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"In general, this kind of cultural appropriation is really disrespectful and offensive because it trivializes something sacred. But adding sexualization to the mix takes it from disrespectful to downright dangerous because Native American women are sexually victimized at rates far higher than women of every other ethnic group in the United States:
- Over 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped at least once. They are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than women of any other ethnic group.
- During those rapes, Native American women are 20% more likely to be battered, injured, or assaulted with a weapon than any other ethnic group. (At least 90% are battered, 50% sustain serious injuries, and 35% are assaulted with a weapon.)
- 17% of Native women are victims of stalking, compared to the 4.5-8% among other ethnic groups. Native stalking victims are at least 1.5 times more likely to be raped or killed than women of other ethnic groups.
- Native American women are the only group more likely to be raped by a stranger than by someone they know. (Typically, women are 73% more likely to be raped by someone they know. Native women are raped by strangers 70% of the time.)
- Native American women are the only ethnic group more likely to be raped by someone of a different race. 86% of rapes perpetrated against Native women are committed by non-Natives (70% being perpetrated by whites).
- Until a new law was passed a year and a half ago, that meant 86% of rapists were untouchable because tribal authorities had no jurisdiction over non-Native defendants and federal authorities almost always decline to prosecute rapes.
- Under the new law, though, tribal courts can only impose a maximum sentence of 3 years. The average rape sentence for assaults against women of other ethnic groups is 11.8 years.
There’s an obvious pattern of intense victimization and injustice there, and I think objectification plays a large, steady part in that especially due to our society’s ingrained colonial attitudes. I think anything that furthers those attitudes—even with non-malicious intentions—puts Native American people, especially women, at risk."
Lauren had been talking about wanting to do a topless photoshoot for months. She teamed up with photographer Alexandra Cameron, organized the meeting via Twitter, and set out to a field down the street from her flat on an especially frigid 5 degree morning.
I would like to point out that Lauren did this for free... in the middle of January. As an "artistic nude". Even if one were to somehow disregard the extremely troubling statistics outlined above, as an artist myself, I find nothing redeeming about a freezing, malnourished girl sitting slackjawed and topless in a field, wearing nothing but little-girlish white panties, a Native American headdress (she's British...) and her trademark glazed, vacuous stare. In my opinion, she honestly looks like a kidnapping victim who was just stripped in a remote field and forced to don the headdress just for lulz before being murdered. What was she hoping to accomplish by doing this? It certainly isn't art, in any form. Aside from being yet another derivation of so many Tumblr-ready photoshoots, it is, at best, kitsch. At worst, it is the most insidious kind of objectification... the kind that transcends cultural values by brandishing a stunning lack of awareness. It's almost gleeful ignorance. It fetishizes the very oppression explained above, and furthers the idea that Native American women are somehow less human and thus are highly susceptible to being raped and killed.
I do not think that that was her goal with this shoot (although I'm not sure what her goal was, exactly, aside from "Look at my tits!"), but considering that she has high visibility online, it seems like a very poorly executed decision, especially since the majority of her followers are girls and women who suffer from EDs and want to emulate her. It almost seems like Lauren was so desperate to get naked for the internet under the pretense of it being "art" that she didn't really care about how insensitive, distasteful and ridiculous the end result was. This is also coming from the same girl who always said she would never pose topless and did not respect those who do. How quick she is to change her tune when she decides she needs more attention...
For clarification, I am not against women choosing to be photographed nude. I support anyone who makes that choice for themselves, as I think it is so important for human beings to have the choice to do what they wish with their bodies, as long as it doesn't hurt others. I do, however, think that there is a definite line between what qualifies as artistic nude photography and, well, pornography. It is interesting and incredibly sad that someone like Lauren, who claims to be an artist, would stoop to doing something so tasteless and offensive to her fellow women as well as to her own dwindling image, just to get validation from strangers on the internet.