It has been much more common in the US and Canada for white folks to pretend to be native (a la Grey Owl) - so much so that there is an entire book about it, and the fabulous term pretendian. Actually Rachel also claims to be native and, get this, to have been born in a tipi. Because I guess being pretend black wasn't enough?
I assume that most readers of this blog would think it was a bad idea to dress like a stereotype of a native person to express your solidarity with indigenous people, and to repudiate and raise awareness of ongoing violence against them. Even if it were only for a day, I think most of us would think it was offensive to, say, do a campaign to wear a headband with a feather for a day to raise donations to end the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada (#MMIW).
How is it then that campaigns where men dress up like stereotypical women for a day to raise awareness of sexual violence are somehow more acceptable and gaining traction? There is not only one but two of these that are spreading across the US, Canada and Australia and happen annually in April and May.
The Australian campaign is called 'red my lips' (see photo) and money raised goes to a, as they put it, "rape and domestic violence" 24-7 hotline.
Recently Toronto media was full of photos from the annual Walk a mile in her shoes action, which has the slogan "heels heal". A bit bizarre really, since in my experience, and according to most podiatrists and back experts of all sorts, they actually hurt you.
Heels are certainly not my shoes, and these days they're really not most women's shoes, but somehow for this action they are being used to symbolize standing with women against gender based violence.
These play the other campaigns are even more problematic than the dress like an "indian" for a day scenario, because of the additional complication of transphobia. Rather than blurring it, these campaigns seem to harden a gender binary. Rather than making it more normal to think that more male identified people might sometimes choose to dress in more feminine ways, it is presented as something slightly outrageous, courageous even. It is done only one day a year, to great acclaim, and rewards of actual donations to your cause.
Ironically these campaigns reinforce the heteropatriarchy's systems of power that they claim to be working against. This is just not the kind of respectful solidarity I would appreciate as a woman living in a world full of gender based violence. But
I realize that this is a cranky feminist post and I'm open to hearing other perspectives on these actions, please respond in the comments!