Friday, June 06, 2014
Rhythm & Vines revisit controversy
In early May this year, I spotted the above poster in Rip It Up magazine, and posted it on Twitter. Appropriating Native American headdress is not cool, and this image generated a fair bit of controversy. Many people felt it was wrong, and some other folk felt anyone complaining was being 'too PC'. The story was picked up by TV3 and Stuff.co.nz.
One of the young women in the above photo contacted me via Twitter and tried to explain why she wore it (as a tribute to native Americans - see 'But why can't I wear hipster headdress?'), and asked where she could get a copy of the magazine. She then contacted Rhythm & Vines via Twitter to ask why they were using her image for marketing purposes without asking her permission (the photo was from one of their events). She subsequently deleted her Twitter account.
Rhythm & Vines took 24 hours to get round to responding, and eventually apologised for the ad and withdrew it. "We sincerely apologise for the image used and any offence this may have caused. The use of this image was inappropriate and has been removed," Rhythm and Vines wrote in a tweet.
Since then, the Prime Minister's daughter Stephanie Key got caught up in a similar controversy, over co-opting native headdress for her art photography course in Paris.
More recently, Pharrell Williams issued an apology for wearing native headdress on the cover of Elle UK magazine.
HOWEVER, the June issue of Rip It Up features the same offending ad from Rhythm & Vines. No word yet from them on how they managed to run an ad they supposedly withdrew. Simple mistake or cynical ploy or free publicity to help with presales?
From Rolling Stone: "The wearing of Native American headdresses has become a recurring issue in music circles over the past several years as the garment has ostensibly grown more ubiquitous, particularly among festival goers. In 2012, No Doubt pulled the video for "Looking Hot" and apologized for the second single from their comeback record, Push and Shove, which had a Wild West theme and was rife with tee-pees, headdresses and smoke signals.
Recently, the garment played a central role in the back-and-forth between the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and ex-drummer, Kliph Scurlock. After the split, Scurlock told Pitchfork he was dropped for criticizing Coyne's friend, musician Christina Fallin (also the daughter of Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin), who posted a photo of herself in a headdress and later taunted protestors during a concert; Coyne in turn came to Fallin's defense and posted a photo to Instagram of his three friends and a dog wearing a headdress.
"I understand now that if I'm a spokesperson for any kind of behavior, I shouldn't have done it, and I regret doing it now," Coyne later said of the photo to Rolling Stone. "I am sorry. I realize now that it goes deeply to the heart of some Native Americans. And I definitely regret it."
This reaction from a Native American is worth reading, to get their perspective on the headdress issue.. 'But why can't I wear hipster headdress?'
UPDATED Tuesday June 10: After getting no response via Twitter from Rhythm and Vines, I tried contacting them via their Facebook page today. They have responded: "We still stand by our apology. The publisher gifted R&V a bonus advertisement but did not clear it with us first. We have asked them to remove the ad from any future publications."