Archives For hipster headdress

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. 

Here are a few more shots:

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.

(thanks to long-time reader and supporter Bree for making it!)

(Bree noted that there are already over 600 comments from Natives and Native supporters)

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.

(Thanks to Sam for the amazing graphic and to everyone who sent this over!)
…and like every other post on the blog. 

Fashion’s Night Out is now in its fourth year–an annual night for residents of New York, LA, and other fashionable cities to get dressed up in sky-high heels and totter from retail outlet to retail outlet, pushing through hoards of similarly clad city dwellers attempting to partake in free cocktails and canapes. Stores host “celebrity” appearances–though it seems to be mostly reality stars and folks whose 15 minutes may have faded a few years ago. Overall it’s a fun-filled chance to celebrate fashion and leave a huge mess behind for working class folks to clean up.

Do I sound bitter and jaded about this “fun” and “fashionable” night of joyous revelry? I am. I am, because this year for Fashion’s Night Out, the PR team at Paul Frank in LA decided they would host an event called “Dream Catchin’ with Paul Frank” a “pow wow celebrating Fashion’s Night Out.” The Hollywood Reporter described the event as:

…a neon-Native American powwow theme. Glow-in-the-dark war-painted employees in feather headbands and bow and arrows invited guests to be photographed on a mini-runway holding prop tomahawks.

Jessica Metcalfe at Beyond Buckskin posted the photos of the event last night on her FB page, and I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Just looking at the flyer posted above was enough to send me into a cultural appropriation Hulk rage. How clever, the font of the “Dream Catchin’” looks like teepees! How clever, the Paul Frank monkey is wearing warpaint and a sacred headdress! How clever, we put him in the center of a dream catcher, complete with pony beads and neon feathers!

The Paul Frank Facebook page posted well over 1,000 photos of party-goers posing on their runway with plastic tomahawks and headdresses. After the firestorm of criticism last night (more on that in a minute), all the photos are down off the page as of this morning. But minor internet sleuthing still produces plenty of evidence. Photos like this one:

and this one:

Luckily our friend @bright_moments was able to fix the photos for us:

That’s singer Christina Milian, by the way. Here’s a close-up of the provided “props” for the runway shots:

Headdresses, plastic bows and arrows, plastic neon tomahawks, even some antlers. But it gets even worse. Check out the bar:

here’s a side shot:

First off, that’s a painted cow skull, on a bar. Then the sign says, cheerfully, “Pow Wow and have a drink now!” and the three drinks are labeled “Rain Dance Refresher,” “Dream Catcher,” and “Neon Teepee.” There is absolutely nothing offensive about that set up, at all. Nope. Arghalkshjfbghlsfdh.

Here are a few more assorted pictures from the evening, and Zimbio has a bunch more if you’re curious:

There are so, so many things about this event that are upsetting to me that I don’t even really know where to start. It is such a statement about the state of our society that this event was allowed to go off without a hitch. Think about how many layers of approval these things go through, and not one person at Paul Frank, or in the PR company they hired (Red Light PR), thought this was problematic.

One thing that made me happy about the whole thing was the outpouring of anger and rage by the facebook and twitter community. There were hundreds of comments and tweets in the course of a few hours last night, and there was only one (literally, one) comment I saw that defended the party as “fun” and told commenters to “get over it.” Compared to pretty much every other event or issue I’ve discussed on the blog, that is remarkable. It gives me hope that the word is starting to get out about how seriously effed up the continued misrepresentation and stereotyping of Native people is, and that it is high time for it to change.

One other troubling aspect to these photos is the number of people of color engaged in “playing Indian.” I don’t kid myself to think that these issues are limited to the dynamics of power between white folks and Native folks, but its honestly hard to see people from other marginalized communities jumping on the bandwagon to oppress another group. Definitely a bigger discussion for another time, but just wanted to draw your attention to it.

Without further ado, in typical Native Approps/Adrienne K. fashion (ha, punny), here’s my open letter to the company:

Dear Staff of Paul Frank LA and Red Light PR, 

My name is Adrienne K., I am a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and I write a blog called Native Appropriations. I write about representations of Native people in the media and popular culture, and last night (9/8/2012), photos from your Fashion’s Night Out event “Dream Catchin’ with Paul Frank” were brought to my attention. I am extremely troubled and concerned with many aspects of the event, and I honestly felt like someone had punched me in the stomach when I first loaded the photos posted on your Facebook page.  

