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Topic: Cultural appropriation (Read 1029 times) previous topic - next topic

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Cultural appropriation
I tend to dismiss it as running counter to other values I hold regarding art and the will to be weird, but I suppose as a white male that is to be expected. Anyway, this is a story about a white girl who wore a traditional chinese dress to prom and got a bunch of people all uptight about it.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/world/asia/chinese-prom-dress.html
Quote
"My culture is NOT" your prom dress, he wrote, adding profanity for effect.

"I'm proud of my culture," he wrote in another post. "For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience, is parallel to colonial ideology."

Some Twitter users who described themselves as Asian-American seized on Ms. Daum's dress -- a form-fitting red cheongsam (also known as a qipao) with black and gold ornamental designs -- as an example of cultural appropriation, a sign of disrespect and exploitation. Other Asian-Americans said the criticism was silly.

"This isn't ok," wrote someone with the user name Jeannie. "I wouldn't wear traditional Korean, Japanese or any other traditional dress and I'm Asian. I wouldn't wear traditional Irish or Swedish or Greek dress either. There's a lot of history behind these clothes. Sad."
not much need to read the article as these responses basically sum it up.

For the life of me, I can't understand how using art from another culture could be a bad thing unless it was used to intentionally denigrate that culture.
Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #1
I don't know that this dress is a good example. Chinese people living in China have said it's a dress! What's the problem? and pointed out that these dresses in their own country and culture have been drastically revised from what may have been a traditional woman's dress a couple centuries ago at which time they were loose, baggy and pretty shapeless.

But it's nuanced subject. A white woman with no connection to the culture wearing a ceremonial traditional FN dress to a party? Kind of inappropriate, because in this case that dress and those symbols are highly associated with specific cultural ceremonies.

On the other hand, no one ever talks about cultural appropriation when some white guy in Texas wears a fringed buckskin jacket, despite it being pretty directly modelled on Native American traditional clothing.

Art? Depends. Taking a very specific art style, example Haida totem poles, and crafting imitations is at the very least tacky. Same with imitating FN pottery or weaving. In part because these things are very culturally specific and often are among a very few things that can generate cash flow into marginalised communities where even purchasing supplies can be a major expense and risk.

Maybe think about what you're doing before doing it.

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #2
Because it's not "using art from another culture."

There was a quote from, I think, William Gibson that's pretty instructive about capitalism using art subcultures as sort of a reactor to generate cool new aesthetics which can then be harvested to sell products and that capitalism is becoming too greedy and is harvesting those subcultures' aesthetics before they really have a chance to develop. I feel like cultural appropriation is kind of an extension of this. The difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation is that the former is a strip-mining of an entire culture for an aesthetic which can then be used to move product. I think that's what a lot of people are fundamentally responding to.

  • Monad
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #3
I felt sorry for the poor girl, she just wanted to have a good prom experience

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #4
Thanks TBM. You articulated it better than I could.

I feel like I recognise cultural appropriation (as opposed to appreciation) when I see it but it can be hard to pin down why I see it.

I used to know this stupid girl who decided she was a shaman and practiced (for money) a lot of very inauthentic FN 'health' ways. It was just wrong and dumb. She used to go to the Mi'qmaq Friendship Centre and babble about her spirituality. So many polite raised eyebrows.

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #5
4

On the other hand, no one ever talks about cultural appropriation when some white guy in Texas wears a fringed buckskin jacket, despite it being pretty directly modelled on Native American traditional clothing.


it's modeled just as much on Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone as well as hundreds of years of fur trappers. Also, this particular example implies that chinese culture is somehow inferior to western white culture, enough that the appropriation must be by westerners of chinese - a prospect that is shaky at best. A chinese woman wearing a cotton floral print dress to prom wouldn't raise an eyebrow on the cultural appropriation front. The totem pole example is also not black and white. Art is art.
Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

  • el jefe
  • asleep till 2020 or 2024
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #6
I'm pretty much in the same place as testy.  if you're mocking someone's culture, that's bad.  if you're simply wearing something from another culture, it's not clear to me what the problem is supposed to be.  culture doesn't belong to anyone.  and cultural exchange is as old as culture itself.

