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Author Topic: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo: KEY UPDATE Post 13  (Read 26541 times)

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#borecore

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My baby sister (very young adult) just got her first tattoo. It's symbolic, it's beautiful, it's ... offensive cultural appropriation.

Normally I'd just keep my big mouth shut, but (1) it's a huge deal to her, given that she's been through some of the absolute worst stuff I can imagine recently (2) she's quite the artist, she drew it, and it really is gorgeous and I'm sure she knows it and (3) I'm her big sister and she looks up to me, the crazy kid.

Any suggestions? I'm not ready to saddle her with a talk on "symbols white people just don't put on their bodies." At least not yet, if ever--but at the same time, if a person of that culture ever sees it, I just don't know.

(Additional info: It's on her wrist, it's large, she's in school to become a secondary teacher, and ... the image is very obvious. It's something pop stars and hipsters have been getting lately, so maybe she thinks it's OK? I don't know. I can PM with what the image actually is if it's relevant, but I'd rather not have it on the actual thread--I promise it's not a swastika or anything!)
« Last Edit: April 20, 2014, 04:12:09 PM by jmarvellous »

NyaChan

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2014, 01:57:56 PM »
You know, I think it really does depend on the actual tattoo.  Putting a picture of a Hindu deity would be going too far, but if its just some kanji, I wouldn't think it was a big deal (unless there was some religious significance that she didn't share).  Either way, it is permanent now right?  Don't know that you can say much beyond cautioning her about covering it at work because "some people might take offense to x,y,z and why take risks with your job?"

#borecore

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2014, 02:14:47 PM »
It's definitely in a gray area between "blatantly offensive" and "pretty picture." But I don't know that a Native person would feel that way (if that gives you any idea). Googling it comes up with less violent reactions than other appropriation (to give you a hint, Miley Cyrus has a less nice-looking one -- but as I said I'm not sure if this thread is itself google-able, so I'd prefer not to use the exact word), but that doesn't make it OK in my book.

It's no question that it's not part of "our" culture, it's part of theirs. And I'm a pretty vocal advocate for these sorts of things in my daily life; I'm just trying to be sensitive to 2 conflicting desires here.

gellchom

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2014, 02:53:47 PM »
Is it a 12-letter word starting with D?  (I googled MC's tattoos to guess.)

If so, all I can do is guess.  I wouldn't automatically assume that this belongs in the "offensive appropriation" column, but my opinion is meaningless; I need to hear what Native American ehellions have to teach us about this. 

Good for you for being concerned about this issue; I am, too.  I sometimes see this at weddings (using parts of other cultures' rituals and customs just because they seem nice to the couple, who have no personal connection to those cultures), and in addition to it looking forced and precious, I find it offensive.  Other people's rituals and ritual objects have serious meaning to them.  It's terribly disrespectful to treat them as gimmicks or decor.  I once read on another site a post by a groom who enthusiastically shared that at his Lutheran wedding (the HC were both Christian, no connection to Judaism), his minister had suggested using the Jewish tradition of the bridegroom breaking a glass at the end of the ceremony as a "way of setting the ceremony apart from the ordinary."  (On top of which, the explanation he said the minister gave for the custom was completely inaccurate and about as un-Jewish as you could imagine -- every Jewish person I've told it to has found it hilarious.) 

Treating others' ancient customs and rituals as a smorgasbord of fun ideas is really offensive -- like buying a rosary to wear as a necklace. Is a tattoo of a d__________r, if my guess is right, in that category?  I'm looking forward to learning.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2014, 03:00:34 PM by gellchom »

#borecore

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2014, 02:59:59 PM »
Yes. And it's very clearly "hip," while at the same time very clearly (to my mind, which I think is what matters as far as I approach it) appropriation. I think that makes it harder to talk about.

We grew up with them in our bedrooms, purchased on a road trip, but I've since grown up and realized how naive we once were. It's unfortunate that she didn't have that realization step before the permanent-inking step.

gellchom

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2014, 03:06:19 PM »
Okay, let's assume it does fall into the offensive appropriation column.

So your question isn't that, it's what you should do/say about it.

My advice is: nothing.  If she were still considering but hadn't done it yet, that would be different.  But do you think she is going to remove it over this?  I doubt it.  So all you can accomplish is to make her feel bad about her choice and herself, which it sounds like you especially want to avoid while she is still in a fragile place and because she values your opinion so much. 

At most you could mention that when she is in situations where some people might find it to be an OA, she might consider covering it with long sleeves to avoid inadvertent offense.  In other words, don't get into whether or not it is an OA, just speak only to the very narrow issue of sleeves when in doubt.

