What amazes me is that settlers do not understand that the rest of the world has been flooded with their media, their images, their products for so very long. They just honestly don’t understand that. They don’t see it as a flood, they see it as people choosing superior products. So the idea of being flooded ‘in reverse’, of having products and media reflect realities of non-settlers, is not just disconcerting because suddenly settler realities aren’t represented, it is disconcerting because who would willingly choose inferior products?
Le Blog de Betty
Ah yes. Le Blog de Betty. Run by the woman who went ‘lalalala I can’t hear you’ when people commented on her recent purchase of an ‘antique headdress’. Who, when people asked her to consider who her fashion accessory had been stolen from in order to come into her possession, erased all ‘negative’ comments and pretended it didn’t happen.
And that’s some motherfucking white privilege.
Some more of her bullshit:
I’m a white woman trying to explain to my young white male friend why Lana Del Ray wearing a war bonnet is rude, inappropriate, racist, and offensive.
Can I get some ideas?
Patricia Monture-Angus recounted a story in her book, “Thunder In My Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks” (pp.61-66) that I think about quite often. She was teaching a course on Aboriginal Title at the University of Saskatchewan and found that the atmosphere she was teaching in was very poisoned. The class of course challenged the notion that Crown sovereignty was valid, which is a challenge few settlers would be willing to entertain, so the reason for that atmosphere is obvious.
(Btw, if you are native and considering going into Law, you should really read this book. I agree with everything she had to say about the experience of being native in Law school, as well as with whether or not Aboriginal law can ever serve indigenous peoples.)
What stuck with me the most was not her description of the horrible experience she had teaching that class, though the details are unsurprising. What really gets me thinking sometimes, is this:
…I have tried to find ways to insulate myself from complaints. My teaching has become more conventional. I try to dress to look like a professor more than I did in my first year of teaching. This decision was my response to receiving a teaching evaluation that suggested I wore “too many beads and feathers to class.” Try as I may, I can never remember wearing feathers to class. (p.66)
Monture-Angus does an excellent job of analysing why so many of her non-native students were hostile towards her, but I was struck by the bizarre accusation above. In the mind of the person who wrote that, Monture-Angus was visually radical and threatening. So much so that the student actually imagined she wore certain things. And what exactly is it that would have been radical and threatening, had she actually dressed that way?
Looking too visually native, of course.
That sticks with me, because a black woman with an afro, a native woman with beads and feathers, any non-settler in anything remotely ‘ethnic’ is seen as making a statement. A statement that is taken to be inherently adversarial to settlers. It is seen as threatening. Strident. Political. To be yourself, to represent your ethnicity, to not do everything in your power to look like a settler…is a political act, apparently.
How can that be true? How can this be threatening, unless settlers understand that racism and colonialism continue to exist and are not actually justified?
I suggest that this knowledge, this knowledge that so many settlers pretend not to have, this knowledge that shit is not okay, is at the heart of the fear of visual cues of non-settler identity.
They will claim that they merely fear people who ‘always make it about race’. They will link afros with Black Power and call that racism. They will link the slightest hint of traditional indigenous garb with native militancy. They will link non-settler ethnicity with violence and hatred because they know that there is good fucking reason for such feelings to exist. And they expect to be treated the way they have, and continue, to treat others.
The fear that comes over settlers when they encounter non-settlers in the workplace, in schools, in positions of authority, is not primarily the fear of the other. I am firmly of the opinion that what they fear is themselves. Because nothing would be more horrible for a settler than to be treated like we are.
And that’s some real shit.
Feast your eyes on clueless hipsters, unoriginal photographers and models, shitty tattoos and crappy ‘art’ based on racist stereotypes.
Or you know. Don’t. Because it’s fucking unreal.
Just so we’re clear that privileged white people have been doing this shit always, and have been justifying their shit with the same tired arguments the whole time.
And settlers are THE ONLY people who have the ultimate privilege to be completely disassociated from history, repeating it again and again and again, without even being aware of it.
With four kids, planning can be a little hectic. We’re not exactly ‘soccer parents’ shuttling our kids from one expensive after school activity to another, but enough goes on to need a large calendar to keep track of it all. So I went to a bookstore and browsed their stationery section, looking for a large wall calendar we could use.
I was so excited when I saw this ‘family calendar’ that was just the size I was thinking of and had all sorts of stupid little stickers the girls would love to use. I flipped it over to get a peek at the graphics and saw the 12 month lay-out.
