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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

A correspondent sent me this Pocahontas toy. Between the figure, the accessories, and the packaging, this product abounds with stereotypical flaws. These include:

Pocahontas as swordswoman
A special condemnation goes to Pocahontas's accessories: a set of six weapons. These alone have several problems:

The spear, war-club, and tomahawk may have been legitimate weapons of Pocahontas's people, but why would a girl brandish them? Answer: She wouldn't. The tribe probably wouldn't have given weapons to a woman and especially not to a girl. It may have had prohibitions against women going to war.

In any case, what does the inclusion of weapons in a girl's toy say about our view of Indians? That they were so warlike that even a girl famed for saving a life would naturally carry them? Not a cradleboard, a basket for carrying food, or a needle for sewing clothes, but weapons? It's an excellent example of how people view Indians as uncivilized savages—as nothing but fighters and killers.

The Powhatan Indians may have gotten rifles from the Europeans, but the firearms were undoubtedly too big and clumsy for a girl to use. And again, Pocahontas was supposedly a emissary between the Indians and Europeans. She probably never used an adult weapon in her life, and almost certainly not a rifle.

Bonus demerits for the two swords: one short and the other longer and machete-like. The manufactured grips on these weapons prove they're European in origin. Honed steel swords...can you believe it?

We're supposed to believe that Indians were so violent and antagonistic that even a woman would do nothing except chop and stab people with a sword. I guess she found it where some colonist dropped it, tucked it into the folds of her skirt, and lugged it around on the off-chance she might need to kill a bear or a rapist. Just the thing you need when you're trying to move quickly and quietly through a tangled, stifling forest: a big, bulky piece of steel.

Related links
Indian women as sex objects
Savage Indians
Tipis, feather bonnets, and other Native American stereotypes

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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