Pharrell Williams for ELLE UK Magazine

Posted on June 06, 2014

Honestly, sometimes we really marvel at the bubble the fashion world has fashioned around itself.

 

Pharell-Williams-ELLE-UK-July-2014-Issue-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLO (1)Pharrell Williams covers the July 2014 issue of ELLE UK magazine photographed by Doug Inglish.

Did no one raise their hand during the planning stages and say, “Y’know, this might be a problem for some people?”

Look, we can’t think of anything more condescending on our parts than to get outraged on behalf of Native Americans, when in all honesty, we couldn’t even tell you whether that headdress is culturally accurate  – or even what specific tribe it comes from. It’s for others to say whether this is an outrage or not. The concept of cultural appropriation gets harder and harder to discuss as we move ever-closer to a worldwide culture with each passing day. Is it significant that this is a British magazine cover showing this? We don’t know if we can answer that. It’s also not for us to defend it either, except to say that at least it was used as an accent (because we think it would’ve been worse if they did him up in war paint and buckskin) and a seemingly well-intentioned play on the fact that he’s known for over-sized head gear.  And we have to say, it does make for a beautiful picture.

But yes, it does make us vaguely uncomfortable every time we look at it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Photo Credit: Doug Inglish for ELLE UK Magazine]

    • http://attiresmind.blogspot.com/ Kiltdntiltd

      Cultural insult issues aside. It just looks stupid and random.

      • Carleenml

        I try to ignore everything else but I can’t remember the last time I saw a more stunning profile. Really beautiful face.

        • http://attiresmind.blogspot.com/ Kiltdntiltd

          I agree wholeheartedly on that point.

        • Lilithcat

          Oh, lord, you could cut yourself on those cheekbones, no?

          • Scimommy

            LOL. Did that phrase exist before Sherlock? I honestly can’t remember.

            • Lilithcat

              I don’t recall Doyle ever using that phrase. Which story was it in?

            • Scimommy

              Oh, sorry, it’s not canon. It’s from BBC Sherlock. Irene Adler, who’s a dominatrix on that show, said something like “Look at those cheekbones. I could cut myself slapping that face.” Never mind, it must be a known turn of phrase.

            • Kayceed

              “My whole body hangs off these cheekbones.” Edina Monsoon.

            • fursa_saida

              It is, yes.

            • Imasewsure

              I think I saw that episode about six times… I’m a nerd

            • Scimommy

              Oh yeah, same here. :-)

            • Lilithcat

              Irene Adler, a dominatrix? How completely bizarre and out of character.

            • fursa_saida

              Oh, lord, the whole question of how that show handled Irene is a whole other can of worms. I’m at the point where if I want an Irene that doesn’t bother me one way or another, I just go watch the Jeremy Brett series because they didn’t change the character.

            • Scimommy

              Very true. Unfortunately Stephen Moffat has very… limited ideas of what makes a strong female character. I still enjoy the show, though.

            • formerlyAnon

              Oh yes. I first heard it years (decades) ago. In a bar. From someone mooning over some man or other. Can’t remember the who of admirer or admiree, but I remember being struck by the phrase.

        • lilibetp

          I think this is the first one of these things I’ve seen where the person appears to actually have some American Indian blood.

      • Scimommy

        Especially with that sweater.

        • sugarkane105

          And are those … Mardi Gras beads?

          • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

            Pearls I think!

            • sugarkane105

              But even underneath the sweater, the green and gold strands? I swear I have the same necklaces from a Mardi Gras party in middle school.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              They look like jade to me – did you go to a very fancy middle school? ;)

            • sugarkane105

              Lol guess so.

          • Lilithcat

            Nah, Mardi Gras beads are purple, green, and gold.

            • Kent Roby

              The official colors of MG are purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power), but the beads come in all colors.

            • lchopalong

              And shapes and sizes! My most prized set is made of huge ceramic-esque lillies.

      • MilaXX

        And lazy

    • Carleenml

      I’ve been reading about this and thinking about this and I’m just glad you phrased it all in the form of a question. Because that’s all I come back to. Questions. And more thoughts. And I just stay silent about it all in the end.

    • Fred Vaughn

      Not much thought put into that cover, I see.

    • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

      He has such a beautiful face. Why couldn’t they have given it a little more thought?

      • http://www.homeremodelingexperts.net Jax Beckett

        His soul is so down to earth. Love listening to him when he talks. He appreciates stardom .

    • psykins

      Why is he on the cover of Elle anyway? I admittedly don’t pay much attention but isn’t that spot usually occupied by a ladystar?

      • http://attiresmind.blogspot.com/ Kiltdntiltd

        Did they suddenly run out of them?

        • Synnae

          Nah, they have a very good interview with Kiera in the same edition but I guess they wanted to do something different. And personally I quite like seeing a bloke on the cover for a change.

        • formerlyAnon

          Ha! I see someone else notes it’s the subscriber’s cover. Not that I’d buy the mag just for the cover, but I’d so much rather look at the gorgeous bones in his face than the latest ladystar’s smoky eye and cleavage.

      • GillianHolroyd

        What I don’t understand is that yesterday, Kiera Knightley was on the July cover.

        • Kate Andrews

          I suspect one of them is for subscribers and the other is for newsstands.

          • carnush

            This is a special “collectors edition”. Yeah.

      • kimmeister

        Yeah, he should be on the cover of “IL,” not “ELLE.”

    • Kate Andrews

      I don’t know if the Brits know, but Pharrell should absolutely know this is a problem.

      • Carleenml

        He does now/he apologized.

        • Kate Andrews

          I know, but he should have known. He’s from Virginia, where we have actual Indian tribes and also are in the Redskins fan base — there has been a LOT of discussion of headdresses over the years. It should have occurred to him.

          • SugarSnap108

            It might have occurred to him.

          • MoHub

            As a Washingtonian, this immediately took me to the ‘skins controversy.

      • Synnae

        As a European, I can say the Brits or most other Europeans would barely be aware as this issue does not exist in Europe. Indian headdresses and war bonnets are either for kids playing cowboys and indians or for teens/ 20-somethings looking like twats at some hip festival. It is just considered an accessory.

        That said, anybody who paid any attention in the past year to the internet/news should at least be somewhat aware that in the US this is a sensitive topic.

        • http://armchairauthor.wordpress.com/ LesYeuxHiboux

          I wonder if people in the UK would be upset if he were wearing a facsimile of the Pope’s hat?

          • Eclectic Mayhem

            Probably not. We’re not a particularly Catholic country.

            Edited to add – we’re not a particularly religious country either. Which made for one hell of a culture shock when I moved to the US!

            • FibonacciSequins

              Ha. Even as an American, I can understand and feel that culture shock when I visit parts of the U.S. where religion is a big part of everyday life.

          • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

            No, but if he was wearing an SAS beret without having earned it there would be trouble.

            • http://armchairauthor.wordpress.com/ LesYeuxHiboux

              There’s a closer analogy.

            • Eclectic Mayhem

              And you really don’t want to piss off anyone with SAS training!

          • Synnae

            They’d probably chuckle, especially considering their Queen is head of a church founded because her ancestor thought the Pope was being a bully for not granting a divorce!

            • http://armchairauthor.wordpress.com/ LesYeuxHiboux

              Well, he’s one to talk about bullies.

          • Eclectic Mayhem

            Ah, okay. Most Brits would not be okay with that. We’re a very apologetic people though – I’m sure some kind of abject groveling from Elle UK is due very soon.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              I don’t think media people are normal people. They probably don’t even apologise when you’ve stood on their foot.

            • formerlyAnon

              It took me ten seconds, but I laughed out loud in my cubicle when I got it!

            • Eclectic Mayhem

              *snorts with laughter in an unladylike manner*

          • Corsetmaker

            Don’t think there would be a murmur beyond a couple of letters really.

        • SugarSnap108

          I wonder, though, if ELLE UK would have no awareness that using a Native American headdress as a fashion accessory is an issue.

          • Synnae

            That is what I meant, ELLE UK should have been aware that this could be an issue for their US readers. It is not an issue for their primary British audience.

            • Zaftiguana

              The problem is not about whether it’s “an issue” for their “primary audience.” The problem is it being an issue for Native American people, and it doesn’t become a non-issue for them just because the target audience is even more ignorant (said in the literal sense, not as an insult) than the non-Native people on their own shores.

            • Synnae

              I am just explaining why using a war bonnet as an accessory in Europe does not carry the connotations or causes the subsequent outrage it does in the US.

              It is a very different debate in the US. Should the European view change. Yes. Will it change. Eventually yes. It has already changed significantly from when I grew up.
              But you cannot expect one debate that lives very strongly on one continent to automatically also live as strongly or be known as well on another continent.

            • fursa_saida

              I don’t think @Zaftiguana:disqus meant that the “debate” should be as well known in the UK as in the US. She’s saying that the concern of how the different audiences will react isn’t the point, because even if no one in Britain knew anything about it or thought anything of it, it would still be wrong. The choice itself is wrong regardless of how many in the immediate circulation know it.

            • Synnae

              I agree with it being wrong. However it is more difficult to be aware of something being wrong when the debate is not (very) present and its connotations do not exist.

            • Joanna

              No, but Elle is a vast empire with a lot of resources at its disposal. My expectation of Elle – regardless of which division on which continent – would be that it use its vast resources to RESEARCH the potential problems with a potential use of a ceremonial object from another country/culture. Seriously, all it would have taken was an intern doing a Google search, “Would wearing a Native American headdress offend?” and one one of the first things that would have come up is a 2012 article of Victoria’s Secret apologizing for using Native American headdresses in one of their runway shows. I would expect Elle USA to do the EXACT same thing if it involved anything that could be perceived as coming from another culture.

            • Synnae

              I agree, I also think they should have paid attention. Chanel had their arses kicked last year too over the same thing.

              But what you are missing is that if an object (any object) is not perceived as a sacred, religious object, no one is likely to research its potential connotations. Remember Katy Perry’s Allah pendant?

            • Joanna

              And I also don’t give Katy Perry a pass. Listen, this is not hard. All Elle, or anyone, has to say is “this is not of my own culture. I should probably do some research.” To do otherwise is intellectually lazy. Fine, Katy Perry and her people are idiots, but I expect far more from publications, whether or not they are just about fashion.

            • Zaftiguana

              But it does carry the same connotations. Ignorance in intention isn’t magic. If you look at what you’re writing here, I think you’ll find that you’re trying to frame the issue from the perspective of non-Native people rather than the other way around, and that simply doesn’t work. The harm they’re doing doesn’t become any less real with different intentions, and when you place non-Native people at the center of the issue and say it doesn’t “carry the connotations” or that it’s “not an issue” or the “issue doesn’t exist” as if it’s the perspective of non-Native people that’s the determining factor in assessing an act that’s disrespectful to Native Americans, that’s really a problem. And frankly, if the people of any continent outside of America were going to get a pass for doing that, I don’t think it would be the one whose massively profitable colonialism started the whole problem in the first place.

            • Synnae

              The original question was whether the Brits know this is a problem? I replied, as a European, not bloody likely because in Europe (as confirmed by some other Europeans here) the exact meaning of the war bonnet is not KNOWN/part of the public conscious etc. Which part of that is so hard to understand?