Every month featured a different family. A different white family. Cartoons, mind you, but still. This calendar was designed by some woman here in Quebec who apparently understands the need for a large planning calendar, but does not understand that Quebec is not populated solely by white families.
I can’t buy this calendar. It’s going to annoy the fuck out of me. Our kids are going to pick up on it and they’re going to be annoyed. It’s going to become ‘that stupid calendar’ and what good is that?
How difficult would it have been to feature even a little diversity? I’m not talking anything revolutionary here. A fucking Haitian family (we have a HUGE population of Haitians in Montreal!), maybe some (gosh) natives or latinos or Koreans or freaking whatever….and I’m sure I’d be branded an activist to suggest that perhaps some of the families could feature same sex parents or single parents? Unrealistic? I’m just tossing out ideas off the top of my head based on the families that live on my block.
In the minds of the woman who designed this, and in the minds of all the people who will read this and honestly not get why I’m annoyed, the default is white. The default is okay. Questioning the default is radical and unnecessary and foolish. After all the intent wasn’t to be racist.
Except the only people who are going to feel okay about having this calendar in their homes…are white families. And I bet even some of them are going to look at it like…seriously?
It’s 2012, folks. I shouldn’t be considered edgy just because I want a calendar that is more realistic in its portrayals of families in Quebec.
The absolute need to be anything but just ‘white’ has settlers looking for minority status everywhere it seems. Used to be, you could claim to be ‘bi’ and that was edgy enough, but that’s no good anymore. Nor is it enough to claim to be a (self-diagnosed) autistic, or person with AHDD, OCD, MPD, etc.
It’s not enough to join an ‘edgy religion’. Nope, now they need to be transethnic and even weirder shit.
It’s all hilarious, but what it really highlights is how totally oblivious settlers are to what oppression actually is. Because NO ONE wants that shit when they have it. No one. And what you really need to understand about these fucking settlers and their oppression fetish is that they seriously honestly DON’T GET IT. They really think that being part of a marginalised group is fun.
They really think that being part of a marginalised group is FUN.
Hey guys, we’re a club and they want in.
I cannot face palm hard enough.
here is the story behind this one sense i’m getting scorned on the internet for shooting a white woman in a native headdress.
just because this image has become a trend hardly means in disrespectful, i have been to many pow-wow and have collected many hand crafted items. the culture continues to fascinate and impress me. even when i was 5 i was listening to WOJB radio connecting me with the sounds of the reservation i grew up by.
i have been enthused with the cultures work ethic and morals on life. i have collected books and studied the beliefs. i respect and hope to adopt this way of life into my own lifestyle.
i’m very aware that this culture may feel inclined to speak up about the booming “trend” of young woman wearing the traditional material, but there are positives to this….
if you would like to look at this and scorn, i am sorry you are offended.
try to look at it as a positive, the trend is booming because of the beauty in hand craft, and if this is the case then more power to this culture for sticking to tradition. i admire and truly wanted to reflect that beauty in these photos.
This settler woman is upset that I called her out on this photo, and indicated to her that the model and photographer should reconsider the wearing of a headdress. The quote above is her ‘explanation’ and complete lack of apology on the matter.
I initially linked her to an article I wrote on precisely why it is disrespectful to wear a headdress. There is no indication she read it, as she certainly does not address any of the points raised. To help her, and others like her, who are afraid of links, here is an excerpt on where the headdress comes from:
HEADDRESSES IN NATIVE CULTURES
For the most part, headdresses are restricted items. In particular, the headdress worn by most non-natives imitate those worn by various Plains nations. These headdresses are further restricted within the cultures to men who have done certain things to earn them. It is very rare for women in Plains cultures to wear these headdresses, and their ability to do so is again quite restricted.
So unless you are a native male from a Plains nation who has earned a headdress, or you have been given permission to wear one (sort of like being presented with an honorary degree), then you will have a very difficult time making a case for how wearing one is anything other than disrespectful, now that you know these things. If you choose to be disrespectful, please do not be surprised when people are offended… regardless of why you think you are entitled to do this.
Even if you have ‘native friends’ or are part native yourself, individual choices to “not be offended” do not trump our collective rights as peoples to define our symbols.
If you want to pretend that this is sexism and that it’s super feminist to buck ‘the native patriarchy’, please check your privilege and read this.
