When I saw last week Finnish alpine skier Tanja Poutiainen put on a Saami costume to crown her career, I knew she was heading for trouble unless she was a member of that ethnic group. In countries like the United States, dressing up as a member of another culture is considered racist and a rude way to show your ethnic privilege.
Bitchmedia puts it in the following terms: “Not only does it lead to offensive, inaccurate, and stereotypical portrayals of other people’s culture, but is also an act of appropriation in which someone who does not experience that oppression is able to ‘play,’ temporarily, and ‘exotic’ other…”
There hasn’t been any official statement by Poutiainen apologizing for the incident.
Alpine skier Tanja Poutiainen is from the region of Lapland but is not a member of the Saami community. Read full story (in Finnish) here.
Saami youth president Anna-Maria Magga asked why Poutiainen didn’t wear a Finnish national costume if she was so interested in showing her Nordic roots.
“If we look at the costume, it’s a salad of different things,” said Magga. “It’s not a woman’s costume but it’s not either one for men…[Wearing such a costume] is immoral [and] against indigenous people.”
Thanks to the reaction that Poutiainen received, the retired Alpine skier will most likely think twice before she wears a Saami costume in public.