Last week, while in search of cheap jewelry for my Halloween costume, I stumbled across something pretty weird and confusing: a necklace that is basically a cartoon character version of a “traditional” Native American girl hanging from a chain. She has tanned skin, rosy cheeks, long, dark side braids, and a somewhat stereotypical-looking Native American dress. I looked over to see, in addition to the Native American girl, several similar necklaces that displayed traditionally-dressed Asian girls.
Apparently, Forever 21 thinks that people want to wear outdated, cultural stereotypes as necklaces, and that it’s okay to sell them. Unfortunately, it gets worse. Later, I perused their website and found that one of the necklaces is literally called “Oriental Girl Necklace.” Seriously. Because why not slap on an offensive and outdated descriptor to your offensive culturally-insensitive jewelry?
Even if that’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek or something, it’s still idiotic and insensitive. There’s been a lot of controversy lately surrounding Native American-inspired apparel (which Forever 21 sells tons of), especially following Urban Outfitters’ latest scandal. To get you caught up, the Navajo Nation sent Urban Outfitters a cease and desist to stop selling merchandise labeled “Navajo” as it was infringing on their copyright. You would think that after seeing Urban Outfitters get into trouble (and offend an entire tribe in the process), other companies in the fashion industry might think to be a little more sensitive to this issue, or at least take a second look at their product and consider whether or not it might offend anyone (In fact, you would think large companies would do that anyway).
But, no. Barneys missed the memo (they went back and re-headlined the post) and apparently so did huge fast-fashion chain Forever 21.