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Old 04-30-2018, 11:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Prom Dress Fight Over Cultural Appropriation

A white girl in Utah wore a traditional Chinese dress to her prom and posted pictures on Twitter, sparking a fight about cultural appropriation:

Prom dress prompts 'cultural appropriation' row - BBC News

I always find this topic a bit tedious. It's a dress, and a beautiful one at that. She's not mocking it, she wore it because she thought it was a beautiful dress. The backlash about it is over the top. It's a fucking dress.
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Old 05-01-2018, 02:43 AM   #2 (permalink)
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It's stupid, cultures meet, take ideas from each other mix them up and use them in new and different ways. It's what humans do.

The idea that everything in your culture is uniquely yours is unsustainable.

Even the people themselves become a mix of other cultures as they migrate, marry and start families across boundaries. Which leads to the question, how Chinese must you be to wear that dress?
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Old 05-01-2018, 03:59 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Cultural appropriation is one of the stupidest things the tumblr generation has thought up to cry about. Meanwhile here in the real world nobody cares.
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Old 05-01-2018, 04:35 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vaelissa Cortes View Post
Cultural appropriation is one of the stupidest things the tumblr generation has thought up to cry about. Meanwhile here in the real world nobody cares.
Cultural appropriation is a real thing, and something that can potentially be insulting and/or harmful to subaltern cultural groups; it takes, for instance, a certain level of insensitivity to wear clothing/decorative items associated with deeply held spiritual beliefs, when you don't have any particular interest in, or care for those beliefs. See also, sports teams like say, that Washington based football club's name/logo.

That being said, it's a fscking cheongsam; a dress that originated during the 1920s as upper class eveningwear. Calling a cheongsam traditional is almost an insult to the term traditional. It's traditional in the same way Coco Chanel's little black dress is traditional: an item that people from the culture in question wear, but doesn't hold any deeply held, meaningful beliefs beyond being something nice to wear. All calling this cultural appropriation shows is that you don't really know what cultural appropriation means.

Last edited by Myf; 05-01-2018 at 04:41 AM.
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Old 05-01-2018, 04:54 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Humans interact with each other and share things, modern society is a result of taking things from other cultures, one look around and you'll see stuff from a dozen different sources. That's just the world. I don't think the Washington Redskins is at all comparable on the same level since they are directly representing themselves as derrogatory term for a group of people based entirely on their ethnic features. It is entirely different than say, wearing a feather in your hair or having a dreamcatcher in your house.

Getting offended on behalf of somebody else because they wore clothing from another culture is bullshit.
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Old 05-01-2018, 05:18 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Watch this and tell me there's no such thing as cultural appropriation.
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Old 05-01-2018, 05:31 AM   #7 (permalink)
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It depends on the intent and what was done. Some things might be deeply offensive to their origin culture, especially if used the wrong way. For example, if your cultural knowledge comes from tv/movies (especially old ones) you might think some words are a-ok.

Other people do take it to the extreme though. For example, Finnish-Americans (and I assume other immigrant groups) being accused of cultural appropriation of Finnish stuff. Which is funny since, by DNA, my mom is more Finnish than most people living in Finland. It was not until her that that side of the family married someone (at least in the past few hundred years) who was not from Finland or directly descended from someone from there. No, I did not grow up in Finland but I am used to some of the same things.
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Old 05-01-2018, 06:17 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Myf View Post
All calling this cultural appropriation shows is that you don't really know what cultural appropriation means.
As shown, IMO, by this from the article:

Quote:
"This isn't ok," one social media user wrote. "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."
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Old 05-01-2018, 08:26 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I've seen both sides of the coin.

I have seen people show up at Halloween parties dressed in inappropriate and inaccurate Native American garb. I think that's insulting, particularly when they wear something (almost always inaccurately) that is meant for tribal celebration or mourning. Like using a tribal medicine pipe as a bong.

However I have seen many people wear coats and carry purses with beautiful Native American weaves and I have no problem with that. It's current, it's not intended to be sacred and like food, it's a beautiful way to share culture and for tribes to support themselves.

So long as the dress is not a sacred costume for celebration or mourning purposes, I don't see a problem. It's just a beautiful dress.
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Old 05-01-2018, 08:39 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Psyche! That example (the pipe) just happened to be something I thought of too when thinking of examples ppl would recognize as a CA no-no.

As with many things, intent is key. If I were traveling to Asia and bowed back after someone else did the same to me I doubt I would get yelled at over bowing to the wrong height or something. The important thing is I was trying to show respect.
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Old 05-01-2018, 10:32 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by detrius View Post
Watch this and tell me there's no such thing as cultural appropriation.
Well I was about to then saw that it was an hour and a half and moved on.


As for this dress, was it American made or Chinese made?

if it was Chinese made, why was it exported to America for sale if it's so culturally sensitive and offensive to Chinese culture for it to be worn?

