A 1986 Virginia Slim ad reflected a similar notion that white patriarchy saves Native women from oppression. On the left side of the ad was a totem pole of cartoonish figures of Indian women. Their names: Princess Wash and Scrub, Little Running Water Fetcher, Keeper of the Teepee, Woman Who Gathers Firewood, Princess Buffalo Robe Sewer, Little Woman Who Weaves All Day, and Woman Who Plucks Feathers for Chief’s Headdress. The caption on top of the totem pole reads: ‘Virginia Slims remembers one of many societies where the women stood head and shoulders above the men.’
On the right side of the ad is a model adorned with makeup and dressed in a tight skirt, nylons, and high heels, with the familiar caption: ‘You’ve come a long way, baby.’ The message is that Native women, oppressed in their tribal societies, need to be liberated into a patriarchal standard of beauty, where their true freedom lies. The historical record suggests, as Paula Gunn Allen argues, that the real roots of feminism should be found in Native societies. But in this Virginia Slims ad, feminism is tied to colonial conquest - (white) women’s liberation is founded upon the destruction of supposedly patriarchal Native societies.
Today we see this discourse utilized in the ‘war on terror.’ To justify the bombing of Afghanistan, Laura Bush declared, ‘The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women’ (Flanders, 2004). These sentiments were shared by mainstream feminists. Eleanor Smeal, former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and founder and president of the Fund for a Feminist Majority said ‘Without 9/11, we could not get the Afghanistan tragedy in focus enough for the world powers to stop the Taliban’s atrocities or to remove the Taliban. Tragically, it took a disaster for them to act definitively enough.’ It seems the best way to liberate women is to bomb them. Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), whose members were the very women who were to liberated by this war, denounced it as an imperial adventure.
Andrea Smith, “Sexual Violence as a Tool of Genocide”
Anonymous asked: Why care about what us white people wear for halloween so much? Why can't you simply ignore it? If anyone wants to be an indian let us. Stop criticizing...
Even if I ignore it I will be affected by the outcome of these racist actions. Native people will be affected by these racist costumes. Dressing up as an “Indian / Native American” reduces hundreds of Native cultures into one racist stereotype; this is dehumanizing. When a group (or race) is viewed as subhuman violence and oppression towards that group is inevitable (and in this case continuous).
Your actions, and the actions of others impersonating an entire race, affect an entire race of people. You are attempting to silence Native peoples and downplay this serious issue, but you are in the wrong.
I’m sorry but… I don’t see how any of this affects you in any way other than it hurts your feelings. What people wear should not A) be any of your concern B) matter to anyone but the person wearing them C) be incapable of being ignored. It isn’t like they run up an slap you because you ignored what they were wearing. People wearing a strip of fabric here, some fringe there, maybe some paint, throw in a feather…. It’s not affecting you, it’s not affecting me. All it does is hurt a feeling here and there.
Racist stereotypes are harmful because they are dehumanizing. When a person wears a “Native American” costume they are promoting the dehumanization of Native peoples by continuing to further stereotype us. There are more than 500 Native cultures but these racist costumes reduce into one stereotype.
Often times these costumes are sexualized which promotes the fetishization of Native women. 1 in 3 Native women will be raped at least once in their lifetime, 85% of these rapes will be performed by non-Native individuals. The media, which includes these racist costumes, portray Native women as primitive sex objects and promote dangerous fetishes of Native women. I, as a rape survivor, was affected by this fetishization. While I was being raped the rapist called me his “little squaw” and “dirty squaw”.
Many costumes depict a person wearing a fake warbonnet. The warbonnet is a sacred item that must be earned and is still practiced today by a few Plains Native tribes. When someone wears a fake warbonnet they are desecrating that sacred item and mocking and stereotyping the people they are stealing it from; even if that is not the person’s intent it is the outcome. This is most offensive when it is done by a white person because they are the oppressive group over Native peoples (and people of color). A white person can exert their white privilege by stealing sacred items and wearing racist costume only to discard them when they are done. In other words, they want to have all the “perks” without any of the negative aspects of being Native; such as, experiencing oppression, high suicide rates, high rape rates, poverty, etc etc. Not only are white people our past and current oppressors but they committed a genocide of Native people which killed around 100 million Native people. So, not only are we still oppressed, and wear the scares of our people, and see the pain in our grandparents eyes, but we get to be stereotyped and mocked by our oppressors.
The feminist movement is generally periodized into the so-called first, second and third waves of feminism. In the United States, the first wave is characterized by the suffragette movement; the second wave is characterized by the formation of the National Organization for Women, abortion rights politics, and the fight for the Equal Rights Amendments. Suddenly, during the third wave of feminism, women of colour make an appearance to transform feminism into a multicultural movement.
