Ruth Hopkins highlights the way that this particular outfit contributes to the hypersexualization of Native women. She informs that a Google search for the terms "Native" or "war bonnet" yield dozens of photos of non-Native American women wearing a headdress, without much more. Given the rampant level of sexual violence imposed upon Native American women and girls, Hopkins contends that it is highly insensitive to equate Native womanhood with a sexual fetish.
Native American women are victims of sexual violence more than any other group of people. Statistically, three out of five Native American women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime; one in three is a victim of rape, and six in ten have experienced assault. On some reservations the murder rate for Native American women is ten times the national average. Disturbingly, around 88% of violent crimes are are committed by non-Native Americans, over which tribal governments generally lack criminal jurisdiction under U.S. law.
Perhaps more appalling than these statistics is the fact that VAWA may no longer protect these women against Non-Native Americans. In May of 2012, the House of Representatives blocked a Senate bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Instead, the house begrudgingly passed its own version of the law (H.R. 4970) that eliminates a provision subjecting non-Native suspects of domestic violence to prosecution before tribal courts for crimes committed on reservations. While members of the house argue that H.R. 4970 allows Native American women to apply for protective orders from local U.S. courts, opponents contend that women abused on reservations are often left without legal recourse. As such, VAWA has joined the list of controversial measures up for debate in a conference committee between the House and Senate.
Complicated issues of jurisdiction delay investigations of sexual violence considerably, and sometimes hinder prosecutions. When determining jurisdiction, authorities consider (1) whether the victim is a member of a federally recognized tribe, (2) whether the perpetrator is a member of a federally recognized tribe, and (3) whether the alleged offense occurred on tribal land. These issues are of significant importance because they dictate whether the case is heard in U.S. federal court or tribal court. Jurisdiction often overlaps; however, determining who will hear the case can be so confusing that no authority intervenes, and the victims are left without legal protection.
Even more disheartening is the dire reality that women who report sexual violence to the police are often discriminated against. Negative stereotypes linking Native American women to drinking result in police automatically concluding that a woman was undoubtedly drinking when she was targeted for sexual violence. A rape survivor in Alaska expressed that if a Native American woman reporting sexual violence is suspected of drinking, "the police will not respond unless she is either hospitalized or dead."
Amnesty International informs that Indigenous women face multiple forms of discrimination because they have multifaceted identities. Native American women are discriminated against not only as women, but also as Indigenous people. Amnesty contends,
"[t]he latter does not merely add one more element to the burden of discrimination that Indigenous women face, but interacts with and changes the nature of the discrimination they contend with.” It is therefore extremely important that freedom from violence as defined by Indigenous women themselves informs, and where necessary transforms, the human rights discourse.A discourse that Ruth Hopkins believes will not be taken seriously, until Victoria's Secret, pop singers, and clothing designers stop deriding Native American culture. S.E. Smith asserts that structural racism continues affecting the Native American community, resulting in higher rates of poverty, rape, assault and serious health issues than in white communities. Thus, instead of trying to make the bondage of a Native American women look sexy in their latest music video, No Doubt and Gwen Stefani should have portrayed the sexual violence transgressed upon Native women for what it really is-- horrific.