Author Topic: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"  (Read 10174 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

blahblahblah

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1994
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #60 on: August 20, 2013, 01:56:35 PM »
Quote
I will never experience the daily microaggressions of being a visible minority. 
Yep, and I think that some people just don't realize how exhausting these microaggressions are to deal with. People might look at my previous example (i.e. my exchange with the host) and think, "Well, what's the big deal?" But these microaggressions happen all the freakin' time. They build up. It's not just some show performer asking me where I'm from and what languages I speak. It's also the Subway employee who greets me with, "Ni hao!" (Dude, I'm not Chinese...and even if I were, I speak English.). It's the person congratulating me on my English. (It's my first language and I effing majored in English, are you kidding me?). It's the person trying to give me well-meaning advice to "be more assertive since you're in America, even if you're used to being submissive and not looking people in the eye because of where you're from." (That was a classic.) It's the person who finds out that I'm Korean and immediately goes, "Oh, I hate kimchi." (Um, okay? Good for you.) It's the person who tells me that she's going to call me by my last name because my first name is too weird to attempt. (Yeah, no. Although I think in this case some white Eastern Europeans and I could bond, lmao.) And in this case, it's people who act as though my culture exists only to spice up their own.

Microaggressions are like "death by a thousand cuts." Well, not death, you know... but the same principle that makes up the idiom applies here. All little things that build up into one huge aggravation.

NyaChan

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4107
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #61 on: August 20, 2013, 02:30:51 PM »
Don't want to detract from the very interesting conversation - but thought I'd pop in and note that a bindi can and does have religious significance for some (tends to be less so outside of India, often more of an accessory here in US) so it would be good to be careful before wearing. 

Chip2

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 232
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #62 on: August 20, 2013, 05:13:52 PM »
It has very much to do with the actual clothing itself. For example, Chinese do wear the qipao, or cheongsam, or variations of it for outings. Indians do wear the sari for outings as well. However, the more elaborate versions of the qipao and sari are reserved for special occasions like weddings and formal dinners. So it is like wearing a nice summer dress versus a ball gown or prom dress - you need to know the occasion and the type of dress that you own. Wearing a prom dress to your office is really like wearing a costume, and you would expect people to raise their eyebrows. Wearing an elaborate sari or qipao will get you a lot of giggles and stares from members of that cultural group. And they would probably assume that you're going out for a party.

Btw, qipao and sari are dresses for nice outings, meeting friends etc. If you're planning to go to the grocery store, you don't wear them. They are not the equivalent of jeans and t-shirt.

Now kilts are a different story. I don't think the Scottish wear kilts everyday for normal activities. So if you wear one, I do think you'd draw lots of attention.

You're absolutely right about kilts. In Scotland they're worn for the same types of events that Americans would wear a tuxedo. However, American culture has redefined the kilt into something that can be worn for any occasion from casual to formal.

I have a pair of kilts that get pulled out on a regular basis, but the kilt and accoutrements I select depend on the occasion, but I always get attention when I wear one. ;)

White Lotus

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 491
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #63 on: August 20, 2013, 07:25:11 PM »
Bravo to Blablabla!  You nailed it.

"Yellow fever boys"... I think I have a new name for my husband!  Truly laughing at this one! 

Tea Drinker

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1408
  • Now part of Team Land Crab
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #64 on: August 20, 2013, 07:32:09 PM »
Quote
The world would  be very boring to me if I wasn't allowed to ever discover things that wasn't already part of my existing culture. 
Except I'm not saying anything close to that, and I find that to be a fairly disingenuous argument.

Here's the thing: I don't see myself as exotic. Exotic means foreign, outside of the normal aesthetic. Asians are saddled with perpetual foreigner syndrome as it is ("Where are you from? No, where are you really from?"). Last week I attended a show that involved audience participation, and at one point the host asked me, "Where are you from?" I said New York. "Before that." I said California. "Well, that doesn't help me at all." He then asked me if I spoke any other languages. My friend and I were the only Asian people in the audience and he asked her what other languges she knew, too. Notably, he didn't ask any of the white audience members that question. For the record, I did like the show, but that exchange did make me feel uncomfortable and hit a sore spot.

Calling me or aspects of my culture "exotic" play right into that. I really don't need to be told that I'm "pretty but not in an all-American way" which is essentially what you are doing when you tell me that I'm exotic... I'm American, I was born and raised in California, and my look is as all-American as the next person's.

