Author Topic: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"  (Read 10618 times)

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Dr. F.

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #30 on: August 19, 2013, 09:47:01 PM »
I've always felt a sari is a bit too formal or fussy for regular dress, like a cocktail dress, or "Sunday best", so I wouldn't wear one in informal situations, but that's just me. I like to wear salwar chemise, so I know what you mean. As long as you are not attempting to draw attention, and wear proper undergarments, I can't see what would be disrespectful.

POD

I've always found that wearing salwar chemise to be very practical.  I shy away from very traditional fabrics in fear of looking like I'm "drawing attention". As a very pale WASC I don't want to look disrespectful.

I've always wanted to wear salwar chemise around. They're simultaneously elegant, beautiful, and comfortable! But, I've never had the guts, as I'm purely British/Irish/German in looks, and I fear looking like a nitwit. I'm happy to see that others see the dilemma!

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #31 on: August 20, 2013, 04:34:42 AM »
I doubt anyone would be offended by a non-Indian wearing a sari.

I wish that were true.  I asked about it on Twitter and on Facebook and immediately got a flood of responses telling me it was "cultural appropriation" and what an appalling abuse of my privilege it would be (possibly because I am not just white, but also British).  I asked an Indian friend about it, and she laughed and said it wasn't a problem - in fact she would come shopping with me for something.  When I mentioned that online, I was told that didn't matter, it's still cultural appropriation and therefore wrong :(

saki

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #32 on: August 20, 2013, 05:00:19 AM »
I doubt anyone would be offended by a non-Indian wearing a sari.

I wish that were true.  I asked about it on Twitter and on Facebook and immediately got a flood of responses telling me it was "cultural appropriation" and what an appalling abuse of my privilege it would be (possibly because I am not just white, but also British).  I asked an Indian friend about it, and she laughed and said it wasn't a problem - in fact she would come shopping with me for something.  When I mentioned that online, I was told that didn't matter, it's still cultural appropriation and therefore wrong :(

Yeah.  I know a lot of people who would say stuff about privilege/cultural appropriation. But, as I said upthread, I'm from an Indian background and I've not met anyone from my community who would think that at all.  In fact, most are kind of flattered in a way

Kikki

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #33 on: August 20, 2013, 07:35:48 AM »
I've always wanted to wear salwar chemise around. They're simultaneously elegant, beautiful, and comfortable! But, I've never had the guts, as I'm purely British/Irish/German in looks, and I fear looking like a nitwit. I'm happy to see that others see the dilemma!

I say just go for it!
I'm wearing churidar kurta today. Teal churidars with gold print and a black kurta with a bit of teal detailing on the yoke. No dupatta, I haven't got the skills to handle one correctly (even though my Indian friend Schwe says it's done with inconspicuous needles...).
I go to India on business every now and then and fill up my suitcase with clothes every time. All my colleagues at the office in India thinks it's cool that I want to wear their style of clothing. I don't wear saris though, I own one but for me it's not practical in my daily life. But I really should get a petticoat and a nice choli so I could wear it if I wanted to.



Corvid

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #34 on: August 20, 2013, 08:25:17 AM »
I wish that were true.  I asked about it on Twitter and on Facebook and immediately got a flood of responses telling me it was "cultural appropriation" and what an appalling abuse of my privilege it would be (possibly because I am not just white, but also British).  I asked an Indian friend about it, and she laughed and said it wasn't a problem - in fact she would come shopping with me for something.  When I mentioned that online, I was told that didn't matter, it's still cultural appropriation and therefore wrong :(

I agree that some degree of sensitivity has to be shown.  If an item or design has a particular cultural or religious significance, it's best not to wear it just because it looks cool.  Otherwise, however, it's more along the lines of cultural cross-pollination than cultural appropriation and cross-pollinating culturally with other people is what human beings do and have always done.

I spent some time one evening on Tumblr amusing myself by perusing all the vehement protests against cultural appropriation and while I can appreciate the underlying message of respect, most of what I read was so over-the-top fanatical, self-righteous, and silly I couldn't help but chuckle.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #35 on: August 20, 2013, 10:30:53 AM »
I doubt anyone would be offended by a non-Indian wearing a sari.

I wish that were true.  I asked about it on Twitter and on Facebook and immediately got a flood of responses telling me it was "cultural appropriation" and what an appalling abuse of my privilege it would be (possibly because I am not just white, but also British).  I asked an Indian friend about it, and she laughed and said it wasn't a problem - in fact she would come shopping with me for something.  When I mentioned that online, I was told that didn't matter, it's still cultural appropriation and therefore wrong :(

That's nuts. Do they also believe when a woman of Indian heritiage puts on a pair of Levi's it is cultural appropriation? Should cowboy boots and Stetsons only be worn by American's growing up in the southwest? Should beret's only be worn by the French (well, actually I think they are the only ones that can pull off a baret, so maybe so)

There's not an Indian shop in my city that wouldn't be very happy to sell a caucasian woman a sari and they'd also spend quite a bit of time assisting with teaching you the appropriate way to wear one.

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #36 on: August 20, 2013, 10:36:02 AM »
I doubt anyone would be offended by a non-Indian wearing a sari.

I wish that were true.  I asked about it on Twitter and on Facebook and immediately got a flood of responses telling me it was "cultural appropriation" and what an appalling abuse of my privilege it would be (possibly because I am not just white, but also British).  I asked an Indian friend about it, and she laughed and said it wasn't a problem - in fact she would come shopping with me for something.  When I mentioned that online, I was told that didn't matter, it's still cultural appropriation and therefore wrong :(

That's nuts. Do they also believe when a woman of Indian heritiage puts on a pair of Levi's it is cultural appropriation? Should cowboy boots and Stetsons only be worn by American's growing up in the southwest? Should beret's only be worn by the French (well, actually I think they are the only ones that can pull off a baret, so maybe so)

There's not an Indian shop in my city that wouldn't be very happy to sell a caucasian woman a sari and they'd also spend quite a bit of time assisting with teaching you the appropriate way to wear one.

I don't know.  I guess not - it's probably a race/privilege issue, i.e. I am not allowed, as a member of a privileged group, to take the clothing/customs of an oppressed one.  I'm not sure though.  I stopped the conversation and didn't argue back as I wasn't sure what was right or wrong and didn't want to offend anyone or appear racist.

Teenyweeny

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #37 on: August 20, 2013, 10:45:14 AM »
I doubt anyone would be offended by a non-Indian wearing a sari.

I wish that were true.  I asked about it on Twitter and on Facebook and immediately got a flood of responses telling me it was "cultural appropriation" and what an appalling abuse of my privilege it would be (possibly because I am not just white, but also British).  I asked an Indian friend about it, and she laughed and said it wasn't a problem - in fact she would come shopping with me for something.  When I mentioned that online, I was told that didn't matter, it's still cultural appropriation and therefore wrong :(

That's nuts. Do they also believe when a woman of Indian heritiage puts on a pair of Levi's it is cultural appropriation? Should cowboy boots and Stetsons only be worn by American's growing up in the southwest? Should beret's only be worn by the French (well, actually I think they are the only ones that can pull off a baret, so maybe so)

There's not an Indian shop in my city that wouldn't be very happy to sell a caucasian woman a sari and they'd also spend quite a bit of time assisting with teaching you the appropriate way to wear one.

I don't know.  I guess not - it's probably a race/privilege issue, i.e. I am not allowed, as a member of a privileged group, to take the clothing/customs of an oppressed one.  I'm not sure though.  I stopped the conversation and didn't argue back as I wasn't sure what was right or wrong and didn't want to offend anyone or appear racist.

The line of thought goes like this: you don't wear something associated with an oppressed group because often, for years, members of said group were mocked for wearing (or in some cases specifically prohibited from wearing) these items.

For a member of the privileged group to take these items and wear them purely because they like they way they look, and (because they are a member of the privileged group) not feel the weight of these concerns can feel like a slap in the face to some.

It would be, sort of like, if you had a beautiful, unique dress, that you wore often. However, every time you wear it around your cousin, she mocks you, and your dress, and says some pretty hurtful things. Then, one day, she calls you and says, "Hey, remember that dress you had? I actually really like it now! Can I wear it for a party next weekend?"

I'm not sure whether I agree with that logic, but I definitely stand by my earlier post: be aware of what you're wearing, wear it appropriately, and don't look like you are dressing up as another race.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2013, 10:51:31 AM by Teenyweeny »



Teenyweeny

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #38 on: August 20, 2013, 11:35:16 AM »
It would be, sort of like, if you had a beautiful, unique dress, that you wore often. However, every time you wear it around your cousin, she mocks you, and your dress, and says some pretty hurtful things. Then, one day, she calls you and says, "Hey, remember that dress you had? I actually really like it now! Can I wear it for a party next weekend?"

I'm not sure whether I agree with that logic, but I definitely stand by my earlier post: be aware of what you're wearing, wear it appropriately, and don't look like you are dressing up as another race.

Your analogy would be more accurate if it was your cousin's child or grandchild who wanted to wear the dress. It's important to remember that the people wanting to wear these clothes did not participate in the abuse.

Yes, but they are still in a position of privilege, which they obtained due to the acts of their forefathers. As a white, cis, middle class person, I have certain privileges. Even though I really try to be a good person, I can't deny that I have the nice life that I do because at some point people like me have exploited and oppressed others.

So, to alter the analogy slightly, it would be as if, due to your cousin's actions, their grandchildren now lived in a mansion and your grandchildren lived in the slums, and then  the cousin's grandchildren called your grandchildren. But then the analogy becomes a bit clumsy :).

