November 01, 2013

Vanity Fair's "favorite" Indian costume

Debbie Reese reported on yet another faux Indian Halloween costume in her American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

Vanity Fair's "Favorite" Halloween Costumes

the band Arcade Fire held a surprise Halloween show and Vanity Fair picked its "favorite" costumes. It labeled this picture "The Indian."

Since this was (probably) a white girl dressed as a phony Indian, Reese tweeted a comment to Vanity Fair. The magazine responded by relabeling the picture "Feathers."

As Reese noted:That, of course, is no better.

That the photograph made its way onto a list of "favorite" costumes tells me that some people at Vanity Fair, a magazine I subscribe to, are clueless about this issue. That's a bit surprising to me, especially given the coverage of fashion designers who have been called out for appropriation of Native intellectual property. Native Appropriations has been doing an excellent job of documenting the fashion industry's appropriation (click here to get a list of posts Adrienne has done on this topic). Paul Frank responded to criticism of a fashion event by working with Native designers.
And:We (by we, I mean American society) are stuck in an ugly cycle in which this kind of stereotyping happens again and again, year after year. Unfortunately, it is a money maker for those who do it. On her Facebook page, my daughter pointed to the "Sexy Indian" costumes available from a Halloween costume company. She opened by referencing statistics about how many Native women are sexually assaulted (one in three) by non-Native men, making the point that dressing up and playing Indian are not harmless activities. These activities are indicative of an ignorant society that refuses to see American Indian people as people.

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