I understand not wanting to be singled out based on appearance or other factor. I was reacting to this part of your post.
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*.

So you are saying if I want to wear it because it looks exotic, I shouldn't.
But if I want to eat it, visit it, are participate in it because it seems exotic, that's OK.

I'm saying I don't understand the difference between wanting to wear something because it's exotic vs participating in any of the other experiences.

I'm not sure what she's saying, but what I'd say is that if the appeal is the exoticism rather than the taste of the specific food, or the way that you think that specific garment looks good on you, you're on shaky ground. If you are eating sushi because you have discovered you really like that kind of rice and the combination of it with raw fish, it's not exoticism, it's lunch. If someone made a big thing about eating sushi when it was a novelty where they live, and sneers at the whole idea now that they can get it pre-made at the local supermarket, they're paying for exoticism, not just fish and rice. The problem is making a fuss: even someone who got bored with sushi when it became ordinary can say "I think I'd rather have a sandwich" without making a fuss about how they were eating Japanese food before it was cool.

I don't think I was exoticizing when I wore an Ecuadoran cotton shirt; I like the way they look on me--I tend to like bits of bright colors--and it's useful to have a light-weight garment that keeps the sun off. ("Was" because the one I had wore out and I haven't found another I like.) I was treating it as part of my wardrobe, to be worn with the same kind of pants that I might wear with another summer-weight shirt. I wasn't making a big deal of "I am dressing like a foreigner"; I did explain once or twice, when asked why I was wearing long sleeves on a hot day, that this garment was designed for exactly the kind of weather and location we were in.
Any advice that requires the use of a time machine may safely be ignored.

nuit93

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1163
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #65 on: August 20, 2013, 09:07:01 PM »
I've been finding this thread interesting as well.  I do like looking at the fashions of other cultures-sari fabric is beautiful, even though I never could figure out how to wear it properly.

I do have a few outfits that were inspired by (or in at least one case, ordered directly from) websites that cater to Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women.  Mostly stuff that would not look out of line in the office, but with a more conservative look in mind: loose-fitting pants, long skirts, longer tunic-like tops and high necklines.  I love the look of headscarves but never felt comfortable with the idea of wearing one in public.

blahblahblah

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1994
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #66 on: August 20, 2013, 11:18:47 PM »
Quote
what I'd say is that if the appeal is the exoticism rather than the taste of the specific food, or the way that you think that specific garment looks good on you, you're on shaky ground.
Yep, that's it in a nutshell. Obviously I can't immediately discern *why* someone is into a particular type of cuisine or whatever, so it's not like I automatically send out little death glares of judgment upon seeing a white person scarfing down sushi or udon. I tend to give people benefit of the doubt until they give me reason to think otherwise. And for me, praising something (or someone) as being "exotic" when asked why they like it is a red flag. In my experience, the boys who had the temerity to call me exotic never didn't turn out to have yellow fever.

Like if you enjoy Korean food because you're a fan of spicy cuisine in general and you like the strong flavors associated with fermented stuff - we do love fermenting the crap out of everything - then fair enough. But if you like it because you think everything associated with Korea is super awesome and South Korea is a magical oriental country that farts rainbows and sunshine (don't laugh...koreaboos are a thing, although I think weeaboos are more numerous), then... um...

Aluminum

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 207
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #67 on: August 21, 2013, 01:30:09 AM »

That would put an awful lot of souvenir shops out of business. I love other cultures and I love multiculturalism. I try to be respectful of other people, but I'm sorry, I'm not going to give up my hand carved Kenyan statue and my Indonesian jewelry because I'm white.

And that's your call.  However, if your hand-carved statue or jewelry happens to be of cultural or religious import to another culture, and esp if it's a culture that has been colonized, some of us won't think you're being very respectful, but rather more using our culture to decorate your world.  You can do it, for sure, and there's not a thing that can be done to stop you.  But it doesn't mean that one has to believe it's respectful, even if it's shrined up in black velvet on a pedestal and with the best of intentions. Kinda like how if I were to display a crucifixion piece under lovely potlights over my marble mantle, 'cause it's so edgy and real, and acts as great thin-spiration for my diet, I should probably expect that I'll wind up offending a number of people I know.