This periodization situates white middle-class women as the central historical agents to which women of colour attach themselves. However, if we were to recognize the agency of indigenous women in an account of feminist history, we might begin with 1492 when Native women collectively resisted colonization. This would allow us to see that there are multiple feminist histories emerging from multiple communities of colour which intersect at points and diverge in others. This would not negate the contributions made by white feminists, but would de-center them from our historicizing and analysis.
Indigenous feminism thus centers anti-colonial practice within its organizing. This is critical today when you have mainstream feminist groups supporting, for example, the US bombing of Afghanistan with the claim that this bombing will free women from the Taliban (apparently bombing women somehow liberates them).
In a class I taught, we discussed the issue of spiritual appropriation. The white students told me how beneficial Native spirituality was to them and that they had to take part in these New Age movements because they find no other substitute. So I asked, even if the New Age movement is as beneficial to you as you say, do you have any responsibility to Native communities when you take part in these practices? What struck me was that no one had even considered this question before. This practice of taking without asking, the assumption that the needs of the taker are paramount whereas the needs of the one being taken from are irrelevant, mirrors the rape culture of the dominant society.
Thus, it is particularly ironic that this colonial practice, structured by sexual violence, is often perpetuated by white feminists in their efforts to heal from the wounds of patriarchal violence. Sadly, they do not consider how such practices may hinder Native women from healing as well. Native counselors generally agree that a strong cultural identity is essential if Native people are to heal from abuse because a Native woman’s healing entails not only healing from any personal abuse she has suffered but also from the patterned history of abuse against her family, her nation, and her environment. When white women appropriate Indian spirituality for their own benefit, for whatever reason, they continue this pattern of abuse against Indian peoples’ cultures. This exploitation has a specific negative impact on Native peoples’ ability to heal from abuse. Shelley McIntyre, formerly of the Minneapolis Indian Women’s Resource Center, complains that Native women who are trying to heal from abuse have difficulty finding their rootedness in Native culture because all they can find is Lynn Andrews or other ‘plastic medicine wo/men’ who masquerade as Indians for profit. It is unfortunate that, as many white women attempt to heal themselves from the damage brought on by Christian patriarchy, they are unable to do so in a way that is not parasitic on Native women. They continue the practice of their colonial fathers who sought paradise in Native lands without regard for the peoples of these lands.
For years we have been saying [violence against aboriginal women] is not a women’s issue, [and it] is not a native problem. This is a Canadian human-rights issue…This is racialized, sexualized violence. This is about hate crimes in this country, aboriginal women being targeted for extreme sexual violence because they are aboriginal women. And we need that changed.
This is not related to art but it is some really important work that is being done by Families of Sisters in Spirit and No More Silence and is worth highlighting. Hopefully this database will make people realize that the issue of disappearing Aboriginal women here in Canada is grave and needs an immediate inquiry. Its ridiculous that women who make a comparably small size of the population compared to Euro-Canadian women like myself go missing in *way* higher numbers and no one in the government seems to think its worth investigating.
It is no accident that white masculinity is constructed the way it is in the United States, as European invasion of the Americas required a masculinity that murders, rapes, and enslaves Native and African peoples. It is a masculinity that requires men to be soldiers and conquerors in every aspect of their lives. A masculinity rooted in genocide breeds a culture of sexual abuse.
The goal of colonialism is not just to kill colonized peoples, but to destroy their sense of being people. It is through sexual violence that a colonizing group attempts to render a colonized people as inherently rapable, their lands inherently invadable, and their resources inherently extractable.
chialetriangleface asked: I agree with you that misogyny is intrinsic to hegemonic masculinity, but I very much disagree that sexual assault has anything to do with it. Certainly, the fact that male-on-female sexual assault is so broadly seen could be intrinsic to such a society, but sexual assault in general is intrinsic to any sort of power imbalance. With the implicit understanding that I realise how much this make me sound like "that guy", had we been in a matriarchy for the past 6000 years, it would be reversed...
But that just isn’t true? You assume matriarchies have not existed over the last 6,000 years and that’s just not true, nor were the ones that existed cultures that turned rape into an economic commodity. Look at how western colonialism was directly structured to break Indigenous societies down by 1) destroying matriarchies through violent cultural assimilation and by 2) demoralizing the First Nations in their fight against colonialism by systematically assaulting, abusing and murdering the women in those societies, some matriarchal.
“Hegemonic masculinity” is really western European COLONIAL hegemonic masculinity and it has been specifically constructed to dominate and overthrow matriarchies and other Indigenous societies by using rape as weapon.
“It is no accident that white masculinity is constructed the way it is in the United States, as European invasion of the Americas required a masculinity that murders, rapes, and enslaves Native and African peoples. It is a masculinity that requires men to be soldiers and conquerors in every aspect of their lives. A masculinity rooted in genocide breeds a culture of sexual abuse.”