-Note: This post contains a NSFW image of a bare breast, so make sure your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder while you read this-
My readers are probably familiar with how much I love clothing at this point. I’m not exactly what you may call fashionable, but I have a unique style and enjoy clothes shopping immensely, to the point where I’ve fancied starting a fashion series on this blog once I have a steady enough income to support buying clothes again.
Part of my clothes buying credo is supporting local artists/designers/stores when I can, and Victoria has a lot to offer in terms of unique fashion. I spend a lot of weekends downtown window shopping and sighing at what’s in there but out of reach.
My facebook seems acutely aware of this and gave me an ad directing me to a local clothing company, Sitka Clothing. I clicked on it intrigued, mainly because Sitka is the town where most of the events in Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union take place. I figured that if I liked what I saw on the website, I would take a trip to their store downtown today and see if there was anything in my (currently pitiable) price range.
Most of what I saw was fine, but not at all my style, it was confined largely to outdoorsy-wear, and I’m much more inclined towards urban chic, though I like a hike in the woods as much as the next British Columbian. Then I saw this picture:
[Description: A picture of two caucasian women dressed up in stereotypical ‘Native American’ clothing. The one on the left is wearing nothing but a headdress and a leather string with fringes around her neck, the one on the right is wearing a sweater/wool top of some kind and a headdress]
Seriously? The hipster headdress? I’m used to seeing these ugly atrocities at this point, since one of my favourite blogs, My Culture is Not a Trend, often runs into this nonsense and dissects it. Some basic points that MCINAT has made repeatedly about this usage of stereotypical imagery and headdresses in particular are going to be repeated here, in case anyone doesn’t see why I’m steaming mad and would never consider shopping here now:
It promotes a false reality of Native life that’s stuck permanently in the sepia-toned past, which never really existed anyways. Which, in the long term, leads to a representation stagnation. Why use images of authentic Aboriginal models wearing fashionable clothing, when a picture of some white women in war paint will do the trick? After all, real Natives are boring and don’t live in teepees or wear headdresses, so I’ll go stick with my own fantasy over reality. This has the long term effect of making it exceedingly difficult for Aboriginal models to find work, and if they do find work, they often find themselves pigeonholed into what the sepia-toned fantasy calls for. It’s limiting to both the model and original, creative thinking.
Secondly, women don’t wear war bonnets in Plains culture. If this were something more like Leonard Nimoy’s The Shekhina Project, which was an exploration of the feminine side of G-d, which drew some ire and criticism for portraying (often nude) women wearing Tefillin, I would be fine with it. A project with an Aboriginal photographer exploring the traditional gender norms and sexuality of hir tribe would be a grand, wonderful thing to see.
The Sekhina Project was about a Jewish man inquiring after his own culture and ideas of G-d, using photography to unite spirituality and sexuality through a Jewish lens. That is not what happened here. It’s not photographic ponderings on one’s own culture, sexuality, and spirituality. It’s a crude gimmick to cash in on a popular trend and sell clothing, and presumably photographed by a non-Aboriginal with non-Aboriginal models. That’s not acceptable, and it’s not even original. Flitter through the blog above to see how often this happens, and tell me why any reasonable marketing expert would think it’s a good idea to copy such a tired, hackneyed, formulaic trend.
So, I’m going to take my customs elsewhere in Victoria, preferably at a local business which doesn’t include hipster headdresses in their promotional materials.