Search results for cultural appropriation

HAPPY November! Here are some highlights from last month…

Advertising Fails, Sociology Wins:

A guest post by Larkin Callaghan about a Skinny Water advertisement telling women to lose weight was re-posted on Jezebel.  Jezebel reports that the ad was pulled by the company thanks to complaints.

Apparently the moronic anti-woman, man-mocking Dr. Pepper campaign was a bust. The Wall Street Journal reports that favorability fell by one-fourth among men and one-half among women after the ad campaign was released.  Hello advertisers! Treat your customers as if they have half a brain!

Miss Representation Documentary:

A documentary featuring SocImages Contributor Caroline Heldman, Miss Representation, premiered this month to great acclaim.  It’s about the relationship between representations of women in the media and political participation.  Watch the trailer or catch this interview on Ellen with Rachel Maddow, who was also in the documentary, along with Lisa Ling, Jane Fonda, Condoleezza Rice, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson, Katie Couric, and more.

New Course Guide:

We just added a new Course Guide organizing SocImages material in a way that is helpful to instructors.  This one is on Research Methods. That makes three!

We’d like to offer as many Course Guides as we can, even different takes on the same course.  So, if you’re interested in writing one, please see our Instructors Page. There’s other good stuff for instructors there too.

Best of October:

Our hard-working intern, Norma Morella, collected the stuff ya’ll liked best from last month. Here’s what she found:


I had a fantastic time last week visiting Pacific Lutheran University. Tacoma was gorgeous, the students were brilliant, and the faculty were engaging and fun. Tomorrow I’ll be giving a quick talk about Occupy Wall Street on my own campus, Occidental College.  And I’m looking forward to visiting Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the last week of March. I’ll try to have a meet up if anyone would like to get together for drinks in Cambridge!


Our posts on consumer spendingracist college partiesgender and toilets, and homosexuality in our collective consciousness were linked from or featured at BoingBoing,Bitch, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Beast, respectively.  Always great fun when our ideas get out there!

Social Media ‘n’ Stuff:

Finally, this is your monthly reminder that SocImages is on Twitter and Facebook.  Gwen and I and most of the team are also on twitter:

Time for another collection of gendered kids’ stuff!

First, the blog-o-sphere is all over this one already and apparently JC Penney has already pulled the t-shirt, reading “I’m to pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.”  Really? I like how Jezebel framed the issue with a big “NO”:

Thanks for Caroline Heldman, Tom Megginson, Mana T., Carmel L., Heidi S., Melissa B., Alli, and Ed A.-N. (on our Facebook page) for sending in that doozy.

Next, Jessica M. and Amanda G. each sent in a photo of gendered baby rattles, both in terms of the design (girls get a purse and diamond ring, boys get a hammer and saw) but also in the description — girls are “sweet,” boys are “busy”:

Don’t worry; once your daughter outgrows the diamond ring rattle, there are other products available to remind her that the most important thing in the world is to get a diamond ring, specifically in the form of an engagement ring. Liz saw this for sale in the toy section at Wal-Mart, which was a relief, because as she said, girls these days just “don’t have enough pressure to get hitched at age 8+”:

Hishaam S. noticed that Target had four tie-dye kits — camo, neon, primary, and girly:

Laura M. sent us an image Jenga Girl Talk Edition, originally posted by Elena Barbarich. The game (which comes in two versions, pastel blue and purple and “exclusive pink”) includes blocks with girl-specific questions to stimulate conversation, such as who you have a crush on and the truly brilliant “What is your favorite website?”

There are many versions of Jenga — Donkey Kong, the Nightmare before Christmas, Transformers, and so on — but there doesn’t appear to be a version specifically labeled for boys. [NOTE: Reader JF says there’s a board game called Girl Talk, so this is being cross-branded with it.]

Esther M.-E. noticed a recent Seventh Avenue catalog contains an example of the “masculinized things are for everyone, but feminized things are only for girls” cultural pattern. The catalog had two facing pages of bed sets, the one on the left called Air Guitar (featuring guitars on the sheets, in a blue room with a basketball on the floor) and the one on the right called Jungle Queen (in a pink room with a cat):

The description of the Air Guitar set, however, describes it as appropriation for boys or girls, while the Jungle Queen set doesn’t include the same language (and its very name specifically genders it):

Seventh Avenue, of course, is marketing in this manner — actively including girls in the product that might otherwise be defined as masculine while not doing the same for boys with the feminized product — because our cultural norms surrounding gender value the masculine over the feminine. Girls who like “boy” things are often seen as cool, sassy, even smart. Boys who like “girly” stuff, though, are not cool. Even if a boy asked for a pink animal-print bedroom set, his parents are less likely to support the choice than if a daughter chose a masculine-gendered item. Seventh Avenue is simply writing copy based on this larger cultural pattern, and in so doing, reinforcing it.

