Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Recently a friend of mine posted a story about a well-known producer of butter. Their logo is of a young woman dressed in traditional Native American garb is sitting on her knees holding the butter as if it were an offer to the viewer. Apparently, this is the source of consternation from a group who finds it offensive and claims it’s a sexualization of the Native people, but only because, frankly, it is.
Let’s be honest about this. The woman in the logo is young, fit, and drawn to be attractive. She’s kneeling and holding out the butter in a clearly submissive position. Yes, it’s sexualized.
We might not think of it as such, and I understand this, too. This logo has been around for as long as I can remember, and when I’m picking up butter it’s not to gawk at the logo. I’ve purchased this brand probably hundreds of times and never even thought about it. So, when people say, “How is this offensive?”, I kind of get that. Certain things are such a common part of our culture that we never even think about it. I find it hard to fault people who might look at a story and think, “wait, THAT’s offensive?” Maybe that’s because I’m one of those people.
Yep, that was my first thought as well. I had just, frankly, never thought about it before, but nobody had to fight me to open up my eyes, actually look at the logo and think about it. Yes, I see where it would be offensive to the Native people. I’m guessing that, as a culture, there are many Native Americans who see this and feel oppressed because of this logo, because it directly targets them. It doesn’t target me; this isn’t some old white guy, it’s a young native woman, so the native people will surely recognize it for what it is before some guy from Germanic descent. And, no, I’m not going to argue with them and try to convince them that they’re wrong for feeling as they do.
This blows me away. So many of the comments on my friend’s post are about how it’s not racist after all. Many people are arguing that they’ve used this brand for years and have never seen it as demeaning or sexist, and therefore it’s not. Reading these comments, I just kept thinking of how tone-deaf these people are.
Of course, THEY don’t see it as racist. THEY don’t see it as sexist. THEY don’t understand, because it’s not their culture being exploited. But arguing that this logo, which is clearly offensive to some people, is not offensive is actually a form of racism as well. I don’t always understand why people feel the way they do about something, but feelings are always legitimate and fair. People find it offensive, and they should be respected for that. Anybody telling the they are wrong are, frankly, wrong. I understand how people might not understand why this logo is offending some people, and I’ll leave them to their opinion, but for them to tell others that they are wrong for finding it offensive is, frankly, offensive. I myself could have probably gone the rest of my life without ever seeing the oppressive nature of this logo had it not been pointed out. I don’t see that as racist in and of itself. It’s like being in the presence of a foul odor for so long that we no longer recognize it; it’s a form of blindness to what is common in our life, but at least I’m open to learning how something might be perceived differently by people from other cultures.
Frankly, I’m glad that the problem with this logo was pointed out, and I’m proud of this company for its willingness to change this long-recognized logo. It demonstrates that they do not wish to disenfranchise people of any culture and are open to the opinions of others. There’s a sports team that calls themselves a derogatory Native American term and use chants and actions that are so obviously offensive that it frankly sickens me. This is my local team in the only sport I will (on rare occasion) watch, but I cannot watch a game in what is supposed to be “my team” is playing. Their argument for keeping this deeply racist tradition alive is the longevity of it. This is racism out of control. They know of the problem but refuse to change it because of “tradition”. As a consumer, I will buy that brand of butter from this point forward because of their actions, but I will avoid that team forever. As a matter of fact, I am going to ask those who agree with me on this to consider buying Land-O-Lakes butter. Although I usually try not to give brand names (as I’ve done in this post), but I think they deserve the boost for their actions.