The Dreamcatcher Tattoo: Cultural Appropriation?

Hello my angels,

If you look up "white girl" in the Fudge pPerfection dictionary of stereotypes, one of 3 things will pop up:
1) white iPhone
2) Starbucks
3) Dreamcatcher tattoo

However one of these is significantly more dangerous than the other.
No, it's not a Starbucks addiction, although that sh•t is real and should be treated.
Instead, it's the dreamcatcher tattoo, a staple of white teenage girlhood, according to tattoo artists, Tumblr, and yours truly. Why, you may ask, it seems so harmless?!

Well, not really.
Dreamcatcher tattoos are DEFCON5 enemies of the anti cultural appropriation movement.
I just threw a bunch of words at you, and for that I apologize. Let me back up a bit.

Cultural Appropriation: adoption of some specific element of one culture by a different cultural group. 

Pretty straight-forward so far. Non-Native American folk getting a dreamcatcher tattoo.

These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, can take on different meanings, or lose its meaning entirely (adapted from Wikipedia).

Here is where trouble lies. The website Native Appropriations explains the controversy:
When people buy the dream catchers because they’re “pretty” or to ward off bad dreams, and aren’t aware of the power and history behind the objects, it dilutes them to a commercial object disconnected from their origins and community.

White girl gets dreamcatcher tattoo.
White girl thinks it's pretty, or its meaning is rooted in warning off bad dreams.
White girl doesn't think much of it.
White girl doesn't think she's stealing anything.
Is white girl wrong?

Well, I guess you decide.
Body politics are never black and white.
On the one hand, it is technically CA. She takes for granted the Native heritage and history of the dreamcatcher.
Personally, do I agree with the tattoo? No, of course not. Native American culture is heavily caricatured, as many other minority groups, such as Latino and African-Americans. Think of the all "Mexican" Halloween costumes, minimizing a vast and diverse culture to a few stereotypes!

But here's my problem with this burn-the-witch theory:  we cannot, or should not, regulate other people's bodies.

I don't agree with the principles of Nazism either, but I believe that if someone wants a Swastika tattoo, they may have one. It is their body, hence their (albeit stupid) decision.

So if she wants a big old dreamcatcher, it is her ribcage (let's face it, she totally got it on her ribcage).
Maybe it means the world to her, maybe it doesn't.
But I cannot ever imagine supporting a cause that tries to demean someone's decision to alter their own body. There's enough of that in the world already.

What do you think? What is CA to you?



1 comment:

  1. what if she knows the meaning behind a dream catcher?