July 28, 2010

Native cultures doomed without hipster headdresses?

Adrienne Keene brings another item to our attention in her Native Appropriations blog:

DIY Headdress from Bright Young Things

Apparently a fashion designer named Eliza Starbuck is launching a "Bright Young Things" fashion line. Adrienne writes:To commemorate the launch, she offered up this project on the blog Ecouterre, "guaranteed to turn heads." Yes friends, you can now make your very own hipster headdress.

The post offers step-by-step instructions, and I found it hilariously ironic that either Starbuck or Ecoterre reminds you to "just be sure to choose cruelty-free feathers (faux, vintage, or found), rather than pluck the plumage of some hapless bird." Definitely, worry about the birds, but not the people you may be offending.
When people objected to this headdress project, Starbuck posted the following defenses of it:I think EVERYONE is aware of stereotypes and what is and isn’t “PC” at this point in time. A handmade headdress (and not the dime store “cowboys and indians” plastic version) is sacred to anyone who wears it and certainly to anyone who makes it.And:I think this point of view is painfully old-fashioned. The Internet has created a melting pot of Ancient, Present, Past, and Future cultures from all around the world. And at this point, everyone is fully aware of what stereotypes are and what "PC" is, and going on about them is only going to perpetuate them. Practice sacred culture, don't preach it. Making efforts to keep sacred cultures segregated and separated in the name of respect and cultural preservation maybe honorable, but it is quite impossible and impractical. If that were the way, then the spirit of the Native American culture would be long dead, and we know that isn't true, it's just evolved. Everyone is connected and everyone is mixed, this is a new tribe of people.Readers rip Starbuck

Adrienne let her readers handle this one, and they did so with some scathing replies:Sayeh said...

How is it logical to reiterate that "EVERYONE" know what's PC and stereotypical as some sort of justification for being un-PC and stereotypical? awareness of the negative impact of ones behavior while continuing to engage in and justify it is almost worse than accidental ignorance. Starbuck's whole point reeks of defeatist "don't bother resisting, just assimilate" ignorance.

Colin said...

One generally doesn't make sacred objects out of nylon, faux feathers, and fake leather on an old copy of the Brooklyn Rail. If that were the case, then I spent most of second grade making sacred objects out of macaroni and construction paper. Maybe I should get out my Bedazzler and make some sacred rhinestone jeans.

It's interesting how she position herself as a savior of native culture. Clearly, if not for hipsters and sports mascots, "the spirit of the Native American culture would be long dead."

And, generally speaking, most ceremonies involving spiritually or culturally significant clothing (e.g. headdresses, yarmulkes, mitres, even green berets) don't end with "Enjoy your new wings!" That's called cosplay.

(I would also like to know where on the Internet cultures from the future are hiding, and can I borrow their time machine?)

Naturalist Charlie said...

Then there's the wonderful inference that all Native Americans are the same and there is one single 'Native American Culture' in which this type of headdresses are 'sacred'. Kind of like saying the kilt is traditional dress for everyone in Europe.

Jessie said...

"The spirit of the Native American culture would be dead [without us white people to perpetuate it, you know, because that's our burden]."

She just makes me furious with her idiocy. Does she even understand what she wrote? So flippantly dismissing a critique of the ideas (or lack of ideas) behind what she does. I guess it's not "in" right now to be disturbed by the use of a religion that white men tried to wipe out.

How's about you let the Native peoples decide how to treat their religion and sacred objects, Eliza?

delux said...

"Practice sacred culture, don't preach it."

I'm always fascinated by how much more these types of folks know what is best for native people, than native people themselves.
I posted a couple of comments myself, but these people did all the heavy lifting. Check out all their comments for a better understanding of why hipster headdresses aren't okay.

For more examples of cultural (mis)appropriation, see Sexy "Indians" in Hipster Headdresses and Tribal Girls in Hot 'n' Fun Video. For more on what's wrong with this practice, see The "Honor" of a Plains Chief and Stereotypes Okay in "Cultural Commons"?

1 comment:

jean said...

Is her surname for real?
Sadly I see this blatant disregard of an important part of Indian culture everywhere.From nursery schools to fashion runways & even in the music industry.The last thing we want is a Nanny State of course but the argument I hear is that its F.U.N.Apparently.OK but not Stetsons for some strange reason :o!
I guess basically what Starbuck is telling us is to go eat cake...