Wednesday, October 5, 2016

SlugLady Talks-- Cultural Appropriation

Hey guys! I'm back and it's good to be back! Welcome to SlugLady Talks, which will be short (or long) little segments where I talk about serious stuff. 

Things more serious then the “Reactions To” segment (Which will return, don't you worry). But I literally just made this segment up yesterday, which is why there is no title card yet.

And what better way for us to start then with---

*Looks at title*

...Hoo boy. Just had to go with the controversial stuff didn't I?

I've got a confession: I'm pretty stupid. Really! Ignorant at the worst times, naive at the best. Which is why I love to read. I try my best to educate myself so I don't use stereotypes and incorrect labels. I don't use the term Gypsy, I would never dress as a Mexican man for Halloween, and I would never walk into a church of any religion, and talk loudly, disrupting the people there. In fact, these days, if I'm in a church with a religion I'm not familiar with, I will let those more knowledgeable take the lead, and respect any traditions involved, whether it's washing my hands at a Shinto Shrine. Or wearing something to cover my shoulders at a catholic church.

But when I was a kid, it was different. My first experience with First Nations (Canadian Native Americans) was, like many 90s kids, the “Indians” from Disney's Peter Pan. But my first TRUE experience with First Nations culture was when my late dad took me and my brother to an actual First Nations festival. I was tiny, but I remember it clearly-- the costumes, the singing, the drums... and the incredibly insensitive outfit I was wearing. I cringe, now, thinking about the white top and skirt with beads hanging from the fringe along the bottom. I wasn't wearing a feather in my hair, and wasn't nearly as bad as the example below, but looking back, it was a bad idea. Maybe I got away with it cause I was 6 and stupid, and it was too late for me to change when we got there. Either way, no one said anything to me but I enjoyed the festival all the same and didn't realize what I did until years later. In fact I think I never wore that outfit again after that.


And to this day, I make mistakes. Just like every other human being out there. It's impossible to get everything right the first time. And it doesn't help that I have a reading disability and I'm not exactly... tactful. So when I get something wrong, I educate myself and strive to never make the mistake again. I've even told my friends, that are more knowledgeable in these areas, to be blunt with me when I screw up. And in this day and age, it's easy to get things wrong when there are so MANY labels out there, whether it's for culture, sexuality, or gender.

And I wouldn't be surprised if I am about to, or have already misspoke about something by accident.

In short--- I'm kinda a "Faux pas expert".

But for today, let's just focus on Culture.

First--- what do I think equals Cultural Appropriation?

I would say that when there IS cultural appropriation, it's when people take things from other cultures without fully understanding the "meaning or consequences" that come with it.

For example of "meaning"-- each feather from First Nation headdresses are, in fact, earned. So I can understand why someone would be offended by a costumed version of said attire,. Because while they or their ancestors had to work hard for it, the latter just spent 5 bucks at the dollar store. And it can, in fact, belittle the meaning behind the attire, when it is treated as a costume based on a stereotype.

For example of consequences: there's a long history of people with dreadlocks and cornrows being stereotyped against, especially those of color. So seeing a white person get praised for something that will get someone of color wrongly suspected by the cops, can indeed be offensive.

And in today's world, where it is so easy to look up the meanings behind different cultural symbols, it's hard to excuse ignorance. Especially when it's coming from celebrities that are make the mistake not once but several times.



But, as I said, mistakes CAN be made. For all the correct information out there, there is twice as much misinformation.

As a side note, this can happen to "white cultures" as well, whether it's European or American. In Japan, there are many stereotypes about American culture, that can be offensive to someone that is American. That everyone is blonde with blue eyes, everyone is fat, and the tap water is unclean. As you can imagine, some of these stereotypes are more harmful then others.

And there are still many terrible stereotypes about people that are Irish, German, Jewish, Catholic, etc. And many of these groups still have to deal with bigotry today.

Yes, culture appropriation is a thing that happens and we shouldn't stand for it. But I don't think the answer is to tell people they "can't", because it's not "their" culture. The "mine not yours" tactic never works. The answer is to educate. And though it won't work for everyone and there will always be haters, and bigots, it really is the best way to handle things. Because not everyone who is appropriating or APPEARS to be appropriating is doing it on purpose, or to spread hate.