  • VoxRat
  • wtactualf
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #7
I'm pretty much in the same place as testy.  if you're mocking someone's culture, that's bad.  if you're simply wearing something from another culture, it's not clear to me what the problem is supposed to be.  culture doesn't belong to anyone.  and cultural exchange is as old as culture itself.
A Senegalese student I had gave be a boubou  -  (I don't know if there's a technical difference between that and a dashiki).  I like to wear it around the farm in the summer when it's hot.

I might feel a little weird wearing it to the prom though.  :unsure:
"I understand Donald Trump better than many people because I really am a lot like him." - Dave Hawkins

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #8
I guess another thing that bothers me is that the concept itself is just so damn paternalistic. I mean, if I can't make a totem pole, even if I might want to explore that creative space, because it might fuck up a market for a group of people who have only totem poles to sell, the problem isn't with me or with them, it's with the fact that humans have a lot of inhumanity in our social systems.

Not to say that the consideration isn't important. Just that the way it's framed as cultural appropriation just strikes me as a horrible idea to run with. The places it leads are not places I want to see. To be kind is a good thing. To be limited is not. Reconciling those two values when they inevitably clash requires a higher level view I think and appropriation just isn't a high level view. It's actually sort of the opposite.
Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #9

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #10
I'm pretty much in the same place as testy.  if you're mocking someone's culture, that's bad.  if you're simply wearing something from another culture, it's not clear to me what the problem is supposed to be.  culture doesn't belong to anyone.  and cultural exchange is as old as culture itself.
I think it also depends what the thing you're wearing is. If, for example, its just a dress that was commonly worn by lots of people, regardless of social status, and is the sort of thing that, say, local people would encourage you to wear to fit in, on an evening out then I don't see a problem. If its something that has a far more specific cultural meaning (such as a War bonnet to pick a pretty obvious example) then you don't get to wear one unless you've earned it.
Why do I bother?

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #11

She is exactly who I don't see as doing something wrong.  People identify with symbols and icons and to a large extent define their own beliefs regarding those icons. If cultural icons/symbols aren't meant to be shared then WTF are they meant for? Rastas wear dreads for their own reasons. White blonde kids do for their own reasons too and some of those reasons may be that they identify with the (capitalist) distribution of icons of rastas. That's kind of the point. People started wearing hair like the Beatles too. Denigrating a person's spiritual or intentity relationship with an icon because it isn't authentic enough seems awfully paternalistic to me. 
Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #12
I'm pretty much in the same place as testy.  if you're mocking someone's culture, that's bad.  if you're simply wearing something from another culture, it's not clear to me what the problem is supposed to be.  culture doesn't belong to anyone.  and cultural exchange is as old as culture itself.
I think it also depends what the thing you're wearing is. If, for example, its just a dress that was commonly worn by lots of people, regardless of social status, and is the sort of thing that, say, local people would encourage you to wear to fit in, on an evening out then I don't see a problem. If its something that has a far more specific cultural meaning (such as a War bonnet to pick a pretty obvious example) then you don't get to wear one unless you've earned it.
Just because you wear a crown doesn't mean you are a princess.
Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #13
I'm pretty much in the same place as testy.  if you're mocking someone's culture, that's bad.  if you're simply wearing something from another culture, it's not clear to me what the problem is supposed to be.  culture doesn't belong to anyone.  and cultural exchange is as old as culture itself.
I think it also depends what the thing you're wearing is. If, for example, its just a dress that was commonly worn by lots of people, regardless of social status, and is the sort of thing that, say, local people would encourage you to wear to fit in, on an evening out then I don't see a problem. If its something that has a far more specific cultural meaning (such as a War bonnet to pick a pretty obvious example) then you don't get to wear one unless you've earned it.
Just because you wear a crown doesn't mean you are a princess.

So how would you feel about a never been in the military person wearing a naval officer's uniform with a bunch of service medals on it? I believe in the US that is actually illegal.

  • uncool
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #14
I'm pretty much in the same place as testy.  if you're mocking someone's culture, that's bad.  if you're simply wearing something from another culture, it's not clear to me what the problem is supposed to be.  culture doesn't belong to anyone.  and cultural exchange is as old as culture itself.
I think it also depends what the thing you're wearing is. If, for example, its just a dress that was commonly worn by lots of people, regardless of social status, and is the sort of thing that, say, local people would encourage you to wear to fit in, on an evening out then I don't see a problem. If its something that has a far more specific cultural meaning (such as a War bonnet to pick a pretty obvious example) then you don't get to wear one unless you've earned it.
Just because you wear a crown doesn't mean you are a princess.

