June 12, 2013

Young Native Fashion's "Squaw" line

Someone named Stephen Eagle E Ellis posted this photo on Facebook:

Stevie Eagle E--CEO Shlepp Entertainment Ltd

Young Native™ Fashion 2013 by Angela DeMontigny featuring Ayi Jihu.

Spiritual Quintessential Unique Aboriginal Woman--SQUAW!
"Squaw" clothing line...so you can be a fashionable Pocahottie without the leathers and feathers.

Prove to your man that you're a sexy squaw who'll do what he wants in the boardroom and in the bedroom!

Native activists began criticizing them for using the word "squaw," so Young Native Fashion posted an response. It explains why taking back Native slurs is like taking back Native land:If Indian land was taken by the white man, ruined, destroyed and made into a dump against your will and you had the chance to reclaim that land fix it and make it better would you not do it?

Or would you just walk around it and leave it? Forever curse it and consign it to the past and even more so attack those who would try to fix it?

This makes no real sense as this is YOUR WORD, your land. Those of you who speak of weakness because of trying to reclaim what is yours are in fact missing the point completely. You are spoiling for a fight at all opportunities but you are not engaging the wider world 'idle no more' or not in your fight because of thinking like this. To win your battles you need to engage the wider world. Not just the 'Native' world. Because you are part of the same world and in reality no one owns the land. We are all squatters on God's land.

You may not agree with the use of the word squaw and that is your personal right. But You do not own it or it's use and your personal attacks on someone trying to do something positive, and forward thinking sound bitter and twisted.

This is a Native word that meant a wonderful thing that was made into a negative thing which we are attempting to return to its original meaning, our way.

It's that simple.
Critics don't agree

The critics weren't mollified:This is appalling! I don't even know how to begin telling this person how wrong/ignorant/selfish/etc. they are!! Please feel free to express yourselves!

I know how to begin...by writing this guy and letting him know how we feel!

Their reply here may seem noble, but they are hypocrites. Giving a well-worded response doesn't absolve them of pushing their exploited products.

I just got one thing to say about the above reply...blahblahblah to try to justify your action you attack someone else is acting like a teenager. It is always someone else's fault.
Comment:  Angela DeMontigny is a Native fashion designer based in Ontario. Ayi Jihu (center) is some sort of "Chinese star" who inspired DeMontigny.

Since Young Native Fashion's explanation refers to "YOUR WORD," I assume it was written by Ellis, not DeMontigny. I'm guessing Ellis is non-Native and adopted the "Eagle E" nickname for this project. Because eagles are Native, you know.

A few thoughts on this reclamation project:

1) Words such as "squaw" and "redskins" don't need to be reclaimed and rehabilitated. The words have evolved into slurs and will remain slurs for the foreseeable future because racists need racial epithets. If we were to erase them from existence, other slurs would arise to take their place.

2) Young Native Fashion's motives are highly suspect since trying to profit from "squaw." If you're so concerned about rehabilitating "squaw," how about starting a nonprofit to do it? If your choice was rehabilitating "squaw" but not making money or making money but not rehabilitating "squaw," which would you choose? Do we even have to ask?

The same analysis that applied to Redskin Magazine also applies here. Ellis isn't doing something noble here. He's using the stereotype, not challenging it, to enrich himself.

Selling sex

Incidentally, any resemblance of the black man (presumably "Stevie Eagle E") and his models to a pimp and his prostitutes is purely coincidental.

Just kidding. With the model's skin and poses, the company is obviously selling sex rather than clothes. Because the clothes we can see are unremarkable shirts and skirts except for the logos. So it's not farfetched to imagine the pimp-and-prostitute scenario.

Coincidentally, someone posted a Brocket 99 video the same day. "Brocket 99 is the name of an underground comedy audio tape that parodies aboriginal people in Canada and the name of two documentary films about the tape," according to Wikipedia. The video was titled "Every Squaw I Screw" and the thumbnail showed a hottie in a headdress. Activists quickly got it removed.

The song and its lyrics reinforce the point about what's wrong with "squaw." If it was ever a neutral word, it isn't now. In most people's minds, it basically means "Native slut." It encourages people to think of Native women as sex subjects.

We should get people to stop using the word, not try to rehabilitate it. Even if rehabilitation worked, would mean years of promoting the objectification of women like the models above. It would do nothing to change underlying attitudes toward Native women, which are what really need changing.

For more on "squaw," see Bakery to Rename Squaw Bread and Company Pulls "Sassy Squaw" Costume.


Anonymous said...

Because identifying as, ahem, "country matters" (to borrow a Shakespearean term) is so empowering.

Anonymous said...