              I am not saying Elle should get a pass (do I say that anywhere?), I am simply explaining why Europeans are much more ignorant about this. And you can jump high and low about that ignorance being here, but that’s the reality.

            • Zaftiguana

              I haven’t said you’re giving Elle a pass and I find no part of what you’re saying difficult to understand. I also say clearly that the ignorance is there, so I don’t know what I’m “jump(ing) high and low” about. And while yes, that was the original question, your response was not, “No, most Europeans aren’t aware of how awful it is to do that.” Your response was that “the issue does not exist” there. That’s conflating the absence of awareness with the absence of a problem, and/or conflating intention with what is empirically happening and the impact it has on others. Clearly, given the image we’re all discussing, this issue absolutely exists in Europe and it carries the exact same troubling connotations when it occurs there. The level of information on the part of their readers is completely irrelevant. It’s not all about them.

            • Synnae

              That image for a European reader does not carry the very negative connotations it does in the US. This image is perceived differently and it is a very different perception from the one in the US and Canada. Consequently it is not considered a problem or issue here. It should be, but it isn’t.

            • demidaemon

              I basically said what you said in your final sentence. It really should have occurred to them somehow that this was not the greatest idea.

            • SugarSnap108

              Sorry. I know. What I was getting at (but only in my head, I guess) isn’t that Elle *should* have known this is a problem. I think they did. And they either didn’t care, or figured a little controversy isn’t a bad thing.

            • Synnae

              ELLE UK is not known for going for controversy though. I really feel they did not think this through.

        • Zaftiguana

          If people in Europe are using headdresses and war bonnets that way, then the problem very much exists in Europe.

        • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

          Do children still play cowboys and Indians?

          • another_laura

            Good question. Cowboy outfits were all the thing when I was a kid, I had a whole holster/pistols/hat thing going on (and it was so very very huge on TV shows) but that seems like an eternity ago and it was certainly before the wave of activism that changed attitudes so much.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              How old are you? I’m 40 and there was still a bit of it when I was very small and Westerns were often the Sunday afternoon movie, but it isn’t something I remember seeing for a long time!

            • another_laura

              I’m closing in on mumblemumble60mumble so I grew up in a time of heavy saturation of westerns on TV, the afternoon TV movie, etc. I was also thinking today (D-Day) about how I also grew up in a time of heavy saturation of WWII, everybody’s dad was a WWII vet, etc. Very different time.

            • Synnae

              I’m 40 too and I also grew up with Westerns. BBC2 will occasionally still air a classic. Today’s kids TV doesn’t have it anymore but some long running classic comic books have older issues with all the cliches. Case in point Tin Tin, Suske en Wiske, Disney’s Hiawatha (remember him?), Lucky Luck. Kids still read those and end up re-enacting.

          • Synnae

            They do here. I made my god son really happy a few years ago with a cowboy and indian outfit. It simply does not carry the connotations it carries in the US.
            That is not to say that people are not completely unaware, and the cliche Indian/Native American I grew up with on my telly and in my comic books does not fly today here either as that is recognised as a racist cliche. But we never had the wave of activism that US has known since the 70s. We had other waves.

        • another_laura

          Just the past year in Europe? Too bad. In my memory, since the late 60s and 70s there has been a huge shift in the U.S. due to a then-new wave of Native American pride and hard slogging work by activists. Which is why the U.S. sports teams’ names and mascots have been making the news. Again. And again. And again.

          • Synnae

            Yes, but it is not major news in Europe. In the past year I have read exactly one article in my daily news paper on the Redskins name issue. It was one three paragraph news item on the best visited news site here. It is just not a big issue because it does not apply here.

            We have enough issues here, most of which barely make the US news. If at all.

            • another_laura

              Europe definitely does have lots of issues that we in the U.S. don’t know a lot about, I did not mean to imply otherwise. We all could use more education. I’m surprised, though, since I also hear complaints about how U.S. culture dominates! Said with love, darling.

            • Synnae

              Now I am curious, what kind of complaints?

            • another_laura

              I have heard messages / complaints about how U.S. “culture” (and here we get into dangerous waters, what is culture, anyway), dominates popular music, film, around the world etc. and has created a global culture that not everybody wants. This isn’t to say that there aren’t vibrant cultures everywhere, but I hear this.

            • Synnae

              Oh yes, popular culture and those damn golden arches/green coffee cup, that complaint is heard together with the rising dominance of English . Just ask the French. There is definitely debate about that – which I think is good- and there are definitely areas where you can see the influence (12 year old girls dressed like Rihanna- can I blame that on you guys? ;-)) but truly changing a culture- which is far broader, is another thing.

              PS: As a traveller, I have been very happy at times with the world-wide dominance of MickeyD and Starbucks, sometimes literally the only place without a squat toilet and with a liquid that resembled coffee.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              Probably depends which bit of Europe you are talking about! US culture is definitely a force in the UK, but I am not so sure about other parts of Europe.

            • housefulofboys

              I just got back from Italy, Spain and France (I know,still fairly mainstream Europe) and was really surprised at how pervasive American music was. In restaurants, shops, and bars, in small towns and large, everywhere we went, you would hear American music, sung in English. I don’t travel a lot and expected to hear European music a lot more. Also, I always tried to say a few words to people in their native tongue, but *everyone* spoke English (and were probably a lot happier to converse in English than to suffer through my efforts).

            • fursa_saida

              I first heard Pitbull’s first really big song when I was in Syria. I assumed it was a more local phenomenon in the Wacky Dance Music genre. When I got back to the States and heard it playing in a grocery store I could. Not. Believe it.

            • Synnae

              Yes, but if you check their actual pop charts, musical channels etc, you find there is still plenty of European artists on there. And just because something is sung in English, doesn’t mean the artist is US or UK. Both are very present but it is certainly not all-compassing.
              As a European, I have to disagree with *everyone* speaking English, especially in those countries. It really depends on how touristy the areas visited are, in lesser known areas and cities it is much more rare.
              The younger generation especially in France and Italy are now learning English though. Part has to do with popular culture but as importantly is the rise of English as the lingua franca in Europe, causing more and more high school and university students to learn English, as it allows them work or study in other European countries much more easily.

            • Eclectic Mayhem

              I used to get really naffed off about that but – having lived here in the US for a while – I understand it a little better. This is an enormous country with tons of stuff happening you might not even hear news from outside your own state unless it’s really big news. It’s not an excuse and we should all do better to try to understand international events. I’m just not sure anyone has a brain big enough!

            • bitchybitchybitchy

              Or time. I barely manage to keep up with the two print newspapers I buy daily, plus a digital subscription-I confess to reading the highlights and what strikes my fancy.

            • another_laura

              True! There’s tons of information, an overload, probably. So much noise, so much sifting and sorting to do.

        • alyce1213

          I have a number of friends in Europe — I agree the perception is just not the same. I don’t believe the intention here was to provoke. But maybe Pharrell should have said something. . .

        • Cynica

          I blame his people rather than the UK editors. I wouldn’t expect a European to think about the potential offensiveness of this headdress, but his publicity people get PAID to avert this type of error.

        • KateShouldBeWorking

          I don’t think we should expect the Brits to be aware of the SEVERITY of the problem, but they should be aware if the EXISTENCE of the problem.

          • Mim McDonald

            Certainly I’m aware of it, and I’m a Brit.

            Let’s face it, all you have to ask is, “Is this from a culture that’s currently still alive?” (As opposed to, say, Ancient Romans or Vikings), and if the answer is ‘Yes’, do a bit of research to find out how culturally significant said item might be.

        • Imasewsure

          Gotta disagree here… every thinking adult should know what an obvious cultural stereotype is even if it isn’t derived from their country… especially at the level of decision-making that goes in to a magazine cover. I think they just didn’t care… “editorial” over potentially offensive… glad Pharrell though about it afterwards though…

    • MarissaLG

      Do you think maybe they’re doing it on purpose?

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        On the “any publicity is good publicity” principle? Possibly. I certainly wouldn’t normally give too much thought to Elle – I stopped buying it about 15 years ago.

      • Zaftiguana

        I bet they did it on purpose thinking it would just be a little sexy controversy and then had it blow up into a bigger controversy than they wanted, being too out of touch to know better.

      • decormaven

        Seeing the comments here, and guessing that Twitter is busy with similar posts, the words “Elle UK” and “Pharrell” are being bandied about quite a bit on the Internet. To some minds, that is a plus.

    • FibonacciSequins

      That’s what surprised me about it. That this photo got to Elle UK’s cover without someone saying “You know, this might not be such a good idea…”

      • demidaemon

        Exactly what I thought.

    • sugarkane105

      Elle (both in the US and abroad) has had a lot of controversial covers lately. From Melissa McCarthy to Mindy Kaling and now this, either they really have their heads up their collective asses, or it’s a publicity thing.

      • Denise Alden

        Kudos for using one of my very favorite expressions: “heads up their collective asses.” Oh, and that cover is straight up obnoxious.

    • BookManFilm

      If anyone is offended by a cover of Elle magazine then I am jealous, having something so unimportant to be offended by is as dumb as it is possible to get .
      Move on – literally nothing (original) to see here.

      • Lori

        So in your world people only have the capacity to have thoughts and feelings and opinions about one thing at a time and whatever that one thing is must be The Most Important Thing or it’s totally dumb? How interesting.

        • Kate Andrews

          Yes. Thank you for gracing us with your presence, BookMan. I feel so educated now.

          • BookManFilm

            You are very good at the passive aggressive stuff. I almost didn’t pick up in it.

            • Kate Andrews

              Sorry. I just think that we come here to enjoy ourselves — I work for a place that helps children in poverty, so I’m well aware that this is pretty low on the scale of importance. Why did you even feel the need to comment?

            • BookManFilm

              Yeah, I apologise, shirty attitude for no reason.
              I commented out of genuine lack of understanding why anyone can get upset by this. It’s soooo meaningless and unimportant.

            • FibonacciSequins

              It’s meaningless and unimportant to you. Other people don’t necessarily feel the same way.

            • leahpapa

              Privilege (n.): when you don’t think something’s a problem because it’s not a problem for you.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              Have you been reading the other comments on the history of cultural appropriation and erasure? it’s not “angry at a magazine cover” it is “angry that despite near genocide and decades of activism, people still don’t get it”.

            • leahpapa

              I’ve been avoiding this thread as if it were a smallpox blanket (other Brits claiming that “this doesn’t trigger us in the same way and isn’t really an issue for us” might want to look into that), but I have to take a moment to say how very, very much I always appreciate your remarks. Yours is a thoughtful, discerning, tasteful voice that I value tremendously. I would be remiss if I didn’t say so publicly.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              Thank you! That is such a lovely thing to hear!

        • BookManFilm

          No, but thanks for totally creating your own message from my comment.
          My comment was about how I don’t understand how anyone can get angered by a cover of a fashion magazine.

          • Lori

            Oh yeah, that’s much better. So to have distorted your views.

          • Bexxx

            People can get angered by the cover of a fashion magazine when it’s exploiting a culture that has been systematically oppressed for thousands of years.

