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Posted on 20th Feb at 9:26 AM, with 523 notes
But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress? by Native Appropriations 
I’ve posted a lot about the phenomenon that is the hipster headdress (see here, here, and here),  but I’ve never really broken it down as to why this trend is so  annoying and effed up. A lot of this will be review and is repeated  elsewhere on the site, but I thought it was high time I pulled things  together into a one-stop-anti-headdress shop. Much of this can also  apply to any of the “tribal trends” I feature here, and you can also  consider this a follow up to my "Cultural Appropriation Bingo" post. The many sources I drew from are included at the end of this post.
So why can’t I wear it?Headdresses promote stereotyping of Native cultures.The image of a warbonnet and warpaint wearing Indian is one that has  been created and perpetuated by Hollywood  and only bears minimal  resemblance to traditional regalia of Plains tribes. It furthers the  stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact  there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures. It also places  Native people in the historic past, as something that cannot exist in  modern society. We don’t walk around in ceremonial attire everyday, but  we still exist and are still Native. 
Headdresses, feathers, and warbonnets have deep spiritual significance. The wearing of feathers and warbonnets in Native communities is not a  fashion choice. Eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and  respect and have to be earned. Some communities give them to children  when they become adults through special ceremonies, others present the  feathers as a way of commemorating an act or event of deep significance.  Warbonnets especially are reserved for respected figures of power. The  other issue is that warbonnets are reserved for men in Native  communities, and nearly all of these pictures show women sporting the  headdresses. I can’t read it as an act of feminism or subverting the  patriarchal society, it’s an act of utter disrespect for the origins of  the practice. (see my post on sweatlodges for more on the misinterpretation of the role of women). This is just  as bad as running around in a pope hat and a bikini, or a Sikh turban  cause it’s “cute”.   
It’s just like wearing blackface. “Playing Indian” has a long history in the United States, all the way  back to those original tea partiers in Boston, and in no way is it  better than minstral shows or dressing up in blackface. You are  pretending to be a race that you are not, and are drawing upon  stereotypes to do so. Like my first point said, you’re collapsing  distinct cultures, and in doing so, you’re asserting your power over  them. Which leads me to the next issue. 
There is a history of genocide and colonialism involved that continues today. By the sheer fact that you live in the United States you are benefiting  from the history of genocide and continued colonialism of Native  peoples. That land you’re standing on? Indian land. Taken illegally so  your ancestor who came to the US could buy it and live off it, gaining  valuable capital (both monetary and cultural) that passed down through  the generations to you. Have I benefited as well, given I was raised in a  white, suburban community? yes. absolutely. but by dismissing and  minimizing the continued subordination and oppression of Natives in the  US by donning your headdress, you are contributing to the culture of  power that continues the cycle today.

But I don’t mean it in that way, I just think it’s cute!

Well  hopefully I’ve illuminated that there’s more at play here than just a  “cute” fashion choice. Sorry for taking away your ignorance defense.  

But I consider it honoring to Native Americans! 

I think that this cartoon is a proper answer, but I’ll add that having a drunken girl wearing a  headdress and a bikini dancing at an outdoor concert does not honor me. I  remember reading somewhere that it was also “honoring the fine  craftsmanship of Native Americans”. Those costume shop chicken feather  headdresses aren’t honoring Native craftsmanship. And you will be very  hard pressed to find a Native artist who is closely tied to their  community making headdresses for sale. See the point about their  sacredness and significance.

I’m just wearing it because it’s “ironic”! I’m all for irony. Finger mustaches, PBR, kanye glasses, old  timey facial hair, 80’s spandex—fine, funny, a bit over-played, but  ironic, I guess. Appropriating someone’s culture and cavorting around  town in your skinny jeans with a feathered headdress, moccasins, and  turquoise jewelry in an attempt to be ‘counterculture’? Not ironic. If  you’re okay with being a walking representative of 500+ years of  colonialism and racism, or don’t mind perpetuating the stereotypes that  we as Native people have been fighting against for just as long, by all  means, go for it. But by embracing the current tribal trends you aren’t  asserting yourself as an individual, you are situating yourself in a  culture of power that continues to oppress Native peoples in the US. And  really, if everyone is doing it, doesn’t that take away from the irony?  am I missing the point on the irony? maybe. how is this even ironic?  I’m starting to confuse myself. but it’s still not a defense. 

Stop getting so defensive, it’s seriously just fashion!


Did  you read anything I just wrote? It’s not “just” fashion. There is a lot  more at play here. This is a matter of power and who has the right to  represent my culture. (I also enjoy asking myself questions that elicit  snarky answers.) 
What about the bigger issues in Indian Country? Poverty, suicide  rates, lack of resources, disease, etc? Aren’t those more important  that hipster headdresses?

