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Old 02 May 2018, 07:19 PM
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China Prom Dress That Caused a Furor in U.S. Draws Head-Scratching in China

When Keziah Daum wore a Chinese-style dress to her high school prom in Utah, it set off an uproar — but not because of its tight fit or thigh-high slit....Twitter users who described themselves as Asian-American seized on Ms. Daum’s dress — a form-fitting red cheongsam (also known as a qipao) with black and gold ornamental designs — as an example of cultural appropriation, a sign of disrespect and exploitation.

When the furor reached Asia, though, many seemed to be scratching their heads. Far from being critical of Ms. Daum, who is not Chinese, many people in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan proclaimed her choice of the traditional high-necked dress as a victory for Chinese culture.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/w...rom-dress.html
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Old 02 May 2018, 07:45 PM
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“This isn’t ok,” wrote someone with the user name Jeannie. “I wouldn’t wear traditional Korean, Japanese or any other traditional dress and I’m Asian. I wouldn’t wear traditional Irish or Swedish or Greek dress either. There’s a lot of history behind these clothes. Sad.”
Aside from all else, when someone says "Sad" now I see Trump and I see red.
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Old 02 May 2018, 07:53 PM
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There is actually less history behind most European "traditional" dress than people think.

Seaboe
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Old 02 May 2018, 08:06 PM
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I think it is possible to subject claims of cultural appropriation to rigorous analysis. In this case, I suppose a key question is how much the dress in question plays into stereotypes about the sexuality of Chinese or Asian women.

For cultural appropriation to be a useful criticism, I think it needs to be more than just a white person using something from a non-white culture. Otherwise there's no room for legitimate cultural exchange.
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Old 02 May 2018, 08:12 PM
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Also, just because (some) people in China don't think there's anything wrong with it, does not automatically mean it's appropriate in a multicultural society like the US.
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Old 02 May 2018, 08:16 PM
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I'm not really surprised that there would be a difference in reaction between Chinese Americans versus those living in China. The former are a minority which has often faced a wide variety of discrimination of stereotyping; the latter are an overwhelming majority who don't face that kind of thing on a daily basis and apparently don't see the type of dress as being something definitive about their culture, or an outsider wearing it as in any way threatening.

I admit that much of the concern about cultural appropriation baffles me, but of course as a white non-Jewish male American, I just don't have the same perspective as those expressing the concerns.
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Old 02 May 2018, 08:18 PM
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My rule of thumb is if you feel the need to get publically profane and vicious over the chosen attire of a teenage girl you do not know and will never meet then I feel very comfortable dismissing your comment(s) as trollish. If you wish to engage in reasoned debate over a serious issue then fine more power to you, but choose a different target.
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Old 02 May 2018, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Sue View Post
My rule of thumb is if you feel the need to get publically profane and vicious over the chosen attire of a teenage girl you do not know and will never meet then I feel very comfortable dismissing your comment(s) as trollish. If you wish to engage in reasoned debate over a serious issue then fine more power to you, but choose a different target.
Are you saying that you think there is no proper way to engage in reasoned debate about this specific instance?
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Old 02 May 2018, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
Are you saying that you think there is no proper way to engage in reasoned debate about this specific instance?
No. I am specifically referencing the attack tweets targeted at a teenager from total strangers. Donald Trump may think this is a way to debate with others. I don't share this POV.
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Old 02 May 2018, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by E. Q. Taft View Post
I'm not really surprised that there would be a difference in reaction between Chinese Americans versus those living in China. The former are a minority which has often faced a wide variety of discrimination of stereotyping; the latter are an overwhelming majority who don't face that kind of thing on a daily basis and apparently don't see the type of dress as being something definitive about their culture, or an outsider wearing it as in any way threatening.

I admit that much of the concern about cultural appropriation baffles me, but of course as a white non-Jewish male American, I just don't have the same perspective as those expressing the concerns.
So is the dress is an appropriation from Chinese people in China or from Chinese-Americans in the US?
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Old 02 May 2018, 08:52 PM
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What's happening in that group photo? The girls have their hands pressed together; I can't tell if that's a pose inspired by the dress or something else. If it's the former, then it's not just a matter of respectfully wearing a dress from another culture.

It's relevant but not dispositive that, as explained in the article, the dress is not a sacred religious symbol over which the people of China tend to feel protective. I think there are some things Westerners just shouldn't wear (bindis, for example) because it trivializes their significance, but that's not the case here. Again, if she's treating it as a costume and play-acting at being Chinese, that puts it in a different light than the act of wearing the dress alone.