          • SugarSnap108

            You also said that being offended by this is “as dumb as it is possible to get,” then instructed all those with said feelings to “move on.” Expressing your opinion on the matter is one thing — dismissing other people’s and telling them to get over it is another. And if you think this is about one magazine cover, you should look into the issue a bit more before deciding if it’s worthy of anyone’s time.

      • SugarSnap108

        Thanks for the input.

        • BookManFilm

          You are welcome.

      • Denise Alden

        You’re not from around here, are you?

    • MK03

      Why was he the only one who had to apologize? Surely it wasn’t his idea; the stylist/editorial staff is responsible for this dumbass idea.

      • lunchcoma

        No one had to apologize. Apparently, the magazine has chosen to double down and defend their choice. I absolutely judge it for doing so, and I think better of Pharrell for apologizing.

        • Eclectic Mayhem

          Really?! That surprises and troubles me in equal measure.

    • Aldona Dye

      I feel like if you don’t KNOW it’s not going to offend, you should maybe just find something else to wear.

    • Katie

      It’s a bit Crazy Horse-esque. Like, if you just look at his head, I could picture him on a horse with his feathers floating in the breeze.

    • MilaXX

      Yeah, this is a big NO! For me.

    • FrauKrissie
      • bitchybitchybitchy

        The WaPo has been very vocal about the name of the local NFL team-they are very much onboard with changing the name.

    • jonnyf8

      There’s a good chance he might be part Native American. Anyone consider that?

      • Zaftiguana

        Unless he’s a member of the specific tribe that uses that headdress and has earned the right to wear it as per their rules, that wouldn’t really matter very much.

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        Almost irrelevant – if not worse. Even amongst Native Americans this is not the equivalent of a baseball cap and if he does have Native American heritage he should know better. He made no mention of that heritage in his apology.

      • colleenjanel

        He might be part Native American, but I’m willing to bet he’s not a chief.

      • oldscrumby

        And that would matter because? I’m an American but I don’t wear my grandfather’s purple heart as a fashion accessory. War bonnets are awards for distinguishing behavior in combat. Not every gets one even if they are a member of one of the plains tribes whose culture they come from.

        • Zaftiguana

          That’s a pretty good analogy. If someone was like, “Hey, look at this cute hairclip I made from some guy’s Purple Heart I bought at an estate sale!” I think people would clearly see what’s so fucked up about that.

          • bitchybitchybitchy

            This reminds me of why using an object from another culture because it appears to be aesthetically beautiful or interesting can be so problematic. Ojbects or clothing often have religious or other cultural meanings that are not known, or readily apparent to outsiders. I recently read “Savage Harvest”, about the disappearance and probable murder of Michael Rockefeller in the early 60’s. The book discusses the possibility that he was not fuly conversant with the deeper meanings of the ethnic sculptures and other items that he was buying, with possibly fatal results.

            • Grumpy Girl

              As an aside; this sounds like my kind of book. I may need to download it for the weekend.

            • bitchybitchybitchy

              It’s worth reading; just be prepared for some rather graphic descriptions at the beginning.

        • KinoEye

          ^This.^ So much. Like TLo said above, it’s not my place to decide what’s offensive to members of certain cultures/subcultures. I’m about as white as one can get. But general ignorance and blatant disregard for the meaning of important symbols like that is problematic because it dismisses and erases that meaning. It becomes a pretty accessory for a fashion magazine. I’ll never be on board with willful ignorance like this.

      • jonnyf8

        OK. I stand corrected.

    • Zaftiguana

      I also can’t get outraged on anyone’s behalf, but where this feels like it differs widely from other kinds of appropriation is that this isn’t just some kind of standard Native American outfit; it’s a hugely culturally/religiously/spiritually specific piece of paraphernalia. It’s not even something it’s appropriate for all people of a given tribe to wear, there’s a strong taboo about it. And, said culture in this case has already been a victim of genocide and a systematic attempt at destruction via the stealing and brainwashing their children, which is a pretty different context than, say, voluntary and relatively amicable immigration. So yeah, I totally feel like we are getting to a point, especially with food and fashion and music, where the lines between many cultures are getting massively fuzzy and may eventually cease to exist as we know tham, but headdresses aren’t fashion, they’re still a whole separate thing.

      And yes, it’s boggling that no one at any planning stage decided this was a bad idea. There’s not only a meme about this, there are memes about memes about memes about this.

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        And the people for whom it does hold significance have repeatedly asked for the rest of us to just stop. Why isn’t that good enough for everyone?

        • Zaftiguana

          Because that really harshes on their strongly held belief in a fictitious post-racial America, probably. And you KNOW Pharrell knows better than that, which is probably why he gave a really above-average apology.

        • lunchcoma

          I think these images are actually part of what perpetuates people thinking it’s okay to disregard the opinions of Native Americans about portrayals of their culture. There are very few representations of modern Native Americans in the media and popular culture, and almost none that come from the perspectives of people from their cultures rather than that of outsiders looking in. They’re out there if you look for them, but how many people go looking?

          If you don’t know any members of a group personally and your only exposure to their culture is seeing a bunch of stereotypical props and costumes being used or worn by people of other races, I think it gets a lot easier not to think of them as “real people” at all and to discount their opinions. Or at least that’s how it’s been expressed to me by Native Americans I know – the tribe in my area actually does have the tradition of war bonnets, and many younger people seem to resent this as much as the misuse of an item with spiritual meaning.

          • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

            Yes. I think you are absolutely right.

            Meanwhile, I read a lovely obituary today, of the last of the original Navajo code talkers. He wasn’t even entitled to vote when he worked on developing that code. He had his mouth washed out with soap at school when he didn’t speak English. Amazing contribution to the war effort and such an interesting piece of history.

            • KinoEye

              Those code talkers were incredible. Which was why I was less than pleased with the one and only movie made about that piece of history: Windtalkers. The code talkers were more like set decorations than characters with agency, despite being the reason why the film exists at all. Nicolas Cage and his nonsense were front and center the whole time. Granted, it was directed by John Woo. But talk about missed opportunities.

            • makeityourself

              On such an important day.

          • Chaiaiai

            “If you don’t know any members of a group personally and your only exposure to their culture is seeing a bunch of stereotypical props and costumes being used or worn by people of other races, I think it gets a lot easier not to think of them as “real people” at all and to discount their opinions.”

            This might explain why there’s a level of “uncomfortability” rather that outright disgust when Native artifacts are appropriated. As a PacNW transplant from the East Coast, I can tell you I’m FAR more away of tribal issues now. I see this photograph differently now, for sure.

          • Tlazolteotl

            There’s a Tulalip/Swinomish photographer who is traveling to photograph members of more than 500 nations and tribes.Her project is interesting for many of the reasons you’ve talked about here. She’s an indigenous woman who was raised within the Swinomish culture, and her images explore what it means to be indigenous today for members of the 562 federally recognized nations. It’s called Project 562.

            • Lori

              And she has a Kickstarter Thanks for mentioning her and her work.

            • lunchcoma

              Oh, I’ve seen some pictures from that project before! There are some amazing pictures (it looks like there are more up now than when I first saw it) and while I think it’s unfortunate that a project even needs to exist to show people from a number of different cultures as individuals rather than one homogeneous stereotype, it seems like really valuable work.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              I will have a look for that – thank you for sharing it.

          • KinoEye

            There is an excellent documentary on Netflix — Reel Injun — that discusses how Native Americans have been mythologized through media representations, much like this cover. While there are (very good) movies being made by Native filmmakers about their experiences, the predominant image we have still works within that mystical/savage binary. It’s a problem because it strips them of their humanity. Which is a direct offshoot of the way they have been treated in this country since it was “settled” by Europeans, and it perpetuates that oppression today.

            I watched one of the films mentioned in the documentary — Smoke Signals — which was about two guys leaving a reservation to retrieve the ashes of a family member. Not that I have any authority on the subject, but I found it pretty refreshing. A great look at modern Native culture. And it has a lot of tongue-in-cheek discussions about their media representation over the years. I’d highly recommend it.

            • Beardslee

              great movie

            • demidaemon

              I believe that movie was based off a short story by a Native American author whose name I don’t recall at this point. I do know it comes from the collection titled “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” which I read in my unaptly named Multicultural Literature class (it ended up being more of a Bicultural Literature course).

            • GinaGeo

              Sherman Alexie. Read everything he has written. Then read everything Louise Erdrich has written. Fantastic stuff.

            • demidaemon

              That’s right! I knew “Alex” was in the name somewhere, but I couldn’t remember the specifics. It’s been a long time. I read Tracks when I was a grad student and have been meaning to acquire the rest of Erdrich’s work, but haven’t yet.

            • GinaGeo

              My SIL did her thesis on Erdrich and she introduced me to her work. I read Alexie in a Native American Philosophy course I took in college. My grandfather was 1/2 Native American so I was trying to find my “roots”. One of the most important things I learned is that my 13% NA background does not make me “part Native American”. It is much deeper and much more spiritual. I have no more right to wear a headdress than Pharrell.

            • demidaemon

              Interesting. I think I encountered Erdrich first in a course on Ecofeminism, which is actually a theory I really subscribe to (I’ve written a lot on it with regards to Shakespeare, Ursula Le Guin, and Ntozake Shange (sp?). I do understand the part about connecting your roots to the person that you are. My best friend is 1/8th (not sure on the exact fraction, but it is approximately correct) Sioux, but she feels a spiritual connection. So it really depends on what you yourself feel is right, which I think is something we can all take from this discussion.

          • Zaftiguana

            There was a really interesting study about this with regard to children’s books and how few of them feature non-white people, how negatively or shallowly those non-white people are presented, and furthermore how few of the books that do feature non-white characters, especially Native Americans or First Nations people, are written by people inside those cultures. It was pretty enlightening. And sad.

            • demidaemon

              That’s true. But that problem is more centered in the publishing industry and what they feel will sell, as opposed to whether or not they should be available. Because they should, really.

            • Zaftiguana

              Sure, and the judgment and perception of people in those positions is always influenced by bias disguised as pragmatism, which makes it that much harder to get some parity. I read another recent study (I swear I don’t actually read all that many studies) looking into why theatre producers in major New York houses are biased against plays by women, motivated by a recent string of female playwrights who win the Pulitzer but aren’t even eligible for the Tony because they can’t get their work produced on Broadway. The producers and Artistic Directors claim that they pick few plays by women because they don’t sell and not because of sexism, but the study found that plays by women actually sell a little bit better, and also found that they’re more likely to be perceived by producers to not be doing as well as they are and be cancelled in fewer performances than a play by a man that made less. It’s really crazy.

            • demidaemon

              I agree with all your points, but people who have clout will stick to their beliefs of what will sell, unless they are proved radically wrong in what sort of money they can make. Unfortunately, “a little bit better” won’t change their minds.

            • Zaftiguana

              Yeah, the old adage of “twice as good to get half as far”.

      • Leah Elzinga

        That you for making the point about how THESE headdresses are not fashion but a whole other thing. That actually helped me understand it a lot better. This isn’t a matter of appropriating decoration, but about disregarding what they MEAN to that culture.

        • fursa_saida

          Right! That’s generally my understanding of the whole cultural appropriation issue writ large.