And now, something that just goes in the “wtf?” category, which I include here for no reason other than the pure surreality of its existence. J.O. was looking at the girls’ toys section at All Modern Baby, and among the Fashion and Beauty Fun there were several sets of rubber bands in various shapes, including…the Kama Sutra package, with four positions:

You won’t be surprised to learn they have been removed from the site, and I found a few other kid-related websites that had them listed as no longer available as well, though if you’re dying for a set, several non-child-oriented sites carry them. The perils of modern inventory management: you order a bunch of perfectly ordinary sets of silly bands, and among the space ship and animal shapes, no one catches that you’ve also posted a sex-themed version.

If you’re interested in cultural representations of Native Americans, I highly recommend the blog Native Appropriations. Recently Adrienne K. posted about an article in a student-government-funded newspaper at Cal State U.-Long Beach that stands out for its disrespectful, hostile tone. The article, titled “Pow Wow Wow Yippee Yo Yippy Yay,” was a “review” of the annual powwow sponsored by the American Indian Student Council. It had never occurred to me that you would review a cultural event as though it were just another form of entertainment, like a new movie, but that’s the least of the issues here. The full article, from the Union Weekly (via OC Weekly):

Some key excerpts:

…it really seemed like a large, Native American themed flea market. Some of the food vendors just seemed to unceremoniously add the word “Indian” to whatever food they were peddling. Indian tacos? What the fuck are Indian tacos?

…like a Mexican pizza from Taco Bell, but shittier. The only experience I have with fry bread is watching a show about how incredibly unhealthy it is to consume, and watching its rapid consumption on campus grounds.

The entire scene felt disingenuous and cheap. Donations are great, and necessary, tossing them unceremoniously on the ground is crass and borderline obscene. Even the homeless have hats and cups.

I flinched several times while reading the article. I grew up in Oklahoma surrounded by Native American cultures, both because I lived in an area where several tribes were very visible and because my mom is part Cherokee herself and several close relatives married people enrolled in other tribes. Even though I know that in most of the U.S. Native Americans are often culturally invisible and most people haven’t gone to tons of powwows or sat around watching the women in the family sewing ribbon shirts in the living room, I still sometimes forget that these things aren’t instantly recognizable and interesting to other people, or that they could see something that I was taught to be respectful and appreciative of and have such a different reaction.

Of course, this article goes beyond being unfamiliar or uninterested. The author, the paper’s campus editor, clearly didn’t want to learn what was going on. I mean, even if you’ve never heard of one before in your life, just a minimal Google search will explain to you than an Indian taco is, more or less, a taco on fry bread (the Osage Nation even has an annual competition). An image of a dancer is used to highlight a mocking, mean-spirited “review,” as though the powwow’s only function was to entertain uneducated outsiders.

The Union Review and the author of the article issued the typical non-apology “apology” statements — we’re just here to let all sides of the debate have a voice! We’re sorry if anyone got themselves all offended, we really didn’t expect this reaction at all! — which is also available at the OC Weekly link above.

As Adrienne points out, though the “Asians in the library ” rant from a UCLA student got a huge amount of attention, there’s been much less about this. It highlights the point Tami made at What Tami Said: overtly disrespectful and/or racist behavior on campuses shouldn’t shock us, if we’re paying attention.

Re-posted at Drawing On Indians.

Rob Walker (author of the fascinating book Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are) sent me a link to a post at Drinkin’ and Dronin’ of a 1954 Levi Strauss brochure about “western Indian lore.” It’s a nice round-up of stereotypes and appropriations of Native Americans. We start off with an angry, bare-chested (and Levis-clad) man with a tomahawk, shield, moccasins, and headdress; I’d guess he’s supposed to be a warrior doing a war dance:

Then some descriptions of items associated with different tribes and the obligatory broken English (“just want ‘um”) familiar to anyone who watched The Lone Ranger and paid attention to Tonto:

I have no idea how accurate their descriptions of “unusual Indian weapons” are, but the overall tone of the brochure doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

And we have a lesson on “the Indian sign language,” the origins of which are “lost in the mists of time”:

Related posts: Potowatamis didn’t have a word for “global business center,” “discovering” Newfoundland, appropriation of Native Americans in fashion, teaching kids how to be American Indians, marketing the Vancouver Olympics, ice skaters dress up like Australian aborigines, native cultures in Avatar, Poca-Hotness, Indian costume for your dog, Indian Halloween costumes, Disney depicts Native Americans, “my skin is dark but my heart is white,” American Indians on t-shirts, sports mascots, Playmobil’s American Indian family, Howe Nissan’s American Indian statue, the “crying Indian” anti-litter PSA, Native Americans in Italian anti-immigration posters, and more American Indian dolls.

Also check out Adrienne K.’s blog Native Appropriations for lots of examples.

The 2010 Olympics logo is an altered version of traditional Arctic Inuit sculptures. This quasi-indigenous logo has been displayed in a barrage of Olympics branding. You can see two examples of this marketing in photos — from the summer of 2009 – shown below.

With this Olympics logo, and other Olympics promotional messages, marketers have been portraying the 2010 Games as ‘indigenous’ Olympics. Indigenous references are foregrounded in mass produced Olympics marketing.  The online Olympics store even sells “Authentic Aboriginal Products” (such as t-shirts and silk ties).

Some people who encounter this Olympics branding are bound to come away with the impression that natives (that is, individuals with a significant enough amount of native ancestry or culture) are respected, empowered, and well-integrated here in Canada. In other words, some viewers will view this marketing as a sign of harmonious bonds between natives and mainstream Canadian society.

Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, conveyed a much different view of Olympics marketing when he asserted that,

We’re deeply concerned about the concerted and aggressive marketing campaign advanced by Vanoc [the 2010 Olympics organization committee] which suggests the indigenous people of [British Columbia] and Canada enjoy a very comfortable and high standard of living. The Disneyesque promotional materials suggests a cosy relationship between aboriginal people of the province with all levels of government and it completely ignores the horrific levels of poverty our people endure on a daily basis.


Arctic indigenous branding on a McDonald’s cup in a
Wal-Mart store, in a city in Ontario, Canada

In British Columbia, and elsewhere in present-day Canada, natives have communicated conflicting views about how the 2010 Olympics relate to their lives, lands, and traditions. Indigenous Environmental Network campaigners have been among the more vocal critics who have opposed the 2010 Games.

Some have found the cartoonish Olympic marketing imagery to be a mockery of native traditions.  For example, critics have argued that the 2010 Olympics committee has edited and re-packaged native culture — which also has been ripped out of its traditional contexts. The Committee is highlighting Arctic indigenous imagery — yet Vancouver, the centre of the Games, is a temperate city.  Arctic indigenous peoples did not live there — or on the nearby Whistler and Cypress mountains, where some Olympic events will be held. Other indigenous populations who did live in that area of British Columbia also are not represented in the marketing iconography.

The Olympics branding denies noteworthy differences among native groups spread across these areas. Passing theatrical gestures to native peoples during the open ceremonies could be considered to be more respectful, but Olympics marketers otherwise have been mixing up North American native traditions into a soup-like caricature. Natives have been consistently oppressed, but the various peoples who are considered to be native (in some way, or to some degree) certainly are not ‘all the same.’ Tacking Arctic imagery on to Vancouver-area Games implies that there is only one native essence (in North America, if not beyond this continent).

What else is going on here? What does this superficially ‘indigenous’ rhetoric and imagery have to do with the rest of the 2010 Olympics? In other words, are indigenous populations benefiting from the 2010 Olympics in a way that might explain or justify the appropriation of Arctic imagery?

I pose these questions:

– What proportion of the profits from Olympics sales and tourism will natives groups receive?

– To what extent have native groups actively participated in Olympics organizing?

– How many of the athletes representing Canada at the Games have strong ties to native traditions and ancestors?

– Aside from the branding rhetoric and imagery discussed here, how much indigenous culture will be included in Olympic sports events and Olympics broadcasting?

– And how should we interpret the use of traditional imagery for product marketing purposes? What is the relationship between native peoples and chewing gum wrappers, sugary soda pop drink bottles, and other products which display Olympics brand logos?  Are indigenous peoples profitting from these product sales?  Are natives involved in the boardrooms of the corporations behind these sales?  And are there any other noteworthy connections between these products and any natives in present-day Canada?

