Victoria’s Secret’s 2012 catwalk show was sensibly scheduled in November, so that if the world did end, we could all go out with a sexy hairless bang.
This 2012 apocalypse business revealed many things. Which of my friends were stupider than I’d realised, how much of the Horrible Histories Mesoamerican books I could remember from my childhood, and how hilarious I found the concept of a plague of badgers destroying us all.
Mainly though: there are still Mayans! And why not. When we’re revisiting the wisdom of the ancients it’s always more convenient when they’ve mysteriously (Incas) or not so mysteriously (Aztecs) vanished, even though it seems the wiser peoples would be the ones that are still about, unless an excess of wisdom reveals that survival is no great thing.
Of course, things tend to get less mysterious over time what with all this archaeology we get up to these days, though it remains more fun to say that the Incas vanished mysteriously (maybe aliens!) as I have frequently heard, rather than the Incas vanished mysteriously (when the Spanish totally killed them all!) as is the version that has become more accepted.
Victoria’s Secret’s fuck-up of 2012 was the inclusion in their ridiculous skin circus of a Native American headdress that has some sort of spiritual significance.
“We have gone through the atrocities to survive and ensure our way of life continues. Any mockery, whether it’s Halloween, Victoria’s Secret — they are spitting on us. They are spitting on our culture, and it’s upsetting.” said Erny Zah, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation. He is right of course. And there are more things than that I find upsetting in these Victoria’s Secret shows, but this is the one people managed to bring out and get noticed on this occasion.
Frasier Crane once said, referring to Wonder Woman’s costume; “I’m not even sure you can do that to the flag!”. A much skimpier version than even that heroine’s was included this year in Victoria’s Secret show. I don’t think anyone complained. To look at a scrap of material and feel a surge of national pride as well as a surge of blood to the genitals is fine sometimes, it seems.
How badly do people have to be treated before a young lady with an eating disorder dancing about in something important to them becomes offensive? The genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas is clearly on one side of the line, and the suffering that was the result of September the 11th 2001 is on the other.
What’s borderline? Perhaps it’s guest Justin Bieber working to contain his drool from dripping onto Barbara Palvin as his female teenage fans look on and realise what they have to be for their idol to notice them. Reportedly Selena Gomez, his ridiculously beautiful girlfriend, dumped him for his lecherous behaviour at the event.
“Hey everyone. please calm down. he is all yours!! :) please :)” tweeted Palvin, later. There’s desperation in the double explanation marks and smiley faces. If you have a moment, I invite you to search “hate selena gomez” on Youtube and see the vitriol of spurned teenage girlhood in love, clumsily edited using what I can only assume to be iMovie/whatever editing software comes free with Windows. The exclamation marks. The bright pink cheery fonts. The hatred for a girl who has somehow defied God and man to become a “ho” from dating several famously chaste young men/boy celebrities. Googleknows what Palvin had to beg them to stop saying to her. Why is this OK? Why is something not done about this awful dissonance Bieber’s suitors must feel- to be desired by him they must conform to nigh-impossible standards, and when they get there, they must be reviled by the inferior rabble they currently belong to? This beyond even the virgin/whore hideousness of how women are viewed, and leaves only the whore. Can we find some way to say “It’s OK. Please be happy how you are. We love you as humans, not sex robots.”
Even as I type this I, an official adult (I haven’t been ID’d for nearly a month) regret with an almost physical pain the biscuit I just ate, and I prepare my skin for the millimetre thick war paint I deem necessary for leaving the house.
A few layers of clothing upwards from Victoria’s Secret’s wares, this year’s ubiquitous cross motifs, while presumably having all sorts or spiritual significance with the largest religion in the world, have escaped without any complaints of note. Both Christians and the Plains Indians have suffered all sorts of terrible persecution over the centuries, but the former have certainly ended up better off than the latter. Neither, however, have suffered as much as the Aztecs.
Forever 21, a shop with all sorts of art-theft controversy, only backing their usually indefatigable army of lawyers down with the Navajo business when racism was cried, still has a couple of “Aztec” scarves bobbing around their stock. A little before Victoria’s Secret was put in its place, the Navajo Nation cut their teeth on the legal army of Forever 21, and returned to the Southeast emboldened.
The Navajo started living in the way they’re associated with now around the same time the Aztec empire was doing its thing, give or take a couple of centuries, and at least there’s some of them left to fight their corner.
Call a print Navajo and you are accused of trivialising an entire oppressed people and their traditions. Call a print Aztec, and you are not. But there are still people who, had their civilisation not been violently destroyed, would be Aztecs now. The Navajo Nation have gotten organised, and “Navajo” is basically a trademark now. The idea of this as a legal issue feels strange when compared with it as a moral issue, but if it works, fine.
Don’t let Victoria’s Secret and the society it’s a product of humiliate your spirituality by laughing as it flaps around some bronzed boobies. And if the Navajo Nation can cut through an issue as ridiculously complicated as appropriation, with all the shades of grey of an elephant conference, maybe I can stop trying to pretend that an entire generation of teenage girls hating themselves and anyone like them is just something we have to live with.