      • http://myriameron.blogspot.com/ Heron

        Just as an aside, I think that outrage on behalf of an oppressed minority is totally justified, if not encouraged. Where outrage on behalf steps over the line is when it presumes to speak FOR. And I am nothing but utterly impressed with the Uncles and Kittens for our continued care in speaking UP but not speaking FOR.

        • Zaftiguana

          That’s a good point. I think the desire to tread lightly comes from knowing how easily well-meaning people (myself TOTALY included) can accidentally cross that line between, as you put it, speaking UP and speaking FOR. But the speaking UP can be a really important way to keep people already suffering from some kind of disenfranchisement to also have to be the only ones fighting that fight.

        • MemHey

          Thank you. Recognizing this distinction is a huge step towards honor and reconciliation. It’s quite marvelous when someone outside an oppressed group begins to speak up for that group – like standing up for the kid who’s getting picked on. The little guy still has to deal with his bully, but at least now he has a friend on his side. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

        • Eclectic Mayhem

          That’s really beautifully put.

    • another_laura

      Well, it satisfied the sole purpose of the cover, which is to get us talking about it. I can’t speak to cultural appropriation – being a Caucasian heterosexual female I apparently have no rights in this area – but I find it in pretty poor taste. Maybe they were thinking it’s a groovy play on the now extraordinarily famous headwear that helped draw attention to him from the wider world? Hat? You want a different hat? How about this hat? That’s why … poor taste.

    • Mary Elizabeth Poytinger Baume

      HONESTLY…it bothers me no more than any other “lets appropriate this cultural reference for this collection” bothers me… he does have a stunning profile.

    • RussellH88

      I feel like they knew it would offend people, but I’m so incredibly hard to offend (I really just have a problem with outright hatred as opposed to cultural appropriation).

      • Bexxx

        That sentiment likely comes from a place of privilege.

        • RussellH88

          I know. But in all honesty, I’d rather be hard to offend than getting up in arms.

          • Lori

            Which also comes from a place of privilege. You are obviously not required to be offended, but it’s probably better if you don’t think of and refer to concerns related to issues of racism, oppression and genocide as “getting up in arms.”

    • ashtangajunkie

      It’s a gorgeous photo, but I would think that Elle UK has access to many beautiful, inoffensive, actual HATS. I tend to think that it’s lack of thought rather than malicious intent that leads to a cover like this (naive, probably). As a publicity stunt, it’s completely stupid.

    • LeelaST

      My immediate reaction was “That headdress is going to be an issue…” (Read FrauKrissie’s post with link below for reactions & info.)

    • JAPPDX

      Maybe the photo is why the issue is a “Special Collector Edition”. The fashion bubble edition.

    • JG

      I think it’s interestng that more Bitter Kittens are willing to call out Miley’s appropriation of hip hop attire (which I think involves some more personal opinion on how much appropriation of style is too much and whether she “earned” the right to wear it) versus something that has a much more bright line. He is not Native American, is not wearing a headdress in the culturally prescribed manner for use of that ceremonial object (not even getting into its accuracy). As I have heard many times: Native American culture is not your fashion accessory. I think there are more “fashion” type elements in all cultures, but headdresses in particular are essentially sacred objects. This isn’t just using tuquoise or fringe on leggings, IMHO. There is influence and there is appropriation.

      • SewingSiren

        I don’t understand why you would think that . The comments are running 100% against the use of the headdress as a fashion accessory.

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        I’m not being combative, I am genuinely interested in your opinion – I am not seeing much difference between this discussion and the ones about any other cultural appropriation. Do you think it is because Miley is a tedious child that a lot of people are sick of whereas Pharrell looks like a beautiful Pharaonic statue in this picture?

        • JG

          I’m not juding either way (or not trying to, if it felt that way), I find these discussions interesting. At least at the top level, T&L very clearly stated they weren’t ok with the Miley stuff, if I’m remember right. Commenters seemed to agree. Here T&L were unwilling to judge either way, though definitely expressing some level of discomfort. At least as to what I had read when I wrote this (could have changed since), many commenters were also on the side of vaguely uncomfortable but not willing to truly call it out.
          I think how these conversations happen is just really interesting from a sociological perspective and wonder a bit why. To me, this seems like it would be an easier call, but I also have been around (am not myself) a lot of Native folks growing up in the PacNW. A couple of my friends are extremely vocal/active on issues like fashion appropriation of headdresses and the Washington football team. I totally think the Miley situation is also worthy of comment, I am frankly just interested in the levels of comfort people have in declaring appropriation of one kind or another as “too much.”

          • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

            I also find these conversations interesting. I have noticed that more people are prepared to call out more types of cultural appropriation (not just here, on other sites too) as there has been more awareness of these sorts of issues, but at the same time there are many more “Well I am a white girl so it isn’t my place to say it” sort of comments. On the other hand, I’ve also seen activists of various stripes increasingly saying “It isn’t my job to educate you if you are ignorant”, so that does leave straight white girls to spell things out for some people…

            I think you are right that the tone of this thread is a little different, more of us are saying “it’s not OK, but he’s pretty” than outright drawing a line.

            • Lori

              Personally my position is that this is not at all OK, his outsides are pretty to look at, but he should have known better than to go along with this and I think less of him as a person for doing it. I don’t think he’s ZOMG! irredeemably evil or something, but I think it was an asshat thing to do.

      • Zaftiguana

        I don’t really see a big difference, but even if there was one, it would probably have a lot to do with the fact that Miley is of the ethnic group that has been oppressing Black people for centuries, while Pharrell is of an ethnic group that was/is being oppressed right alongside Native Americans, not doing it to them. That doesn’t make what he/Elle did okay, and it doesn’t seem to be at all the consensus here that it was, but it does make it different.

        • marlie

          For what it’s worth (and I think the headdress was a ludicrously inappropriate decision in the first place), Pharrell seems to be (at least outwardly) pretty apologetic for having offended people in this way. That doesn’t absolve him of all wrongdoing in my book, but it’s a start. Miley, on the other hand, refuses to accept that her appropriation of “Black culture” is offensive to anyone, inappropriate, or even in poor taste. Personally, that’s why I have zero tolerance for her; people tell her that what she’s doing is offensive, and she essentially tells then that she doesn’t care, or to get over it.

          • Zaftiguana

            Yeah, that’s a good point, too. Building your whole career on unapologetic appropriation and following a momentary lapse in photoshoot judgement with a solid apology are two very different things.

    • Jacqueline Wessel

      His profile is so beautiful here. It looks like he should be on a coin.

    • headhunter2

      Which of the 23 natural hair products do you think best keeps your plumage from molting?

    • Anna

      Completely agree. Even though I’m considered a visible minority, I myself only have a basic understanding from old history classes, but looking at the cover still makes me uncomfortable.

      This is a beautiful photo and had all the makings of a beautiful photo on its own, without the headdress. In the Internet age, basically saying, “Oh, we didn’t know..” simply isn’t an excuse. I can accept that Elle UK may not be familiar with the issue, but there is always the ability to research first. And Pharrell, being an American, could’ve spoken up.

      • KinoEye

        Now that I actually think about it, I’d be willing to bet my bottom dollar that Elle UK has at least one American staffer working for them. Media has become such a global industry that I’m sure the magazine employs people from all over the world. Especially since Elle is such a big name in publishing. Lazy, inexcusable decision all the way around.

        • Anna

          I’m sure you’re right about the American staffer(s). It really would’ve taken no time at all to do a simple google search.

          And yes, it may not be a prominent issue in Europe, but c’mon, Elle UK didn’t know about the “cowboys and Indians”-themed show that *JUST* happened in December and got Chanel in similarly hot water. In addition to the H&M and Victoria’s Secret controversies? They’re all in the fashion industry and they never heard about those at the very least? Please…

    • dschubba

      Why do people keep doing this?

    • SayWhaaatNow

      *puts head down on desk*

      I can’t.

    • Luzia

      no one ever has an issue if someone wears traditional japanese or chinese or indian or french or german or any culture clothing. but i understand, history of native americans is tragic because of all crimes americans did to them for many years

      • MilaXX

        There was quite a bit of upset over female celebs wearing bindis to Sxsw

        • FibonacciSequins

          There were also some comments about cultural appropriation on that recent post with the Charlotte Olympia bags.

      • Kate Andrews

        Also, Katy Perry got stung when she wore kabuki makeup recently.

      • dschubba

        So you missed that Selena Gomez controversy, huh?

      • Lori

        There was quite a lot of complaining when Chanel did that collection recently that many people thought crossed the line from being inspired by the clothing of India to appropriating Indian culture.

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        It’s something we talk about on a lot of posts – comes up with use of African textiles, Chinese and Japanese clothing, co-option of hiphop subculture, use of bindis and saris. Pretty much once a week, really.

        • Kate Andrews

          I think there are different degrees of offense, though. To me, American Indian headdresses are among the worst, though, given the history of oppression and the fact that they’re honorary. It’s not the same as wearing silver and turquoise jewelry, for instance. I think if you’re wearing an item from a culture that’s A. not your own, B. oppressed at some point in history or C. an exact replica vs. something “influenced” by it, you may want to think twice.

          • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

            Yes, I do agree. Look – if you visited a reservation and met a Native American woman who was making and selling silver and turquoise jewellery, buy it, wear it, tell people about her in a very non-GOOP way. If you are a high school student on a school trip and all your friends buy fluorescent-coloured rayon keffiyeh at Covent Garden market, maybe you should re-think and get educated.

            • fursa_saida

              Oh, that’s another important point–who is benefiting from the sale? Where is the money going? It makes a huge difference whether the money is going to the people whose culture the item is drawn from, or going to, say, Urban Outfitters.

      • doodley

        I don’t think this is true at all. I have heard/read/participated in quite a few discussions about wearing traditional garb of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian culture. In particular, wearing a bindi has been a hot topic in recent months.

        The fact of the matter is that feathered headdresses have a very specific meaning to each Native American/First Nation tribe. The type and number of feathers have a meaning. They are not merely clothing. They are ceremonial items and should be given due respect and deference.

        What I cannot comprehend is this: Native Americans and First Nation members have made it clear that it is disrespectful to wear a headdress in this manner. Why do those of us outside of that culture continue to dismiss their concerns? (And I say this as an alumna of one of the major US universities which continues to dismiss these concerns, unfortunately.)

        • Tlazolteotl

          Are you out of Florida State, too?

          • doodley

            University of Illinois, home of the Fightin’ Illini. At least Chief Illiniwek and his headdress have been more or less retired.

            • Tlazolteotl

              Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for Chief Osceola. FSU keeps telling the NCAA that Chief Billie and the Florida Seminole are our partners and are fine with the use of the name, and every time the Oklahoma Seminole object, they just stick their fingers in their ears and scream “lalalala can’t hear you” as loud as they can.

    • bitchybitchybitchy

      As TLo noted, this cover reflects the bubble world of fashion. A feather headdress with a cardigan-silly.

    • Frank_821

      I’m of the same mind as Tlo. I don’t know how much to defend or condemn this and the whole issue of cultural appropriation

      Then again I do understand that the headdress is special and and the privilege of wearing it needs to be earned and there really should be the heart of the matter. From that perspective I get where there’s a problem. For example Rick has always had an issue, on religious grounds, with people who use the crucifix as a fashion accessory.

