Halloween, Colonization, and Hypersexualization of Native American Women

As a preface everyone needs to understand that the majority culture is vacuous and this is why this type of assault exists in the world. The colonial culture is incredibly shallow and runs a narrative of strip malls, bad food, homogenization, cultural appropriation, and consumerism. Deep thinking, empathy, listening, and intellectualism is discouraged. In addition to those attributes that are required for true decolonial community work we need to prioritize Native, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit voices. The majority culture doesn’t and has no plan in sight to do so. This work of centering our people comes from us. What is emphasized is a superficial way of life that prioritizes marginalization and oppression of Native people through stereotypes, mascots, systemic racism, settler colonialism, and violent occupation. This is one of the reasons why cultural appropriation flourishes around Halloween because the majority culture system is one of continued assault on our lives and communities. Halloween costumes and racist and sexist. More so, they are continuing colonization through the extremely harmful sexualization of Native American women. Through this another girl, women, or Two-Spirit will go missing and will not get the same attention as a White girl from the suburbs.

October is month that causes stress and anxiety for Native American people. It is a stressful time because misrepresentations of our culture are everywhere. Combatting this doesn’t mean that colonials will listen to us because this is how colonization maintains itself through systemic oppression. Don’t pay attention to the bots in the comment sections in anti-social media. There are supporters but we need more people to make larger national change to end this harmful racism.

Invisible Minority

“A majority of Americans (62 percent outside of Indian Country) reported being unacquainted with Native Americans.” – Report: Reclaiming Native Truth

Over a decade ago when I still had my facebook page my Indian-American friend had a Halloween party at her house in suburban Ferndale, Michigan. When I was scrolling through her pictures I saw her White male friend dressing up as an “Indian,” in the stereotypical brown and fringe garb. I called her out on it and asked her why she didn’t say anything. She wasn’t one to take action and call people out. We aren’t friends anymore because of her refusal to support her friend.

I’ve seen white people and non-white dress up as “Indian.” If you search on YouTube you will find numerous makeup tutorials for Native American Halloween makeup. You can also take your time searching images on the internet and see that it is people from many backgrounds who dress up as the stereotypical Native in fringe, face paint and headdresses. We are rendered invisible which makes addressing the issue of sexist and racist Halloween costumes difficult.

 Image created by Danielle Miller - https://twitter.com/xodanix3

Image created by Danielle Miller - https://twitter.com/xodanix3

Hypersexualization and Festishization are Colonization

The majority colonial culture believes that racist costumes honor Native people. White supremacy is the foundation of cultural appropriation. However, please note that this is not only white people who uphold this system. Non-whites are invested in settler colonial cultural appropriation as in the case with my former Indian-American friend who cowed to addressing racism. We are rendered invisible in a colonial system that is obsessed with maintaining a Black and White racial binary for the sake of “choosing one” race. This harms people of all backgrounds who may be very dark or very light and having a few tribes in their ancestry. As a racist social construct we need to move beyond this binary as an intentional social construct to maintain settler colonialism through erasure. How does this maintain settler colonialism? By making Native people hyperinsivible and providing no platform for our issues because… psssht… colonialism never ended.

When Halloween rolls around the corner you can expect racism and that sick feeling in your belly that a vacuous culture creates. Colonials don themselves in racist and sexist Halloween costumes somewhere in suburban sprawl land, urban hipster gentrification land, or white border town near the rez that is incredibly racist. They purchase racist Halloween costumes and go to their really exciting suburban party or college party. It is there where stereotypes abound and racism is rubber stamped okay. A night of fun you won’t remember when you are married with children at age 42 and following the normal life of life, liberty, and the pursuit of colonial happiness.

Costumes have racist and sexist names such as Reservation Royalty and Tribal Princess. Sickening to think of the people who came up with these names have most likely never met a Native person in their entire life. Racist and bigots don’t care to be sensitive our issues and apologize as they benefit every day from settler colonialism. We have had amazing people try to take on the issue and they are ignored or told they will have the police called on them. This is colonialism working to maintain oppression and systemic racism.

Finally, as we exist these sexist stereotypes exist as a form of colonial erasure and domination. Native American women experience the highest rates of sexual violence out of any group of women in the US.

