July 08, 2011

Callaloo stereotypes "Native Americas"

Apparently Callaloo is some sort of Brazilian-style carnival, parade, or event held in Toronto every year.

CallalooMarlon & Jason Singh’s Callaloo presents “Caribbean Natives”

Join Callaloo for their 2011 Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto presentation of “Caribbean Natives.”

One slight problem: This year's theme was originally "Native Americas," not "Caribbean Natives." But we'll get to that.

The page header shows an Amazon Indian in mask-like paint, a hut, palm trees, and a tomahawk and arrow. I think you can see where this is going.

How does Callaloo "honor" Native people? With scantily-clad women pretending to be Indians, of course:

2011 Costumes

For example:

Brazilian Amerindians

Tribal Princesses

Lost City of the Aztecs

This image's former title was "Sacrificial Mayan Virgins," as you can tell from the image's URL. That tells you all you need to know about Callaloo's exploitation of Native women. They might as well name it "Sex/Rape Fantasy Objects to Boost Callaloo's Bank Account."

What's wrong with Callaloo

In Callaloo Parade and the Sexualization of Native American Women, the Beyond Buckskin blog presents another image from this year's Callaloo:

And explains why this is wrong. It quotes Adrienne Keene from her Native Appropriations blog:

Nudie Neon Indians and the Sexualization of Native WomenNative women have been highly sexualized throughout history and in pop culture. There are any number of examples I can pull from, the "Indian Princess" stereotype is everwhere--think the story of Pocahontas, or Tiger Lily in Peter Pan, or Cher in her "half breed" video, or the land 'o' lakes girl, seriously almost any image of a Native woman that you've seen in popular culture. We're either sexy squaws (the most offensive term out there), wise grandmas, or overweight ogres. But the pervasive "sexy squaw" is the most dangerous, especially when you know the basic facts about sexual violence against Native women:

  • 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetime

  • 70% of sexual violence against Native women is committed by non-Natives

  • Now can you see why my heart breaks and I feel sick every time I see an image of a naked or scantily clad woman in a headdress? This is not just about cultural appropriation. This is about a serious, scary, and continuing legacy of violence against women in Indian Country. These girls probably thought they were just being "counter-culture" or "edgy," but by perpetuating the stereotypes of Native women as sexual objects, they are aiding and continuing the cycle of violence.
    Journalist Valerie Taliman adds:The fact that Native American and Alaska Native women have been dehumanized throughout US and Canadian history informs present-day attitudes. It helps fuel the high rates of sexual violence perpetrated against them and the high levels of impunity enjoyed by their attackers. One in three Native women will be raped in their lifetimes.Comment:  This year's Callaloo is basically a female version of the Irish "Indians" showband. It's wrong for the same reasons.

    Originally Callaloo meant to stereotype Natives throughout the Americas as belonging to one primitive culture of scantily-clad savages. Limiting it to "Caribbean Natives"--which stupidly includes Central and South America--isn't much of an improvement.

    For more on the Indian princess stereotype, see "Racism, Stereotypes, and the Digitized Indian" and Redbone Told to Wear Buckskin.

    Below:  Wrong then, wrong now.

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