      I think about that the Chanel show in Dallas some time back the cowboys and indians motif which came across to me as rather tacky.

      On the topic of cultural appropriation in general it seems so gray at times and even a little frustrating especially since a lot of great fashion has been derived from it

      I do a lot of costuming and have discussed and dealt on this issue. And I feel there no clear cut lines on it. I have encountered some people of different ethnic and racial types get up in arms about this subject-which is understandable. However those same people get up in arms when anyone gives them a hard time about donning a costume that falls outside their race, ethnicity or nationality. They feel no one should put any restrictions on their hobby

      • formerlyAnon

        I am pretty much where you are. I have a very bright line with religious artifacts/garments that have ceremonial or sacramental significance, a fairly clear line with religious iconography more generally, though I confess there’s a good bit of religious iconography from my own religious tradition that doesn’t bother me to see worn as ornament. Past that I’m just happy that neither my profession nor my sartorial tastes lead me to decisions where this is an issue.

        • demidaemon

          I agree. And it depends, too, on how much research you want to put into it, how that relates to your own beliefs, etc., etc.

    • NMMagpie

      As one of those Natives, this was a big hell no. Son, if you want to wear those feathers, you better have earned them.

    • Leah Elzinga

      What frustrates me is that of all the amazing options for headgear that they could have put him in, this is what they chose. It strikes me as deliberate, in order to drum up controversy. For goodness sakes, it could even have still been an amazing feathered headpiece, but they expressly chose this one, and then chose again to USE the image, and then again to use it for the COVER. That’s a lot choices that needed to be made, and every step along the way they chose the controversial, offensive choice. And now we’re all talking about it at the expense of essentially mocking another culture. cute.

    • Sofia

      pharrell’s face is beautiful, but the picture is not great and the cover is not well-designed. i agree with the first commenter that the whole thing is random. i suppose it would have been a lot safer to create a unique, colorful headress that didn’t resemble anything native american. but hear me out: i realize that you cannot tell people how to feel if they are offended, but, as a general principle, shouldn’t we be able borrow from all cultures? if the execution is poor or shallow, then perhaps that would be the basis of the critique. i am uncomfortable with the idea that no “outsider” may ever don cultural items under any circumstances. normally, dressing up in cultural garb and makeup (in 2014) is done as some form of artistic expression which stems from the view that the items are beautiful. if you are not using an item that is already imbued with sacredness because it was blessed or used in a ceremony, and you are using something that was made as art direction, what is the problem? to answer my own question, i believe that the real problem here is the genocide and marginalization of the native americans, which has never been adequately addressed by the federal government. i am furious about *that* and i wonder if this headress would be an issue for native americans today if more had been done to right the wrongs against them. i believe that beauty is beauty and if we treated each other with more respect, we wouldn’t have cause for alarm over a beautiful costume. and it would be a costume if used in a secular manner, right? this picture is not the same thing as casting white actors as native americans in old westerns. we have come a long way from that, though i think that the harder work lies ahead of us.

      • suzq

        If you’re going to do that, have the decency to own it and explain it. I believe the article made no mention of it.

      • Loramir

        We haven’t come that far – see The Lone Ranger from last year, or the fact that Warner Brothers recently chose to cast Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in an upcoming Peter Pan adaptation.

        I find cultural appropriation a confusing subject anyway, but there’s definitely a difference between being inspired by a culture versus blatantly ripping them off. And there’s a difference between a culture’s equivalent of jeans and a t-shirt – just ordinary clothes – and their equivalent of military medals of honor – which have significance.

        I can go on eBay and find the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, or Distinguished Flying Cross of a soldier who was killed in action in WWII – but no matter how beautiful I might find them, wearing them as jewelry just because I think they’re pretty would be extremely disrespectful to the people who have risked and lost their lives to earn them (and would in fact be illegal under the Stolen Valor Act). I could make my own, or buy one of the $5.99 Purple Heart replicas on eBay too – no one’s actually died or been wounded for that specific medal, so it’s really just “art.” But it would still be wrong, because it’s still taking a reproduction of something that holds great signficance to a specific group of people and has to be earned through great personal risk and sacrifice and treating it like a shiny toy to jazz up my outfit. Which, as I understand it, is the problem with randomly wearing a native headdress just because it’s pretty.

      • fursa_saida

        Yeah, now we cast white actors as Native Americans in remakes of old westerns. The progress is truly astounding.

        The idea isn’t so much that no outsider can ever don anything that originated elsewhere. The idea is that until you know what the hell you’re doing, it’s best to stay away from it, because your ignorance can allow you to do things like put on a war bonnet and roll around in the dirt at Coachella. Like, there was a time when I might have worn a t-shirt with a Hand of Fatima on it, because the Hand of Fatima looks cool. But now I know what it is, and I would feel wrong doing so, so I don’t. And I specifically didn’t buy that t-shirt at the time because I was like, “wait, I know this has something to do with Islamic culture, I should check on this.” And I’m glad I didn’t.

        There’s a flipside: white people really like to take others’ styles and then keep the people who created them out of the picture. We don’t get Japanese-American pop stars, we get Katy Perry in a kimono. We don’t get Native American models in catalogs, we get white girls with feather earrings. Etc. It’s a way of getting to use the aesthetic without actually letting those marginalized people get less marginalized. It’s saying “your clothes are beautiful, but you we can do without.”

        Is this true every single time in every single case? No, just because pretty much nothing applies universally. But this part of the problem isn’t just about sharing beauty, it’s about the way “sharing” it can actually help limit it.

        • Sofia

          to you and Loramir, i forgot about the lone ranger and peter pan casting. sorry about that. and now that i think about it, i was appalled at the casting of zoe saldana as nina simone because it seemed as though they were going to put dark makeup on her. but mostly i was disgusted by the very obvious fact that there are so few super successful black actresses who have african features like nina simone. which brings me to the reason i chimed back in here: i 1000% agree with you that the way we use white models and entertainers to “introduce” items from other cultures is a disgrace. and it certainly isn’t part of the respect for each other that i said we need. i expect that in a post-racial world, we will equally acknowledge all types of beauty rather than churning out yet another white girl to admire every two seconds. maybe it’s only after that change is made that cultural appropriation will cease to be problematic.

        • marlie

          Interestingly enough, My bestie (who’s Buddhist) has lived off and on in the Middle East for almost 10 years, and when she first moved to Morocco years ago, she gifted me with a pendant of the Hand of Fatima, precisely because it represented protection and blessings. Whenever I do wear it, I always feel a certain sense of spiritual connectedness, but I think that’s because it was gifted with the original intention in mind, and because I wear it in the same vein. I wore it when I went to Morocco, and a lot of people seemed pleasantly surprised that I was wearing it and that I knew what it meant.

          • fursa_saida

            Yeah, the Hand of Fatima example is more specific to that particular instance, I guess. Like, the situation you described sounds quite nice. But the money for your pendant wasn’t going to Random Chain Clothing Store when it was bought, I’m pretty sure, and it was given to you by someone who has spent a lot of time in the culture. It was given to you with the meaning intact, whereas plopping it on that shirt made it just a random design with no significance.

            I have lived in the Middle East a fair amount and probably will do so again, but I would have felt really uncomfortable buying this shirt, bringing it back with me to Cairo (where I was about to move to), and just waltzing around in it. As an atheist I try to be extremely careful in how I coexist with Muslims/in Muslim-majority places, because while I have no interest in converting anyone to my beliefs it’s really easy for me to slip up and, say, use a phrase that involves the word “Allah” while holding a beer. Some Muslims find that really offensive. (This goes for other religions too, of course, it’s just that in my life it’s come up mostly around Islam.) So I may err a little on the side of caution, there, but I think the example remains–I’m glad I checked myself and did my research.

        • marlie

          Also, re: your comment about the flipside… you (not YOU, but the hypothetical “you”) also run into problems when you have “we’ll put the Native American model in the NA-clothes, and we’ll put the Asian model in the Japanese/Chinese-inspired clothes, but then NOT include them elsewhere.” I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if you want to try to respectfully represent all cultures, why not have those marginalized people represent their own culture, other cultures, AND the “mainstream” one? That way it’s not “we only have Native American/Black/Asian models in our Native American/African/Asian-themed issue. Does that make sense?

          • fursa_saida

            Yup. There’s what I described, which is stealing, and then there’s the “we’ll trot you out for the after school special” thing, which is tokenizing and objectifying, and then there’s what should be happening, which is just LITERAL DIVERSITY. Why is this so hard for people to grasp? (Don’t answer that, sigh.)

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              I’ve been torturing myself by reading some of the internet arguments about representation in scifi recently, and one of the naysayer arguments is “I’ll add a person of colour if it furthers the story”. I can’t help but wondering what world they live in. Would it hurt to make the person the main character has coffee with a different ethnicity? It may not drive the plot but it looks a lot more like real life.

            • Lori

              Oy, that kind of thing makes me nuts. It totally reinforces the idea that white people are the default and everyone else has to sort of justify not being totally invisible. Hello, part of the problem. The utter cluelessness involved in saying something like that kind of boggles my mind.

              I understand if someone says, I’m white and I don’t feel like I’m in a position to write a non-white POV character in this situation because I know shit about being a POC. That’s a completely different thing from refusing to write any character as non-white unless it advances the story. Especially since what constitutes “advancing the story” is often just more racist crap.of the magical black person or spiritual Native ilk.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              Particularly in scifi – as I understand genetics, lighter colouring tends to be recessive, so 1000 years in the future it stands to reason that there will be a lot more people with darker skin, unless there is a good reason why not.

            • fursa_saida

              No melanin unless you serve a white person’s purposes! Get to work, characters of color! Be grateful for what you’ve got!

            • tereliz

              As an aside, your comment reminds me of the dissenters who broke the interwebs in half like a teenage boy’s bathtowel after Lawrence Fishburne, one of the finest actors of the age, was cast as Perry White in the recent Superman reboot. Oddly enough, I didn’t hear anything from those same dissenters when Fishburne was cast as Jack Crawford in the series Hannibal. Fucking fanboys.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              I don’t remember too many complaints about Samuel L Jackson being cast as Nick Fury either, although I believe he is white in the comics.

            • Eclectic Mayhem

              I think Nick Fury used to be a white guy in the comics but he was reintroduced in the Ultimates series as a black man with a clear likeness to Samuel L. Jackson. Marvel asked Jackson if it was okay and he said yes. And I’m mightily glad he did because I can’t imagine Nick Fury any other way!

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              Neither can I! I wonder if there was a fuss when he was reintroduced as black? I assume there was.

            • Eclectic Mayhem

              I’m not sure but I get the feeling that the ‘casting’ was so utterly perfect that most people responded with a hearty ‘Hell yeah!’.

              I was gutted to find out about all the nonsense re: Idris Elba as Heimdall though and even sorrier to think that it might put him off being James Bond. Some people are fuckwits.

              As an aside – I’ve got to say that I’m increasingly horrified when reading the UK news these days – it’s only been eight and a half years since I moved to the US but my country is gone! The NHS is all but destroyed, UKIP seems to be making headway, Scotland may well jump ship (and who could blame it!) – what the hell?!

