October 25, 2011

Tomahawk Tassels stereotypes Native women

Speaking of sexy Indian princesses who encourage the rape of and violence toward Native women, here's a perfect example:

Tomahawk Tassels:  Canoe AdventureTomahawk Tassels performing her "Canoe Adventure" at the Southern Theater at Balls Cabaret, March 2009. Tomahawk Tassels is a burlesque artist out of Minneapolis. Originally a member of the Alley Cat Revue in St. Louis, she is one of the rare independent burlesque artists in the Twin Cities. She has performed with all the major burlesque shows in the Minneapolis area, including: Lili's Burlesque Revue, Foxy Tann and the Wham Bam Thank You Ma'ams, Le Cirque Rouge, and The Midnight Muse Revue. Tomahawk's Native American inspired burlesque performances blend classic vintage style with cheeky American history. This sassy squaw has been shaking her lovely back yard all over the Midwest since 2006!

Blogger Lisa Charleyboy provides some background on the stripper:

Tomahawk Tassels IIWell almost a month ago I wrote about Tomahawk Tassels, "The Cherokee Seductress", who is a burlesque dancer who incorporates Native American heritage in her performances. At that time I wasn't sure if she was part Native as she hadn't replied to my inquiry. Well guess what? Yes she got back to me and yes she is in fact Native (much to everyone's relief)!

She is Cherokee and Irish, with her estranged father having Cherokee blood. "Growing up in Oklahoma, I have been exposed to Native American history and culture since I was very young," she says. "I realize how I took it for granted, and only now am able to fully internalize and express that history. Part of my personal journey is to research my roots and ancestral history. Burlesque performance has been the perfect medium for this."

She uses her performances "to remind others of our rich American Indian history while also making a satirical social commentary on stereotypes, specifically from the 1950's." This is an endeavour I find interesting, since I have a fascination with both 50s stereotypes and the kitsch that evolved from that propaganda movement.
Yes, what a relief that the "sassy squaw" has a Cherokee princess in her background somewhere. I guess that makes her racism okay.

Some commenters rightly ripped Charleyboy's benign posting:I think it's pretty awful and not cool at all. It's kind of hard to make a "satirical social commentary on stereotypes" when most of the people watching probably have no idea that what they are watching IS a stereotype. But that's just my two cents.

Are you kidding me? She is yet another person claiming Cherokee heritage in an attempt to legitimize her appropriation of Indigenous culture. Doing her "Indian" performance is what sets her apart and she's exploiting my culture to do so. Makes me sick to my stomach the way she tries to justify and legitimize the perpetuation of Indian stereotypes.

I suggest not going to see Cadillac and Tomahawk, as I've met both of them in many social situations, and I believe them to be nasty people. I think INTENTION is everything, and Tomahawk's intention is to get famous by exploiting and making a mockery of her part Cherokee blood. And no, I don't think that the Trail of Tears inspired her to take her clothes off.

Saying you are part-Cherokee is different than being Cherokee. (Seriously, who doesn't claim to be a "little Cherokee" these days?) It's just a prop or a shtick anyway. But ironically, she seems to think that her act is somehow internalizing and expressing her supposed heritage and Cherokee history. Kind of like an African American playing the part of the plantation "Mulatto Temptress" to reconnect with her Black "heritage."

Long and short of it is that I think she's full of it and that her entire act is racist. I am offended by it, and it supports, exploits and REINFORCES the "Native Princess" and "Indian Squaw" stereotypes. All I can say is that I would love to see her perform that act in the middle of Little Earth in Minneapolis and see how the Native women who live there would feel about her exploration of her "roots."
Comment:  Yes, Tomahawk Tassels is a racist. Whatever she thinks she's doing in her little mind is irrelevant compared to what's on display.

Indeed, she's doing the same thing as minstrel performers in blackface from previous eras. They weren't commenting "ironically" on their racist stereotypes and neither is she.

For more on Tassels' pathetic rationalizations, see The Dudesons, Polish Jokes, and Minstrel Shows and Okay to Stereotype in "Satires"?


Anonymous said...

I knew a lady who made stripper costumes. (She was too fat to be a stripper herself.) Anyway, we had this conversation:

Jana: I'd like your opinions. One of my clients wants a native-inspired costume, and I think it would work. The detached leggings are, what do you call it, fanservice?
Me: Yeah, that's the right term. So, you want me to help you make his costume?
Jana: It's for a woman.
Me: If Indian men's clothes make good stripper outfits, Indian women's clothes don't. How much of a dance can you do to remove one dress?
Jana: Well, here's what I have so far.
Me: If you can flip up a loincloth and see his, I mean, her business, you're doing it wrong.

And it went on like that. As for the dancer herself, I won't say her ethnic background, but she had Clairol-black hair with blonde roots.

Tes LaCoil said...

good god, I can't believe the shite people say about her. I've had the chance to perform with Tommy, I even cast her in my show when it was running.

Burlesque IS satire! What I find ridiculous in all this is say, given my Scottish heritage, if I were to get on a burlesque stage, do a wee jig (which I can bloody well do), etc. no one would bat an eye! Every culture has been shat on (really...do I need to bring up that mine is finally gaining it's own freedom next year?), each has its own stereotypes...and if we can't laugh at ourselves a wee bit...then we may as well stop laughing.

People just aren't happy unless they're angry, you can say I don't understand...but I get it, however, it's just sad to see someone who I've worked with and enjoyed working with being completely trampled for doing something she loves and discovering herself.

Anonymous said...

I think white privilege has a lot to do with why it's not racist for you to do Scottish numbers but it is for Tomahawk to do Indian numbers. If Tomahawk Tassels was accountable to Cherokee community, she wouldn't have automatic license to do what she's doing. By ignoring the opinions of Native community, she's basically erasing again a people who were nearly totally decimated by the racist understanding of Native people which made colonization possible.

Rob said...

There's a huge difference between making fun of Indians and making fun of people who are ignorant of Indians, Tes. Tassels is doing the former, not the latter.

White Anglo-Saxon Protestants are the dominant power in America. There's a huge difference between mocking the majority and mocking a historically oppressed minority.

You're an ignoramus if you think Indians are protesting merely because they're angry at everything. Educate yourself about the documented harm of Native stereotyping: