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  #21  
Old 10 March 2014, 11:14 PM
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Attitudes like this strike me as fairly ridiculous in light of the growing global community.
They also bug me as they are limiting choice. More choices, to me, are almost always good things. Thus, while some of the mixing and matching that goes on is slightly amusing to me, I see it as a sign of progress when you have the Asian guy who is into "thug culture", or the black guy is into Hinduism, or whatever. I think it brings us closer together in a way not really possible 50 years ago.
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  #22  
Old 11 March 2014, 01:09 AM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
Got it. Thinking about hulu dancing instead.
We'd better hope you're Native Hawaiian then. Based on your surname, I might have suggested Morris dance, however there is speculation that it may have been 15th century cultural appropriation from the Moors.
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  #23  
Old 11 March 2014, 02:55 AM
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Women I have confronted about this have said, ďBut I have been dancing for 15 years! This is something I have built a huge community on.Ē These women are more interested in their investment in belly dancing than in questioning and examining how their appropriation of the art causes others harm. To them, I can only say, Iím sure there are people who have been unwittingly racist for 15 years. Itís not too late. Find another form of self-expression. Make sure youíre not appropriating someone elseís.
Emphasis added. It's fair to say people should examine how their behavior may cause harm. But when criticizing them for not doing so, it's only fair to tell them what harmful behaviors they've missed. And after reading through this piece, I'm still not sure exactly what it is the author thinks is harmful about white women doing belly dance.
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  #24  
Old 11 March 2014, 03:49 AM
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I'm still really struggling to understand the whole cultural appropriation thing, actually. There are a number of situations in which it makes sense that a white person doing something in the style of a person of color is offensive, but it seems half the time I hear accusations of "cultural appropriation" it looks more like cultural appreciation, or simply niche style choices going mainstream, which seems pretty benign. Katy Perry's "Unconditionally" performance at the AMAs, in which she sang about overlooking all her lover's flaws and loving him no matter what he did while wearing something halfway between a chengosam and a kimono? Yeah, I can see how that's racist. It plays off--and thereby reinforces--the stereotype of Asian women as subservient, quiet, loyal, and obedient, and plays into the Geisha fetish many white men don't just secretly nurse but openly impose on real Asian women. Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop" performance at the VMAs, in which she sang about drugs while twerking and slapping the buttocks of her black back-up dancers? That one's a little less clear to me, but I can see how she's sorta leaning on contemporary stereotypes about African-Americans as a kind of shorthand to express her new identity, diametrically opposed to her squeaky-clean Disney image, as a hard-partying, hyper-sexual badass.

But the Samira Layalis of this world? That's even less clear. It would help if the OP author had given us more than vague generalizations. (I did Google "Samira Layali," but I only found the Facebook profiles of two Moroccan women, one living in Germany, and another woman in Laayoune, Western Sahara, none of whom appear to be belly dancers. If there's a white woman dancing under this name, she needs a better publicist.) Are they sexualizing what is meant to be a women's-only celebration? Degrading something sacred by making it about entertainment and fitness? That's the argument these nonspecific white women belly dancers seem to anticipate and argue against, but she kind of dismisses it and vaguely reasserts her thesis that this is harmful to Arab women without explaining why:
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This dance form is originally ours, and does not exist so that white women can have a better sense of community; can gain a deeper sense of sisterhood with each other; can reclaim their bodies; can celebrate their sexualities; can perform for the female gaze. Just because a white woman doesnít profit from her performance doesnít mean sheís not appropriating a culture. And, ultimately, the question is this: Why does a white womanís sisterhood, her self-reclamation, her celebration, have to happen on Arab womenís backs?
I wonder what she would have thought of my former belly dance instructor. Was she appropriating culture because she taught herself belly dance by watching music videos and the mostly white women who dance on weekends at Middle Eastern restaurants? Or was it OK because she was actually an Arab woman, albeit one who never got invited to a wedding where belly dancing took place?
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  #25  
Old 11 March 2014, 12:32 PM
BrokenBiscuit BrokenBiscuit is offline
 
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I can understand her being protective of her culture and annoyed by the feeling of outsiders diluting it. But her expectations are unreasonable. She can't dictate what dances individual people are allowed to do, and censuring them for not sticking to acceptable cultural boundaries is IMO not conductive to fighting racism or sexism.

The dress thing is more difficult. To me, intentions do matter. If someone is invited to a Muslim wedding and wears an asian dress i think that's appropriate and no more than you'd do to fit in at any wedding. If you grab all your white friends and use the occasion to dress in midriff bearing saris, kohl eyeliner and pull Bollywood poses in the photos it's offensive and clueless. It's not as easy with dancing outfits though.
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  #26  
Old 11 March 2014, 03:54 PM
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So you think it is wrong to have a Bollywood themed party unless one is Indian?
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  #27  
Old 11 March 2014, 04:13 PM
BrokenBiscuit BrokenBiscuit is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Beachlife! View Post
So you think it is wrong to have a Bollywood themed party unless one is Indian?
It wasn't a Bollywood party though. The example I mentioned was a specific one that I've seen evidence of on on Facebook of people going to a wedding in clothing that's not even from the bride's culture never mind their own and is totally inappropriate. In that context, it does read as dressing up "Asian" while for fun without being sensitive to the feelings of others.