To begin, the image of the Paul Frank monkey in “warpaint” and a headdress is incredibly problematic. Headdresses are considered sacred in Native communities and are reserved for the most respected and revered leaders. To place one on the head of a monkey trivializes the sacred and respected nature of the warbonnet, and paints Native people as sub-human. There is an entire painful history of people of color being equated with primates, and images such as this echo to that past. I’ve written an entire post about why wearing “hipster headdresses” is offensive, which can be found here, and breaks down the argument more completely.  

In addition to the monkey imagery, party goers were encouraged to “play Indian” with plastic tomahawks and bows and arrows, resulting in photos of fake “scalping,” “war whooping,” and other extremely hurtful stereotypes. I have also written extensively about the issues surrounding “playing Indian” and dressing up as Native peoples for Halloween and other theme parties. This practice is exactly akin to providing props for party guests to dress in blackface for photos, a practice that I’m sure would not bode well for your brand.  

Powwows in Native communities are social events, but are also spiritual and closely tied to traditional culture. Photos from your event show a sign on the bar reading “Pow wow and have a drink now!” with drinks called “Rain Dance Refresher,” “Dream Catcher,” and “Neon Teepee.” The vast majority of contemporary powwows celebrate sobriety and are very explicit about the prohibition of alcohol and drugs on powwow grounds. To associate the consumption of alcohol with a powwow is disrespectful, especially given the history of alcoholism in our communities.  

There were also many children at the event, and your celebrity appearances were tween Disney stars. As a result, now these children in attendance are being acculturated into thinking that Native peoples are one-sided stereotypes of feathers, warpaint, and weapons, and that playing Indian is perfectly acceptable and fun. My young cousins worship anything to do with these starlets, and I know there are many other young girls who do the same, and that worries me to no end.  

The bottom line is this: your event stereotypes and demeans Native cultures, collapsing hundreds of distinct tribal and cultural groups into one “tribal” mish-mash, thereby erasing our individual identities and contemporary existence. Until 1978 with the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, Native peoples could be arrested for practicing traditional spirituality–many aspects of which you mocked in your party theme. While the theme may have seemed “fun” and “playful” to you, to me as a Native person, it just represents our continued invisibility. When society only sees us as the images you presented, it means that our modern issues of poverty don’t exist, nor do our modern efforts like schooling and economic development through sovereignty and nation building. We have sophisticated tribal governments and communities, but how will we be able to be seen as modern, successful people if we are continually represented through plastic tomahawks and feathers?  

You may have mental images of Native people stuck in the historic past, sitting around in tipis and smoking peace pipes, but if last night’s reaction on Twitter and Facebook showed you anything, I hope it showed you that we are contemporary peoples who enjoy fashion and fun, but don’t tolerate when our cultures are stereotyped and sacred aspects are trivialized. We don’t all run around with tomahawks and bows and arrows, or war whoop and say “how.” We do, however, mobilize as a diverse yet connected community through technology, and continue to fight for our living cultures to be celebrated in respectful and meaningful ways. 

While I commend you for taking down the thousands of photos from the Paul Frank facebook page, I encourage you to issue an apology or statement surrounding the event, and let us know how you plan to remedy the situation. Hundreds of Native people and allies responded to the photos last night, and we are all waiting to hear from you.  

Thank you,
Adrienne K. 

UPDATE 9/10:
Mere minutes after my post went up, Paul Frank issued this apology on their Facebook page:

Paul Frank celebrates diversity and is inspired by many rich cultures from around the world. The theme of our Fashion’s Night Out event was in no way meant to disrespect the Native American culture, however due to some comments we have received we are removing all photos from the event and would like to formally and sincerely apologize. Thank you everyone for your feedback and support.

The fact they apologized is good, but clearly it’s the classic “sorry you were offended” rather than “sorry we were offensive” response. They should read this post next time. But baby steps, I guess?

Especially since Ms. Metcalfe at Beyond Buckskin came across these designs last night:

I also emailed my letter to the PR company directly, and have yet to hear a response.

Other coverage of the party:

Beyond Buckskin: Paul Frank’s Racist Powwow
Indian Country Today: Paul Frank Offends with Dream Catchin’ Party
Oh No They Didn’t: Disney Stars (& Others) Attend Paul Frank ‘PowWow’ Mocking Native Americans
Uncle Paulie’s World: Designer Paul Frank’s Technicolor “Dream Catchin’ Pow Wow” Furthers Native American Stereotypes

Yesterday my BFF and biggest fan Marj texted me this image from the Ecko outlet in Washington. I believe my exact response was “OMG wtf?!?!” Notice at the bottom the tagline is “Party your face off.” Yeah, not offensive at all.

