By : Linda Tioleu
There have been a lot of incidences lately in which major corporations, businesses, or famous people have exploited Native Americans (Native women in particular), and the cultures on which we plant our foundations. This usually involves the use of a “slutty Indian Princess” costume of some sort, as evidenced by Victoria’s Secret, the band No Doubt, and even the Hooter’s restaurant franchise. Other stereotypes, such as alcoholism, are also exploited.
In regards to this, I had a friend ask me today: “Aren’t you guys just being overly sensitive? This is political correctness gone crazy. You guys have more important things to worry about.”
Well…first of all…bite me. If you cannot see what the issue is when you look at these photos, videos, and posters, then you probably never will. Many people have sought and gained understanding, but it is probably very difficult to do if you have never spent time on a reservation or around Native Americans. Perhaps you think that these images portrayed in the media are accurate; perhaps you think Hooters really is honoring Native peoples; perhaps you think that it is all in good fun.
What you may not realize is that thousands of people have done incredible research on the impact of these images- on both the Native American community and the “dominant culture,” as anthros put it. There is a preponderance of data to suggest that these stereotypes lead to self esteem issues in Native children, which can manifest themselves through the various social pathologies for which we are so famous (alcoholism, suicide, etc.). The social science term “stereotype threat” refers to the impact of negative assumptions on individuals within commonly stereotyped or racially profiled cultures, and it “has been shown to reduce the performance of individuals who belong to these negatively stereotyped groups.”
Sports team mascots, one of the most dismissed culprits of racist stereotyping, portray Native peoples as ignorant savages who lack of any type of sophistication. The No Doubt video featuring Gwen Stefani in scant “Native American-style” clothing, or the Victoria’s Secret model in buckskin lingerie and full-length headdress, or the Hooter’s girls dressed in a similar fashion, contribute to a hypersexualized stereotype of Native women. All of these images and the hipsterized usurpation of indigenous cultures in general, lead to the virtual invisibility of ACTUAL Native peoples in the mainstream media and beyond. A statement from the UCLA American Indian Studies Center said it best… “This perceived invisibility holds numerous consequences for Native peoples, including perceptions that American Indians are mere historical relics, frozen in time as stereotypically savage, primitive, uniquely-spiritualized and- in the case of Native women- hyper-sexualized objects to be tamed.”
Most of all, as a proud, strong, educated American Indian woman, I feel that it is my duty to stand up for future generations- to stand up for my sons- whom I am trying to raise as proud, strong, educated Lakotas. I WILL NOT sit idle while they are told that they will become diabetic alcoholics, or that they will probably end up in prison, or that their mothers, daughters, sisters, and grandmothers have a 1 in 3 chance being sexually assaulted by the viral, genocidal people who tried to exterminate them. No. I will not be quiet. No. I will not let this abuse continue. Yes. I will scalp you with my words. Yes. I will destroy you with the sharp-pointed arrows of my love for my people. Test me.