But given how sensitive she is to your opinions, she will probably hear even that as a failure to live up to the opinion she wants you to have of her and take it to heart more than you intend.  So unless you think there is really something to be gained here, I'd let it go.

Aeris

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2014, 03:12:39 PM »
You might find this article useful in how you assess how you feel about her tattoo.

http://jezebel.com/5959698/a-much-needed-primer-on-cultural-appropriation

My personal view is that dr***c******s really aren't that problematic in the landscape of potential cultural appropriation.

JenJay

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2014, 03:34:26 PM »
Is there a reason why we aren't saying what the tattoo is? It's been hinted about strongly enough that anyone can figure it out, so why not say it? Has it become another something that used to be completely innocuous and is now offensive and I'm just clueless to that?

As for what to say, you described it as "gorgeous" so that's what I'd tell her. The time to say "I'm not sure that's appropriate" would have been before she got it, if she asked, but it's definitely too late now.

NyaChan

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2014, 03:36:18 PM »
Is there a reason why we aren't saying what the tattoo is? It's been hinted about strongly enough that anyone can figure it out, so why not say it? Has it become another something that used to be completely innocuous and is now offensive and I'm just clueless to that?

As for what to say, you described it as "gorgeous" so that's what I'd tell her. The time to say "I'm not sure that's appropriate" would have been before she got it, if she asked, but it's definitely too late now.

I think we are trying to avoid it becoming google-able in order to protect jmarv's privacy

JenJay

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2014, 03:40:02 PM »
Is there a reason why we aren't saying what the tattoo is? It's been hinted about strongly enough that anyone can figure it out, so why not say it? Has it become another something that used to be completely innocuous and is now offensive and I'm just clueless to that?

As for what to say, you described it as "gorgeous" so that's what I'd tell her. The time to say "I'm not sure that's appropriate" would have been before she got it, if she asked, but it's definitely too late now.

I think we are trying to avoid it becoming google-able in order to protect jmarv's privacy

Ahh, that makes complete sense, thank you. I get a little paranoid because of all the times a word I thought was completely fine ended up being offensive to someone. I hate when that happens!  :-\

#borecore

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2014, 03:42:23 PM »
Yep, sorry! Thanks everyone.

I think I'm just thinking long-term because, ya know, it'll be there forever. I don't know if there's EVER a way to say anything other than a platitude.

gellchom

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2014, 03:50:48 PM »
You might find this article useful in how you assess how you feel about her tattoo.

http://jezebel.com/5959698/a-much-needed-primer-on-cultural-appropriation

My personal view is that dr***c******s really aren't that problematic in the landscape of potential cultural appropriation.

That was a really, really good article!  Thank you for sharing it.  I recommend the comments, too: some were dumb, but many of them raised really good points in all different directions. 

One string talked about NA patterns being used in clothing by some retailer, I think.  That got me started thinking about plaid (although, fun fact: the association of specific tartans with specific clans is in fact a creation of the tourism and marketing industry), paisley, Greek architecture, Russian lacquer patterns, Armenian pottery designs, etc.  And someone made an excellent point about food somehow being exempted from the whole issue, even though that is probably the area in which we borrow from -- or learn from, depending on how you want to put it -- each others' cultures.

I do think it's no solution always to err on the safe side when we are doing it only with minority cultures, because that can get condescending.  But I also think it's wrong for people who are not members of the group in question to proclaim that something is okay and that "no one should be offended."  It's one thing to have an opinion, quite another thing to declare oneself the arbiter of how others are allowed to feel. 

This is a really interesting topic for people who want to make sure they are being respectful and mannerly.

#borecore

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2014, 04:11:45 PM »
UPDATE:

My sister is a little twerp.  ;D

She was just pranking me to see if I'd fall for it. It was a wonderfully rendered dream catcher, but made entirely of permanent marker (so it's there for the long weekend and gone by the time classes resume!). Once I got over the re-shock, we had a conversation about why it might not be a good idea to get one for real.

She has her stuff together more than I give her credit for, especially with all the recent drama.

Interesting conversation nonetheless!

JenJay

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Re: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2014, 04:13:28 PM »
UPDATE:

My sister is a little twerp.  ;D

She was just pranking me to see if I'd fall for it. It was a wonderfully rendered dream catcher, but made entirely of permanent marker (so it's there for the long weekend and gone by the time classes resume!). Once I got over the re-shock, we had a conversation about why it might not be a good idea to get one for real.

She has her stuff together more than I give her credit for, especially with all the recent drama.

Interesting conversation nonetheless!

Well played, little sis!  :D

NyaChan

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LOL awesome


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