So I turned to the googles to see what this was all about. A quick search brought me to the Ecko homepage, which prominently features the line up front and center, called “Weekend Warrior.” The image is below. So, the headdressed skull is bad enough–more on that in a second–but look a little closer…

Um, NO. Your model is NOT wearing a headdress too???

Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t seem to find the line for sale on the actual Ecko website, though it is available in other online stores, like Macy’s:

This headdressed-skull thing is a problematic trend that has been popping up everywhere. From “mainstream” retailers like our good friend Urban Outfitters
To more “Indie” designers like “No Wire Hangers” (they have a TON of questionable ish on their site):
A couple of weeks ago in SF, my friends and I even went stalker status on a guy in Bootie SF wearing a a similar tee (thanks to John for the 50 variations of this picture on my camera, ha):
There’s plenty more all over the internet, but I think you may be starting to see my point. 
Let’s break it down. Clearly this is problematic on many levels. Beyond the usual arguments against the hipster headdress, there’s something deeper here. I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that skulls are associated with death. So if you put a skull with a headdress, the first jump I make is to “dead Indian”–just me? I don’t think anyone can go for the “honoring” argument here (although I won’t be surprised if they try). This, to me, is playing into the narratives of Indians existing only in the past, or Indians are extinct, or Indians were brave warriors who no longer exist today. It also, like all the Plains Indian stereotypes, solidifies the one-dimensional “warrior” image that doesn’t represent the hundreds and hundreds of tribal nations still around today. 
Back in 2010, James Branum, a lawyer in Oklahoma, posted about his interactions with a company in OK City called “War Paint Clothing” who were selling a similar shirt (Rob at Newspaper Rock covered it as well). He makes some excellent points, and I definitely recommend heading over to his post to read the entirety of his interactions with the company:

I first think about the famous line, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” (a quote sometimes attributed to General Sheridan, but more likely a paraphrase from a line out of Congressional floor speech of Congressman James M. Cavanaugh from 1868) and the way our society in past generations honored the “noble savage” who either died off or was assimilated into white society, but refused to give any honor to real live Indians in the present day who resisted both death and assimilation. 

Or to say it another way, if you want to honor native Americans, why not make a shirt of a hero from our history, or even show the face of someone alive today (who is resisting genocide, simply by living out native values and culture)? Why is it that only dead Indians, and abstract/stereotypical Indians who get celebrated? 

The image of the skull also brings to mind the Indian remains held in many museums to this day. There is an ongoing fight to return those remains to their people and to the earth (see and the wikipedia article on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act for a bit of this history), but the fight isn’t over. The graves of Native dead have been desecrated for many years, and many remains are still in museums. 

Finally, I’m not aware of any Plains Indian tribe that would be comfortable with this imagery (and I’m discussing it in that context, because the stylized image is of a stereotypical plains style headdress — I know Natives in other culture, especially in Mexico have different cultural ideas about skulls). Some plain tribes use animal skulls for ceremonial purposes (i.e. the buffalo skull in the Sun Dance), but those skulls are normally used in a sacred manner. The use of a human skull on a t-shirt would be incomprehensible.

I think those major take away points–”The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” the continued celebration of only dead or stereotypical Indian imagery, the ongoing fight over Native remains in museums and educational institutions, and the overall sacredness of human remains (and headdresses) in our communities–are exactly spot on. This trend is symptomatic of an overall disrespect of Native peoples and cultures, as well as a convenient amnesia of the genocide of Native peoples in this country. As with most of the images on this blog, one shirt in isolation may not be a problem. But when you start to peel back the layers and see how deep these issues run, and how ubiquitous these images are, you begin to realize the depth of the problem. This isn’t a one-off shirt in a window. This is a lens into how Native people are viewed in the United States. 
For more info: 

OMG so much to talk about!

February 10, 2012 — 7 Comments

Hey Guys,
I have been so impressed (saddened? angered?) by all of your “Week in the Life of a Stereotypical Indian” submissions, that I’ve been culling through them all for the last week or so. I promise a post next week breaking it all down–but in order to do that, I’d love some of your reflections about what the experience was like for you. Send me an email, or comment below. Here are some vague guiding questions, but feel free to just tell me how it went, how it felt, etc:

  • What was it like mentally (or otherwise) cataloging all these daily micro-aggressions? Did you talk to anyone about what you were doing? Did it feel empowering? Disheartening? What surprised you about the images you saw? or did you find what you expected?