Yes, absolutely. But, I’ll paraphrase Jess Yee in this post, and say these are very real issues and challenges in our  communities, but when the only images of Natives that Americans see are  incorrect, and place Natives in the historic past, it erases our current  presence, and makes it impossible for the current issues to exist in  the collective American consciousness. Our cultures and lives are  something that only exist in movies or in the past, not today. So it’s a  cycle, and in order to break that cycle, we need to question and  interrogate the stereotypes and images that erase our current  presence—while we simultaneously tackle the pressing issues in Indian  Country. They’re closely linked, and at least this is a place to start.    

Well then, Miss Cultural Appropriation Police, what CAN I wear? If you choose to wear something Native, buy it from a Native.  There are federal laws that protect Native artists and craftspeople who  make genuine jewelry, art, etc. (see info here about The Indian Arts and Crafts Act). Anything you buy should have a  label that says “Indian made” or “Native made”. Talk to the artist. find  out where they’re from. Be diligent. Don’t go out in a full “costume”.  It’s ok to have on some beaded earrings or a turquoise ring, but don’t  march down the street wearing a feather, with loaded on jewelry, and a  ribbon shirt. Ask yourself: if you ran into a Native person, would you  feel embarrassed or feel the need to justify yourself? As commenter Bree  pointed out, it’s ok to own a shirt with kimono sleeves, but you  wouldn’t go out wearing full kabuki makeup to a bar. Just take a minute  to question your sartorial choices before you go out.        

…and an editorial comment:  I should also note that I have absolutely nothing against hipsters. In  fact, some would argue I have hipster-leaning tendencies. In my former  San Francisco life, had been known to have a drink or two in the clouds  of smoke outside at Zeitgeist, and enjoyed shopping on Haight street. I  enjoy drinking PBR out of the can when I go to the dive bars near my  apartment where I throw darts and talk about sticking it to ‘The Man’. I  own several fringed hipster scarves, more than one pair of ironic fake  ray-ban wayfarers, and two plaid button downs. I’m also not trying to  stereotype and say that all hipsters do/wear the above, just like not  every hipster thinks it’s cool to wear a headdress. So, I don’t hate  hipsters, I hate ignorance and cultural appropriation. There is a difference. Just thought I should clear that up.
 This manifesto draws heavily from these awesome posts:
A l’allure garçonnière: The Critical Fashion Lovers (basic) guide to Cultural Appropriation Threadbared: LINKAGE: The Feather In Your “Native” Cap Racialicious: Some Basic Racist Ideas and Some Rebuttals & Why We Exist GSU Signal: Mockery of Native heritage only perpetuates Native issues
Bitch Magazine: Ke$ha and the ongoing cultural appropriation and  sexualization of Native women Bitch Magazine/Racialicious: On Hipster/Hippies and Native Culture

But Why Can’t I Wear a Hipster Headdress? by Native Appropriations

I’ve posted a lot about the phenomenon that is the hipster headdress (see here, here, and here), but I’ve never really broken it down as to why this trend is so annoying and effed up. A lot of this will be review and is repeated elsewhere on the site, but I thought it was high time I pulled things together into a one-stop-anti-headdress shop. Much of this can also apply to any of the “tribal trends” I feature here, and you can also consider this a follow up to my "Cultural Appropriation Bingo" post. The many sources I drew from are included at the end of this post.

