November 10, 2011

"PocaHotAss" party canceled

The day after people found out about the "PocaHotAss" party scheduled for Saturday, the event was history. Here's how it went down:

Sponsors withdraw support from 'Bedlam Presents' party over 'Indian' theme

By Dyana BagbyThe popular Atlanta costume-themed party "Bedlam Presents" stepped into hot water again this month when it attempted to host a "Pocahotass" party on Saturday that numerous people found offensive and took to social networking to get sponsors pulled.

The party, to be held at the Mood Lounge and named "Pocahotass," enraged several people who posted comments to the Facebook page of the party's invite on Tuesday and Wednesday. That page, however, has been deleted, but not before dozens of posts were made by those who opposed the party, stating the party was exploiting an oppressed people. Bedlam Presents supporters argued back that, essentially, the party was not offensive and telling those who did not like the theme to not attend.

The party, founded and hosted by Barry Brandon, who is openly gay, invited people to dress up as "Indians and pilgrims." Those opposing the party said the name of the party was offensive and to dress up as people from an oppressed culture was "racist." The poster (above) for the party, also, was deemed insensitive by those opposing the party.

This is the second time a Bedlam Presents party has been criticized by many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Atlantans via Facebook. In March, many LGBT people said they were offended by the "Derelicte" party derived from the movie "Zoolander" that glorifies "homeless chic."
Unfortunately for Bedlam, the vodka company it claimed as a sponsor said it didn't know or approve of the "PocaHotAss" theme. It pulled its support. That and the controversy forced Bedlam to cancel the event.

The debate rages

The article also captured some of the arguments between Bedlam's supporters and critics:Brandon said in an interview today he and Bedlam organizers had no intention of offending anyone. The party is canceled although a private party will be held at Mood Lounge on Saturday but without any Native American costume theme, he said.

"We're fairly certain we've lost our sponsors for future events and rightfully so," Brandon said. "I respect and understand their decision. It was a touchy subject for a lot of people."

Brandon also said it was a "big leap" for those opposing the costume party to see it as an attack on Native Americans. Those arguing against the party pointed out how the Native American culture has suffered from genocide and rape at the hands of colonizers.

"There's a difference between offensive and racist and just a costume," Brandon said.
Wow, what a stupid argument. For starters, you think dressing up as a blackfaced minstrel performer, a Mexican bandito, or a big-nosed greedy Jew wouldn't be offensive and racist? Those costumes are the epitome of offensive racism. If you're saying they're not racist, you're saying there's no such thing as racism. Which of course isn't true.

Below:  White Australians pretending to be the Jacksons. Not offensive?!

Also, the criticism isn't just about the costume, dummy. People roundly criticized your "PocaHotAss" theme for turning a young Native girl into a sexual object. Especially when sexual violence against Native women is rampant.

And they criticized you for confusing the Wampanoag Indians who met the Pilgrims with the Powhatan Indians who raised Pocahontas. They're two completely different cultures hundreds of miles apart. It would be like having a British "lords and ladies" party with people dressed as Italian gondoliers or organ-grinders. Same continent and race but vastly different cultures...get it?

This "all Indians are the same" mentality is exactly why these costume parties are offensive. And why they're racist. If you recognize dozens of Caucasian cultures but think there's only one Native culture, your thoughts are racist. The issue isn't how unkind and uncaring you are, but how ignorant you are. You implicitly think white Euro-Americans are more diverse, sophisticated, and "civilized."

So saying this protest was only about a "costume" shows how obtuse the organizers were. Anybody this out of touch with reality has no business coming anywhere near the minefields of race and culture.

Playing Indians = celebrating fashion?Some of the back-and-forth as pulled from Brandon's Facebook page on Tuesday:

"So-will this be honoring Native American culture or further exploiting people we have already exploited for centuries?" asked one person.

"Neither actually. Just celebrating the fashion inspired by their culture ;). As simple as that," Brandon answered.

"Barry, 'celebrating the fashion inspired by…'would mean featuring couture designers who claim Native American influences. Instead, you're asking people to 'dress up like' indigenous people, and unless carefully and respectfully informed how to do so, most folks will create stereotypical and inaccurate costumes that harm (detract from, misrepresent) Native American culture. 'If you harm no one, do what you will.' This event, as planned, crosses that line," wrote another person.
Again, so very stupid. The invitation asked people to dress as Indians. To 99% of the population, that would mean stereotypical headdresses and buckskin outfits. What does this have to do with "fashion inspired by Indians," which would mean shirts, dresses, and jackets with Native patterns? You know, like the "Navajo" products from Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 we've discussed recently.

The two have nothing in common. Again, we're talking about plain brown buckskins without Native patterns vs. colorful modern clothes with Native patterns. With Bedlam's "Pilgrims and Indians" and "PocaHotAss" themes, the vast majority of attendees would dress in stereotypical "feathers and leathers."

So the party fails on multiple levels. The organizers should thank us for rescuing them from making a horrendous mistake. "Poke a Hot (Native) Ass" for Thanksgiving...incredible.

For more on Pocahontas, see Pocahontas Statue in Previews and Sophie Turner's "Poca-Hotness." For more examples of non-Indians in redface, see "Trail of Tears" Halloween Costume and Fake Indians in West Hollywood.

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