Moving on, here are some of the other Native stories I’ve been following around the internetz/things I’ve been up to:

  • A 7th grade girl in Wisconsin was suspended for using Menominee language in the classroom. Flashback to government-run boarding schools, anyone? So upsetting. They said she had an “attitude problem” for saying “hello” and “I love you” in her language. Ketapanen, Miranda–we support you!
  • Looks like the “Fighting Sioux” are back–at least temporarily. Expect a longer post about this soon. Residents of ND gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot for the upcoming elections, and that act reversed the law that had forced UND to remove the mascot in the first place. Newsflash: We are not mascots. Mascots are dehumanizing, racist, and wrong. When will it end??
  • I found this blog post from last January that is so bad it reads like a parody. Really. Head over for a whole slew of white women in hipster headdresses. Here’s an excerpt:
Indians (…which i’m sure is not the politically correct thing to call them…but sounds WAY cooler than Native Americans…lol) are the TRUE Americans!  Thanksgiving is one of my least favorite holidays b/c for me it’s a celebration of us basically robbing the Indians blind!  I don’t want to be a negative Nancy…so what I can say is that Indians and their wardrobes are SUPER CHIC!  I want to be a high chief…and have the BIGGEST feather head piece…I would be a GREAT head chief…lol!
ps. I think living in a Tee Pee would be fun!!!  Mine would be hot pink  : )

  • Samantha Crain came to Boston, and I convinced a bunch of my friends to go to her show. It was super awesome, especially since the venue held only 20-30 people, which was great. If you haven’t listened to her stuff, definitely check it out. She’s also happens to be Choctaw from Shawnee, OK (if you were wondering about the Native connection). Here we are in an awkward picture after the show (I’m 5’10 and in heels, she’s probably 5’0(?), so I’m bent in half):
  • Here are some “Navajo” band-aids with “3 Aztec Designs.” From Australia. You’re welcome. 

  • Last, but not least, I’m thinking of making some shirts for the blog (omg, I know, right?). We’ve had a hearty convo over on Facebook and Twitter about ideas, but I wanted to open up the thread here as well. If we were to make some Native Appropriations shirts, what would they look like? What would you want on them?

Thanks, as always, for your support, tips, and “likes”, I am grateful everyday for the amazingness that is the Native Approps community. If you are ever feeling lonely in between posts, I post a lot over on Facebook and Twitter, and would love to have you join the conversation.

Much Love,

Adrienne K.

Dear Drew Barrymore,

You know what? You’re a pretty cool chick. You were in ET back when you were little and adorable, and I respect that movie for scarring me for life when I was young and impressionable. You’re a female producer, which is bad-ass. You donate lots of money to good causes, and you seem kinda nice in your interviews and stuff. Despite your coolness, you did something totally uncool. And that something totally uncool was posting a picture of yourself in an “Indian headdress”–which is bad enough–but then you went even further and paired it with a Budweiser apron. An apron that has. to. do. with. alcohol.

So some of us are doing this thing where this week we document all the instances of “Stereotypical Indians” we come across in our daily lives, and I think yours might take the cake. For the whole week. And it’s only Tuesday. Cause not only do you give us the stereotypical war bonnet, you give us an association of Indians with alcohol, which is probably right up there with the worst possible stereotypes of Native people in the world ever. Nice work.

I know you probably didn’t think about it at all, in fact, I really hope you didn’t think about it, cause if it was intentional? That’s a whole other barrel of monkeys. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and think there was some context here we aren’t privileged to know about (like maybe you were shooting a PSA against Native stereotyping? Right?). But the fact that you (or your people, let’s be real) not only took this picture, but made it your PROFILE picture on The Facebook Dot Com, and have left it up ALL DAY despite a sh*t-ton of comments telling you it’s wrong? That’s more than uncool. That ish is straight up oppressive.

I’ve written a post that tells you exactly why wearing a headdress is wrong, so you should read it. You can read it here: But why can’t I wear a hipster headdress? My stats tell me that a whole lot of people have read that post, but apparently not you or your publicist. I guess I’m less cool than I thought. Shoot.

