What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

Etsomnia™ 230: Not My Tribe


When scientists examined members of the obscure Scoliosis Tribe of Austin, TX, to learn why they are unable to lift their heads, they discovered the subjects’ skulls to be full of incense, rocks, and hair. This also explains the tribe’s poor fashion choices.

Etsom·ni·a (/etˈsämnēə/), noun, 1. a sleep disorder caused by obsessive Etsy browsing. 2. The surprising arrival of weird handmade merchandise ordered when one is only half conscious. (True story.) 3. An excuse for me to be an obnoxious, snarky New Yorker once per week.

Over the last few years, Etsy has come under fire for not cracking down on makers of culturally-appropriated or insensitive items. In particular, ‘tribal’ is one of those triggering keywords that turns up items that just shouldn’t exist. While the widely-applied term can be used to describe astoundingly-beautiful items, it is also applied to an unfortunate number of tragic ones.

As a generic style, tribal is fine, taking inspiration from traditional cultural art without appropriating or dishonoring it. When done respectfully, it can result in some pretty cool stuff. But all too often, the cultural references go too far, trivializing sacred traditions and native dress, and heading into dangerous territory where things turn ugly.

For more Etsy fun, check out all my weekly Etsomnia™ posts!

Pocket Shaman?!?
“Tribal neckerchief.” Dogs are normally pretty un-self-conscious when their people dress them up in stupid stuff. Unfortunately, this poor guy seems to have figured it out.
This tattoo sleeve looks pretty convincing… until it catches on something and you get a run.
Stunning beaded necklace from Kenya. By AfricanBeadsCraft
I think the seller’s phrase “Imitation Indian” pretty well sums this one up. That would also make a terrible band name.
“Traditional Handmade Wool Chuj” from the Lazy Maker Tribe of Berkeley, CA.
Dear White People: It’s not cute or funny. Cut it out.
“Earrings inspired in the Mursi tribe style.” Yes! That’s the way to do it! By HavanaFlamingo
Candlestick from the Confusing Phallic Symbol Tribe of Boca Raton.
“Indian” headdress in “Rasta” colors. It looks really well made, which I find even more depressing than the thrown-together ones. This maker should know better.
Yikes! Somebody get this guy a belt before we learn the hard way what tribe he’s from!
All the nope.
Really incredible hand-embroidered Mexican huipil. By CantaYNoLloresMX
From the near-extinct Eighties Hair Band Tribe whose last remaining members can be found wandering around the Staten Island Mall.
Not okay, Becky.

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

5 thoughts on “Etsomnia™ 230: Not My Tribe

  1. Cultural appropriation is utterly juddersome and I cannot believe that in 2019 people still think it is acceptable. I remember as a young teen trying to get friends to understand why it was tacky and insensitive for them to get tattoos of Maori symbols or Chinese text symbols and here we are decades later and people still absolutely do not get it. Taking inspiration from other cultures and traditions is different and I think I am OK with that. Using your examples, taking the style of Mexican embroidery and doing something different with it or using the technique of beading from an African tradition seems probably OK to me because it is on the side of inspiration and appreciation rather than than undermining, mocking, or even violating those cultural traditions or cultures.


  2. I do wonder about some people…. Alright…a lot of people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laura, I just tried to like your comment, but couldn’t. But consider it liked! And, Donna, why you picking on Austin?😘

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.