It went like this:
I woke up, went to work, and printed my screenplay with the remaining printing balance on my school account. I thought that I’d hop on Pinterest (since my stuff was taking the gestational period of an elephant to actually print) and what do I see? I see this:
My first question is why this mannequin has a thigh gap. It is a toddler. Granted, it’s not a real toddler and can’t run circles around you while eating your last tube of chapstick, but come on. How low are we going to go?
My second question is why no one seems to understand that tribal printing everything is a huge problem. There is a fine line between appreciation and appropriation, my friends. I didn’t always know that line and I recently got rid of a tribal print shirt because until I didn’t know that it was wrong. I didn’t always know everything I know now. It took a lot of time for me to break out of my habits and ways of thinking.
Here’s the issue: corporations (who already have a slew of problems regarding disenfranchisement, exploitation, racism, and sexism) are profiting off products that use the traditional prints of Native cultures as a selling point. In a country where white people’s main goal was to obliterate Native culture, this is incredibly degrading and disgusting. And if it doesn’t show how far behind we are in the evolution of humanity, then I’m not sure what does. Our country advanced at the expense of Native people (and African Americans), and the fact that we still aren’t able to see these actions for what they are is, at the very least, disappointing.
Buying products like these, or any of the products on the wider market sporting tribal print (like cardigans, t-shirts, purses, etc.) is not an appreciation of Native culture and America’s true history, despite what the media would have you think. It is appropriation, which is “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission”. Native communities have not granted anyone permission to use their culture for profit. And that’s exactly what is happening. It’s like when you see white models that represent less than 1% of American women wearing headdresses. They are using Naive culture to glorify white ideals. Not. Okay.
This is an issue that I feel isn’t discussed very often, and it’s a huge part of feminism, which (no matter what anyone says) has to be intersectional if it is what it says it is. This is a race issue; therefore, it’s a feminism issue. And if it’s a feminism issue, then it’s a human issue. Hands down. Native culture that’s appropriated through profit markets is not something that people need to be waving around on their clothing. It doesn’t make you look cool and you can complete your wardrobe without it.
If you really want to appreciate and support Native products, then buy products that are Native made. Here in New Mexico, that’s a big deal. You want moccasins? Then make sure they’re made by a member of a tribe, and local is always better. I buy a lot of Native jewelry from the markets up in Santa Fe when I visit on the weekends. I prefer to support Native communities.
Moral of the story: drop that $7 tribal print shirt from Target and buy something else. Not only is it appropriation, it was also likely made in a sweatshop, earning it a gold star for double exploitation.