So why can’t I wear it?
  • Headdresses promote stereotyping of Native cultures.The image of a warbonnet and warpaint wearing Indian is one that has been created and perpetuated by Hollywood  and only bears minimal resemblance to traditional regalia of Plains tribes. It furthers the stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures. It also places Native people in the historic past, as something that cannot exist in modern society. We don’t walk around in ceremonial attire everyday, but we still exist and are still Native.
  • Headdresses, feathers, and warbonnets have deep spiritual significance.
    The wearing of feathers and warbonnets in Native communities is not a fashion choice. Eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned. Some communities give them to children when they become adults through special ceremonies, others present the feathers as a way of commemorating an act or event of deep significance. Warbonnets especially are reserved for respected figures of power. The other issue is that warbonnets are reserved for men in Native communities, and nearly all of these pictures show women sporting the headdresses. I can’t read it as an act of feminism or subverting the patriarchal society, it’s an act of utter disrespect for the origins of the practice. (see my post on sweatlodges for more on the misinterpretation of the role of women). This is just as bad as running around in a pope hat and a bikini, or a Sikh turban cause it’s “cute”.  
  • It’s just like wearing blackface.
    “Playing Indian” has a long history in the United States, all the way back to those original tea partiers in Boston, and in no way is it better than minstral shows or dressing up in blackface. You are pretending to be a race that you are not, and are drawing upon stereotypes to do so. Like my first point said, you’re collapsing distinct cultures, and in doing so, you’re asserting your power over them. Which leads me to the next issue.
  • There is a history of genocide and colonialism involved that continues today.
    By the sheer fact that you live in the United States you are benefiting from the history of genocide and continued colonialism of Native peoples. That land you’re standing on? Indian land. Taken illegally so your ancestor who came to the US could buy it and live off it, gaining valuable capital (both monetary and cultural) that passed down through the generations to you. Have I benefited as well, given I was raised in a white, suburban community? yes. absolutely. but by dismissing and minimizing the continued subordination and oppression of Natives in the US by donning your headdress, you are contributing to the culture of power that continues the cycle today.
But I don’t mean it in that way, I just think it’s cute!
  • Well hopefully I’ve illuminated that there’s more at play here than just a “cute” fashion choice. Sorry for taking away your ignorance defense. 
But I consider it honoring to Native Americans!
  • I think that this cartoon is a proper answer, but I’ll add that having a drunken girl wearing a headdress and a bikini dancing at an outdoor concert does not honor me. I remember reading somewhere that it was also “honoring the fine craftsmanship of Native Americans”. Those costume shop chicken feather headdresses aren’t honoring Native craftsmanship. And you will be very hard pressed to find a Native artist who is closely tied to their community making headdresses for sale. See the point about their sacredness and significance.
I’m just wearing it because it’s “ironic”!
  • I’m all for irony. Finger mustaches, PBR, kanye glasses, old timey facial hair, 80’s spandex—fine, funny, a bit over-played, but ironic, I guess. Appropriating someone’s culture and cavorting around town in your skinny jeans with a feathered headdress, moccasins, and turquoise jewelry in an attempt to be ‘counterculture’? Not ironic. If you’re okay with being a walking representative of 500+ years of colonialism and racism, or don’t mind perpetuating the stereotypes that we as Native people have been fighting against for just as long, by all means, go for it. But by embracing the current tribal trends you aren’t asserting yourself as an individual, you are situating yourself in a culture of power that continues to oppress Native peoples in the US. And really, if everyone is doing it, doesn’t that take away from the irony? am I missing the point on the irony? maybe. how is this even ironic? I’m starting to confuse myself. but it’s still not a defense.
Stop getting so defensive, it’s seriously just fashion!
  • Did you read anything I just wrote? It’s not “just” fashion. There is a lot more at play here. This is a matter of power and who has the right to represent my culture. (I also enjoy asking myself questions that elicit snarky answers.) 
What about the bigger issues in Indian Country? Poverty, suicide rates, lack of resources, disease, etc? Aren’t those more important that hipster headdresses?
  • Yes, absolutely. But, I’ll paraphrase Jess Yee in this post, and say these are very real issues and challenges in our communities, but when the only images of Natives that Americans see are incorrect, and place Natives in the historic past, it erases our current presence, and makes it impossible for the current issues to exist in the collective American consciousness. Our cultures and lives are something that only exist in movies or in the past, not today. So it’s a cycle, and in order to break that cycle, we need to question and interrogate the stereotypes and images that erase our current presence—while we simultaneously tackle the pressing issues in Indian Country. They’re closely linked, and at least this is a place to start.   
Well then, Miss Cultural Appropriation Police, what CAN I wear?
  • If you choose to wear something Native, buy it from a Native. There are federal laws that protect Native artists and craftspeople who make genuine jewelry, art, etc. (see info here about The Indian Arts and Crafts Act). Anything you buy should have a label that says “Indian made” or “Native made”. Talk to the artist. find out where they’re from. Be diligent. Don’t go out in a full “costume”. It’s ok to have on some beaded earrings or a turquoise ring, but don’t march down the street wearing a feather, with loaded on jewelry, and a ribbon shirt. Ask yourself: if you ran into a Native person, would you feel embarrassed or feel the need to justify yourself? As commenter Bree pointed out, it’s ok to own a shirt with kimono sleeves, but you wouldn’t go out wearing full kabuki makeup to a bar. Just take a minute to question your sartorial choices before you go out.       
…and an editorial comment:  I should also note that I have absolutely nothing against hipsters. In fact, some would argue I have hipster-leaning tendencies. In my former San Francisco life, had been known to have a drink or two in the clouds of smoke outside at Zeitgeist, and enjoyed shopping on Haight street. I enjoy drinking PBR out of the can when I go to the dive bars near my apartment where I throw darts and talk about sticking it to ‘The Man’. I own several fringed hipster scarves, more than one pair of ironic fake ray-ban wayfarers, and two plaid button downs. I’m also not trying to stereotype and say that all hipsters do/wear the above, just like not every hipster thinks it’s cool to wear a headdress. So, I don’t hate hipsters, I hate ignorance and cultural appropriation. There is a difference. Just thought I should clear that up.

This manifesto draws heavily from these awesome posts:
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