An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses Blog Review by Blue

To understand cultural appropriation, we must first be able to recognize the meaning of culture. Culture is a term for the way of life and is defined as the essential and collective ideas, beliefs, traditions, customs and values of a group. Cultural appropriation is the unjust act of taking or borrowing these aspects or emblems from another culture without their permission and without fully understanding the meaning behind them. It conducts within a logic that legitimates domination over a subordinate group. In this case, indigenous people’s cultural aspects and objects are taken over by dominant white society. This misappropriation and colonialism involves complicated issues of negative stereotypical representations against the minority group. The article explains the difference between using restricted symbols and unrestricted symbols of one’s culture to help avoid cultural appropriation. For example, the actual parchment of a Bachelor’s degree is a restricted symbol and by pretending to have earned one can cause serious consequences within a culture. This is the same as a non-native wearing a headdress, which perpetuates stereotypes about the Native people, as headdresses are considered a restricted symbol. Headdresses are not only restricted to non-natives, but are mainly suited for Native men and rarely seen on women. The headdresses are earned by the men and represent an act or event of profound significance. When people wear headdresses for fashion, costume or other purposes, they are contributing to the vicious cycle of cultural appropriation. They are doing so, by minimizing the continued oppression of the Native community, rather than helping to break the cycle.

An example of cultural appropriation found in popular culture recently, is from the Fashion Show in Milan. The fashion label Dsquared2, designed a theme-based line loosely off of their perception of Canadian Indian tribes. The twin brothers, Dean and Dan, called their collection Dsquaw, and created hashtags on social media channels, including Instagram and Twitter to campaign their fashion line. The word squaw is known as a derogatory and contemptuous term that refers to Native women, especially a wife. The use of this racial slur displays the intersectionality of racism and sexism. The clothing they designed is also another representation of misappropriation and homogenization of the Native culture. This is caused by the lack of understanding and only visualizing incorrect images of Natives. By solely focusing on Natives in the past, it eliminates the contemporary presence and makes the current controversies impossible to be aware of. To aid this issue, we must examine the images and stereotypes present, as well as tackle the hardships and affairs happening in the Native community. These stereotypes of the indigenous culture emphasize the notions ingrained by the Western superiority. From this stems the salvage paradigm, which is described as the need for indigenous people to be saved by saviours, who then hold the power to choose which aspects to preserve and features to disregard. In the paper, “From Cultural Exchange to Transculturation,” Richard A. Rogers says that, “cultural appropriation is involved in the assimilation and exploitation of marginalized and colonized cultures and in the survival of subordinated cultures and the resistance to dominant cultures.”

To conclude, this article does a wonderful job articulating what cultural appropriation and how we can help stop it. It provides people with a point of view on thinking twice before dressing in a certain sacred or important item to another culture. Specifically, wearing a headdress for an occasion or for your own purpose, without critically understanding what it stands for, is why this cycle of cultural appropriation is still existent. By only taking parts of the Native culture, we are ignoring the more prevalent and pressing issues they are faced with. Stereotypes have historically been used to vindicate racism and discrimination against indigenous people. Even though people’s intentions are good, perpetuating stereotypes simplifies these cultures and by doing so, reduces the people that belong and makes it easy to condone the injustice. This article shows that we should rather celebrate the Native people, by admiring their art and culture. Once we learn to understand when cultural appropriation is present and how to diminish it, we will gain mutual respect for one another. A simple acknowledgment of cultural appropriation is a step forward to ending the cycle of this issue. Enjoying the way of the Native people and living together in harmony, will allow us to see that “justice is what love looks like in public”, as Cornell West said.

References:

K, Adrienne. “But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress.” Native Appropriations. 27 Apr. 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <http://nativeappropriations.com/2010/04/but-why-cant-i-wear-a-hipster-headdress.html>.

Schilling, Vincent. “Oh No They Didn’t: Designers Show ‘Squaw’ Fashion in Milan.” Indian Country Today Media Network. 3 Mar. 2015. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/03/03/oh-no-they-didnt-designers-show-squaw-fashion-milan-159446>.

Watanabe, Marina. “What, Exactly, Is Cultural Appropriation (And How Is It Harmful)?” Everday Feminism. 22 Dec. 2014. Web. 9 Mar. 2015. <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/what-exactly-is-cultural-appropriation-and-how-is-it-harmful/>.

“An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses.” Âpihtawikosisân. Web. 6 Mar. 2015. <http://apihtawikosisan.com/hall-of-shame/an-open-letter-to-non-natives-in-headdresses/>.

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An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses Blog Review by Blue

5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses Blog Review by Blue

  1. Blue,
    Really enjoyed your piece. I liked how you defined culture and cultural appropriation, and I especially liked the examples you gave. The comparison between a Bachelor’s degree and a headdress as a restricted symbol was interesting.
    For critique, I think you need to expand more on some ideas. In the second paragraph you mention how “squaw” intersects with racism and sexism, but you do not expand on this. Explaining why these intersections hurt Native women, and how this ties into cultural appropriation would have improved your second paragraph a lot. Other than that, I did not see anything that stood out.

    Grey

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  2. Wow, this was a great blog review! I liked that you seemed very educated about cultural appropriation and how that connects to the headdress article. It was also great to see how you connected the pattern of cultural appropriation by giving relevant examples within pop culture. Lastly, the use of your terms were great, and you explained them very thoroughly. As a critique I would love to see your opinion about the issue and, if relevant, relate it back to something personal.
    Honestly though, great job! #teamcheckurprivilege
    -Purple

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  3. Blue,
    Great review! I really like how you didn’t just use the terms in your piece, but made a point to define them, and make sure that the reader has a good understanding of them. One part that really caught my attention was the comparison to a bachelors degree, and then tying it back to cultural appropriation. I also found the example of the fashion show really interesting and I thought that you tied it into your piece very neatly. Your explanation of the term ‘squaw’ provided a lot of information, especially since you didn’t just define it, but you delved deeper into explaining the intersectional aspect of it. You also provided a good external source, which tied into your post nicely, and offers a interesting insight. Your conclusion was really good, as it summarized all your points clearly and offers supportive ways to approach the situation with means to better it. Lastly, I enjoyed the part where you touched on the ideas about celebrating the culture and gaining respect, ending your post with a strong quote.
    -Red

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  4. Blue,
    Great entry! You did a very good job at defining all your terms. I also enjoyed the fact that you offered up your own solutions for cultural appropriation, especially in regard to the Dsquared2 controversy, and you applied them to the bigger picture. Some critiques would be for you to have explained more about what constitutes as a ‘restricted symbol’ or ‘unrestricted symbol’ and what doesn’t. What is the meaning behind such terms? Also consider trying to rephrase some of your sentences when editing to avoid run on sentences and to create sentences that flow a little better.
    Overall, great blog, it was very powerful and showed off your knowledge on the subject matter!
    -Green

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  5. Thank you so much for the feedback! To answer some of the questions, restricted items things such as, are military medals, Bachelor degrees, and certain awards representing achievement in literary, musical or other fields. On the other hand unrestricted items include the food, flag, etc. of other cultures. My opinion on the matter is that cultural appropriation has become an issue that needs to be dealt with and the first step is to educate ourselves on what it truly means. This will help us be able to see when it is present. I think cultures should be celebrated and not mocked or imitated by others. Once we are able to achieve this I think that will help create an equality between us. The term squaw, is a derogatory word used towards solely Native women. Racism and sexism is present, as it is demeaning to one’s gender and race, therefore creating an intersectionality of the two. I appreciate the comments and constructive criticism, it has helped me see what I need to work on for next time and what I should continue doing.
    -Blue

    Like

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