Answers to those preceding questions are tied to the conditions that native peoples live under in present-day Canada. As I will explain, there are deep problems with the ‘indigenous’ Olympics rhetoric and imagery, which is very much at odds with Canadian realities.


Arctic advertising
‘Indigenous’ marketing in a major commercial square in
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Native issues can be complex — and yet brutally straightforward, at the same time. Here are some figures that convey the highly disproportionate impoverishment, vulnerabilities, marginalization, and disempowerment of natives in present-day Canada. (Here are additional child poverty statistics.) The worst racism in Canada is reserved for indigenous peoples who are trapped between assimilation and ghettoization. Native groups ultimately are disappearing — in a nation that was established on native lands.

No marketing imagery ever could erase these ongoing legacies of a history of colonial genocide in Canada (and elsewhere).

Frankly, the ‘indigenous’ Olympics rhetoric and imagery strikes me as yet another form of liberal tokenism, given how fundamental problems are glossed over with paltry gestures (rather than a more radical redistribution of resources — or other constructive societal change).

In fact, while the Olympics imagery implies some sort of harmony between natives and non-natives in Canada, there actually are various ongoing native land claim conflicts in this country. In Ontario, indigenous activists helped to wage a defensive campaign which was a relatively high-profile land claim conflict here in Ontario, during the summer of 2009.

Native land claims are at the forefront of the issues raised by anti-Olympic protestors in Canada (who occasionally have supported tactics that I do not agree with). The phrase “No Olympics on Stolen Land” has been a common protest slogan, and indigenous imagery has been foregrounded in messages from no2010 campaigners, and other anti-Olympic activists. Although these opponents of the Olympics have not carefully distinguished between imagery from different indigenous cultures, their campaign messages surely could not be considered a tokenist form of whitewashing or conservatism — since these anti-Olympic activists have been siding with native land claims.

Protesters also have been raising concerns about how the Olympics are tied to indigenous land conflicts around the tar sands in Alberta. A recent day of action call-out from the Indigenous Environmental Network is the best example of connections drawn between the tar sands and the 2010 Games. As in some other activist campaign messages, this day of action announcement highlights financial and energy-system ties between the Olympics and tar sands pollution in Alberta — beside native lands. These tar sands operations also are the world’s worst climate threat; and the Arctic indigenous peoples alluded to in Olympics marketing actually are on the front lines of global warming impacts, which are aggravated by Olympic environmental devastation (including deforestation, which releases carbon into the world-wide atmosphere). As in other areas of the world, the most disempowered and resource-poor Canadians tend to be much more vulnerable to climate impacts.

Given all of the aforementioned gaps between pro-indigenous rhetoric and actual indigenous realities, why have so many people tolerated the native branding around the 2010 Games? After all, the Olympic brand logo was selected in 2005, and the Olympics marketing blitz was well-underway by the summer of 2009, in Canada.

Aside from the sheer monetary force behind the Olympics, there also are important cultural factors at work here. The harmonious vision conveyed through ‘indigenous’ packaging around the Olympics is an extension of mainstream Canadian visions of an outright “multicultural” “mosaic” in this country — where some claim that there is a complete lack of systemic racism, as well as equally proportioned room for all ethnic groups. In spite of arguments and evidence from critics (including scholars who are affiliated with John Porter’s The Vertical Mosaic), rhetoric about ethnic equality in Canada persists in marketing, in policy documents, and in other mainstream rhetoric. ‘Native’ Olympics marketing celebrates the Canadian status quo, in the same way.

At the same time, the ‘indigenous’ Olympics imagery provides some ethnic spice to the 2010 Games — as well as associated merchandising, and mass media spectacle. In Canada, remnants of native cultures likewise are re-packaged as decorations and tourist industry products. In much the same way, Olympics marketers have sought to increase profits with shreds of de-contextualized indigenous culture which they have appropriated.

But how are indigenous traditions linked to capitalist consumption, mass advertising, mainstream media systems, or tourism? These systems are entrenched on former native lands, but are there any other noteworthy connections between native traditions and such mainstream systems?

(I don’t mean to imply that people with native ancestors will be or should be forever trapped in a receding past. Vibrant, living traditions are flexible. Yet, I do not see how native heritage could be considered to be largely optional in any conception of indigenous-ness.)

