The list is getting really, really long of companies I don’t like to support anymore because of their egregious cultural appropriation, stereotyping, and marginalizing of Native peoples. Let’s see, in the last year or so alone, there’s Urban Outfitters, Ecko, Gap,
Paul Frank (just kidding, they’re awesome now), along with 5 bazillion others, not to mention my local grocery store, all of these food companies, and the musicians I shun, including Outkast, Ke$ha, Lana Del Ray, NeverShoutNever, Frank Ocean, and now No Doubt… and that’s just off the top of my head.
So now you can add Victoria’s Secret to the list. The image above, of the lovely Karlie Kloss, comes from the most recent VS fashion show, which is set to air December 4th. The stills from the show were released to the world earlier this week, and among the strange get-ups, which included poodles and models wearing motorcycle handlebar-corsets, was this monstrosity.
I can’t tell if she is war-whooping or blowing a kiss. I don’t know if it matters at this point.
Please, please tell me we all know this is wrong at this point? Do I need to link to the anti-headdress manifesto? The blackface-comparison post? The sexualization of Native women post? (Note: if you don’t know why it’s wrong, those are the places to find out.)
The frustrating thing is this comes on the heels of the No Doubt “Looking Hot” controversy, where the band pulled their music video within a day of it being released because of the use of extremely stereotypical and offensive Native imagery and a huge outcry from the Native (and ally) community. That happened like last weekend. As in less than 7 days ago. And NOBODY at Victoria’s Secret saw one of the hundreds of articles about No Doubt and thought, hm, maybe we shouldn’t include a woman in a headdress and a fake buckskin bikini?
And the bikini. Can we talk about the bikini? I love the inclusion of the leopard. Why don’t we just go full-on generic “savage” while we’re at it. As one of my witty FB followers reminded us, “They say Native Americans used every part of the leopard.” Ha. But serious eyeroll on that choice. Not to mention the fake turquoise/Navajo/southwest jewelry with a plains headdress. LOL, all indigenous pplz, they r teh samez.
Snark aside, there is a bigger issue here. Besides the daily harm of these ongoing microaggressions for Native folks, the sexualization of Native women continues to be an ignored and continuing epidemic. I wrote about it a little in this post, but my amazing friend Sam made this graphic that makes it painfully clear (click for full size):
So Victoria’s Secret, now is the time to apologize. It’s not too late to cut Karlie’s headdressed outfit out and leave it on the editing room floor. This isn’t “fun,” this isn’t a “fantasy” character. This is about our cultures, our bodies, and our lives. Native people demand and deserve far more respect than this.
and please share the graphic widely in your networks.
While this feels like a never ending battle, remember the successes we’ve had as a community, and every little bit chips away at the centuries of colonization and disrespect of Native peoples. We’re making gains, though sometimes it may not feel like it. I’ve been at this for over two years now, and I can’t believe how quickly things have changed for the better. We’re getting there!
UPDATE 11/10: Just received the following apology from Tammy Robert Meyers, a spokesperson for Limited Brands: “We are sorry that the Native American headdress replica used in our recent fashion show has upset individuals. We sincerely apologize as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone. Out of respect, we will not be including the outfit in any broadcast, marketing materials nor in any other way.” Let’s celebrate the fact they listened (though they may have to work on the “how to apologize” part). Amazing work mobilizing together everyone! I’m so proud of our community fighting together for what’s right.