I’ve come across some awesome blog posts in response to the Jezebel piece (found here) on Native fashion that Lisa at Sociological Images pulled together with images from this blog. The comment thread on the piece was really interesting, with people debating what should be deemed “ok” what is “offensive” and some just telling us all to STFU. I thought I would share a couple of the responses here. (If anyone knows of any others, please let me know)
Juila at a l’allure garçonnière posted a great response entitled “The Critical Fashion Lover’s (basic) Guide to Cultural Appropriation” and it’s definitely worth a read. I’m tempted to quote the entire thing. It’s beautifully written and insightful. She says:
” I have heard a lot of arguments that there are way more important things we could be debating instead of cultural appropriation; that native people themselves don’t give a shit if a severely intoxicated white hipster decides to tattoo pocahontas on his leg or if some magazine decides their next nude photoshoot should feature blonde women wearing headdresses. who knows! maybe the jingle dress will be the next hot thing in haute couture, but it doesn’t impact the quality of life of the people who make, wear and perform in those dresses.
my response to this is clear and simple; i don’t think the issue of institutional racism and discrimination can be completely divorced from the question of cultural appropration. they feed into one another. one would not exist (at least not in the same way) without the other. if we lived in a culture that acknowledged the fact that most of us live on stolen land in north america and that recognized native people as complex, diverse, intelligent people without romanticizing or glamourizing them, i’d like to think that it would put an end to these sorts of reductive stereotypes popping up in fashion, film, music scenes. reducing an entire culture to a simple “inspiration” for your outfit, art project, fashion collection, or photoshoot is disrespectful and unhelpful, especially when we look at the bigger picture.”
And later she addresses what many of the Jezebel commenters were struggling with–what is ok to wear and what isn’t?
the biggest problem with the concept of cultural appropriation, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t set out any explicit black and white rules for people to follow. as you can see based on the comments on jezebel, people are genuinely confused as to what the “right thing” to do in these situations are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. you can’t get answers if you aren’t asking questions. my advice in these situations is largely about context, intention, and education.
She was able to put into words many of the issues I was struggling with after reading the comment chain. great stuff.
Another post came from Molly at the University of Michigan Arts Ink blog, entitled “The Hipster Headdress: A Fashion Faux Pas.” The post itself is great, but I really appreciated the back-and-forth she posted in the comments between her and some facebook friends. It’s really enlightening and says a lot:
Friend 3: …great opinionated synopsis molly, really like your writing style and i agree with the feathered headdress as a stupid hipster clique. Although to be honest, I sometimes wear a feather in my hair (completely in humble respect to the Native Americans)…a modest little decorative item once in awhile.
Molly: I think moccasins are items of comfort – though I realize there are “designer moccasins” out there selling for hundreds of dollars. You don’t put on a headdress because you lost your baseball cap. They’re not practical or comfortable. Plus, you can wear moccasins and walk down the street, go to a party, and nobody would really notice. I don’t know why people wear headdresses around, but whether or not it’s their intention – they get attention. I realize throwing in that P.S. is rather hypocritical regardless, but perhaps the note’d make more sense taking into account that Native Americans, at powwows, posts, what have you, might sell moccasins or dream catchers or other crafts – but you never see them selling headdresses (unless for ceremonial purposes, I suppose, but I’ve never seen a headdress for sale personally, at least). I found a hawk feather and wore it around for a little while. I don’t think single feathers are offensive, though I know that’s again flirting with contradiction. It’s like the difference between wearing some green eyeshadow or painting your entire body green. Also, I’m not insinuating that anyone who enjoys wearing headdresses occasionally is absolutely void of morals. I’m just not a fan.
Thanks to both of you for keeping the conversation going, I’m just so glad these issues are being discussed in the blog-o-sphere after remaining off the map for so long. Keep up the good work!
The original Jezebel post: http://jezebel.com/5516362/feathers-and-fashion-native-american-is-in-style