Outside of Canada, it probably is not so apparent that the disputes over the Olympics have been national-scale tensions. Anti-Olympic protests (hyper-marginalized though they may be) actually have been organized in various other areas of Canada — well beyond British Columbia. (Here is one example of anti-Olympic campaigning in a city in Ontario.) I also find it telling that, in the face of an anti-Olympic protest in the city that I live in here in southern Ontario, some people conveyed their support for the Olympics by chanting “Canada… Canada… Canada.”

In sum, mainstream Canada claims and re-packages imagery from natives to sell a vision of a present-day Canada that is a tolerant country, with a rich and interesting history; such visions have been produced for the 2010 Games – as well as other tourism and merchandising, and wider nationalism. Then, ironically, when pro-indigenous groups challenge the use of this appropriated iconography to represent ‘Canada,’ majority groups dismiss their protests by claiming a more authentic Canadian-ness. Of course, the refusal to take indigenous protests seriously is just another manifestation of disinterest in the welfare of living indigenous peoples. Even as gestures are made toward native culture, actual natives generally are ignored.


Toban Black is a Sociology PhD student specializing in environmental sociology, theory, inequality, and media.  He is also an activist, a blogger, and an amateur photographer.  He considers this guest post to be a blend of each of those four forms of communication.  Black is a frequent contributor to Sociological Images and the many posts inspired by his material can be viewed here.

If you would like to write a post for Sociological Images, please see our Guidelines for Guest Bloggers.


1.  If you’re following us on Facebook, you might have noticed that we’ve begun updating our status with a “featured post” each day.   We’re on Twitter too, if that’s more your style.

2.  Remember that Method commercial where the soap suds sexually harass a woman in her own shower?  Ann Marie N. sent us note to let us know that it’s been discontinued due to complaints.

3. This was a good media month for us.  I was quoted in a CNN article about The Princess and the Frog; several of our posts on gendered marketing to children were discussed in a Salon article by Kate Harding; a recent post about pink telescopes and microscopes was featured on Pharygula; we were linked from the American Spectator; and Guardian named our Avatar post among The Best of the Web.  Fun!


Sarah is a reader and frequent commenter on the blog who sent us a note complimenting all of you.  We thought we’d let everyone read it.  Sarah wrote:

I just wanted to commend you for the environment of open discourse on your website. I have some opinions that differ from those of many others on this site, and when I’ve brought them up, I’ve been able to openly discourse with other members without any fear of being chased off with fire and pitchforks.

So, thank you for setting up such an open and welcoming environment.

Thanks Sarah!  Our readers are, indeed, awesome.

And we try!  We don’t follow the comments threads as closely as we’d like (we’re both tenure-track profs), but we do the best we can to make sure that people adhere to our discussion policy.  Thanks to all of you who have been patient with our less-than-perfect moderation and sometimes-ineffectual efforts to weed out the trolls.


In Dec. ’08 we commenting on McDonald’s efforts to market itself as high class, linking the fast food chain to Bourdieu and Sex in the City, of course.

And in Dec. ’07 we posted a hilarious story about a statue in Lexington, KY, of a war hero on a female horse with, um, testicles.  A hero riding a girl horse into battle is simply inconsistent with our cultural preconceptions… so bring on the intersex equine!

Finally, if you haven’t seen enough Christmas material, visit the posts of Christmas past: marketing cigarettes for Christmas (with new material), non-U.S. Christmas cultures, a scary, fiery Christmas cross, Christmas vs. Holiday (politics edition), the Chrismakkuh Yarmaclaus, a clothesline for X-mas (why not?), and a special gift for Santa and for you.


NEWLY ENRICHED POSTS (Look for what’s NEW! Dec ’09):


We found another example of vintage ads extolling the dietary benefits of sugar.

Larry H. sent us two photos of Amelia Earhart from 1937 in which she is posed in cutesy, flirty ways; we added it to our post of a Lucky Strike ad featuring Earhart.

Dmitriy T.M. sent in another example of a vintage Chrysler ad in which they market the car as youthful (can you imagine!).

Race and Ethnicity

To our vintage Jello ad featuring Asian stereotypes, we added a contemporaneous ad for Rice Krinkles, sent in by Ted K.

It’d be nice to not link back to our post on instances in which college and post-college students dress up like racial minorities, but this isn’t one of those updates.  We added an image of students at the London School of Economics  in brown-face dressed up like Guantanamo Bay prisoners to our post featuring similar acts of individual racist impersonations (scroll way down).

Pete W. sent in a third vintage Bull Durham tobacco ad depicting Black Americans as foolish and bumbling.