Yeah, I don’t really know what else to say, except that I am just tired of dealing with pretty white women in headdresses. Just tired. Just cause you’re all famous and stuff and donate lots of money to help hungry people doesn’t mean you can stomp all over Native cultures like that. WE ARE PEOPLE TOO.

So yeah. Thanks.

-Adrienne K.

Oh, and Facebook commenters? It’s not an effing “hat”. She is not wearing a cool “hat”. She is wearing a bastardized version of a sacred cultural object. Train conductors wear hats. Baseball players wear hats. That’s worse than calling powwow regalia a “costume”. Geez.

Drew Barrymore’s FB fan page:

(Thanks Rob and Monica!)
(via SF Weekly)
Why isn’t the music-festival-going population sick of this trend yet? Aren’t the hipster-ish ones known for abandoning things once they become “mainstream”?
I will say, however, that this is the only picture I’ve come across in the coverage of the festival so far. Even twitter was remarkably quiet. Of course, if you spot any others, send them over, and if you were there and have stories to the contrary, let me know.
As always:
Earlier (clearly this is nothing new, look at all these posts related to music festivals):

Happy Friday everyone! Thanks to my friend (and amazing internet browser) Scott for finding this one–perfectly sums it up, I think.

Are we finally witnessing the death of the hipster headdress?

Cartoon can be found on, and check out how many people have re-blogged it!

Earlier: But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress?

(Thanks Scott!)
 (image via HuffPo)

AK Note: Hi, remember me? My apologies for the sudden post drop off, school has been ridiculously busy. But I’m back, promise. And I’m still always looking for guest posts if anyone is interested…
A few days ago, Huffington Post posted some preview pictures of Tom Ford’s photo spread in French Vogue (he’s a fashion designer, btw). The first picture of the spread is of Ford, sporting a warbonnet. So, we all know why it’s wrong, and we can add him to the list of recent celebrity redface transgressions. Not that exciting. 
What I am fascinated by, however, are the comments on the article on HuffPo, but mostly on the re-post over at Jezebel. We all know I’m not a big fan of the Jezebel commenting community on issues of race, especially on Native issues, but check some of these out (the whole comment thread is here):

“That photo is many types of wrong.  I have never seen a racist as big as a horse before.”

“Nothing like a little cultural insensitivity to start out a… lunch.

“Why has the NA/1st Nations type headdress become the new hipster fashion statement? Was blackface just too messy?

“You guys!! I’m sure he’s 1/16 Cherokee! Totes ok!”

“If I were a Native American I would have a complete wardrobe of religious headgear from every possible sector of Anglo culture and I would wear them at the most inappropriate times and places. I would dress up as the Virgin Mary for Halloween and wear my sporty pope hat to the beach.”

and I liked this one, as a reference to the whole Meghan-McCain-Trail-of-Tears-tag debacle (thanks!):

“Doesn’t Tom know that such things are only tasteful if you include a handy trail of tears tag?”

 Some Native voices even came out of the woodwork:

“As a first nations woman, I challenge all headdress wearing hipsters to come to any powwow, next year in your fake feathers. If you are arrogant enough to wear them, then I assume you’re brave enough to wear them around those who earn their headdress one feather at a time.

“Dear Tom Ford,
My culture is not a photoshoot prop.
You’re an ignorant douche.”

or this woman, married to a Navajo man (her screenname is “DineBoo”–just cute):

“What is it with people wearing headdresses? Heck, I’m married to a Navajo man and I don’t bust out the turquoise, the velvet, and the squash blossoms to wear out in public.

The headdress is sacred, which carries individual meanings to each different tribe. It is not a flashy hat. The way people have been wear the headdress makes it look like there is only one tribe in existence now.

Um, what happened? Where are all the cultural appropriation defenders? Where are the people telling me to “get over it?” Why can’t I fill my Bingo Card?! There is one woman, who posts a question about wearing a headdress and Indian jewelry, but she then thanks the commenters who respond and send her links about why its wrong. She thanks them.

The HuffPo article has one comment about the wrongness of wearing a headdress as well–and no one pushed back. The replies thank her (him?) and agree.

Have we just witnessed a shift in the space-time continuum? Has the message started to get across? Definitely too soon to tell, but I can’t even tell you how refreshing and uplifting it was to see these comment chains. I mean, it was barely a month ago that we were talking about Paris Hilton on Halloween.

