By : Linda Tioleu
Gwen Stefani in No Doubt’s ‘Looking Hot’ Video
As many of you well know, the popular band No Doubt recently released their new video for the single “Looking Hot” on You Tube. It featured a beautiful Gwen Stefani decked in hipster-ized Native American garb, along with a preponderance of other misappropriated (mostly Plains Indian) imagery. The band quickly removed the video and sent out an apology- for which I give them much credit. However, I also hope they publicly announce the identities of their so-called “consultants and experts” who somehow decided that this video was a good idea. Or as my dear colleague and freelance writer, Ronya Hoblit wrote,
“I am in awe of the fact that, clearly, not one, single person involved with this video said, “Wait a minute, this might not be our best idea.” Instead, someone sat down and said, “How many ways can I disrespect a whole bunch of cultures that I don’t understand and don’t want to take the time to do so because that would get in the way of producing a really offensive video?”
In the writing of this article/letter/plea for sanity, I struggled with my need to express deep, biting, and viscous sarcasm. No Doubt would have been called No Brain or No Clue. Cher “Half Breed” references would have run rampant across the page. Declarations of my proclivity for writhing around on the ground in a red, full length, cocktail dress – with matching headdress – would have abounded. I can’t make fun of the fact that Gwen Stefani chained herself to an old adobe fort while wearing an all-white, midriff-baring, skin tight ensemble with breast plate … because well …. been there, done that. And, finally….I have three words…. Pink. Smoke. Signals.
There can be little doubt that No Doubt (hehehe) was responding to the current “hipster” trend popularized by companies like Urban Outfitters, who created great controversy with their line of “Navajo” clothing, inspired by Native American cultures. There can be no other explanation for their actions than a simple, misguided attempt at caving in to the mainstream. The song has absolutely nothing to do with Indigenous peoples (the primary lyrics being the masterfully written “Do you think I’m looking hot? Do you think this hits the spot? How is this looking on me, looking on me?”). But, I’m being overly sensitive, right? I shouldn’t have a problem with the fact that Gwen and her bandmates are connecting those lyrics to Native American women, to me. Right?
I won’t repeat all of the statistics on Amnesty International’s recent student of the sexual exploitation of Native women, but I will repeat the fact that Native American and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than the average American woman, and that 86% of these violent acts are committed by non-Native men. Additionally, a U.S. DOJ study found that over 34% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime.
These statistics frighten me – not just for my own safety, but for the safety of our mothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters. No Doubt’s hypersexualization of a woman dressed as an American Indian further perpetuates and reinforces the misconception that Native women are the sexual property of mainstream media and the general populace. We absolutely cannot sit idly by and see Native women – who are the foundation of our people, culture, spirituality, and community – thrown out to slaughter by anyone – let alone by Hollywood’s greed machine.
I won’t go on and on about the fact that there are approximately 15 different Indigenous cultures very poorly (mis)represented through this video. I will, however, say that I am so tired…so exhausted…practically incredulous, at having to explain why it is wrong to exploit and misappropriate another person’s sacred culture and imagery for a music video, movie, clothing line, Halloween costume, sports team mascot, or military operation. It is 2012. Really, folks? Can I just list some books for you to read? Can I just direct you to the nearest tribal college? How about just emailing me so that we can talk? I promise not to scalp you or ride up to your house on a wild steed dressed in a black buckskin bikini top. Me, that is. Not the horse. Because…why would I dress a horse like that?