When the world is overwhelming me and I need to run away, my favorite escape is running to the past. Specifically through classic pre-Hollywood code films; they gotta be black and white, and the more ‘romantic-al’ the better!
In my romantic imaginings everything in the 1930‘s costs a nickel: burgers, ball gowns and bus fare – all for a nickel! People used to bake their own bread, buy meat from a butcher shop and didn’t ever have to worry about milk because if you didn’t have a cow the good white people who ran society somehow arranged to have a guy deliver it to your home fresh every morning. At least that’s how it seems in the movies.
And oh, the clothes! People dressed for every occasion. Whether it was heading out to work or heading out to confront an enemy – people dressed for it hats, gloves and all. There is nothing more glamorous than Norma Shearer as jilted Mary Haines in “The Women’, gliding across the screen in that glamorous black ball gown to confront the golden and glittering Joan Crawford for stealing her man.
My escapism session this weekend lasted for just a short while until my cellphone started going off and my jogging pants and hoodie beckoned me back to the reality of today.
“Ugh, go away!” I shouted at my phone. Still, I had to check though. It was a notification from one of my Facebook friends, she’d posted some pictures of the latest ‘Indian’ costumes for public consumption at the Hallowe’en store. There she stood, frowning, holding a plastic package called ‘Indian Warrior’. Pictured on the front is some white guy in faux leather pajamas making an angry face. For about twenty bucks you too can dress like this “real Redsk*n” this Hallowe’en. Tomahawk included.
What was probably the most disturbing though was the costume offerings for women. Scantily clad white women in faux leather miniskirts and bouffant hairstyles beckoning you in to touch their exposed skin with titles like ‘Reservation Royalty’ and ‘Huron Honey’. Even worse was the costume entitled ‘Wild Frontier’, worn by an alluring white girl donning a come hither stare – cementing the ever-racist “dark and forbidden” sexual fantasy – that women of indigenous heritage are here for the consumption and satisfaction of everyone’s sexual appetites. Barf.[justified_image_grid ng_gallery=3]
Normally things like this piss me right off and I end up writing angry letters to store managers. But this time I felt different. I truly felt objectified. I felt negated and unimportant. After all the press, after all the efforts to raise awareness of cultural misappropriation that folks have done in the last ten years – these costumes still somehow ended up on the shelves of a Canadian store.
So whose fault is it? Rather whose duty is it to make sure that the people do not have to endure objectification for their identity? Sadly, it’s no shocker that Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls don’t matter to Stephen Harper – or his wife for that matter. I wonder if they’d even notice the inappropriate “Indian” costumes donning the shelves of Hallowe’en stores? No, they’re likely distracted over in the kitty cat aisle trying on fuzzy ears, purring and licking one another.
If Ma and Pa Canada aren’t thinking about protecting the integrity of indigenous women than who will? Or who should? Last year Toronto hosted World Pride, the largest festival worldwide promoting the issues of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer communities. People from across the globe literally travelled to Canada to celebrate. For two weeks this past June, Ontario municipalities and local governments raised the rainbow flag and the issues surrounding the identities of the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ people were celebrated and their niche in Canadian society etched into our social consciousness as a protected place within our borders.
This level of awareness didn’t come to the LGBTQ community without activism however. In fact they boast about fifty years of rallies, sit-ins and campaigns building their safe places.
Is that what it will take for indigenous women to no longer be a Hallowe’en costume option? Can you imagine in this day a costume called ‘Gay Gary’ or ‘Lesbian Lisa’ where one can dress the part of a homosexual person? Or what about a Hallowe’en costume for other races: how about a ‘German Ginger’ costume that includes a swastika clad mini-dress and bright red lipstick?
Okay maybe that’s going a little too far. But is it really? And how will things ever change if not pushed ahead by a little bit of shit disturbing coupled with good leadership? If I, an indigenous woman, remain objectified and hurt by the ‘Huron Honeys’ surrounding me Hallowe’en night – who will speak up for me when I am weak? Fact of the matter is that because the Harpers prefer the company of kittens over indigenous women, all Canadians now have the responsibility to use a Good Mind, Stand Up and shout as loudly as we can for the well-being of indigenous granddaughters and great-granddaughters.
As much as I would prefer to dwell in the black and white romantic distractions of the 1930‘s – reality knocked me over the head with a colorful tomahawk. The time for our collective romantic imaginings about indigenous sexuality is over. It never should have been presented for public consumption. I am not a Huron Honey. I am not Reservation Royalty and the bodies of indigenous women and girls are not your Wild Frontier to explore.