Yikes!  We added a new ad to our post where sexual body parts are not-so-subliminally included in ads (NSFW).  This one is for “fresh” “shaved” turkey breast slices and they look like, um…

Our evolution of Evony ads post has been among the most popular posts on our site.  Timm F. sent in an ad for another online game, Alteil, making fun of the Evony ads.  We added it to the original post and, while we were at it, we also added another in the series of increasingly sexualized ads, this one sent in by Tim R.


Harvey tC. sent in a photo that we added to our post featuring pink guns and rifles being marketed to girls/women.  For the hell of it: here is a crazy great set of pro-gun posters.

Both Emily W. and Sabine M. sent us another example of t-shirts being divvied up into “t-shirts” and “women’s t-shirts.”

Elizabeth T. sent in a video of men vamping it up and trying to “do” sexy. We added it to another post asking whether, given the gender binary and our gendered image of “sexy,” such a thing can be anything other than ridiculous.

Monica C. sent in another great example of gendered toy advertising.  In this one a girl plays with a kitchen set alongside a boy playing with a tool set.  Sigh.

In contrast, Lynne S. and Fia K. sent in some more photos of house play toys featuring both girls and boys.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Emily K. sent me a link to this story about a soccer team in Amsterdam, Ajax, known as the Jews. According to this New York Times article, the team got the nickname from opposing teams, who began calling the club the Jews because of the supposed history of Jews on the team. There isn’t any particular connection between the Jewish community and the team today–the team doesn’t have a large number of Jewish players, nor is the fan club made up of a higher number of Jews than other soccer teams.

This leads to some interesting situations. Most notably, fans (the vast majority of whom are non-Jewish) have adopted symbols of Judaism and Israel to show team spirit. Here’s a fan wrapped up in an Israeli flag:

And this fan has tattooed the Ajax logo along with a Star of David on his arm:

(Both images from the NYT article.)

Fans sometimes display gigantic Israeli flags in the stands during games (image found here):

This brings up some interesting issues about the appropriation of cultural symbols. When I first saw the pictures, I thought it was a bit disturbing that people use the Israeli flag as a prop to express support for an athletic team. But then I remembered that people do this all the time–I’ve seen pictures of soccer fans wrapped up in, for example, the Spanish flag, or wearing shirts with pictures of flags on them (not to mention people wearing clothing with American flags). Of course, that is often by people who are citizens of those countries. So is it weird to have non-Israelis using the Israeli flag in this way? I’ve thought about it, and I think maybe the strong association between Israel and Judaism makes this seem a little different than those other examples, since it then appears to be the appropriation of a religious symbol, even though the Israeli flag is not, technically speaking, itself a religious item (as opposed to, say, if fans were wearing yarmulkes or something). And clearly the people using the flag in this way are doing so because of its association with Jewishness, not because they have any particular interest in Israel or like an Israeli team.

The other problem that arises is opposing fans’ heckling. Because Ajax is nicknamed the Jews, fans of other teams often use anti-Semitic chants during games. Some examples (found at the Ajax USA site):

Ssssssssssssssssssssssssss… (the hissing sound of gas)

We’re hunting the Jews!

There is the Ajax train to Auschwitz!

Sieg! Sieg! Sieg! (German for ‘victory’, yelled while performing the Hitler’s Salute)

According to the NYT article, they have also yelled “Hamas! Hamas!”, a reference to the Palestinian political party. And there’s this, from Ajax fans themselves:

…during a game against a German team late last year, a group of Ajax supporters displayed a banner that read “Jews take revenge for ’40-’45,” a reference to the Holocaust.

Some Jewish fans now report that they have stopped attending games because they find the behavior offensive.

This would be a great example to use in a discussion of sports mascots, particularly how it compares to American Indian mascots (for examples, see this post) and Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish mascot (see post here). Critics of American Indian mascots often ask questions along the lines of “What would happen if a team called itself the Fighting Jews?” (see here and here for examples of this rhetorical strategy), but it’s always presented as an unimaginable, completely hypothetical situation. And yet it turns out not to be so hypothetical after all. My guess is students would generally have a much more negative reaction to the Ajax Jews than to teams like the Washington Redskins, and it would be useful to discuss why that might be (keeping in mind that fans of teams playing against teams with Indian mascots sometimes use images that depict violence against Indians).

And of course there’s also the whole issue of the appropriation of Jewish culture and the trivialization of the Holocaust and Nazism by both Ajax and opposing fans. The whole thing is creepy.

Thanks, Emily!