Lifestyle & Culture

In Defense of the Papoose

You should call a traditional carrier by its traditional name– assuming that you can pronounce it, and if you can’t, I recommend checking out Youtube for the correct pronunciation. You are not culturally appropriating (or misappropriating) the name or the carrier, and you certainly are not being racist by learning about and using the language of another culture. The racist thing to do is to seek to whitewash a culture out of existence by insisting that no one outside of that culture ever use the carriers or the correct terms from that culture.
Some examples:
Aradia and Faux Baby demonstrating the Manta
Faux Baby in a Manta

You may call the woven folded square of fabric, traditionally used in Peru a manta. Because that is its name.

You may call the long wide rectangle of cotton fabric used as a torso carrier in Africa a khanga, because that is its name.

You may call shawl used in Mexico to carry babies a rebozo, because that is its name.

You also may call the fabric, leather or string bag traditionally used by the Narragansett tribe (from the Algonquin Nation) a Papoose. Because that is its name.

There is no need to get upset if someone misidentifies your wrap as a papoose. Simply explain the difference. Example: “Oh, this isn’t a Papoose, it’s a Lenny Lamb.”

 

However, its not appropriate to call someone names, even if the name isn’t offensive in and of itself. You wouldn’t call a person a “Papoose” or “Ring Sling” even if they are often associated with one… though sometimes we babywearers might refer to our pre-mobile babies as “Slinglings”. You can see how these terms get started with the best intentions. Europeans learning about First Nations language and culture confused the name for the carrier with the name for “baby”, largely because a baby wouldn’t be seen outside of a carrier. The carrier became an extension of the baby which was an extension of the wearer. Etymology is a fascinating branch of science– perhaps in the future “slingling” will be labeled a slur by folks who have no idea where the term came from.

 

The term papoose is only offensive when offense is consciously intended. You may choose to take offense regardless of the intention of the speaker, but that is on you.

Let’s make a point of educating ourselves and advocating  the correct use of traditional (and contemporary) babywearing terminology. Learn the traditional names for carriers and about the cultures that use(d) them. There is no benefit to erasing a term from our lexicon that identifies a style of carrier with a culture.

But if you are determined to be upset about the supposed cultural misappropriation of babywearing terms, the least you can do is know the name of the culture/ nation that you are “defending” (erasing) with your polemic.

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One thought on “In Defense of the Papoose

  1. Just because you don’t “personally see no benefit of erasing the word” doesn’t mean that the people who have a right to the word, the people who created the word Papoose, the Narragansett tribe, don’t find the term incredibly offensive. If your background doesn’t own the word you have no right to say it isn’t an offensive term

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