So how would you feel about a never been in the military person wearing a naval officer's uniform with a bunch of service medals on it? I believe in the US that is actually illegal.
I believe the old version of Stolen Valor was struck down as unconstitutional, and the new version deals with fraud associated with falsely wearing those medals.

  • el jefe
  • asleep till 2020 or 2024
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #15
no.  troop worshippers have tried to ban it, but the courts swat it down.

personally, I would not give half a shit if someone wore an unearned medal

eta: crosspost

  • RAFH
  • Have a life, already.
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #16
I'm pretty much in the same place as testy.  if you're mocking someone's culture, that's bad.  if you're simply wearing something from another culture, it's not clear to me what the problem is supposed to be.  culture doesn't belong to anyone.  and cultural exchange is as old as culture itself.
I think it also depends what the thing you're wearing is. If, for example, its just a dress that was commonly worn by lots of people, regardless of social status, and is the sort of thing that, say, local people would encourage you to wear to fit in, on an evening out then I don't see a problem. If its something that has a far more specific cultural meaning (such as a War bonnet to pick a pretty obvious example) then you don't get to wear one unless you've earned it.
Just because you wear a crown doesn't mean you are a princess.

So how would you feel about a never been in the military person wearing a naval officer's uniform with a bunch of service medals on it? I believe in the US that is actually illegal.
Depends a lot on the occasion. A formal military or governmental event, it would not be OK.
For a party, no problem.
Are we there yet?

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #17
I'm pretty much in the same place as testy.  if you're mocking someone's culture, that's bad.  if you're simply wearing something from another culture, it's not clear to me what the problem is supposed to be.  culture doesn't belong to anyone.  and cultural exchange is as old as culture itself.
I think it also depends what the thing you're wearing is. If, for example, its just a dress that was commonly worn by lots of people, regardless of social status, and is the sort of thing that, say, local people would encourage you to wear to fit in, on an evening out then I don't see a problem. If its something that has a far more specific cultural meaning (such as a War bonnet to pick a pretty obvious example) then you don't get to wear one unless you've earned it.
Just because you wear a crown doesn't mean you are a princess.

So how would you feel about a never been in the military person wearing a naval officer's uniform with a bunch of service medals on it? I believe in the US that is actually illegal.
It is illegal to claim to be a naval officer I believe. Personally? I don't care. Is this appropriation?

Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #18
Not in my view.

I don't know. All my life, without even thinking about it much, without a lot of outside input, since most of my life has been without internet, not much television, and primarily rural, I've felt that some kinds of 'borrowing' from minority cultures is insensitive and often tacky and makes me uncomfortable.

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #19
Should European royalty be offended? Do you care if they are?

I think the issue has a lot more to do with whether there is an unequal power dynamic involved and which way it goes. And that is great when you are talking about legal rights and equal access and supporting all citizens and etc. But it just goes into nothing good can come of this land when people want to keep patterns, icons, melodies, rhythms and etc. out of the "wrong" hands. At least, it seems that way to me and I haven't been able to formulate the objections in a way that makes me understand such that I feel the need to protect that right.
Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #20
We should probably hear from some more white people before we come to any conclusions here.

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #21
yeah PD, pretty sure that's what's needed.

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #22
Edgy. But I don't really see how it changes things. I guess anyone is free to disapprove of anyone they want. But I'm really uncomfortable being asked to disapprove of someone's personal identity expression when that expression is not referring outside the individual.  If I thought a dress was pretty and I wanted to wear it, I'm not seeing why I shouldn't wear it.

Likewise,  if I want to play a Robert Johnson song because I like it, then I don't know why I shouldn't.
Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #23

She is exactly who I don't see as doing something wrong. 

lo fuckin l

  • fredbear
  • Militantly Confused
Re: Cultural appropriation
Reply #24
Of all the things we should be worried about currently, this is way, way down the list.  Who, really, gives the first flying fuck about any of this?

I am literally drowning in a sea of ambivalence.
"...without considering any evidence at all - that my views are more likely - on average - to be correct.  Because the mainstream is almost always wrong" - Dave Hawkins