Monday, November 19, 2012

Victoria Secret's Gaffe

The 2012 Victoria's Secret fashion show taped on November 07, 2012 in New York drew flak from Native Americans. It seems that model Karlie Kloss (pictured at left) waded into controversy when she wore “a leopard print bikini accessorized with turquoise jewelry and fringe covered heels, strutting down the catwalk in a floor-length, feathered war bonnet.” This was labelled culturally insensitive and the specialty retailer for intimate apparel was obliged to pull the footage of the offending outfit from its planned December 04 broadcast.

One blog, Native Appropriations, which covers imagery of indigenous cultures, denounced the lingerie retailer of "egregious cultural appropriation, stereotyping, and marginalizing of Native peoples." Ruth Hopkins, a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network and wrote that "after years of patronage and loyalty to the Victoria's Secret brand, I am repaid with the mean-spirited, disrespectful trivialization of my blood ancestry and the proud Native identity I work hard to instill in my children. Well, I've got news for you, Victoria's Secret. Consider yourself boycotted. Perhaps it's time for us to resume the feminist practice of bra-burning. Regardless, this Native girl is ready to go commando.”

She had described this antic as an “assault taking place against Native identity and culture”. Putting a headdress on a female is particularly abhorrent, she wrote, because among the Sioux tribe, “war bonnets are exclusively worn by men, and each feather within a war bonnet is symbolic of a brave act of valor accomplished by that man.” She is clearly disgusted: “Who wears a war bonnet? Tatanka Iyotanka, Sitting Bull. Not a no-account waif paid to prance around on stage in her underwear.”

The $12 million show, which had musical performances by Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars, showcased plenty of not-meant-to-be worn ensembles, including circus-themed outfits and a $2.5 million "fantasy bra." Last year the show averaged nearly 10.4 million viewers, up from 8.9 million in 2010, according to Horizon Media.

The headress faux pas came soon after the band No Doubt had apologized and pulled its music video for its latest single “Looking Hot” which turned out to be little more than “a Native appropriation extravaganza, paying homage to cheap, inaccurate, stereotypical Dime Store turkey feather accoutrements and the hypersexualization of Native women” and which drew howls of protest.

And there was a fair amount of anger aimed at American Apparel, which sent an email blast to customers during Hurricane Sandy for a 20% off sale for people living in the affected states, with a tagline that read "In case you're bored during the storm." Callous insensitivity is thriving.

Postscript: Victoria's Secret, owned by Limited Brands apologized on Twitter. So too had Kloss via her Twitter account: "I am deeply sorry if what I wore during the VS Show offended anyone. I support VS's decision to remove the outfit from the broadcast."

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