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A Blog About Culture

Recognition, Situation, Identity, Reality

Category Archives: Recognition

When I was starting to write this entry –which was just a few seconds ago, since I never plan anything ahead of time– I was trying to think of a good title. That is really not a skill that I have, title-writing. I thought of: Out of Body Experiences and Going Out on a Limb because this post is going to be about my physical body, but neither of those phrases really has the right meaning or connotation of what I want so instead I just made something up that is barely even decent.

Anyway. I first thought of this post about a month ago, but I haven’t written it because I’ve been a little busy. I really shouldn’t even be writing it now; I should be sleeping. I’m sitting in the dark, tapping away on my phone because I couldn’t sleep because I ate a Clif energy bar recently and apparently they contain caffeine. I just wanted chocolate and it was all I could find. Woe. Woe.

There is no way for me to write about this without sounding incredibly privileged and spoiled, so I will add the disclaimer that I am grateful to lead an amazing life and I promise this post is not intended to be a self-indulgent affirmation, even though I guess that’s what blogs kind of are. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So I was at my aunt’s salon, getting ready for a party. I was having a haircut, manicure, and pedicure. The unusual thing that sparked the idea for this boring post was that the ladies chose to do everything on me at the same time, so I was sitting in a chair without control of my arms, legs, neck, or head while they were doing all sorts of things that women don’t admit to so that we feel beautiful.

At one point, one if the ladies was massaging lotion onto my arm, and the way she grabbed my wrist was almost as if it were not attached to my body. It wasn’t an arm, it was something that she was lotioning. Something to which she was applying lotion. I just held my arm and my other limbs limply, letting the stylists do to me whatever they were doing. My body was not my own.

In fact, I began to feel not quite even human anymore. I was speaking, a little bit, but after a while I just felt like plywood that was being sanded, scrubbed, and produced into something else. Yes, a production. I felt like I would emerge from that salon like a butterfly from its chrysalis, gleaming like Reese Witherspoon in posters for Legally Blonde 2. In other words, not a person. A production.

I wonder… what other times do we feel like this, dissociated from our bodies? When do we feel the greatest connections to them?

I think, for me, I feel connected with my body when I’m not using my mind. When I think, there is usually a great deal of self awareness that separates the two, but actions of physicality, like athleticism, touch, or movements like dance — if impassioned enough to knock me out of my headspace– allow me to feel that connection between body and mind.

I sometimes take my afternoon tea out to the screened-in back porch to enjoy while lounging and watching my cats prey on chattering squirrels, beetles, and other unsuspecting lawn animals. I live near my old high school, and I can often hear the band practicing outside. (Their half-time song this year is Call Me Maybe — yes, really.) Last week, I was somehow still in my house at 9 pm on a Friday night, and I could hear the cheers and roars of the home football game. I’m all for school pride — I was an athlete in high school, which I like to remind people of nowadays– but I stopped in my tracks when I heard the band play the “Tomahawk Chop” after a touchdown.

Do you know what that sounds/looks like?

Of course, the song was something I’ve heard a million times before, but maybe it’s because I’m an adult now, or perhaps because I study issues of cultural ownership, representation, and politics all day errday, but this was the first time I realized how surreptitiously those racist values can change our perceptions. I always knew, of course, that the motion and song were racist. I just didn’t realize that I actually prescribed to the message that text was sending: Indigenous peoples are violent. That combination of sounds, which our media has taught us to recognize as “Indian,” evoked senses of imminent danger and ruthlessness in me, and some kind of bloodthirsty pride that we were crushing the other team.

But how did that happen? Here’s the process:

A. I’m scared — Why?

B. Because this song means I should be scared– Why?

C. Because it sounds like an Indian war chant– Why?

D. Because Indian people are warlike and scary

Ideological cultures rely on us to skip from A to D and forget the processes in between that made us think that way. Those processes do exist — just look at my reaction upon hearing that song. Just look at any kind of advertising. I want to know – what might life be like if those processes weren’t hidden? What if they just didn’t exist? I don’t think that will ever happen, but I think it’s worth it to recognize when it is. I feel guilty for having that reaction, and I also feel a little violated — because culture’s piggybacking onto me like a little leech that alters what I think.

AND:

The Tomahawk Chop isn’t even Native American; it was invented by Florida State University football fans. An article in online Slate Magazine posted the following just yesterday: “Like most professional athletic appropriations of Native American culture, the tomahawk chop and the war chant have little basis in Native American history. There is no indication that Native Americans ever made the gesture known today as the tomahawk chop. Tomahawks were historically not only used as weapons by Native Americans but also revered as sacred objects.”