There are natives who don’t care that you are wearing a headdress…(although I doubt you’ll find many among the Plains nations from whence the okimâwastotin originates), but do not conflate that with being happy that settlers are ‘celebrating this trend’. They don’t care that you’re doing something ridiculous…but they aren’t cheering you on, either.
What else did she get wrong?
This woman seems to think that attending powwows entitles her to the headdress, or is proof that she ‘appreciates’ our ‘culture’.
We are over 600 nations throughout the US and Canada. Our cultures (plural) are incredibly diverse, and going to a powwow doesn’t entitle you to anything. If you actually think of Native American ‘culture’ as a monolithic thing you can appreciate via the generic ‘native-themed’ shit so in fashion right now, you are deluded. Scarily so.
Powwows are not traditional cultural events. They are modern events, open to ‘tourists’ like this, with a smattering of ‘tradition’ related solely to specific dances and regalia. Regalia by the way is what you call what we wear when we dance. Not costumes or cultural wear.
And you cannot claim on one side of your mouth to be respecting native americans while the other side of your mouth screams at them for telling you specifically why what you are doing is disrespectful.
I mean you can…but it’s ridiculous.
Educate yourself…before you wreck yourself
Here is another excerpt from my Open-Letter To Non-Natives in Headdresses that this woman didn’t bother to read:
TRY REAL CELEBRATION INSTEAD OF APPROPRIATION
It is okay to find our stuff beautiful, because it is. It is okay to admire our cultures. However I think it is reasonable to ask that if you admire a culture, you learn more about it. Particularly when the details are so much more fascinating than say, out-dated stereotypes of Pan-Indian culture.
You do not have to be an expert on our cultures to access aspects of them. If you aren’t sure about whether something is restricted or not, please ask someone who is from that culture. If people from within that culture tell you that what you are doing is disrespectful, dismissing their concerns because you just don’t agree, is not indicative of admiration.
If you really, really want to wear beaded moccasins or mukluks or buy beautiful native art, then please do! There are legitimate and unrestricted items crafted and sold by aboriginal peoples that we would be more than happy to see you with. Then all the nasty disrespectful stereotyping and denigration of restricted symbols can be avoided, while still allowing you to be decked out in beautiful native-created fashion.
I’d like to add Beyond Buckskin’s Boutique to these links as well. Please! Go on and wear our stuff, it is awesome! But when we ask you not to wear something, please respect that.
One last thing
MIYO-WÎCÊHTOWIN, LIVING TOGETHER IN HARMONY
It’s okay to make mistakes. Maybe you had no idea about any of this stuff. The classiest thing you can do is admit you didn’t know, and maybe even apologise if you find you were doing something disrespectful. A simple acknowledgement of the situation is pure gold, in my opinion. It diffuses tension and makes people feel that they have been heard, respected, and understood.
If you make this kind of acknowledgement conditional on people informing you of these things ‘nicely’ however, that is problematic. The fact is, this issue does get people very upset. It’s okay to get heated about it too on your end and maybe bad words fly back and forth. My hope is that once you cool down, you will accept that you are not being asked to do something unreasonable.
And now you know.
Don’t be like this woman. Don’t get it so wrong.
PS: for a look at how grossly unoriginal this trend is, take a look at my Hall of Shame, featuring nearly 1000 images of people who thought they were unique too. And if you’d like to actually learn more about the issues we face as peoples today, in an age where so many settlers want to pretend racism and colonialism is a thing of the past, please peruse my Aboriginal Issue Primers. You can show your appreciation and respect of our cultures by becoming more education on the subject.
I am repulsed by your ignorance. Yes. The fact she is wearing the okimâwastotin is inherently disrespectful. Please read this to understand exactly why. I linked to this article before, and you clearly did not read it. There is literally no way that your model, or you, have the right to wear this without giving offence.
You attend powwows and call regalia costumes/dress wear? It appears your cultural tourism is not paying off.
You are not showcasing a piece of art. You are appropriating a restricted cultural symbol that does not belong to you, that is not open for your use, and that in no way promotes any understanding about the specific cultures (note the plural) that it comes from.
The very fact that you continue to clearly have no understanding of what you did wrong pretty much cements the ‘this is not promoting anything legitimate’ assertion I’ve made here.
Please read the link I provided. Learn. Listen. And if you intend to continue behaving disrespectfully, please do get used to being called out for your behaviour.