June 23, 2008

Sexy Alliquippa?

Stereotypes in AAA's magazineJust as I was about to discard the May/June 2008 issue of Going Places: The Magazine for Today’s Traveler, a publication of AAA, a stereotypical image caught my eye, part of a pitch for Going Places’ interactive website, "Making Tracks for Kids." Looking further, I read this: "Meet Allaquippa, an Iroquois maiden named after the famous queen! Tell a tall tale, build a family tree, play a game and learn about Native American life and the history of Pittsburgh." See Meet Alliquippa.

If you make tracks to the May/June 2008 issue of Making Tracks, an interactive website of games and activities for kids,” to “Meet Alliquippa, an Iroquois maiden,” you will not find anything new. Instead, you will encounter the usual stereotypes about American Indians.

The Alliquippa cartoon image, like mascots and other caricatures, masks the actual history and contemporary status of Native people. This particular fictional “maiden” sports black hair hanging in two pig tails, wears feathers (the main one, green with red and white accents), and is decked out in a short top and slit skirt with generic Indian designs. Posed in a stereotypical stance, Aliquippa stands with her arms folded under a fringed wrap against a backdrop recognizable as a Plains star quilt design.
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 6/20/08.)

Comment:  The only problem is, the cartoon figure isn't that bad. Here are some comments I posted to Debbie Reese's blog:

Interesting, but Molin's description of the cartoon Alliquippa isn't quite accurate. She's wearing what appears to be a full-length dress, not a "short top and slit skirt." The slit is a minor indentation at her ankle.

A belt cinches her dress at the waist. Its coloring may have fooled Molin into thinking we're seeing the girl's bare belly. But the belt's faint markings prove that isn't the case.

A shawl draped over one shoulder further hides the girl's upper body. It also obscures her arms, so we can't be sure they're folded. She could have her left hand on her right shoulder and her right arm at her side.

All in all, this isn't a "sexy maiden" outfit, as Molin seems to imply. It's a modest, conservative dress--especially for someone who's supposed to be a modern Seneca girl. These days, I imagine most Seneca girls dress more flamboyantly, in t-shirts or tank tops and shorts or jeans.

Molin's other points are more valid.

I wonder if the writer avoided the word "Confederacy" because he or she considered it "too big." The piece seems to be written for grade-schoolers who might not understand it.

You can read about the real Queen Alliquippa in Wikipedia.

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