Like I say, I don't necessarily agree that all appropriation is bad appropriation, but it certainly is a minefield.




RingTailedLemur

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #39 on: August 20, 2013, 11:41:15 AM »
Much as I would love to wear a sari or shalwar kameez simply because they look beautiful, the potential for it being offensive is just too high to risk it.

blahblahblah

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #40 on: August 20, 2013, 11:49:22 AM »
I think it depends on the individual situation.

Quote
The line of thought goes like this: you don't wear something associated with an oppressed group because often, for years, members of said group were mocked for wearing (or in some cases specifically prohibited from wearing) these items.

For a member of the privileged group to take these items and wear them purely because they like they way they look, and (because they are a member of the privileged group) not feel the weight of these concerns can feel like a slap in the face to some. 
That's pretty much it, I think.

It does bother me that, in America, a white person who wears a sari or bindi is seen as being multicultural and worldly, whereas an Indian person who wears a sari or bindi is seen as a foreigner who refuses to assimilate. I think this is why some people are wary of the whole thing. You can also see it with Miley Cyrus' current persona and her appropriation of black culture.

That doesn't mean that I think that a white person shouldn't ever wear a sari or a bindi, but people in general really do need to be sensitive of the situation and realize that others have good reason for being wary. Being dismissive and going, "But everyone appropriates from everyone else!! Am I not allowed to listen to hip hop music either?!" is not a good look.

Quote
What is the difference between this and a woman in India wearing jeans and a tee with tennies? As an American, I wouldn't think it odd to see western dress on a woman who might typically wear local cultural dress in her country.
Those jeans and tees are a result of global cultural imperialism. When you run around imposing your culture on everybody else, you  don't get to complain when people pick it up.

Maybe in a few decades, China will take over and we'll be following their lead instead. ;)

Quote
It's important to remember that the people wanting to wear these clothes did not participate in the abuse.
They still benefit from white privilege.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2013, 11:53:14 AM by blahblahblah »

guihong

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #41 on: August 20, 2013, 11:51:44 AM »
I was just curious if the fact that Lemur and TeenyWeeny are both British had anything to do with reluctance to wear Indian clothing, as Great Britain ruled India for two centuries until 1948.  Americans don't have that history.

Veering away from sticky topics, I was reminded of the Nehru jacket: http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/nehru-jacket-guide-mao-suit/, which Nehru himself didn't wear but it was based on a long tunic jacket he often did wear.  It was most popular back in the '60's and '70's, but I still see them occasionally today.



RingTailedLemur

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #42 on: August 20, 2013, 12:00:10 PM »
I was just curious if the fact that Lemur and TeenyWeeny are both British had anything to do with reluctance to wear Indian clothing, as Great Britain ruled India for two centuries until 1948.  Americans don't have that history.

Yes.

blahblahblah

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #43 on: August 20, 2013, 12:12:49 PM »
I think one benchmark is to look at the clothing item in question and see if the word "exotic" pops into your head. If it does, then maybe you shouldn't wear it because on some level you are characterizing the item as the Other, strange and foreign, and perhaps you like it for that reason*. You (general you) might think, "Well, I don't mean exotic in a bad way!" but trust me, it can be annoying and offensive regardless. People might think they're being complimentary, but speaking as someone who's been on the receiving end of similar "compliments"...no, thanks.

Sort of related - as an Asian girl, a dealbreaker for me where guys are concerned is if he praises my looks as being "exotic." I have way too much experience with non-Asian guys with "yellow fever" and certain phrases are total red flags. I think the same could extend to clothing.

* I've come across white Americans who like taking on other cultures because they're more interesting. According to these people, "We don't have an actual culture the way you do!" Yes, you do, it's just so dominant that it's everywhere around you and you can afford to ignore it because it's the default.

Teenyweeny

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #44 on: August 20, 2013, 12:34:34 PM »
Those people were not like me. Those people were terrible and racist. Technically, I don't even share DNA with them, because my ancestors were a group of people who specifically did not participate in those atrocities. The only thing we have in common is skin color. Not that that actually matters anyway, because we don't pick our forefathers.

Well, if you want to get technical, my great-great grandmother loansharked in the slums of a big city in order to survive, and was proud of the fact that her sons were the only kids on their street with shoes.  As far as I'm aware, none of my ancestors were involved in racist atrocities.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't have white privilege. I look white. I am white. I get all of the good things that come with that. If, as part of that, it's problematic for me to wear a sari, then I haven't lost much. I still get to be white. That's a pretty big deal in this world, unfortunately.

In the words of Chris Rock:

"There ain't a white man in this room that would change places with me.  None of you would change places with me.  And l'm rich! That's how good it is to be white. There's a white, one-legged busboy in here right now that won't change places with my black a**. He's going, ''No, man, l don't wanna switch. l wanna ride this white thing out. See where it takes me.''"