Nalene Gene snapped a selfie in front of the door of Halloween costume retailer Yandy.com's office before entering the quiet space Monday morning.
But the fluorescently lit building didn't stay quiet for long. Gene and three other protesters were there to demonstrate against Yandy's Native American-themed Halloween costumes.
Amanda Blackhorse led the charge. The Navajo woman is a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed against the Washington Redskins claiming their mascots appropriate Indigenous culture. Monday, she was ready to fire back at Yandy for costumes many consider offensive.
As shown in a video captured by protester Sumayyah Dawud, Blackhorse asked a man in a front office if she could speak to CFO Jeff Watton about the 40-plus types of Indigenous-themed costumes Yandy made $150,000 off of last year.
When the man didn't direct Blackhorse to Watton, she decided to make her case to anyone within shouting distance.
"Yandy.com, we want you guys to know that Native American women are opposed to the sexualization of Indigenous women," Blackhorse said, raising her voice and a handmade sign. "We oppose how you use us as costumes and profit off of that ... We are people, not costumes."
Watton told Cosmopolitan in a recent interview that the company wouldn't take their sexy Native American Halloween costumes off their website until there were "significant demonstrations."
Now Yandy embodies the unfortunate colloquialism "be careful what you wish for." If it was a protest Yandy wanted, it was a protest it got — albeit a small one.
"Uh, this is private property, you need to leave," said the man in the front office.
But the protesters continued to make their case, holding colorful signs stating "Stop Cultural Appropriation." They shouted: "If you want to see what Indigenous women look like, come out here. We're here to tell you that we are opposed to your costumes!"
Blackhorse added: "Don't be Harvey Weinstein, listen to women!"
A woman approached the group and said, "You're welcome to protest, but you have to leave the building. The police are coming."
The protesters retreated outside and a policeman told them they had to keep their protesting confined to the sidewalk, Hill said.
Yandy's PR Manager Sarah Chamberlain hasn't yet responded to an email from the Phoenix New Times asking about the protest.
Later, protester Hill lamented to New Times that Yandy's sexualized costumes dehumanize Indigenous women and contribute to heightened numbers of sexual assault.
"When you sexualize somebody, you're stripping away their humanity," Hill said. "That dehumanization, it allows people to do things like assault, whether it's sexual or physical. It allows for rape."
Chamberlain said in an email to New Times on Thursday that Yandy values "the Native American community and the state in which we reside. To say otherwise is disheartening."
Chamberlain emphasized that Yandy's costumes are meant to honor the Indigenous culture and noted that "dressing in a certain manner does not condone rape."
"To say that women choosing to wear a costume or dress in a certain manner directly results in the rape of women, especially women of a specific culture, is victim-blaming, disheartening, and problematic at best," she said. "At Yandy, we strive to empower all women to 'Own your sexy.'"
Gene said she was disappointed in Yandy's response to their small but vehement protest.
She's not sure Yandy will heed their advice and take down the costumes, despite the in-your-face approach taken by effectively storming the building.
"They literally turned their back," Gene said.