Let’s talk about Women of Color!

30 Apr
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I do not own any rights to this photo. It is being used solely for educational purposes and was retrieved from Google Images on Sunday, April 29th 2012.

 Family Guy “April in Quahog

The popular cartoon TV show that I looked at next was Family Guy.  In Season 8, episode 16 entitled “April in Quahog”, I found a horrific scene that depicted a Native American woman being brutally shot in the head with a musket.  In this episode, Peter Griffin tells his dog Brian that because it was his last day on earth, he wants to save a Native American family from the “rapacious cavalry”.  The next scene is of a tribe of Native Americans in stereotypical braids, feathers, jewelry, and buckskin outfits surrounded by tee-pees and campfires.  All of these tie into the Plains Indian stereotype and keep Native Americans stuck in the past through the eyes of our mass media.  What is most shocking is the following scene in which a cavalry man on a horse snatches up a Native American woman and states, “Yeah, this one will do nicely”, eliminating her identity as a human being by using dehumanizing terminology and degrading imagery.  Then with a blow from his musket, Peter shoots off the woman’s head saying, “You don’t have to be afraid anymore”.  This brutality against women of color horrifically mimics the historical genocide inflicted upon Native American people.

Implications and Historical Significance

So far, we’ve looked at the few representations I’ve found in popular adult television cartoons.  Notably, most of what I saw were Native men, with the exception of the sole Native female in the show “Family Guy” being brutally murdered by a musket.  I found an interesting connection to the way in which female bodies were viewed by Euro-Americans, which continues to add to the rate of violence and mistreatment inflicted upon women of color today.  Captain James Cook was one of the major influences upon how Native women were perceived both in the new land and overseas, in Hawaii for example.  “Cook conceived of the inhabitants of the village as exclusively male, and so categorized the women with the hogs.” (Wood 103).  He continued on to say how Native women “came with no other view” then to have sex with him and his men.  So, Native women were stripped of their identity only to be left with their bodies, which in the Euro-American perspective, was their property for the taking. Similar to the land, Native bodies were abused and taken over.  This concept of Native women being hyper-sexualized primitives allowed for the conquest of both their bodies and land.  Examples of this can be seen in Disney’s Pocahontas, in which the story presented was so skewed in romanticism and fabrications that it has had a lasting misguided reality of the real story.  Furthermore, this can be seen in my own research in that the only Native female I saw on television was being caught for the White man’s pleasure.  In fact, when he caught up to her, the Calvary man stated, “Yeah, this one will do nicely” before her brutal murder.  Even present day cartoons acknowledge the mistreatment of Native populations, but use dark humor as a way to cope.  The issues of colonization, race, gender, and perceived superiority cannot be separated when looking at how Native populations were treated and still are today.

This stereotype that Native women existed solely for the enjoyment and sexual exploitation for white men is almost inconceivable to imagine.  However, this aspect has been explored in a number of different works and narratives.  In the book entitled, “Indigenous American Women”, it discusses the clothing difference between Native women and European women and how this cultural dissimilarity made the European men assume certain things about Native women.  “Native women were viewed as decadent and sexual—dark-skinned whores—while the lighter-skinned, clothed European women were the more “pure,” respectable females.” (Mihesuah 59).  I found it interesting that Native women’s sexuality was automatically assumed by the men to be heterosexual.  These assumptions do not take into account any other option of sexual identity for Native women to express, as they are expected to be straight and willing to be conquered by the “dominant” white males.  This demonstrates the heteropatriarchal and heteronormative viewpoints brought in with the arrival of settlers to the land.  In terms of entertainment media, the invisibility of Native populations, especially those of Native women, play into this long history of demeaning and dehumanizing those who are deemed “other’s”.

            Continuing with this idea of symbolic annihilation of Native peoples in relation to today’s entertainment media, I will discuss the perception that settler’s have had on this population.  In chapter 1 of the book “Queer Indigenous Studies”, it further emphasis that historically, women of color are seen as “others” and through colonization they are dehumanized, making their value as living and breathing human beings nonexistent.  If I want to get a well rounded understanding about the treatment of Native people, I must address the way in which the Native men were perceived by Euro-Americans in order to gain a better understanding of where they belonged on the power sphere.  Once again, in chapter 1 of “Queer Indigenous Studies”, it explains that Native men are viewed as feminine and “less of a man” because they cannot keep their women within their tribe.  Therefore, using this viewpoint supports the idea that Native men were not a threat to Euro-Americans.  With Native men out of the picture, in a sense, it leaves Native women alone to be controlled, manipulated, and victimized by sexual violence because they are vulnerable and viewed by the settlers as “savages” who need to be civilized.  Once again, the depiction of the stereotypical Native woman on “Family Guy” comes to mind in that she was separated from her tribe (also a highly stereotypical Plains tribe), and captured to be a sexual object for the White man.

 Citations:

Finley, C., Driskill, Q., Gilley, B. J., & Morgensen, S. L. Queer indigenous studies. (pp. 31-42). Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press. (2011).

Mihesuah, Devon A. Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2003. Print.

Wood, H. (1999). Displacing natives. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Want to watch what I’ve discussed?

Click here! http://youtu.be/BS8GQy2-18w

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