Author Topic: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"  (Read 9952 times)

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guihong

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #45 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 #46 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 #47 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.

Millionaire Maria

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #48 on: August 20, 2013, 12:22:50 PM »
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.

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.

I am keenly aware of the benefits I enjoy, because of where, when, and to whom I was born. And I am extremely grateful, daily, to have gotten so lucky. But grateful and guilty are two different things. I don't feel guilty for being lucky. No one should. Almost every person on Earth is luckier than someone else.

When I see people of different races enjoying components of my culture, it makes me feel good. I enjoy components of other cultures on a daily bases. I had Japanese food the other day. My purse was handmade in Bali. I have a necklace that was made from lapis lazuli mined in Afghanistan. I used to wear my hair in cornrows. I have a hard time believing that a Japanese person would be upset that I enjoy sushi, or that an African American person would be angry that I consider their traditional hairstyles beautiful. Wouldn't they actually consider it an affirmation? I know I do.

My biggest objection to the whole idea of cultural appropriation as a bad thing has absolutely nothing to do with clothing, music, food, or art. It's because I truly believe that it is one of the most effective means of maintaining the "us vs them" mentality.
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Teenyweeny

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #49 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.''"



RebeccainGA

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #50 on: August 20, 2013, 12:40:05 PM »
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 :(
You'd be surprised what people will say to strangers online that they wouldn't say to them in person.

I have, and wear, salwar suits. I've gotten compliments on them, from culturally Indian people, because they do flatter most body types. However, I know that I wouldn't wear one in wedding or funeral colors, except to a wedding or funeral. If you are being respectful, not wearing them as a costume (wearing bindhi or massive amounts of self tanner/bronzer or henna tattoos all over your hands unless it's an occasion where they are appropriate) then you are just fine. In fact, we had a lady at the office a few months ago in one, and our new programmer (who is from India, and here as a very recent immigrant) told her how much he liked the look, as it made him feel like he could wear his own clothes from home if he wanted.

jaxsue

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #51 on: August 20, 2013, 12:40:29 PM »
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

As I wrote in a PP, I live very close to a town that has a huge Indian population. The main street there is so fun to look at (all Indian-owned businesses catering to that community). The clothes are amazing! One of these days I'm going to go shopping there.  :)

jaxsue

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #52 on: August 20, 2013, 12:42:50 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.

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.

Per the bolded: that's true. I might be unusual, in that my family is mainly English Canadian and very UKish, culturally speaking. My cousins were missionaries to India in the 1920s. So I am very aware of the British/India backstory, but many Americans aren't.

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #53 on: August 20, 2013, 12:47:26 PM »
I'm learning a lot from reading this thread, thank you.

Ms_Cellany

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #54 on: August 20, 2013, 12:50:46 PM »
I have a loose, sheer tunic that I wear with loose linen pants; the overall effect is very much like a shalwar kameez. I love it because it's so flattering & comfortable, especially in the nasty Texas summers. My Pakistani, Indian, and Chinese co-workers all love the outfit and I always get lots of compliments.
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Millionaire Maria

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #55 on: August 20, 2013, 12:59:44 PM »
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.''"

But why is it just the sari? Why is it acceptable to eat Indian food but not wear Indian clothing? We eat burritos, bannock, curry, ginger beef, and sushi all the time. We put beautiful paintings on our walls and listen to rap and reggae. What is special about the clothing? What is it specifically about saris and kimonos that make them more culturally significant? We embrace and enjoy so many wonderful, beautiful things from all over the world every single day. I genuinely do not understand why the clothing is the exception.

I love my life and don't particularly want to trade places with someone else. But if I had to, there would be lots of people on my list of candidates who are not white. In fact, I'm pretty sure Oprah Winfrey would be my number one choice  ;D.
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Teenyweeny

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #56 on: August 20, 2013, 01:08:51 PM »
But why is it just the sari? Why is it acceptable to eat Indian food but not wear Indian clothing? We eat burritos, bannock, curry, ginger beef, and sushi all the time. We put beautiful paintings on our walls and listen to rap and reggae. What is special about the clothing? What is it specifically about saris and kimonos that make them more culturally significant? We embrace and enjoy so many wonderful, beautiful things from all over the world every single day. I genuinely do not understand why the clothing is the exception.

I love my life and don't particularly want to trade places with someone else. But if I had to, there would be lots of people on my list of candidates who are not white. In fact, I'm pretty sure Oprah Winfrey would be my number one choice  ;D.

That's an interesting question. I guess, for me, it would be about visibility. You (general) can eat noodles in public, and it's usually a) not super obvious and b) over in about ten minutes. Also, you are guaranteed to be using food as it was meant to be used! :)

Clothing is something that is immediately obvious, all the time that you are in public. It's wayyyy more visible. Also, there's a risk that you are wearing the clothes inappropriately. People of 'x' origin have suffered due to that visibility and perception of 'otherness'. To assume such visibility casually, from a place of priviege, can feel hinky to some.

Like I say, I'm on the fence on this one, and tend towards thinking that respectful and appropriate wearing of 'non-costume' items can be OK.



RingTailedLemur

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #57 on: August 20, 2013, 01:09:33 PM »
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.''"

But why is it just the sari? Why is it acceptable to eat Indian food but not wear Indian clothing? We eat burritos, bannock, curry, ginger beef, and sushi all the time. We put beautiful paintings on our walls and listen to rap and reggae. What is special about the clothing? What is it specifically about saris and kimonos that make them more culturally significant? We embrace and enjoy so many wonderful, beautiful things from all over the world every single day. I genuinely do not understand why the clothing is the exception.

I love my life and don't particularly want to trade places with someone else. But if I had to, there would be lots of people on my list of candidates who are not white. In fact, I'm pretty sure Oprah Winfrey would be my number one choice  ;D.

I think it applies to things which can be "decorative" - e.g. domestic ornaments, dream catchers, personal accessories (jewellery, hats) as well as clothes.

Judah

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #58 on: August 20, 2013, 01:12:46 PM »
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 :(

Who are the people saying this? Other white people? Why does a white person's opinion about use of Indian/Guatemalan/African cultural items matter more than the opinion of Indian/Guatemalan/African? Nothing irks me more than someone telling me how I should feel or what I should think, and, to me, someone outside of my culture claiming to speak for my culture on cultural matters is worse than someone misappropriating my cultural items.

In short, if your Indian friends are telling you it's fine, why do care what anonymous white people online think?
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RingTailedLemur

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #59 on: August 20, 2013, 01:16:34 PM »
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 :(

Who are the people saying this? Other white people? Why does a white person's opinion about use of Indian/Guatemalan/African cultural items matter more than the opinion of Indian/Guatemalan/African? Nothing irks me more than someone telling me how I should feel or what I should think, and, to me, someone outside of my culture claiming to speak for my culture on cultural matters is worse than someone misappropriating my cultural items.

In short, if your Indian friends are telling you it's fine, why do care what anonymous white people online think?

I don't know them all, I couldn't tell you their races.  I take your point about speaking for other people, it is something that irks me too.

I care because I am trying to take a lot of opinions on board before doing something that may or may not be touchy.  I don't know many people from India - maybe half a dozen - and the topic hasn't come up with more than one.  I can ask the others, if it won't offend.