsideration of what it represents. I'm excited to read more :)

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  6. I definitely agree that the native american halloween costumes are disrespectful, but I'm not sure about clothes inspired by native americans. For example, I have Minnetonka moccasins that I really love but now I'm starting to wonder if it's disrespectful for me to wear them. I'm not trying to be "tribal" and I just like the way they look on my feet!! Please tell me your thoughts on this, cultural appropriation is something I'm just learning about and would like to hear others' thoughts. xxx Genevieve

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  7. It's good you're getting this out in the open, although I am surprised that you living in Hawaii they did not talk about native Hawaiian culture in the sense they did about Native Americans in your class! It's so terrible the injustices native peoples have had to face due to colonisation from Europe, losing rich cultures which should be appreciated for what they are~ not a fashion fad.

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  9. Dude, I pull fashion inspiration from all sorts of cultures, and I wear Native American shit all the time. If I wear something from your culture, it probably means I really enjoy it and respect it and take interest in it. I've seen Halloween costumes run the gamut of bloody maxi pads to cocaine with razor blades. Reverence and respect for the hardships a culture/people has endured is a must, but we can't pick every battle--sometimes it's better to lighten up.

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