Finnish skier rudely shows her ethnic privilege over the Saami

by , under Enrique Tessieri

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.

Näyttökuva 2014-3-24 kello 8.59.36
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.

 

 

  1. Jssk

    I agree with the points that Anne-Maria Magga makes, but the title of this entry is misleading in my opinion.

    What actual “privilege” do we have over saami? Ethnic privilege is not at fault here, more like stupidity and ignorance is whats at fault here.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Hi Jssk, it can be read many ways. People appropriate other people’s costumes and dress because they think they have the right and are privileged to do so. That’s the way I see it.

  2. Yossie

    So let me get this right? You say people should be able to decide their identity and lifestyles. All about tolerance, acceptance and inclusion. Yet, Tanja Poutiainen is not allowed to wear a dress that has taken inspiration from dresses worn in the area she has born and lived in?

    So following your logic, immigrants are not allowed to wear traditional finnish dresses either?

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Yossie, read the post carefully and the link. If you dress for the purpose of reinforcing stereotypes and don’t even bother to find out what is appropriate or not, then you’re going to be in hot water.

    • Yossie

      Maybe she wants to wear the dress with her own terms?

      When finns need to accept immigrants as finns with their own terms, when finns have to have their traditions changed because of the diversity, its all ok for you, but when a finn makes saami inspired dress, its racist?

      To me it seems, you couldn’t care a less about finns and finnish traditions because we are the majority here. All finns do is wrong and racists, and everything minority does is right and good.

  3. Toiset Soundit

    Poutiainen did apologize for the (so-called) incident: but then again I guess you are not that interested in her reaction anyway. The usual problem with this site: tendentious reporting. For what it is worth:

    In Lapin Kansa (19/03/2014):

    Poutiainen pahoitteli vääränlaista lapinpukua Ylen Aamu-tv:ssä
    Tanja Poutiainen pahoitteli Yleisradion Aamu-tv:ssä sitä, että hänellä oli vääränlainen lapinpuku päällään uransa viimeisen laskun jälkeen.

    – En ole itse saamelainen vaan lappilainen. Tiedän toki, että puku ei ollut aito saamelaispuku. Olen tosi pahoillani, että puku aiheutti mielipahaa joillekin ihmisille, sillä en sitä missään nimessä tarkoittanut, sanoi Aamu-tv:ssä vieraillut Poutiainen.

    – Ajatukseni ja lähtökohtani oli se, että minä olen Lapista ja Rovaniemeltä, ja olen tosi ylpeä siitä. Esimerkiksi Keski-Euroopassa alppihiihto on iso laji ja halusin tuoda esille, että tullaan kaukaa pohjoisesta ja menestytään maailmalla. Mekin pystytään siihen ja nyt Lapin tyttö lähtee kotiin, kertoi Poutiainen

    – En odottanut, että asiasta nousee näin iso kohu, mutta kuten sanoin, että halunnut missään nimessä loukata asulla ketään, Poutiainen sanoi.

  4. elmeri

    Hi,

    This is inaccurate reporting.

    Poutiainen was critisized, not because she wore a Saami costume, but because it was a FAKE saami costume. There’s no mention of this in the above text.

    from the text:
    “Saami youth president Anna-Maria Magga asked why Poutiainen didn’t wear a Finnish national costume”

    Magga actually said: “Why didn’t she wear a Finnish national costume or a real Saami costume.”

    This was not about ethnic privilege and this mention about United States is quite pointless. What is considered racist in US, doesn’t automatically apply to Saami or other cultures.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      –Poutiainen was critisized, not because she wore a Saami costume, but because it was a FAKE saami costume.

      So what’s the difference Elmeri? Thousands of people in the United States masquerade with “fake” costumes. And if we want to get technical, Rovaniemi is as faraway from where the Saami live as Helsinki to Madrid or Milan. If she really cared about the Saami, Poutiainen would have got in touch with Anna-Maria Magga and asked permission if she could wear such a costume and if it was accurate.

      –“Why didn’t she wear a Finnish national costume or a real Saami costume?”

      This comment by Magga doesn’t let Poutiainen off the hook.

    • Toiset Soundit

      “And if we want to get technical, Rovaniemi is as faraway from where the Saami live as Helsinki to Madrid or Milan.”

      Why are you being so inaccurate in your affirmations?
      Helsinki-Madrid= appr. 3500 km
      Rovaniemi -area where Saami live: from 0 to 500 km (when we restrict ourselves to the Finnish Saami area).

      Then the language you use to describe Poutiainens gruesome crime (e.g. “off the hook”).

      The way you are blowing this out of proportion is shifting the focus more and more towards everyone’s sensitivities, boo hoo whoo… until nobody is any longer entitled to mistakes… this should not be the focus of a blog denouncing racism, this should not be a blog about naming and shaming ordinary people.

      Again: Poutiainen did apologize. I guess this is not enough for you, she has to bite the dust and be humiliated, isn’t it?

      Well, now I come to think of it: congratulations Enrique, you have truly incorporated some of the less attractive features of the Finnish mentality: an unforgiving attitude, absolutist views on justice (the law is the law is the law), and constant nagging…

      No absolution, Poutiainen will, shall and must burn in hell…

      Cheers

  5. elmeri

    Enrique Tessieri:

    “So what’s the difference Elmeri?”

    The difference, whether you use real or a fake costume? Well, to the Sami the difference was significant, and your reporting should reflect that.

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