In fact...cause this topic isn't controversial enough, lets take all these examples and imagine if the culture being appropriated was Muslim! Or any East Indian culture.

From Burqa wiki page

Imagine if wearing a Burqa became a popular fashion trend. Or a Hijab, or a Niqab. Doesn't really sound like that would end well, huh? For starters, anyone who is Muslim still has to deal with a huge amount of racism, whether they are wearing a religious garment or not. The Burqa itself has been banned and is continued to be banned in many places, whether due to security purposes or bigotry.

Then there's the FACT that there are people that believe that these veils are sexist and shouldn't be worn by anyone, at anytime, ignoring the feelings of women that CHOOSE to wear it themselves because THEY want to, and not because a man has forced them.
And then there is the OTHER FACT that there are still many women that ARE forced to wear them, whether they want to or not. 

Looking at the Wikipedia page of any of these veils for a moment, the list goes on: Some women must wear them in order to protect themselves. Women that wear them can have trouble finding work or being accepted into school, whether they're face is fully or partially covered.

So picture if you will, that celebrities suddenly started wearing these headdresses, in all kinds of designs and colors, not because they have joined the religion, not as a way to support the women that are bigoted against, not because they had been invited to a celebration where they were allowed to wear it ---

but because they thought it “looked cool”.

And that, in essence, is cultural appropriation. It takes a piece of culture, and instead of it being used for cultural exchange or appreciation, it is stripped down to nothing but a “look”. Surface value. Which kinda forgoes any kind of “appreciation” the wearer might be trying to show.

So what about someone who has converted to Muslim? Or someone that has adopted any kind of religion into their own? Are they appropriating the culture?
Well, usually, no. If someone has actually taken the time to research and invest themselves in the culture, I don't believe it's appropriation. If they understand that they will indeed have to deal with the same bigotry that any other Muslim has to deal with, then it's not appropriation. Once you take the step into immersing yourself in a culture, and strive to be part of said culture, you're not appropriating. It becomes much, much more complicated from that point on because it becomes a part of you. Of your culture.

So what should we do about cultural appropriation?

As I said--- Educate. And understand that the person doing the appropriating might just be ignorant. They could be part of a different subculture that has no idea the effect their appropriation is doing. And that's the next thing-- you need to determine if this person is indeed hurting the culture in question. The reason many Halloween costumes have come under fire, is because they communicate stereotypes, especially to young children, the very ones that we should strive to educate. And a lot of these stereotypes stem from mistreatment and the dehumanization of other races. Like when my junior high teacher dressed in black face basketball player for Halloween. That was... a train wreck.


And let me make this clear--- HARRASSING that person, is not going to help ANYONE. If anything, it makes you look like the bad guy. Suddenly you've gone from “trying to do the right thing” to being placed on the same level as the bigots you're fighting against. Plus, there's Nothing that incites people like the need to rebel. “I'm not going to let you push me around! I'll do what I want!”

So educate. And if that person refuses the education, then, well, that's their problem. They are one person in a very very big picture. I know that our world always talks about how “one person can make a difference”, but that line is usually talking about the educator. Not the educatee. If you get the message to a lot of people, and in a way they can fully evaluate it, understand it, without feeling pressure that they “CAN'T” do something, then we create change.

I mean, that's why I write this stuff.

So that's my cheesy ending to a controversial topic. Take it or leave it. Or write a demeaning comment. Which ever.

Anywho, if you want to hear more about Cultural Appropriation from different views, here's a little list of videos I watch in preparation for this.

GaijinGoombah's Overwatch skin Ban!? A Message to Cultural Leaders-- Talks about Tangential Learning, the use of Kali in video games, and his experience as an American teaching in Japan

RoamingMillennial- Hands off my Culture- The Myth of Cultural Appropriation Don't agree with everything but interesting video none the less--

MTV's Braless 7 myths about cultural appropriation Debunked-- Another interesting video

Black WomanScolds White Man For Dreads-- You've probably seen this but it's basicly what NOT to do

This is the SlugLady, signing off!

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