”Many remain ignorant or apathetic towards the disproportionate amounts of sexual violence Indigenous women face, while denying the causation of violence and fetishization. Is the trauma endured by Indigenous women quantifiable? “More than 60% of American Indian and Alaska Native women have been physically assaulted and 1 in 3 have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Nearly all (97%) of these women have experienced at least one act of violence committed by a non-Indian” according to the DOJ’s National Institute of Justice.” - Yandy’s Native American Costumes Perpetuate Violence Against Indigenous Women

  Photo credit: America Tonight

Photo credit: America Tonight

All the racist and sexist Halloween costumes contribute to this by normalizing these stereotypes of the “sexy squaw.” We don’t exist to the colonial majority culture. We are their racist mascots, stereotypes, fictional cartoon characters, and burdens.

Concerns Not Take Seriously

Diné Mother, Social Worker, and Writer, Amanda Blackhorse has boldly challenged a disguting company called Yandy. Amanda and many other of our awesome community workers took it into their hands to not only create a petition but take action to directly by going directly to the company headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. She was threatened with arrest when she presented a petition with 14,000 signatures to the Yandy CEO, Jeff Watton. Native women have protested Yandy in previous years and this company maintains itself as a sexist and racist company ignoring the voices of Native American women.

Here is the colonial kicker that shows how settler colonialism and violent occupation is maintained by denial, avoidance, and dismissal by perpetrator.

“In September, Yandy bowed to criticism over its “sexy” Handmaid’s Tale costume — a mini-skirted version of the outfits worn by the surrogate sex slaves in the hit Hulu show — and removed the item from its website. It took only a few hours for online outrage to force the company to pull the costume and issue an apology. “It has become obvious that our ‘Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume’ is being seen as a symbol of women’s oppression, rather than an expression of women’s empowerment,” the company wrote in a statement. “This is unfortunate, as it was not our intention on any level.”

And yet the company continues to sell costumes that disparage Native women and reduce us to sexual objects, despite protests from Indigenous communities nationwide. A company spokesperson tried to justify this, telling the Phoenix New Times that “the costumes are influenced by powerful fashion elements derived from the culture and are intended to pay homage to the Native American community, not to mock or offend.” – Stop selling costumes that sexualize Indigenous women by Amanda Blackhorse

Beautiful Resistance

Not to mock of offend, eh? Yandy and many other companies perpetuate oppression in the form of costumes as well as headdresses. I have ancestral Chiefs in my lineage and I take being crane clan very seriously. In my Ojibway culture this is about leadership and chieftainship. It is about being speakers for the community. Headdresses should never be worn by non-natives under any circumstance. All headdresses from the 573 federally recognized tribes in the US are different. All have meaning. Each feather has a significant meaning and are presented by either being gifted or earning them. The complete disrespect of hipsters, hippies, and everyone else in between wearing headdresses are “playing Indian,” and contributes to colonial erasure.

Our mere existence is resistance. We are rising and taking action every single moment across Turtle Island. We face daily racism that is all around us and negative stereotypes that perpetuate our pain. However, we are doctors, professors, counselors, social workers, community organizers, construction workers, telephone workers, truck drivers, writers, journalists, poets, artists, and singers. Colonialism wants to paint us in a negative light while we are healing, walking a sober road, attending cultural events, and learning our own languages.

In order to reclaim, decolonize, and create larger social change we need more support from folks in the majority culture to tow the line so we don’t have the burden as the invisible minority to constantly challenge colonialism as it maintains sexualization and festishization of Native American women. We need you do to this for the healing, visibility and voice of our people and communities on Turtle Island.

Resources

An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses

Choosing a culturally appropriate Halloween Costume

Forgotten Women: The conversation of murdered and missing native women is not one North America wants to have - but it must

Invisibility is the Modern Form of Racism Against Native Americans

Native women call for end to sales of 'hottie' costumes

Pocahontas Is Not a Sex Symbol

Report: Reclaiming Native Truth - RESEARCH FINDINGS: COMPILATION OF ALL RESEARCH

Stop selling costumes that sexualize Indigenous women

Yandy’s Native American Costumes Perpetuate Violence Against Indigenous Women


Take Action!

Petition – Stop Yandy From Using Our Culture As A Costume

Petition – The Spunky Squaw Change Your Business Name

Make a Phone Call to Yandy and Clog Their Phone Lines