Author Topic: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"  (Read 9563 times)

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blahblahblah

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #75 on: August 20, 2013, 11:18:47 PM »
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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

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #76 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

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #77 on: August 21, 2013, 10:30:51 AM »
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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

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #78 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

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #79 on: August 21, 2013, 11:11:29 AM »
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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.

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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

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #80 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

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #81 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

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #82 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

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #83 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 »

jaxsue

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #84 on: August 21, 2013, 02:43:18 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.

Per the bolded: I am WASP, and I have to laugh when someone says their culture isn't interesting...they are all interesting! It's because they haven't dug deep enough. I find my culture (many cultures, as not all western Europeans are the same) fascinating. Where I live (NJ), I am becoming the minority. So the dominance isn't an issue here.

My nephew is about to get married. His fiance is 100% Chinese-American. I wouldn't call her exotic. She is family.

jaxsue

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #85 on: August 21, 2013, 02:51:40 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. ;)

True. My X, the piper, had different things for different events. For more formal there was the Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket, fancier sgian dubh (kilt knife), and horse-hair sporran. The military kit was for less formal events.

jaxsue

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #86 on: August 21, 2013, 02:56:30 PM »
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...=/

So sorry you have to deal with that. I have a sister-in-law from Japan, and my nephew is marrying a lovely girl who's Chinese-American next month. I would never assume someone isn't born/raised in the states just because they don't look like I do.

As for native dress, I live where a vast number of immigrants live - newish immigrants. I see saris and other native dress all the time. Doesn't faze me. I find it fascinating.

Amanita

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #87 on: August 21, 2013, 05:30:22 PM »
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....


I have to agree- that double standard isn't right- shaming somebody of Indian/Chinese/Korean/other descent for wearing their ethnic dress just sucks.
When I see Indian women wearing Sari, I don't think "exotic" or "foreign", I just think "Cool!" Likewise the clothes of other cultures. I feel that if somebody wants to wear their ethnic clothing, they should absolutely feel free to do so without being shamed, whether they're showing ethnic pride, doing it just for comfort, or whatever.

And yes, I get a bit annoyed at the "PC police"- that is, other (usually) white people who take it upon themselves to be the arbiters of what's appropriation, and feel entitled to be incredibly self righteous with anyone who disagrees. Especially when they persist in this stance, even over the wishes of people from the culture that they're "standing up for", when those people say "I'm not offended if somebody wears my outfit/learns to play my music/eats my food/practices my dance or martial art"

Hmmmmm

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #88 on: August 21, 2013, 05:52:22 PM »
LadyL & blahblahblah,
Thank you for responding. I really didn't realize that "exotic" could have a negative conotation to individuals who could be on the receiving in.

 
 

Millionaire Maria

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Re: Wearing clothing from another culture S/O "Feeling a bit like a prop"
« Reply #89 on: August 21, 2013, 11:49:43 PM »
And yes, I get a bit annoyed at the "PC police"- that is, other (usually) white people who take it upon themselves to be the arbiters of what's appropriation, and feel entitled to be incredibly self righteous with anyone who disagrees. Especially when they persist in this stance, even over the wishes of people from the culture that they're "standing up for", when those people say "I'm not offended if somebody wears my outfit/learns to play my music/eats my food/practices my dance or martial art"

I agree. In my experience, most people are happy to share their culture and are flattered when others enjoy it.

I'd also like to say that although there are a lot of different opinions and experiences in this thread, I'm so happy it hasn't gotten rowdy. Sometimes I think people have a tendency to think "Well, I'm not racist and I feel this way about a particular racial issue. That person feels differently than I do, so their probably prejudice." I don't see any of that here and it makes me really happy. I think a lot of us are learning.
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