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              You left pretty much exactly when I arrived – it has been a rocky 8 years!

            • Eclectic Mayhem

              Well, that’s the last time I leave you in charge… ;)

            • tereliz

              An Alt-Reality reboot of Fury in the Earth 1610 comics was black, so there is precedence there, and he was pretty much a dead-ringer for Mr. Jackson, but there was some outrage at the time. The internet wasn’t quite so big back then (2000, or 2001, I think), though…

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              Life really was easier before the internet in some ways.

            • demidaemon

              This is an argument that has come up in videogames recently, mostly with representation of gay characters (although the representations of people of color, etc., is equally as bad, especially when the Japanase software companies have characters that pretty much read as Caucasian). Actually, it came up in a lecture the CEO of Blizzard gave recently when discussing why gay characters and others are not visible in the games they make, which s=they stated is because they focus on gameplay over story.

              Of course, there is also the opposite side of the Diversity Police, when people feel you have become over-diverse. For example, when I was workshopping my novel (and thesis) for my Master’s degree, one classmate really got on my case over the fact that I have an African-American female character married to a Japanese-American man and the sister of one of the other characters is wheelchair-bound. To me, these characters just felt as though they should be who they are. That’s how they appeared to me. I didn’t do it purposely to create “diversity.” That’s not how this other person felt, and, even though I know he was just being ignorant and overly critical, it is still really frustrating as a creative artist.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              I do think it can come across as tokenistic, but if the character is properly developed, it doesn’t! I had a problem with one of the characters in the Dresden Files, who is black, but Russian, and it just seemed so jarring until the character mentioned how unusual it was and how hard it had been for him being from such a tiny minority.

        • fiddlecub

          ‘ It’s a way of getting to use the aesthetic without actually letting those marginalized people get less marginalized. It’s saying “your clothes are beautiful, but you we can do without.” ‘

          That is an amazing and eloquent way of stating the issue. Thank you.

          • fursa_saida

            Goodness, thank you!

        • demidaemon

          I don’t know how many of you follow Longmire, but I believe that all of the Native American characters on that show are played by Native American actors. And , in a funny twist, the all-American Wyoming sheriff is played by an Australian.

    • Danielle

      Being part Cherokee, I’m exasperated that headdresses are now viewed by some as less outrageous than a white person donning blackface, or any other means of cultural appropriation. Those feathers have to be earned.

      • Myra Amler

        Agreed.

      • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

        Blackface isn’t cultural appropriation, it’s grotesque racial stereotyping, akin to the Redskins name and logo.

        • Danielle

          You’re totally right, that’s what I meant. Totally used the wrong words! Will edit…

    • Gatto Nero

      No. Sorry. A Native American/First Nation headdress is not just another culturally inspired article of clothing, nor is it a “costume.” The use of one in this way is frivolous and disrespectful.

    • Kristin

      Oy, the unacknowledged and unchecked privilege in some of these comments is making me nauseous.

      “I don’t get easily offended.” “I don’t think this is worth getting up in arms about.” Of course you don’t. Of course.

      I agree with someone below who stated that getting outraged on behalf of an oppressed minority is absolutely an appropriate thing to do. As long as you (proverbial you referring to privileged folk) don’t pretend to speak for the less privileged group, or act like you’re going to ride in on your white horse and be the savior, being angry about cultural appropriation and racism (and other isms) should be encouraged. I don’t know who said it first, but: if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.

      I think we should all be speaking up. I think it is absolutely necessary for me to look at this and say hey: that’s not right. That’s not cool. And to say it out loud, where other people can hear me. American Indians have been saying “No, don’t do this” for a long time and clearly not everyone has heard the message. I think I have an obligation to give them a signal boost.

      • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

        No one is interested in your nausea. State your disagreement more politely going forward, please.

        • Kristin

          Sorry, TLo. Will watch my words.

          • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

            Attagirl.

            Thank you.

    • Sharon

      This made me wince – a lot. And it’s definitely inappropriate use of a headdress. And I’m kind of disappointed Pharrell agreed to it.

    • Beardslee

      This cover takes my breath away for two reasons. One, of course, is because he looks so beautiful and the other is that a headdress should not be used casually as a prop in a fashion shoot. You just don’t do that. But this is coming from someone who doesn’t like flags used cool patterns or Madonna’s massive deployment of crosses, etc. Objects of power should be respected. The fashion industry is as deep as a puddle on such things except for what it perceives as shock value.

    • suzq

      Seeing him in any warrior or religious vestment outfit, regardless of the army or religion, would have made me uneasy because he is neither a warrior or any kind of religious official. I’m not aware of any affiliation he might have with a native tribe. Does this mean to me that you have to be a member of whatever group you are dressing as? Not necessarily. He and/or the stylist owes us an explanation of why this image was chosen. The appropriation doesn’t bother me as much as the silence that ends up trivializing meaningful symbols into “dress up.” Keep in mind that we only care because the indigenous peoples are still around to be offended. No one cares about the Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks anymore. Wear those costumes with impunity.

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        And how good would he look in a Tutankhamen headdress? AMAZING.

      • AlmostClassy

        I disagree slightly. I think actual modern Egyptians and Greeks might have something to say about it. My thoughts are slightly nebulous on this. But, clearly, to dress up as an ancient Egyptian, Roman, or Greek doesn’t carry the negative baggage that dressing up as an indigenous person does.

        • fursa_saida

          The Egyptians I know don’t care at all if people want to wear Ancient Egyptian stuff. They encourage it, even, if it means getting our tourist dollars. Modern and Ancient Egypt have so little in common, and those symbols don’t have meaning to Egyptians anymore except for a certain general sense of “our nation has a long and proud history which is why we’re the best.”

          • AlmostClassy

            It’s true that the symbols no longer have the same importance. And if they’re cool, I’m cool and shutting up. I just had my “reducing a culture down to very specific costumes” trigger tripped by it. Like togas are all we imagine for ancient Greeks, armor and tunics/sandals for Romans and mummies and the headdress for Egyptians. But we worship the Greeks for philosophy, the Romans for politics/military might, and the Egyptians for their monuments and all three cultures for their impact on Western civilization, so that’s why I didn’t think it was necessarily an awful thing.

            • fursa_saida

              No, I think it’s a perfectly good instinct to wonder! I just lived in Egypt for a while and have seen this discussed a few times, so I figured I’d pass it on.

              All of these ancient cultures were far more varied and complex than we tend to imagine (sartorially and in every other way), so “reducing a culture down to a very specific costume” totally applies. But it’s not really hurting anyone, which is the key issue.

    • Windswept

      Those eagle feathers are precious to us – they don’t just get handed out. And the bonnets – for the people who have them and no, it’s not every one of us – are treasured. When I see this, I sort of feel like devout Catholics felt when Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of the pope. It isn’t fashion. It’s history and tradition and identity. We wrap up a lot of who we were and what we hope to become again in these things. In the materials, the craftsmanship, the wearing of it. This is what we’ve been for thousands of years – what we still are. It hurts to see it become an accessory.

      • Lori

        Sinead O’Connor was/is Catholic herself, she had a legitimate beef with the Pope and the rest of the Church hierarchy and that issue had been ignored and swept under the rug for years, so she decided to take her moment in the spotlight and use it. No matter how upset that made some other Catholics it really wasn’t the same situation as this. This is far worse.

        • demidaemon

          True. It’s too bad her hypocrisy ruined any effect of the message and it was ill thought out and timed.

    • Shelby

      Oh hell no.

    • courtney hooper

      “Is it significant that this is a British magazine cover showing this?” This is a joke, right? “Can we appropriate cultures who have been oppressed and systematically murdered, provided it happened in a geographically distinct location?” You guys are better than this.

      • fursa_saida

        Thank you for your third sentence. It’s way funnier than my attempts.

      • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

        Yes, we would like to think we are better than the bullshit made up quote you attributed to us.

        • courtney hooper

          I guess we were both wrong.

          • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

            Do you have a point to make? Because so far, we’re unimpressed with making up a quote, pointing at someone and saying “You’re better than this” without having to make any argument or point whatsoever.

    • The Versatile Chef

      This reminds me of an incident involving one of my clients last year. She works in the fashion industry and decided to start a “lifestyle” blog and brand herself as “Glamour Squaw”. She has some Mexican/Native American ancestry but had never identified herself as anything other than (privileged) white female. Needless to say, once she took to social media with her new moniker, she found out rather quickly that the Native American community was not happy with the term “squaw”, especially when used by a (privileged) white female. It got real ugly, real fast.

      I still can’t believe she didn’t do her homework before she appropriated that name.

      • Kate Andrews

        Wow. Just wow. She needs to go to a reservation, sit down and listen.

      • fursa_saida

        Why did she even want it, though? That’s a terrible handle!

        • The Versatile Chef

          I believe her husband gave her that nickname. They were at a costume party one time, both of them dressed in Native dress (he has Native ancestry as well) and I think it came out of there.

          But, yeah, some white folks don’t see any problems with dressing like that. At least they didn’t do “red face”. Oy.

          • fursa_saida

            Oh my god, it got worse.

      • Joanna

        That’s my issue with Elle UK – the lack of research. I said it earlier, and I’ll say it again. An intern with five minutes of time could have Googled “Is wearing a Native American headdress offensive?” and the first thing that would have popped up (before today, that is) was a 2012 article about Victoria’s Secret apologizing for using a headdress in a runway show.

        • fursa_saida

          I also just…like, fashion editors talk to one another, right? And some of them have definitely run afoul of this before, right? HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW? Is there not even any discussion across the metaphorical water cooler about how those crude angry readers hurt my fee-fees and watch out for them, darling?

          • Joanna

            I am trying not to be a jerk about this – I get that this is not a geographically relevant thing to non-North/South American folks, and I realize that we have developed a sensitivity due to our own racial and cultural tensions here here – but I would expect, and I believe the world expects, Elle USA to be as cognizant of cultures outside our borders and to do due diligence. I can’t just give Elle UK a pass because they are across the Atlantic Ocean.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              It’s not being a jerk about it. Even if it were Optima (which is the free fortnightly magazine in my neck of the woods) I would expect them to do the slightest amount of due diligence before publishing.

        • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

          Plus, are they not on twitter? I don’t even follow that many fashion people and I saw mentions of this pretty darn quickly.

    • Folk Devil

      Hm. Being Scandinavian, I don’t really know how the British view this stuff, but I’d say that it’s significant that the magazine is British. Not that it’s an excuse, but the issue of appropriation of Native American cultures is just not talked about here (in northern Europe at least). We still say “Indian” when we mean Native American, and people generally don’t understand why it would be considered offensive. Lots of kids are dressed up as “Indians” for Halloween, with head gear, war paint etc.

      • therealkuri

        Given the significant British history of colonizing the whole of North America, and continued ties to the continent via Canada’s place in the Commonwealth, I don’t think that kind of ignorance is really that excusable. Like would a Danish person really this it was cool to dress up as an Greenland Inuk? I would hope not.

        But apart from that, Williams is not British/European, so theoretically, he could have schooled Elle UK instead of just thoughtlessly donning the headgear.

