April 15, 2011

Designer teepees for toddlers

Adrienne Keene blogs about designer teepees for toddlers in her Native Appropriations blog:

Baby Teepees are like, totally, inThe newest accessory for your already perfect nursery? A tipi of course! Eagle-eyed readers Andrea, Laura, and Mieko spotted these "adorable" tipi's all over tumblr last week. Most of the pictures are from Design Chic, and here's how the author sets up a slew of tipi-pics:

Grown-up or child, we all need a little bit of space that is all ours. Last week, I was looking for the perfect gift for my nephew's two-year-old birthday. I wanted to give him a cute tent to put in the yard, but Mom suggested a teepee instead. What a perfect gift! He loves it, learned a great, new, easy-to-pronounce vocabulary word, and, most important, it looks adorable in the house but can go outside at any time. Definitely a winning combination. These teepees are not only the perfect place for a child's imagination to run wild, but also add a whimsical design touch to the room (or yard). We hope you love them as much as we do!
Um, yeah. I laughed out loud at Julia's commentary on her tumblr (she blogs at A'allure Garconniere as well), and I really don't think I can say it any better:

Teepees are great because they are whimsical! (as opposed to tents, those are just boring) teepees are great because it’s a new, simple, easy to pronounce vocabulary word for a two year old! (Because “tent” is just so overly complicated.) Teepees are great, because as a rich white privileged person, they allow me to relegate Western Plains Native people to this archaic, whimsical, historical vestige of the past, instead of confronting my nation’s history of colonization and acknowledging Native people’s lives and ways of living as complex and multifaceted. this new teepee trend is just so great, because now expensive design companies can make a buck by selling Western Plains Native iconography as playtime places for kids in the suburbs!

I’m so happy incorporating teepees into my home decor allow my child the opportunity to erase my nation’s history of violence and cultural genocide by encouraging his imagination run wild about the ways he, too, can be cultural appropriative when he grows up.
Playing Indian

Some commenters on this item debated the idea of playing Indian:reptilegrrl said...

[W]hen I was a kid, I did "play Indian." I also played cowboy and farmer and caveman and princess and astronaut and pioneer. Some of the characters I pretended to be were fantasies (like Wonder Woman) and some were not. I do not think that "playing Indian" relegates Indians to the domain of fantasy. The point of pretending to be someone else is imagining what it's like to be another person, to live another life. And I think this is good for children: it is GOOD to foster imagination and empathy, and furthermore, it is a way that children choose the kind of lives they want to lead as adults.

Debbie Reese said...

reptilegrrl thinks it is good for kids to imagine what they want to be as adults. She says that as a kid, she played Indian, and, she also played cowboy and farmer and caveman and princess and astronaut and pioneer.

An odd mix, I think. Cowboy and farmer and astronaut and pioneer are all things that people choose to do with their lives.

People cannot choose to be an Indian. They can't choose to be Black, or Asian, or Latino/a....See the difference? And when children "play Indian"--just what kind of Indian are the playing? Usually they're playing a stereotype (the wild, menacing Indian, or the noble one). Either way, the actions and items they wear are problematic.

Do you encourage your children to "play Black" to foster empathy for African Americans? How do they dress up to do that?
Comment:  Most of the people reptilegrrl played as a child were either historical or fictional. Indians don't want to be relegated to either category, especially the fictional one.

For more on stereotypical tipis, see The Pee-pee Teepee and Teepees in Koff Beer Ad.


reptilegrrl said...

Hi. I wish to point out three things:

One:Debbie attributed to me something I did NOT say. I didn't say anything about kids imagining "what they want to be as adults." I said that I think it's good for kids to imagine being different people and living different kinds of lives.

Two: I *am* an Indian. Acknowledging and exploring the history of Indians does not relegate Indians to mere history. This should be obvious since *I am an Indian woman.*

Three: You said that most of the types of people I mention are either historical or fictional. Try counting again. Most of the people I mentioned imagining as a child were people who exist and live today: farmers, pioneers, astronauts, cowboys, princesses, and Indians. These are neither mere history nor fiction.

Why do you and Debbie feel the need to be dishonest in order to make your point? Your points are perfectly valid without lying and assassinating someone's character.

Rob said...

Debbie Reese suggested your reason for playing "dress up" based on the reason most children do it. Whether she was right or not, it was a reasonable suggestion.

Spare us the sophistry on your third point. All those people exist in history and fiction as well as in modern life. More important, when children dress up, they usually do so as historical or fictional versions of these people.

Let's go through some examples. If I somehow get it wrong, you can tell us how you really dressed up.

Pioneer: Yes, you could've dressed up as a pioneering nuclear physicist or genetic engineer. But most likely you dressed up as a Daniel Boone-style pioneer from American history.

Princess: Yes, you could've dressed up like Princess Diana, St├ęphanie, or Masako in designer fashions, but most likely you dressed up in a frilly pink dress and tiara. This outfit is more fictional than historical and more historical than modern.

Indian: Yes, you could've dressed up as a modern Indian woman in a work shirt and jeans or business suit. But most likely you dressed up in a "Pocahontas"-style buckskin dress and feathered headband.

The same applies to a farmer in overalls and a straw hat. That isn't how most farmers dress today. As for cowboys and astronauts, they're a dying breed. Their outfits haven't changed much, but they're more famous for their roles in history and fiction (Western movies, space operas) than their current roles.

Therefore, my point was an honest and valid one. With your implication that you dressed up as modern versions of these people, you're the only one who seems dishonest here. I suggest you try again.