October 28, 2011

A history of sexy "Indian maidens"

Halloween Horror Show:  The Sexualized Indian Maiden, Same as She Ever WasThe fashion industry is having a bout of fake-Indian-fever, and young people loosely identified as “hipsters” are appropriating Indian garb left and right; you’d think were were seeing a sudden cultural siege on Indian-ness.

The dirty little secret—or what may be a “secret” to a 25-year-old kid who wears buckskin to a Halloween party—is that today’s appropriation of Indian traditional dress is in itself a tradition. In Hollywood, sacred Indian regalia and symbols were misused from the start, and sexed-up costumes were slapped onto popular non-Indian actresses. The sexy Indian maiden was a popular look for burlesque performers and strippers, and the most famous pinup artists used the fabricated stereotype in calendars and magazine work.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Racist Costumes = White Privilege and Tomahawk Tassels Stereotypes Native Women.

Below:  Pinup by George Petty.


Anonymous said...

A history has to include Custer's Revenge. I mean, in a world where Indian women are two and a half times as likely to be sexually assaulted as women of other racial groups, there's only a matter of degree.

Rob said...

The slideshow obviously focused on movie and pinup art. The point was to show the early history of sexualizing Indians in the mass media. To be complete, yes, it could've included later images from comic books, video games, the Internet, and so forth.