Sue, I too lament that we live in an age where total strangers curse at teenagers over the internet for a prom dress, but failing to express yourself politely doesn't necessarily make your points wrong. This may be the first time this girl has been exposed to the criticism around cultural appropriation, but the critics have been banging this drum for a long time, and I imagine their patience has worn thin. I think there's room for debate about what is/should be acceptable, but I don't think we should dismiss the other side just because someone was rude.
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Old 02 May 2018, 08:57 PM
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Default When cultural appropriation debates leave us less knowledgeable about culture

Flare-ups over cultural appropriation have become such a routine part of our cultural dialogue that we could practically play Mad Libs with them. This week’s fill-in-the-blanks controversy: A Utah teenager wore a vintage cheongsam to her prom and is now being excoriated by certain denizens of the Internet for an act of alleged cultural theft. We’ve been through so many of these imbroglios that it’s probably easy to figure out which side you think you’re on. But it’s worth considering what arguments about cultural appropriation, cultural evolution and cultural exchange should accomplish — and whether the dialogues we’re having over and over again are actually helping us get there.

Ideally, a debate about cultural appropriation might result in a previously uncredited creator getting recognition or compensation for their work. At minimum, it should lead to more accurate knowledge of the history of a garment, culinary tradition or artistic style. Far too often, though, the conversations we have about cultural exchange don’t even do that: Instead, they end up reaffirming smug preconceptions of what it means to be virtuous.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.eea8091b735b
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Old 02 May 2018, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by NobleHunter View Post
So is the dress is an appropriation from Chinese people in China or from Chinese-Americans in the US?
I'm not sure this is a relevant question as worded. I don't think cultural appropriation is appropriation from specific people.

I would describe it generally as a person from outside the culture using something that is revered in, or symbolic of, a particular culture, in a way that is unconnected with or disrespectful of the culture. That's the appropriation part. Then the cultural appropriation can affect people and groups within the culture differently, and they may view it differently.

It makes sense to me that many in China would find it unremarkable, or pleasant. (Though not so likely if there was mocking of Chinese people involved. And things can negatively affect people even if they have no objection.)

Many Asian-Americans* might react differently, because there is a different context for them. Symbols of a minority culture being coopted by the majority culture can have an affect that they would be more aware of, and more directly affected by. The sense of one's identity as Chinese, or Chinese-American would be very different from the sense of identity as Chinese of a person living in China.

*I suspect more than just Chinese-Americans feel that this affects them, because there are analogous versions of this for many East Asian cultures, and Americans also often lump people of East Asian descent all together as "Asian." All of which is to explain why I used this more general term, which was not just unthinkingly lumping East Asians together.
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Old 02 May 2018, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Esprise Me View Post
What's happening in that group photo? The girls have their hands pressed together; I can't tell if that's a pose inspired by the dress or something else.
I believe the women in the photo are doing the namaste, wai, or one of the other similar greetings. The problem is that such a greeting is from Indian or southeast Asian cultures, not Chinese culture. (There is a somewhat similar gesture where the fist is placed in the opposing palm but that's not what they are doing).

I'm going to go with "pose inspired by spotty knowledge that mashes a vast region with hundreds of different cultures into a single vaguely 'Asian' psuedo-culture".

ETA: AIUI, that's a perfect example of one of the issues raised by some who complain about cultural appropriation; the appropriation is often mashing together a number of "similar" cultures into one big mass. Sort of how lederhosen is used to represent German people.
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Old 02 May 2018, 10:00 PM
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The 'namaste' gesture is becoming increasing common and more normalized. I wouldn't rule out that the use of it in the picture is completely unrelated to the dress.

Maybe this is a stupid question, but what's the meaning of the gesture the boys are doing?
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Old 02 May 2018, 10:24 PM
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According to Know Your Meme it is hand signs for "Vape Nation" a satire video making fun of people who vape.
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Old 02 May 2018, 10:35 PM
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The girls are doing a version of the gassho rei - they are bowing at the same time. They say they got the idea for the hand position from an internet star called H3H3, and had no idea it was offensive.
Knowing that, I know what the boys are doing as well. They are trying to show a "VN". This is from the same guy, and it stands for "vaping nation". I think that was supposed to be a parody of people who vape, but I could be wrong about that.

ETA - it clearly took me far too long to post this, and I got spanked.
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Old 03 May 2018, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E. Q. Taft View Post
I admit that much of the concern about cultural appropriation baffles me, but of course as a white non-Jewish male American, I just don't have the same perspective as those expressing the concerns.
And full disclosure here: I am a white non-Jewish male American (of eastern European descent, so I guess I'm a bit of a minority.)

