Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Native North Americans are not impressed with the cultural appropriation in your marketing

Sociological Images' Gwen Sharp just wrote an interesting post about Paul Frank's event for Fashion’s Night Out, which "reflects the widespread appropriation of Native American cultures in fashion over the last few years." She described the event as including a dress-up game with stereotyped Native American garb, and photo opportunities. It's important reading for marketers, as is the original post at the Native Appropriations blog by Cherokee writer Adrienne K.

She wrote (directly to Paul Frank), "The bottom line is this: your event stereotypes and demeans Native cultures, collapsing hundreds of distinct tribal and cultural groups into one 'tribal' mish-mash, thereby erasing our individual identities and contemporary existence."

Here's one of her screencaps:

Coincidentally, just yesterday I captured this campaign for an art exhibition at Ottawa's Gallery 101 by Joi T Arcand of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, called oskinikiskwēwak ("young women"). It looks at the problem of pop culture appropriation of native culture from the other side:

"Look! More Neechies!"
"Nah, it's just hipsters in headdresses."
It's part of a series of works that mock stereotypes with wit and style.

This isn't the 1950s, my friends. (Especially those of you at Red Light PR.) Native Americans and Canada's First Nations people see what you did there. And they will call you on it.

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