Thoughts? Are people getting sick of the trend? Is this just an anomaly? Are the people who click through to an article about high fashion a different, more enlightened subset of the population? Whatever it is, this is ridiculous. In a good way.

Jezebel: Tom Ford Shows French Vogue His Headdress Collection
Huffington Post: Inside Tom Ford’s French Vogue

(Thanks Alicia!)

Oh no, Khloe Kardashian.

October 7, 2010 — 5 Comments

(source here)

Khloe Kardashian just posted this picture to her twitter, with the caption “I love playing dress up!”
If you can stomach it, read the comments. They’re already playing the “omg get over it stop being so sensitive it’s just a hat!” game.

This makes me sad. I like Khloe.

So if you still need to know why it’s wrong to dress up in a warbonnet:

I think this also drives home the point I’ve mentioned before of how Natives are often viewed as “fantasy characters”–something that you can dress up as, play pretend. Wizard, Princess, Indian. The problem is Natives exist, we are real, and putting Native people in the fantasy character category erases our current presence as actual human beings.

Here’s the link to the photo:

and Khloe’s Twitter is here:

(Thanks Lanova!)

Yesterday morning I walked into my 7:15 am “Total Body Workout” class at the gym, laughing and joking with my friend. As I turned to get my hand weights and mat, my gaze fell upon a girl in the class…wearing this shirt.

I sighed and wrinkled my nose, but turned back to my friend to continue our conversation. A few minutes before class started, my friend whispered “Did you see her shirt?! Wasn’t that on your blog?” I nodded in response.

As class went on, in between sweating through sit ups and lunges, I kept catching her reflection in the mirror behind me. Each time sent a twinge through my stomach, a quick moment of discomfort and unease. I wanted to say something. I wanted to tell her how I was feeling. But the problem was, even in rehearsals in my head, I couldn’t think of how to go about talking to her about the shirt.

 In the grand scheme of images on this blog, this particular shirt isn’t that bad. I mean, I can easily sit here and tear it apart–how it represents a stereotype, how the cartoon-izing (I think I just made that word up) of the headdress takes away from it’s sacredness and power, commodifying it and making it into a mass consumer good, how the blank, empty space where a head/face should be is representative of decontextualizing the headdress and separating it from the people and places where it belongs…but anyway, it’s not an image of an Indian holding aloft a beer bong, or a severed Indian head, or any number of other blatantly racist images. She wasn’t wearing a headdress. She was wearing a shirt that she probably bought at Urban Outfitters without a second thought.

But, as I’ve talked about so many times before, these seemingly benign images have just as much power to create and perpetuate negative stereotypes as the blatantly racist ones. Because of all these images she’s seen and encountered in her life, she probably never would have thought that the dark haired girl struggling with push ups in front of her was a Native person who might take offense to her shirt.

So, you’re probably wondering, what did I say? What did I do?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Even I, who day after day on this blog can spout the reasons why continued cultural appropriation and misrepresentations of our communities are wrong and harmful, couldn’t find the right words to tell an undergrad why her shirt is hurtful to me. 

Not that I’m always silent. I once made a Harvard student in an Indian costume at a local pizza place almost cry when I confronted him, and another time at a football tailgate I physically ripped a headdress off a huge guy’s head and stomped on it in the mud, after he wouldn’t take it off when I asked nicely (That technique is NOT recommended).

But it’s often the daily encounters, the seemingly minor interactions, images, and subtle messages that give me pause. Do I call out every classmate that substitutes the word “powwow” for “meeting”? Do I rip down every indie band poster advertising their latest gig with an image of an Indian? Do I tell the girl in the headdress shirt at my gym class that her shirt hurts me?

Some days I do, some days I don’t–or I can’t, or I won’t–it’s a combination. Because this work gets tiring. It’s a never ending battle, and some days I’m too tired to fight.

My friend’s solution? She thinks I should make up business cards with my blog address on it, so I can just hand one to the offender and say something like “I think you should check out this blog, it might give you a reason to rethink your shirt choice.”

So I’m curious–since I don’t purport to have all the answers, I’ll turn it over to you, readers. Do you have any techniques for dealing with these daily interactions? Do you have a way of approaching someone that cuts defensiveness and allows for your voice to be heard? Stories of encounters with hipster headdresses?

I do have a few techniques I fall back on, but I think it’s time we have a step-by-step “how to” guide for dealing with these incidents. So let’s generate some thoughts, and I’ll compile it all together.

Next time, Girl with the Headdress Shirt, I’ll be ready.