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Originally Posted by NobleHunter View Post
For cultural appropriation to be a useful criticism, I think it needs to be more than just a white person using something from a non-white culture. Otherwise there's no room for legitimate cultural exchange.
If I may expand on what you're saying, it needs to be more than just a majority person using something from a minority culture. White people aren't the majority around the world.

Which is why I have to look at this from the other side of things. How is this any different than a man in Asia wearing a western style suit and tie? I don't profess to know the complete answer to this, but if someone could explain it so that I can accept the suit and tie but not this dress, I'd appreciate it. Otherwise this is just a case of someone respectfully adopting an element of another culture they admire.

To me cultural appropriation (in the negative sense) has to involve the intentional or ignorant belittling of something with deep religious or cultural importance to another group. I'm not even sure the simple use of such important elements qualifies, but I'm willing to accept that as a possibility.

Cultures can influence each other without the negative connotations implied by cultural appropriation. Elvis Presley was no more "appropriating" Black culture than Chuck Berry was "appropriating" White culture. Both were getting influences from other elements of the American culture that they were both part of, and Rock and Roll was better for it.

As always, I respect opinions that differ from my own, as I accept different opinions on other sensitive topics.

P.S.: I'm not including any consideration of the hand gestures here; that can be a separate argument. They may be totally unrelated to the dress, and may have significance we're not aware of.
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Old 03 May 2018, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post
Which is why I have to look at this from the other side of things. How is this any different than a man in Asia wearing a western style suit and tie? I don't profess to know the complete answer to this, but if someone could explain it so that I can accept the suit and tie but not this dress, I'd appreciate it.
In many cases, the man in Asia is wearing a western suit because there is a dress code from without rather than because he wants to. AIUI, when leaders or businessmen from Asia began to deal with Western powers, they adopted some or all of the dress of Western culture. Leaders from Western powers, often having the upper hand militarily or economically, did not feel the need to adopt Eastern dress at all or at least not to the same degree*. Over time, the custom of Western dress began to percolate down to the rest of the business world.

* This is, I feel, key to the whole thing. Was a cultural item taken from another culture so the taker would seem less "backwards" than the culture taken from? If so, then it is likely to be cultural imposition rather than appropriation.
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Old 03 May 2018, 05:29 PM
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I don't know that I'm the best person to be answering any of this, but nobody else seems to be doing so, so I'll try. [I note that while I've been typing GenYus has also taken a stab at part of it.]

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post
How is this any different than a man in Asia wearing a western style suit and tie?
The western style business suit has arguably been imposed by the deliberate expansion of western style business practices throughout the world in general. I don't think wearing the clothing of the culture that's taking over has the same implications as wearing the clothing of the culture that's being replaced, though it has its own implications.

(Admittedly, whether a hundred years from now we'll see China as having been taking over starting during this chunk of time is unclear. But I doubt most USA teenagers see it that way right now.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post
To me cultural appropriation (in the negative sense) has to involve the intentional or ignorant belittling of something with deep religious or cultural importance to another group.
I think 'ignorant' is what might apply in this case.

One of the things about 'ignorant' is that people may not understand that they are belittling something, because they may have no idea whether what they're doing does affect a matter of cultural importance or whether they're using it in a way that's upsetting in that culture.

And I wouldn't be surprised if the clothing in question isn't considered of cultural importance in China, where it may still be in common everyday use (I've no idea, plus which there's an awful lot of China and I don't suppose all parts of it have the same clothing traditions), but might be considered of cultural importance to people of Chinese heritage in the USA, where it's unusual clothing and might be becoming of ceremonial importance; though I also have no idea whether that's so or not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChasFink View Post
Elvis Presley was no more "appropriating" Black culture than Chuck Berry was "appropriating" White culture.
On the one hand, the mixing in the USA (and elsewhere) of musical traditions from multiple continents has certainly been very good for the music.

On the other hand, Presley made a great deal of money and got a great deal of fame and respect by using inspiration from black musicians at a time when almost all of those musicians were relegated to the sidelines, and even the few who got some general recognition were routinely massively disrespected. Presley got the adulation, and the money, and the title of 'King'. The people he took much of his music from got told to go to the back door, or to stay out of the building altogether.


It's not a simple question, in any of its manifestations. I don't think that means people shouldn't talk about it. Presley seems to have talked about it some, though of course not using the modern terminology.
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