        • Folk Devil

          No, I agree that it’s not an excuse for this kind of ignorance. As for the Danes – and I cannot speak for all of us, of course, – but yeah, I can imagine that many wouldn’t see a problem with “dressing up” as an inuit. But that’s another issue, and an embarrassing one at that. Despite our colonial history, many people are still ignorant as to the terms inuit/eskimo, for example. Or maybe they just don’t care, I dunno.

      • demidaemon

        I don’t even want to get into the political correctness of what term to use. For a few years there, when I was more involved with academia, it was a serious crapshoot as to whether or not you were using the “correct” term for a specific set of people.

        • leahpapa

          True story; I also work in academia and feel that sense of in group/out group based on terminology and esoteric vocabularies. That being said, “Indian” seems almost defiantly Eurocentric and ignorant. To quote “Quiz Show,” “the only reason they’re called Indians is because some white guy got lost.”

          • demidaemon

            For a long time, it was inappropriate to say Native Americans and American Indians was considered the term du jour. It just became ultra confusing.

    • crash1212

      I have another question…how many Elle covers asked the question about poor Keira Knightley’s heart? Also, rumor has it that Pharrell is part Native American…does that make a difference?

      • fursa_saida

        Short answer is no. It’s discussed in the comments.

    • Imasewsure

      Here’s hoping that Pharrell has some Native American ancestry that is highly important to him… otherwise the pretty shot is still just wrong

    • JynxTheCat

      Not sure but I do know I love this pic.

    • Jenn B

      So last month here in Australia a newspaper insert magazine had a local celebrity and her daughters on the cover, in a “cowboys and Indians” theme that had her daughter in a full on headdress. There was even a link to a website that sold these headdresses for dress-up (at $95 a pop). There was literally zero comment on it. When I brought it up with people I got my wrist slapped for forcing American political correctness (I’m Canadian, not that it matters) on Australians, who don’t have that same association. I dunno. To me this kind misuse of cultural dress should be global — not based on one country’s experience. Especially given Australia’s experience with their treatment of aboriginals, I thought this would be taboo. But it really, truly was not.

      • Synnae

        Thank you for making my point, different nations have different associations.
        Btw had your local celeb used Aboriginal face paint or posed on top of Uluru she would have been vilified by a whole nation.

      • fursa_saida

        Nope, I think it’s still wrong. It’s just that the consciousness of the wrongness is lesser. Lots of wrong things aren’t taboo, or aren’t always (see obvious example of blackface). The geographical change doesn’t make the choices any better or the problem irrelevant, it just means people don’t respond to it.

      • Lori

        If they don’t want our “political correctness” [eyeroll] maybe they shouldn’t be playing dress up in such a problematic part of our history.

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        Australians do tend to be a bit backward about that sort of thing – they were showing blackface on Hey Hey It’s Saturday a long time after anyone else in the world thought it was appropriate and some of the comedians will still get a laugh out of “Indian” accents.

        • MilaXX

          A few years back Harry Connick Jr. was on an Aussie chat show when they had on some performers in blackface and he called them out on it.

          • Lori

            I gave him huge props for that.

          • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

            I’d forgotten that – yes, it took an American to point out that it isn’t OK.

      • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

        I’m a bit behind on Australian news – I only found out today about “Jonah from Tonga”. I can’t believe that even with claims that it is a satire on racism it is considered acceptable to have an actor in brownface makeup on Australian TV. Even worse, they’ve sold it to the BBC with hardly a whisper.

    • malarson2

      Did anybody consider that the Elle people DON’T CARE whether it’s wrong or right? Because I can see them, in the end, shaking their heads and muttering that they aren’t a ‘news outlet’ anyway and that something like this will generate a LOT of talk. That the backlash as a loss is nowhere near the attention as a gain. And here we all are…talking about it.

    • http://reneshiro.tumblr.com/ kingderella

      I’m sure he and his publicist had the “I’m sooooo sorry” speech written before it was even shot.

    • http://www.paolathomas.com/ PaolaT

      OK, I’ll bite. I’m British and until I came to live in the US I had no idea that this picture would have been deemed offensive. It’s partly because we have no knowledge or understanding of Native American culture, beyond the most obvious cliches, so the significance of such a headdress is totally lost to us, but also because we Brits have a much more laissez-faire, less politically correct, attitude to all symbols of this type.

      There are no rules governing use of or respect for the British flat, except that it has to be flown the right way up. It doesn’t have to be folded a special way as the American flag does (I was gobsmacked when I found that out) and you can do anything with it – make it into boxer shorts, cover sofas with it, blow your nose on it, make napkins out of it etc.etc. We respect it at the appropriate moment but otherwise it’s just a cool bit of iconography. With kilts for example, which are the closest we come to indigenous dress, we really don’t care if people without Scottish heritage wear them, or break all the rules about wearing them as Americans often do, or turn them into fashion trends. It’s just really not a big deal.

      Even now, though I get that people are offended by this image, I’m still struggling to understand exactly why. It’s a STUNNING image, shot with respect and worn by someone who apparently is of Native American heritage. I’m willing to bet that the only person on the shoot who realised it might be offensive was Pharrell himself and maybe he should have spoken up but otherwise it’s truly possible that the powers that be at Elle UK had no idea. (And I really don’t mean to offend anyone with this post, I’m just trying to provide a cultural perspective.)

      • fursa_saida

        If they had no idea, that doesn’t change its being offensive. People do offensive things out of ignorance all the time, myself included. If Pharell is part-Native–and if he is I haven’t heard about it–he’s still not qualified to wear a war bonnet, which is something you earn in battle and that carries major weight and meaning. If he is Native, which tribe? The same tribe that this design belongs to? Or is this design even an authentic one? This cover has nothing to do with Native Americans. It’s not interested in them, their culture, their history, etc. They just grabbed a literally sacred item, with no interest in its significance, because they thought it looked cool. The media, in general, loves to take Native iconography, culture, etc. and display them all over anyone but actual Native Americans, because we pretend they don’t exist. Native Americans are sick of that.

        I don’t care what anyone does with the American flag, because I really don’t think it affects anything in the real world. But the continued appropriation of Native cultural cues without actually including Native people themselves contributes to/represents the idea that those people were here once, they’re conveniently gone now (what a shame, ancestors, oh well), and we’re entitled to take anything and everything of theirs we can find. That’s a real problem that happens now. And while in the UK oppression of Native Americans is not currently happening, that doesn’t make this suddenly meaningless? Like, I have a problem with the way France treats North African Muslims, or the way Egypt treats Sub-Saharan Africans, because it’s wrong, not because I’m secretly French/Egyptian so now it matters.

        • http://www.paolathomas.com/ PaolaT

          Just curious. Have you ever worn tartan? Or used any tartan fabric in any way shape or form at all? If you have, did you check that you were of the right clan heritage to wear that particular tartan, or did you just wear it because you thought it looked cool? Can you identify regional differences in the Welsh national costume? I’m not being flippant, but there are rules about tartan that most Americans are completely unaware of, in the same way that most Brits are totally unaware of the rules about Native American culture.

          I know now that Native Americans consider it disrespectful for anyone who has not earned it to wear the war bonnet, but I’m just saying that that memo had not made it across to me when I was in England. I can’t emphasize strongly enough how little we know about Native American culture in Europe – it’s just not on our radar. And while yes, we are ignorant about these things, it is also impossible to know everything about everything. And if I were to get offended every time I saw a British person in the American media characterized as either a villain or stupid or foppish, or got agitated every time a joke was made about British teeth or food then my life wouldn’t be worth living. At some point you really have to just live and let live. I just don’t believe this image was made with any sort of offensive intent.

          Oh and some commenters are saying that the Native American genocide was BY the British and therefore we should be feeling guilt as well – well it’s not viewed that way by us Brits at all. Whereas you are all very aware of your British heritage, most Brits could not tell you the date of the American War of Independence (by way of reference the War of Independence was given only two pages in my history text book at school), and know only that the US was a British colony at some time in the quite distant past. We feel some cultural guilt about the British in India, Africa and the West Indies, and possibly about the Australians and the Aborigines, but you’re on your own with the Native American genocide. (Not saying it’s right, but we do not view ourselves as the oppressors of the Native Americans.)

          • Corsetmaker

            As an aside, it’s Wullie the groundskeeper in the SImpsons that annoys me!

            • Synnae

              This comment made me laugh so hard.

            • Corsetmaker

              ;) Happy to relieve some tension.

              Although, more seriously, I do think the problem with the general cultural appropriation argument is that it’s so wide ranging, so historical, so cross pollinating. These discussions base around the superficial, obvious and more crass examples of an underlying rich tapestry of interwoven cultural threads that go back hundreds, in fact thousands of years. And the deeper you go the harder it becomes to separate oppression and mockery from tribute and appreciation. Perhaps we are more blind to it in Europe where we’re surrounded by ancient art and architecture with mixed appropriated influences from all over the globe, and where slowly wandering peoples have mingled. Certainly when flashpoints do arise they’re from more recent migrations or from more distant cultures. Perhaps in the US, where people seem more specific about pinpointing their ancestry, it’s more important to delineate. But I’m just thinking ‘aloud’ here.

              However this example, which none of us are really attempting to defend, definitely comes under the superficial, crass and stupid category.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              “Perhaps we are more blind to it in Europe where we’re surrounded by
              ancient art and architecture with mixed appropriated influences from all
              over the globe, and where slowly wandering peoples have mingled.”

              Possibly – but it’s also possible that we don’t notice because we’ve tended to be the empire builders doing the oppressing and appropriating. Consider Marie Antoinette appropriating milkmaid/peasant culture. Worked out well for her…

            • Corsetmaker

              Partly that, but also remnants of when we have been the conquered (wherever we are), of trade, of foreign travel has left us with a widely varied range of cultural styles and motifs around us, particularly in architecture, that must have worked their way into our consciousness and surely must affect how we see the use of those influences today.
              Marie Antoinette would’ve met the same end with or without the shepardess urges. The victorian gentry dressing up as a mock highland chieftains then kicking those people out of their homes didn’t do as badly out of it sadly

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              No, many of those families are still quite wealthy, I think.

          • SugarSnap108

            I know now that Native Americans consider it disrespectful for anyone
            who has not earned it to wear the war bonnet, but I’m just saying that
            that memo had not made it across to me when I was in England.

            I wouldn’t criticize the British public for being unaware, and I’m sure there are tons of Americans who haven’t gotten “the memo,” either. I just don’t buy that ELLE magazine, here or abroad, could have no inkling that using Native American headdresses as a fashion accessory is offensive.

          • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

            There are a lot of myths about the “rules” of tartan, very few of them are true as far as I know.

            • Corsetmaker

              They’re true but they’re only a couple of hundred years old. Clan tartans are a relatively modern concept, well modern as in 18th/19th century. They tended to be more regional originally. But you are expected to wear your own tartan or a generic one rather than another name. I was once pulled up in Edinburgh by a couple of ex serviceman for wearing a Black Watch mini kilt, although as it’s technically my clan tartan, they didn’t have a leg to stand on.
              The old forms of dress died out when the act of proscription banned tartan and basically made it illegal to be a highlander. Modern highland dress was a military inspired dress up for the aristocracy, promoted by Sir Walter Scott and became the shortbread tin caricature of the clothing worn by the now displaced gaels. The very aristocracy that were responsible for the clearances. So yes, tartan has quite a complicated set of associations.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              They must’ve been trying to pick you up. Of all the tartans to pull you up on, Black Watch would’ve kept them the busiest! I used to consult the Scottish Tartans Authority for work fairly often and they were much more laissez faire about who could wear tartans, when and why.

