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A word on cultural appropriation







I’m a big supporter of cultural appropriation and I think the whole phenomenom gets far too much hatred on Tumblr. I personally appropriate a lot. It means that I don’t stick with the ways of my own culture but I explore (or have explored) other cultures for wisdom, aesthetics, values and ways of life. Yoga and meditation are examples of cultural appropriation that I take part in. They have not evolved in my own culture, they originate from Asia.

Borrowing ideas from other cultures is completely natural and I think it’s a very good thing. It encourages interaction between cultures and understanding of different cultures. It also helps people make their lives better. Think about anything, any one cultural thing that you’re attached to, be it science, pop music, Romeo and Juliet or whatever. If you think about it carefully, you realize that it has no one distinct origin. It’s a result of cultural appropriation. Take Romeo and Juliet for example. Shakespeare was British but the British did not invent the alphabet in which Romeo and Juliet is written. All culture that is complex at all is a result of borrowing and combining from other cultures.

I understand that it’s silly if someone borrows something from another culture and then parades around, saying “I’m so Native American now!!” or “I’m Japanese now!!!!1” That’s childish. Of course a whole culture can’t be packaged and defined like that by someone who hasn’t even lived in that culture. But a culture can be explored and borrowed from and this can be done honestly and respectfully, without childishly claiming that one “represents” the appropriated culture.

Of course, for children simple symbols are the most natural way to get to know new cultures. Children love playing Indian princesses, Spanish flamenco dancers and so on. For children a headdress can represent Native American culture and that’s ok. Little kids are not complex enough to understand subtler nuances of a strange culture, so let them play. As kids grow up, they should learn to relate to other cultures more maturely. That doesn’t have to mean making the choice of either leaving other cultures alone or becoming a part of them. It means understandind and respecting the fact that cultures are complex systems that no individual can ever fully grasp (not even one living in that culture). That doesn’t mean that people can’t appropriate, to explore strange cultures and take ideas from them. When one’s own cultural identity is well-aligned, one can have the capacity to absorb things from other cultures.

When I do yoga, I don’t go prancing around the Internet (or anywhere else, either) claiming to be “Asian” now that I do yoga. I’m fully aware that I’m European and that yoga is something that I have borrowed from another culture. I don’t intend to absorb the myths and beliefs that Indian yogis seem to embrace. I’m a Western person who does yoga. That’s completely different from an Indian yogi, yet there’s something that I share with the Indian yogi. There’s some wisdom that I have learned from another culture. I have made yoga work well with my Western way of life and it has a lot to give to me. I’m happier with yoga than I would be without. So, no matter how many Tumblr users condemn cultural appropriation, of course I’m not going to question my dear hobby which helps me be happy just because it’s appropriated from another culture. I’m just writing these things to explain to people why there’s nothing wrong with cultural appropriation.

As I previously wrote, I dislike the idea that cultures are commercialized and sold to people in neat packages that shrink the cultures into something that they were not in the first place and then lots of financial profit is made by so “abusing” another culture. That’s disgusting in my opinion. But that’s not the kind of appropriation that I’m talking about.

If you see a picture of a white person wearing a headdress, you don’t know why they’re wearing it, so you don’t have to be so angry about it. You don’t know how profoundly empowering the person in the picture may find the culture that they’re appropriating, and calling them racist because they’re white is just fucking stupid and closed-minded. Even if their relationship with the culture they’re appropriating is shallow at the moment, you don’t know where it’s growing. Maybe they’re just getting to know the strange culture, maybe they’re in the process of exploring it for deeper meanings behind all the aesthetics. I just don’t understand why you don’t let people do that. It makes me sad because some of those people may be actually sensitive to criticism.

It reminds me of a time in my youth when I was a vegetarian and I spoke for animal rights and I wore pants that were mass-producted because a) I didn’t know that much about the production of clothes and b) I had gotten the pants from my parents, so even if I had had something against them, I wouldn’t have had the heart to not wear them because I loved my parents. Anyway, once when I was talking about animal rights, a guy cynically remarked that my pants were mass-producted and had probably resulted in the death of a few creatures. I was quite young and felt hurt because of that remark. I’m not saying that it completely crushed my self-esteem or anything but I just love that young girl that I was back then so much that right now I feel like defending her and anyone who may be in a similar situation, receiving harsh and non-understanding critique from bitter individuals who think they’re “protecting” a culture when they’re in fact just being cruel and closed-minded.

You know there is a lot of fucking stupid and incorrect shit in this post but I just want to highlight this gem:

Take Romeo and Juliet for example. Shakespeare was British but the British did not invent the alphabet in which Romeo and Juliet is written. All culture that is complex at all is a result of borrowing and combining from other cultures.

What the fuck?

Though I think the part about their pants was my favourite.

What the fuck did I just read? Does the OP even know what “appropriation” means? I can’t. So many wrong with OP’s post.

Reblogged for context of my “what the fuck?” response. 

I really want to just punch the OP in the face until the stupid fuckery stops spilling out of their mouth. Fist twitching.

OP is possibly one of the most narrow-minded people I’ve ever heard of regarding cultural appropriation despite how “open-minded” she would love to think she is.  I would do a critical analysis but I don’t even have the energy to go through every word of this long-ass whiny tirade.  Pretty much same reaction as Kinsey and digatisdi lul.

(via punwitch)