March 7th, 2016 Last Updated on: March 7th, 2016
Brooke Shunatona is a contributor to Seventeen magazine. She is Muskogee Creek.
In a recent post to Seventeen, she discusses how even she has taken part in cultural appropriations.
Not understanding the significance or history, she put on her family's headdress and posted a photo to Facebook. Many people close to her comment about how cool that was. She was getting validation from her peers, everything was good.
Until she saw this photo:
From her post:
As soon as I saw it, my stomach sank. I was completely embarrassed that I had posted a picture of myself wearing a headdress, but I was more ashamed that I had no idea of the deeper meaning behind what I was doing. I immediately did some researching online and found that the facts on the graphic were painfully true. According to the Justice Department, 1 out of every 3 Native American women has been raped or experienced attempted rape, and the rate of sexual assault against Native American women is more than twice the national average. I didn't wear the headdress for long, a couple minutes at most, and I didn't wear it with a bra top either. But the fact that I, a woman, wore one at all was enough to do damage. I thought about all my Facebook friends who saw the photo and felt inspired to take a similar picture or maybe even wear one to a festival or dress up as a “sexy Indian” for Halloween. I was so disappointed in myself. I saw so many photos soon after that of girls dressing up in cute, skimpy, fake-suede fringe outfits and feathers, thinking it was fun and harmless. I know they didn't realize that by dressing as a “sexy Indian,” they were sexualizing a group of women who are victims of sex crimes and already devastatingly sexualized.
Try doing a Google images search for “Native American girl”. How many “sexy Indian” photos do you see? Compare that with how many real life photos of Native women do you see?
Brooke found out how true this is. Our Native women are depicted as sexual objects. This has lead to them being victims of sexual assault more frequently than any other group of women.
Thanks Brooke Shunatona for admitting your mistake and helping raise awareness of this issue!
Photos courtesy of Seventeen.
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