(NOTE: There's a difference between "things I bought from this place", however, and "things I bought that have religious/socio-cultural significance to the ppl of this place".  For example, if you go somewhere that specializes in green-grey glass, and uses it a lot in their religious work, to buy a lovely pendant and earrings of green-grey glass is not, usually, an issue--it's a product of the locale.  IF, however, that green-grey glass is carved into a symbol of the local religion to which you don't subscribe, it becomes a murky situation, respect-wise.  Just as I would not like those who don't believe in my religion to wear my sacred pieces, neither shall I use another's religion's sacred pieces as decoration 'cause they look neat.)

And as to the "I don't have slaves, so slavery's not an issue" idea, I'd suggest that it's not so much about you, but about the culture that's been mined for appropriation by the dominant/colonizing culture. It's an argument that reminds me of people who talk so earnestly about being colour-blind...how nice for them that they have the ability to see beyond colour.  That's something that's not really afforded to many POCs in North America.

Hmmmmm

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6563
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #68 on: August 21, 2013, 10:30:51 AM »
Quote
what I'd say is that if the appeal is the exoticism rather than the taste of the specific food, or the way that you think that specific garment looks good on you, you're on shaky ground.
Yep, that's it in a nutshell. Obviously I can't immediately discern *why* someone is into a particular type of cuisine or whatever, so it's not like I automatically send out little death glares of judgment upon seeing a white person scarfing down sushi or udon. I tend to give people benefit of the doubt until they give me reason to think otherwise. And for me, praising something (or someone) as being "exotic" when asked why they like it is a red flag. In my experience, the boys who had the temerity to call me exotic never didn't turn out to have yellow fever.

Like if you enjoy Korean food because you're a fan of spicy cuisine in general and you like the strong flavors associated with fermented stuff - we do love fermenting the crap out of everything - then fair enough. But if you like it because you think everything associated with Korea is super awesome and South Korea is a magical oriental country that farts rainbows and sunshine (don't laugh...koreaboos are a thing, although I think weeaboos are more numerous), then... um...
I hope I'm not taking this down this completely off topic. But I'm really curious.

Exotic to me equals different. Something I've not been exposed to previously. I like new experiences, especially food.

So if I get the opportunity to try out some knew type of cuisine, I'm thrilled. Prior to tasting it, I have no idea if I like it or not. And if I don't like it I don't repeat eating it. If I do, then it goes into my culinary rotation. I don't eat things because they are trendy (I'm talking about you beets). Recently, I tried Ethiopian food. Not because I knew a lot about it and thought I'd enjoy it, but because I knew nothing about it and wanted to experience it. So in your opinions, is my decision to want to try Ethiopian primarily because it is new and different to me wrong?

A few years ago, a friend took a group of us on a "Little India" tour within our city. We startd with going to several small restaurants and trying some non-main stream items, some did henna painting, went to an Indian grocery store, and then did some shopping. The shopping included visiting a clothing store that sold Saris and the store owner assisted in demonstrating the proper method of dressing and gave us some instructions on how to select Saris for different levels of formality. While I find the Saris beautiful and flattering, I also found them more effort to put on than I want to deal with so didn't purchase one... and they are also pretty expensive. Another in our group did enjoy the fit and and style and purchased a one in a casual one. She loves wearing it when traveling as she feels well dressed, very comfortable and completely covered, as modesty is very important to her. She told me that if anyone ever comments, its that they usually assume she had lived in India for a while and picked up the custom there. If you saw my friend, what would your impression be?

LadyL

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2881
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #69 on: August 21, 2013, 10:41:55 AM »
I hope I'm not taking this down this completely off topic. But I'm really curious.

Exotic to me equals different. Something I've not been exposed to previously. I like new experiences, especially food.

So if I get the opportunity to try out some knew type of cuisine, I'm thrilled. Prior to tasting it, I have no idea if I like it or not. And if I don't like it I don't repeat eating it. If I do, then it goes into my culinary rotation. I don't eat things because they are trendy (I'm talking about you beets). Recently, I tried Ethiopian food. Not because I knew a lot about it and thought I'd enjoy it, but because I knew nothing about it and wanted to experience it. So in your opinions, is my decision to want to try Ethiopian primarily because it is new and different to me wrong?


"Exotic" has often been used as a pejorative meaning "other" or "primitive." Think of a British aristocrat talking about "those exotic natives, with their loin cloths and spears." It is a loaded term often linked with Colonialism. I think trying out things because they are *novel* is different than thinking about other cultures as mystical, magically, and almost alien like in their differences.

