Shopping at the local Spirit Halloween Store this weekend was frightful. Not only because it was rife with wild children, bloody body parts and zombies. Not just because it was loud, expensive and highly commercial. It was also frightening because of this:
Everybody meet Pocahottie. I turned the corner at the store and found myself face to face with her the other day, all packaged up and ready to turn anyone into a sexy Indian. She stopped me in my tracks, all three of my children bumping into each other in a pile-up behind me. Don’t worry, all tribes condone push up bras and stiletto boots. They are good for trapping and killing prey.
While it isn’t anything new to see what has been termed as native appropriation (the use of Native images or cultural elements to market or sell products that are not produced by Natives), this particular costume is revolting because it is also part of the new holiday, Skankoween, which has steadily overtaken Halloween over the last 10 years or so. Skankoween stole Halloween from the children. Halloween used to be about kids and trick or treating. Skankoween would have none of that. Skankoween saw an opportunity to get adults into the spirit of spending. It put out a call and thousands of party hungry Americans answered. Skankoween is now a day for grown ups to dress up and get wasted. Don’t get me wrong, I like to dress up on Halloween and always have. It’s fun. It makes my kids laugh and they enjoy trick or treating. I also like to party.
Here’s a a few differences that probably exist between me and a Skankoweener: My costume will not involve an aspect that makes my boobs or vag a central feature, not even dangerously close. If I attend parties, the parties will be for CHILDREN, with CHILDREN at which CHILDREN will be belligerent. They will probably fight, fall down AND puke. They won’t be doing this because they have fed themselves copious amounts of alcohol in hopes of scoring with each other or just burying themselves in a moral free for all, which is more of a Skankoweener thing. So, whats my point? I guess I kind of don’t know.
Does Pocahottie bother me because she forces a sexualized image of Native women in particular down my throat?
Pocahottie: “HERE!! Look at me! I am what America wants you to be!”
Me: “Shut up, Pocahottie.”
Pocahottie: “LOOK! I’m super hot and wearing feathers! You and I both know they’re turkey feathers, but the people who buy me don’t give a shit!”
Me: “Shut up, Pocahottie.”
Pocahottie: “There’s a tipi in this picture! Let’s all laugh and joke about tipi creeping! Oh, and I’m super hot. Way hot. Everyone wants to hump me. I’m an Indian princess!”
Me: “I hate you, Pocahottie.”
Yes, I think that Pocahottie bothers me because of the sexualized image. Personally, I don’t want everyone to want to hump me. That would be exhausting. It is also exhausting to constantly deal with this:
These costumes are called Reservation Royalty. Seriously? This title alone is enough to set most Indians’ blood to boiling. It inspires anger. It makes people stabby, which in turn feeds the stereotype even more. And, it isn’t limited to women:
This is Chief Wansum Tail. I’m stifling a lot here, folks. I invite you to google Native American Halloween costumes, because there is just too much for me to include. On top of the challenges that many young Natives face in their every day lives, there’s this shit too. America has a romance with the appearance of Natives, and it contributes to a barrier of communication on all levels. I live in Montana, in a college town that is fairly sensitive to Native American issues. I can’t say that I’ve personally seen people sporting these costumes on the street in the town that I live in because in all truth, someone might beat them down, OR people here can identify that it might be offensive. Now, before I digress too much, I have some questions, though they may be limited to an American audience. Be honest, because I’m curious.
1. Have you seen people wear Indian costumes on Skankoween?
2. Are you interested in Native American cultures and traditions and if so, why?