Author Topic: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"  (Read 9191 times)

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baglady

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #30 on: August 19, 2013, 07:20:57 PM »
I take my cue from who is selling the items. A few years ago, every mall had a Fashions of India store (maybe they still do -- I rarely go to malls these days). They had lovely skirts and tops and dresses and pants and jewelry, but no saris. I don't know if that's because they didn't want non-Indians wearing them, or they figured they just wouldn't sell all that well to non-Indians.

I've also been to a lot of events with vendors of various ethnicities selling clothes and other items from their cultures. I figure if they are selling them to "outsiders," then they are OK with outsiders wearing or using them. If a particular fabric/pattern is only worn for Ethnic Group X weddings, funerals or worship services, then they probably aren't making shirts or tote bags out of that fabric to sell to non-X people. If they are, they don't get to be offended that non-X person is using her X Wedding Fabric tote bag to schlep groceries.

It's all about context. A non-Indian wearing a sari for Halloween? Not cool. A non-Indian wearing a sari to an Indian wedding (presuming it's not a bridal sari)? Very different.
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Shea

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #31 on: August 19, 2013, 07:49:56 PM »

This would be the big thing, for me.  Every culture has some sort of clothing/jewelry/hairstyles which carries a secondary meaning, or is appropriate for only one segment of the population.  Often it is something you have to "earn" - you've gone through particular religious rites, you're a specific age and gender and social status, you have a specific occupation, etc.  We've got this in the US too - plenty of people would be offended if I went around in a military officer's uniform (having had no military experience), wearing a yarmulke (not being male or Jewish), wearing a wedding ring if I wasn't married, wearing a sundress/pigtails/makeup if I were a man, etc.  Obviously not all of these would be equally offensive to everyone, but most people would find them ranging from odd to really rude.


That one is kind of subject to the situation. I've been to numerous Seders and Jewish weddings where non-Jewish male guests donned yarmulkes as a sign of respect. I'm not Jewish, but my boyfriend is and from what I gather from spending holidays with his family, it appears to be the done thing. They're Conservative, but I've seen the same thing happen at Orthodox and Reform events.

People appropriate the traditions of other cultures all the time. As long as one isn't doing so in an effort to be disrespectful, I think it's fine. I dislike the notion that I'm not allowed to wear or do certain things because of my race. I think that's a pretty universal feeling actually. Exclusiveness is not a flattering attribute to any culture.

I do think there are times when intent doesn't matter, and it's offensive anyway. There's an unfortunate trend of some people wearing faux Native American war bonnets to music festivals and the like. Even though they almost certainly intend no offense, and simply find the bonnets aesthetically pleasing, the fact is that a non-Native person who has not earned the right to wear a war bonnet should not do so. Among Native cultures that have such regalia, there's an immense amount of spiritual significance attached to them, and if you haven't earned the right to wear one, your doing so is highly offensive to members of that culture, whether you mean offense or not.

Items that are simply clothing or decoration, however, are I think more up for grabs. For instance, I own some Navajo silver earrings (purchased from the Navajo artist who made them), a huipil (embroidered blouse worn by Maya women in southern Mexico and Guatemala) and a variety of other items I've bought while traveling. They're all distinctly from a culture of which I am not a member, but they have no spiritual significance in their cultures of origin, they're just regular items of clothing. That, I feel, is not offensive.

I disagree with this. If a person hasn't earned the right to wear something, then they shouldn't wear it. Race has nothing to do with it. If it's offensive for a non-Native to wear it because they haven't earned the right, then it should be just as offensive for a Native who hasn't earned the right to wear it.

I think that's exactly where this issue gets sticky. If you (general) are offended by a person wearing distiguishing garb, because they haven't earned it, that's legitimate. If you are offended by a person wearing distinguishing garb, because they are of a different race, that's a problem for me.

Well, race does have something to do with it. Continuing with the Native example, I can't think of a scenario in which a white or otherwise non-Native person could earn a war bonnet (it may be possible, but I find it unlikely). One must be a member of that particular Native culture in order to even have the prerequisites to earn the honor of a war bonnet. That isn't to say that a person who appears to be "white" couldn't actually be Native (lots of fully fledged tribal members have a good portion of European ancestry and thus don't "look" Native; my best friend is one such person) and so wear a war bonnet properly, but that's not really the point. Anyway, I don't know if I'm making a lot of sense, but what I'm trying to say is that while cultural/religious aspects are often the most important factor, race does enter into it in the sense that they various factors are often intertwined.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2013, 07:55:01 PM by Shea »


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nrb80

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #32 on: August 19, 2013, 08:02:41 PM »
I doubt anyone would be offended by a non-Indian wearing a sari.  The closest sari offense I've seen is a couple of times at weddings bridesmaids running around in public in a choli and petticoat - even though everything is covered, it's still running around in your underwear (the folks offended would not have had an issue with a short revealing dress, it was the underwear aspect, not the skin).

Just use common sense.  Don't wear a plain cotton sari to the opera's opening ball, or a gold embroidered silk sari grocery shopping, though the reverse is fine.  Learn to move in a sari before going out in public lest a wardrobe malfunction happen. 

Plus borrowing of Indian clothing in Western fashion has been going on for a century plus....

Dr. F.

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #33 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 #34 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 #35 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 #36 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 #37 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 #38 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 #39 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 #40 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 »



Millionaire Maria

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #41 on: August 20, 2013, 11:25:53 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.
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Teenyweeny

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #42 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 #43 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 #44 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 »