Image: Daughter of the Sun Facebook page.
If you’ve been following the “naked breastfeeding yoga mum” saga the past week or so, you’d know that said yoga mum, known to her family as Amy Woodruff, had faced a barrage of criticism for a photo originally taken and distributed via parenting sites some two years ago. This kerfuffle culminated in her Instagram account, @daughterofthesun, being deleted, apparently due to “haters” having reported her numerous breastfeeding photos.
(For her part, Woodruff said of the internet storm, “My prayer is that others can also follow their dreams and tune in to their hearts and not their TVs”.)
First things first: you can breastfeed your baby while dressed as a giant ant in one of those zero gravity loop-the-loop planes for all I care; provided the child is not in harm’s way, parenting and how to do it should be something that the parents themselves decide on, not a crowd of know-better bystanders. Furthermore, the fact that - presumably, as Instagram’s powers that be have remained mute on the subject - her Instagram has been deleted due to photos of breastfeeding is obviously ridiculous.
Image: Daughter of the Sun Etsy store.
(NB assume any links to Daughter Of The Sun aren’t safe for work, unless your workplace smiles on the beauty of the perpetually naked human form.)
Rather, the problem with Daughter Of The Sun and its ilk that nobody seems to be discussing is how rife with cultural appropriation it and similar lifestyle blogs are. Making teepees for “moon time”, shooting topless fashion stories dedicated to “the indigenous women of Bali who inspired this shoot”, dressing up in indigenous face paint and headdresses, using terms like “natives” and “primitive”: none of these things are made any more acceptable (than they would be if a witless hipster did them, that is) if the person in question claims to be “receiving the downloads” from Gaia.
Daughter Of The Sun is just the most newsworthy example of this behaviour; there are loads of other people engaging in “magick” and associated ‘close to the earth’ lifestyles who make a miniskirted music festival attendee in a warbonnet look like a bastion of sensitivity.
Image: Daughter of the Sun Etsy store.
The new age community loves nothing more than to cherry pick aspects of other cultures to add colour and meaning to their practice, but they get away with it perhaps because it seems to lack the cynicism with which fashion labels and B-list celebrities culturally appropriate. The difference, so the dodgy logic goes, is that peace-loving freaky people aren’t hurting anyone. The reality is that cultural appropriation, colonialism and privileged condescension sucks no matter who’s doing it, whether it’s Urban Outfitters or one “yoga mom” with a blog.
The basic gist of cultural appropriation, though it’s discussed in the context of fashion in this particular instance, is well summed up by A l’allure Garconniere’s fine post on the topic: “the issue of institutional racism and discrimination [cannot] be completely divorced from the question of cultural appropriation. they feed into one another”. The issue of colonialism, in particular, is even more present in situations like Daughter Of The Sun’s, where a privileged white woman travels to hang out with “natives” and then sells their “tribal” crafts via her Etsy.
Like so many things - fashion shoots, Halloween costumes, interior design - it doesn’t have to be like this. It’s possible to live a life in tune with the new age vibrations (ahem) and have a more-than-basic grasp of cultural sensitivity.
The image of Amy and daughter Naia that went viral.
In my spare time, I engage in plenty of practices that could be described (or dismissed) as “new age”, though I don’t blog about them because I assume that for most people, hearing about my very mundane adventures in herbalism and kitchen magic is about as interesting as hearing the good news about J.C.
However, within that lifestyle/belief structure, I’m careful to only work within a model that is appropriate to my own cultural heritage, to wit, an English and German tradition. (If you’ve been looking for a good 16th century recipe for rose butter, I’m your gal.)
I mention that not to say “woop woop give me a medal for being the bestest”, but to illustrate that it’s still possible to live “close to the earth and in tune with the Mother”, as Daughter Of The Sun/Woodruff puts it, without engaging in the wholesale appropriation of other people’s cultures. All it takes is a bit of sensitivity and a willingness to do some homework. Chances are your own culture is stuffed full of fascinating and enriching things to make and do.
Stepping away from the lure of cultural appropriation might mean your Instagram is less crammed with ‘like’-bait “colourful” Ikat prints and feather headdresses, but it also means you’re less likely to be being a complete dropkick, too. And I’m no expert, but I think Gaia would probably prefer that.