The negative version of "exotic" leads to stereotypes like the "wise martial arts guru" or the "magical negro." Their difference exists only as a contrast to the dominant culture, as a foil, not as a thing on its own.

blahblahblah

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1994
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #70 on: August 21, 2013, 11:11:29 AM »
Quote
Exotic to me equals different. Something I've not been exposed to previously. I like new experiences, especially food.
Well, I think there are different implicit associations/connotations with certain words. "Exotic" to me has a certain Othering slant and in my personal experience says something about the person's mindset. Like I said, I have never met a guy who called me exotic who didn't end up having yellow fever. So it's made me wary.   

I like trying new foods, too! So no hate there. I remember the first time I tried Ethiopian cuisine. When a friend asked me if I wanted to try it out, I said sure, because I had never had it before. I wasn't thinking, "Oooooh, that sounds so ~exotic." I wanted to try it for the same reason that I once went to a college football game, i.e. it was a new experience. No one (in America) would say that they decided to try attending a college football game for the first time because it was so exotic. The word definitely has certain implications IMO.

For the record, I did end up really liking Ethiopian cuisine. I liked it because I enjoyed the flavor profiles - someone once said that they were surprised I liked Ethiopian food when I didn't like Indian food, because to them Ethiopian and Indian cuisines were similar to each other, but I don't agree; I don't find the spices used in Ethiopian food to be as...intense? - and the communal nature of the meals.

Quote
If you saw my friend, what would your impression be?
I honestly probably wouldn't make any assumptions about her unless she gave me reason to think otherwise. Like if I started talking to her and she began talking about how India is some magical mysterious land where she wants to go in order to ~find herself a la Eat Pray Love. :P Not that your friend would do that!

kansha

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 315
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #71 on: August 21, 2013, 11:13:45 AM »
another example: how many times are immigrants criticized for wearing clothing from their native land, for not assimilating/blending in...but let the 'right' designer or celebrity appropriate said clothing, it's suddenly acceptable/fashionable....

alo, bravo blahblahblah...another asian american here who has heard the 'where are you REALLY from?' all too often...=/
« Last Edit: August 21, 2013, 11:17:09 AM by kansha »

Teenyweeny

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1664
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #72 on: August 21, 2013, 12:25:51 PM »
alo, bravo blahblahblah...another asian american here who has heard the 'where are you REALLY from?' all too often...=/

I know several people (of different ethnicities) who respond to this by blandly stating their hometown like it's the most super obvious thing in the world. Bonus points when they get asked, "No, but where are your parents from?" Extra super bonus points when the asker is frustrated by finding out that, SURPRISE, non-white people were also being born in the UK a generation ago.



RebeccainGA

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1207
  • formerly RebeccainAR
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #73 on: August 21, 2013, 12:32:00 PM »
alo, bravo blahblahblah...another asian american here who has heard the 'where are you REALLY from?' all too often...=/

I know several people (of different ethnicities) who respond to this by blandly stating their hometown like it's the most super obvious thing in the world. Bonus points when they get asked, "No, but where are your parents from?" Extra super bonus points when the asker is frustrated by finding out that, SURPRISE, non-white people were also being born in the UK a generation ago.
A friend in college did this - she is adopted, of color (ethnically Asian, but that's all she can guess), and her parents are white. She didn't mention she was adopted, just kept going with the small towns in the area that her family was from. I was afraid she'd get to the Mayflower before the person asking gave up.

StuffedGrapeLeaves

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 872
Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #74 on: August 21, 2013, 02:35:02 PM »
alo, bravo blahblahblah...another asian american here who has heard the 'where are you REALLY from?' all too often...=/

I know several people (of different ethnicities) who respond to this by blandly stating their hometown like it's the most super obvious thing in the world. Bonus points when they get asked, "No, but where are your parents from?" Extra super bonus points when the asker is frustrated by finding out that, SURPRISE, non-white people were also being born in the UK a generation ago.
A friend in college did this - she is adopted, of color (ethnically Asian, but that's all she can guess), and her parents are white. She didn't mention she was adopted, just kept going with the small towns in the area that her family was from. I was afraid she'd get to the Mayflower before the person asking gave up.

I have done this.  I really, really hate the "Where are you from?" "No, where are you really from" questions.  So I have answered in succession (not the real places, just examples): "New York" "Manhattan" "Upper West Side" "96th Street and Broadway" and so on. 

I also concur with blahblahblah's definition of exotic and why it doesn't just mean "different." 
« Last Edit: August 21, 2013, 03:42:23 PM by StuffedGrapeLeaves »