Culture means different things to different people even within that culture. This was a girl wearing a dress to a prom because she thought it was beautiful. It wasn't a cultural symbol being used to mock or parody the culture it comes from.
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Old 05-01-2018, 10:39 AM   #12 (permalink)
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The whole kerfuffle is enormously silly. Just Image Google on the terms "weddings in China today."
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Old 05-01-2018, 11:25 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Might not have blown up so badly if she wasn't also photographed mocking a fairly distinct chinese pose.
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Old 05-01-2018, 11:43 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Well I was about to then saw that it was an hour and a half and moved on.
It's quite obvious right from the beginning.
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Old 05-01-2018, 11:52 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I thought she looked really pretty and really happy. She wasn't mocking anyone, she wasn't "appropriating" anything, she was just having a good time. All the whining and bleating comes from people with nothing better to do than try to spoil someone else's enjoyment of something. If everyone who cried about "cultural appropriation" choked on their own indignation and sanctimonious whining, the world would be a happier place.
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Old 05-01-2018, 12:41 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I always thought that cultural appropriation was taking a culture's items, of a culture your culture had oppressed, and then mocking or overly sexualizing it.

I'm really not sure how this fit into that at all; the US never conquered China, and the dress isn't mocking or overly sexualizing Chinese garments.
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Old 05-01-2018, 12:52 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Aribeth Zelin View Post
I always thought that cultural appropriation was taking a culture's items, of a culture your culture had oppressed, and then mocking or overly sexualizing it.

I'm really not sure how this fit into that at all; the US never conquered China, and the dress isn't mocking or overly sexualizing Chinese garments.
Maybe in this case it's to do with being a visible minority -- the USA never conquered China, as you say, but Chinese immigrant labourers were a very visible and oppressed minority in the USA for many years, and I can see how in those circumstances symbols of what someone regards as symbols of his or her culture as a Chinese American (rather than as symbols of Chinese culture per se) become quite important.

Having said that, it seems a great deal of fuss to make about the poor girl's prom dress. She just wanted to look good and have a memorable evening. There must be more important things for Chinese Americans to worry about, surely?
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Old 05-01-2018, 02:34 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Yes yes, cultural appropriation is a thing and it can be bad. IMO it is bad when it is used maliciously, like a hate crime or intentionally racist, or if it is done by someone whose actions have real world consequences, such as a politician in foreign affairs. But when the internet throws a fit about cultural appropriation, neither of these are usually the case.

I don't buy the whole "if it is sacred" argument though, any more than I find a slutty nun halloween costume offensive, or consider a white catholic person doing yoga to be offensive (hint: I don't find either offensive). Nothing is so sacred that it can't be mocked, practiced by a non-believer, or simply ignorantly mis-used for whatever benign reasons they may have.
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Old 05-01-2018, 02:36 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Old 05-01-2018, 04:09 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Chinese dress at US prom wins support in China after internet backlash
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Old 05-01-2018, 04:48 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Where is the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation?
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Old 05-01-2018, 05:41 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Where is the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation?
If there was a clear answer to that question, then threads like this one wouldn't exist.
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Old 05-01-2018, 05:54 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Cristalle View Post
Where is the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation?
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Old 05-01-2018, 07:14 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Where is the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation?
There is no hard line, but a few points to consider:

First, power imbalance. Cultural appropriation happens when a threatened or oppressed group sees their symbols and/or culture taken by their oppressors for their own use. And that means that what Chinese Americans see may read very differently from what Chinese see, as the experience of being a discriminated minority in a nation of immigrants is very different from being the dominant culture in your homeland.

Second is the importance of the symbols/objects/activities to the oppressed or marginalized culture. Religious symbols, symbols of authority or identity, earned symbols (those that even to members of a culture are seen as not belonging to everyone but showing earned or hereditary status) are generally more sensitive. Everyday clothing, foods, and decorative arts are less so.

Then there is the concept of ownership. When the oppressive culture intentionally uses symbols to claim the rights and heritage of a group that is being deprived of their heritage, that is using appropriation to further oppression. An example is the number of pageants and festivals in the early 20th century that started dressing white women as "Indian Princesses." This kind of public display of native dress by the people that were displacing native peoples was a way of claiming a right to the land by taking and re-purposing the symbols of Native Americans (often in stereotypical caricatures).

Even when it comes to things like traditional foodways, there is a distinction between outsiders learning to cook in different ways and those same people claiming to cook authentic food (for example, I use many Indian recipes and try to get them close to the source, but I would never claim that my cooking is "authentic" because that comes from a lived experience that I don't have).

Ownership is especially sensitive in areas where there was a concerted effort at "assimilating" native peoples by stripping them of their own symbols, lifestyles, and language. Imagine the effect of seeing a white "Indian Princess" wearing a headdress that is an earned symbol of a tribe along with a belt and other symbols taken from a half a dozen peoples on the native population as they were sent to boarding schools where they were expected to speak only English, become Christians, and try to farm in the worst agricultural land on the continent.

Intent alone isn't a good gauge, because even well-intentioned or oblivious actions as a part of a larger trend can have a negative effect.

the tl:dr version is again, there is no hard line and every situation is different, but I have a hard time seeing this dress as coming even close to cultural appropriation.
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Old 05-01-2018, 07:31 PM   #25 (permalink)
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