            • Corsetmaker

              No, they weren’t, they were just grumpy old gits protective of their regiment probably just out the pub. The tartan authority are quite laid back, they want to promote the industry after all. But that isn’t always reflected in general opinion, particularly among the older generation, plus there are a lot more generic tartans around now.

            • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

              We can send them on a trip to Australia, several schools have Black Watch as the school uniform tartan.

      • Zaftiguana

        So I have a totally genuine and not at all snarky question; do you WANT to understand? If you do (and I hope you do!) want to understand why this isn’t like a kilt and why the ethnicity of the person wearing it isn’t the main issue and why it can’t really be worn “with respect” in this scenario, then you and I are both supremely lucky to live in a time where more information about cultural issues involving groups to which we don’t belong is available to us with greater ease than at any other in history, and I would encourage you, again, sincerely and not sarcastically, to go and spend a few minutes reading up on that, particularly while looking at it from the perspective of the group wronged here rather than the group in the wrong. There are even some comments here that touch on some fair explanations and analogies. I think that if you really want to understand, that’s a better approach than writing out a long and sort of defensive comment.

        • Corsetmaker

          I see where PaolaT is coming from I think. I do understand, but only because I’m reading about it in the context of these discussions in places like this, ironically because of missteps by magazines and designers. As a general part of the consciousness in the UK, nope it isn’t something people are aware of at all. The point being that it could’ve slipped past unquestioned quite easily. That isn’t saying it isn’t offensive to that cultural group, just that there wasn’t likely any intent to offend (doesn’t absolve Pharrell but I’m talking about the magazine itself here). And it’s also true that the approach in the UK is generally very, very irreverent, and it’s an attitude that’s allowed the production of everything from Monty Python to AliG/Borat. There isn’t a lot of attention paid to possible offence beyond a few obvious taboos, and this hasn’t become part of that because of the awareness reasons previously mentioned.

          The kilt comparison is a slightly tricky one. As a Scot I’d say actually we do get a bit irked at times, but mostly it’s grumpy amusement, and the modern kilt is a very watered down and altered thing. However the relevance of tartan to oppression, well look up the act of proscription when it’s banning was a key part of basically banning an entire culture, which incidentally resulted in a lot of Scots being packed off in slavery across the Atlantic.But then most Scots don’t know enough about it to be offended or care, because our history isn’t taught in our schools. But that’s me going off on a tangent.

          • Joanna

            Thanks for this reply. I have learned a great deal today that I want to read more about.

          • Zaftiguana

            America brought the world South Park and Saturday Night Live and In Living Color. I think we get irreverence. I don’t think that’s the best excuse I’ve seen here.

            And ultimately, my question to you at this point is, why is intent what so many people assume is the major issue of import here? And why do we believe that in 2014, there’s any excuse for anyone with an internet connection to frame their work around a Native American cultural object without doing a brief search about what it means, especially to Native American people? Why are there so many people, here and elsewhere, who look at this issue and come up with defensiveness, or dismissing the issue, or explaining it away via intention or ignorance as though that makes a meaningful difference, or expressing lack of understanding rather than gaining understanding as their response? Why are we so eager to defend what is just essentially privilege and approach the issue through the lens of the non-Native people were thinking or feeling about this issue vs. what Native people have expressed about that? Because honestly, I think that would put an end to a lot of this expressed confusion.

          • Eclectic Mayhem

            Thank you Corsetmaker, having reached the point where Tartan cropped up in the discussion I was starting to formulate something along the lines of your response re: The Act of Proscription. You said it better than I possibly could!

        • http://www.paolathomas.com/ PaolaT

          Actually I HAVE read a lot about it since living here and I believe I do now understand the differences. And if Native Americans themselves consider it to be offensive, than that’s really all I need to know. All I’m trying to get across here is how VERY little Native American cultural issues impinge on a British consciousness. The whole world doesn’t look at things through American eyes.

          • Zaftiguana

            If this – “I’m still struggling to understand exactly why” is still true for you, then you haven’t read enough yet, so read more. And furthermore, this is not about looking at anything through American eyes. It’s about looking at them through Native American eyes if you’re going to build your entire cover around a Native American cultural object. And I guess that’s kind of my point. There’s no excuse for not doing that. At all. In addition, intent is really a distant second (or third or fourth or fifth) in terms of the issues at play here, and yet THAT’S what so many people; the difficulties of this issue for the people of privilege causing the problem, intentionally or not.

            • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

              You need to dial it back a little. You’ve gone from discussing to berating people.

            • Synnae

              Fact is Native American cultural issues are not on the British – or most of the rest of the world’s- radar, consequently they feel not need to look at this through Native American eyes. You may not like that but that is how it currently is.

            • Zaftiguana

              Honestly, what point are you even trying to make here? Because aside from pointing out that some people don’t know about NA culture and some people are racist enough, subversively or overtly, to not feel the need to know the most basic information about another culture’s very specific paraphernalia before exploiting it for profit, what are you offering up here? Because my perspective on those points is that, no shit, that happens, and it’s not okay, and people need to be challenged about doing it rather than having that behavior treated as acceptable. What is yours?

            • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

              This post specifically asked people if they thought it was significant that the magazine is British. She’s responding to the post. This is the second time we’re warning you to dial it back. We’re having a discussion here and you’re resorting to berating people.

            • Zaftiguana

              Sorry, I was just typing a response to your other comment letting you know that I hadn’t gotten it before responding here and didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you. I’ll dial it back, I forget sometimes when we cross over into issues beyond fashion here that this isn’t a debate focused comments section.

            • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

              Thank you.

            • Synnae

              Some people is most other nations on earth, it is not a select few people. Fact is most of the world is not taught about the Native American cultures and struggles.
              I agree with you that people need to be educated about this but you cannot expect the whole world to automatically feel the need to get educated upon the first sight of this or any other culture’s specific sacred items, provided they even recognise an item as such.
              And you get your point a lot better across if you were to consider first what people actual know about an item and what they were taught or not taught and then take it from there.

            • Zaftiguana

              Right, and the differentiating point I’m making here is this: “to not feel the need to know the most basic information about another culture’s very specific paraphernalia before exploiting it for profit.” It’s perfectly understandable for a random British person to not know much at all about NA culture, and that’s okay because that’s not the cause of this problem. The burden of information differs when you are a media professional choosing to build your work around culturally specific items outside of your culture, even assuming a media professionally wouldn’t already know about the huge debate around these issues in their own field. They are not a random Brit-off-the-street anymore with regard to NA culture if they want to make their portfolio and their living off of NA paraphernalia, and a quick google search would immediately turn up enough information to know better than to do this. To not even do that much speaks to an active, rather than passive and reasonable like a random British person, disregard for Native American people. I apologize if I came off as feeling that those two things were the same. I absolutely feel that they are not.

            • Zaftiguana

              So I know practically nothing about the Maori people. I know they’re the indigenous people of New Zealand and that they practice facial tattooing in some way, but that’s about it. That’s okay. I’m American, and it would be great if I knew more, but it’s not a crime that I don’t, and sure, it would be silly to hold me to the same standard of Maori awareness as a New Zealander. So far, so good.

              But if I was employed professionally in a top level creative position and my team was incorporating Maori-style facial tattooing into a major project, and we didn’t so much as 5-10 minutes of google searching about the meaning and significance of Maori facial tattoos? Then maybe at that point it is still just genuine ignorance if we commit a faux pas, and it originally stemmed from our Americanness. But it’s no longer benign ignorance for which I’m not responsible. At that point, I’ve shown an active disregard for the people of another culture and have, by doing so, not only offended but harmed them. My Americanness or how much a random American should know about the Maori is no longer really relevant.

      • MilaXX

        All of this makes perfect sense, but I think we live in a world where theses sorts of things are no longer isolated. We in the US are just as likely to see a UK mag and vice versa. Sure we may not be first market, but I’m sure we are the secondary. Especially with our actors and musicians. I think a little more fore thought was called for here.

      • livesarah

        Yes this is the country that produced Prince Harry dressing up as a Nazi! So, entirely believable :)

    • dalgirl

      Thanks for this!

    • Loladog10

      I think he looks amazing in that headdress. Others note how stunning he looks in profile–I agree. The combination of his looks plus that image made me wonder if the interviewer got him to discuss his ethnic/racial hertiage. (It would not be a stretch to learn he had Native American ancestors.) That said, I also agree with TLo that it was really unlikely that the photography/photo editor was thinking along such intellectual lines. They were probably like, wow! look at this! cool, huh? and went with it. Silly Brits….

    • Judih1

      I think this is a nod that he has Native American heritage in addition to being African American. I kinda like it, but now that you mention it, I wonder it if is culturally inappropriate.

      Is any any different from people sporting tattoo’s from a culture other than their own?

    • Lex

      In this day and age, is it really Pharrell’s idea/fault or more like the magazine photo shoot stylists and wardrobe people? How often do celebrity models create their own look for a magazine cover, really? I blame Elle UK for a stupid, thoughtless choice, not Pharrell Williams. He’s just the dumb one who went along with it.

    • demidaemon

      It’s a great photograph and a striking image. Is it a good or smart magazine cover? Probably not. It’s probably even worse that the British did it, as they aren’t exactly well known for stellar treatment of native cultures.

    • MyFavoriteColorIsGlitter

      People sure love to find everything “offensive” these days, don’t they?
      It’s exhausting.

    • quiltrx

      I don’t know why this is what you pick to “do him up” in anyway. But I marvel that there were numerous people obviously involved in this (stylist, photographer, Pharrell himself…at the very smallest number) and none of them apparently saw even a *potential* problem with this. Even Googling “Native American headdress” might have helped.

    • kategs

      Well who knows, he may have Cherokee ancestors? There might be a reason.

      • ItAin’tMe

        The Cherokee people didn’t wear feather headdresses. And even if he does have some NA ancestry I doubt wearing the headdress on a fashion magazine cover is considered respectful. And yes, I do think that this happened because it’s a British publication.

    • http://foodycat.blogspot.co.uk/ Alicia

      I absolutely love the bingo card âpihtawikosisân included!

    • marigi

      What if he wore a kimono? Or a kefia? And it’s not like he’s doing anything inappropriate or insulting. If there was some sacred object maybe, but it’s like wearing a crown. I don’t see anything wrong with it and the photo is incredibly striking.

      • http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/ Tom and Lorenzo

        The war bonnet is a sacred object.

    • FridaStaire

      …and thanks from me too!

    • Sweetvegan

      Thank you, TLo, for your sensitivity!

    • kim bunchalastnames

      well, on the one hand, he has stated in the past that he actually IS native american, in part. on the other, almost every single thing each and every one of us does today has been culturally appropriated from some other peoples somewhere. … would there be an objection if he was wearing, say, something from the masai? even though i don’t imagine any of us know where, exactly, his african forebears were from? when we wear harris tweed, are we misappropriating gaelic culture? who draws what line, where? and wear?