Not claiming it's directly applicable to picking a costume to belly dance in, but my point was that there's a whole spectrum of reasons you might dress outside your culture, many are fine, some are dodgy, some are clueless, some are offensive and we'll all draw the line in slightly different places.

Edit- reread my post and realised it wasn't clear- yes, it was the same scenario, they wore that to a Muslim wedding. That explains the confusion
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  #28  
Old 11 March 2014, 04:33 PM
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I'll admit that I struggle with the idea of cultural appropriation. But I do try to listen when something tells me that they feel like something I participate in might be harmful.

I first encountered this with yoga. I loved doing Hatha yoga classes. It was often the spiritual highlight of my week where I could really find ways to make connections between my body and my mind. But then I read an article critiquing white appropriation of yoga.

I felt defensive. My instructor was taught yoga in India. My class heavily focused on meditation. I didn't understand what was wrong with that. I did try to keep my mind open to how I might be harmful, but never quite understood.

But I think I'm beginning to now. Mostly, it's because I can't find another Hatha yoga class that even compares to the one I took at my old gym with my old instructor. Now, all I see are "Yoga Fit," or "Slow Burn Yoga," or other classes that simply take the yoga poses and incorporate them into a workout routine. There's no flow, no connection. It's all about building strength and getting more flexible and there's lip service to meditation at the end of practice, but it just feels forced.

I've found that most of these instructors are trained in large classes that get them to the point they know and can hold the poses, and tell them how to put a work out routine together, but it's completely divorced from the culture it comes from.

The yoga I've encountered in the past few years is all about the workout and, IMO, completely misses the point of yoga. This feels like cultural appropriation. I can understand why people whose culture is suddenly "chic" with the majority feel defensive because, as so often happens, people come in to find ways of marketing it for the larger audience and lose the "heart" and background of what it stands for.
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  #29  
Old 11 March 2014, 05:02 PM
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If they were doing the can-can, would this writer say that unless their French they shouldn't?
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  #30  
Old 11 March 2014, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Beachlife! View Post
So you think it is wrong to have a Bollywood themed party unless one is Indian?
Obviously. It's also wrong to watch a Hollywood movie if you're not 'Merican.

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Originally Posted by Ellestar View Post
The yoga I've encountered in the past few years is all about the workout and, IMO, completely misses the point of yoga.
For them, the point of yoga is exercise and flexibility, not spirituality. What would you have them do, abandon a routine that is effective for their health in order to be politically correct? They could change the name from yoga to something else if that appeased anyone, but for every person it did, there would be another who complained that that made it even worse.
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  #31  
Old 11 March 2014, 05:20 PM
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I think there are two separate issues with cultural appropriation:

1. This is what cultures do. They pull cool things from other cultures and bake them into their own. The US is probably the most notorious/best culture about doing that. And frankly, syncretism creates pretty much all of the best cultural memes we have. Jazz. Rock and roll. Tex/Mex food. Creole. Even things like "fusion" pizza (think: California Pizza Kitchen's stuff). None of these things would exist without a cultural conversation. And I'm sorry, this is stuff to cheer on, not whinge about.

And on a related note, culture is not a thing you can "steal". Your culture remains intact if I appropriate some aspects of it. I am not forcing you to eat spaghetti and meatballs when I choose to eat hummus. Maybe you don't agree with the way that I'm eating hummus - perhaps you find putting it on pretzels to be beyond the bounds of how hummus is supposed to be consumed. Well, guess what? You don't own hummus. Your culture doesn't own hummus. My culture doesn't own it either, and if someone else decides to do something further with it, that's entirely their prerogative. This is what it means to live in a multicultural world; other people will try on aspects of your culture for size. Not to be too mean about this, but... deal with it.

2. That being said, I can certainly understand if there is push-back if people are appropriating items from other cultures disrespectfully. I think it's one thing for a white person to take up belly dancing. I kind of agree that if you're buying sexy Arabian clothes and being like "look at me I'm in a harem lol" you're obliquely insulting the folks whose culture you're appropriating. That's mean in a completely different way than what people whinging about appropriation are on about, but it's still mean and I think we shouldn't do that.

I don't think this should be taken too far though. As an example of appropriation from another side, some of the best Japanese anime out there is the result of syncretization between Japanese and American culture. Cowboy Bebop, which mixes in jazz and the mentality of the Old West in with science fiction, is a fantastic world which I wanted to see more of when it came out 15 years ago and which I'd still like to see more of. Another series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, repurposes a lot of Christian (particularly Catholic but not limited to Catholicism) mythology in its own story of alien invasion. It gets *really* weird towards the end (and the movie is bonkers) but it's also very thought provoking for a work of its time (it's almost 20 years old now).

While I think that sometimes Japan *does* err on the side of flat-out making fun of non-Japanese culture (the black guy with the big afro in FF7(?) being the worst example of this, I think), it also produces some really cool stuff and I for one am glad that we in the US do not get as pissy as some in the Middle East get when others "steal" our culture. I am also mindful of the fact that it doesn't seem nearly as much like theft to us because we're already the dominant culture in much of the world and, well, our culture encourages this, but to an extent that's a circular argument (I'd argue that a huge part of why the US culture is so dominant is because we *do* appropriate from other cultures so often).
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  #32  
Old 11 March 2014, 05:33 PM
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It is mid March and there are many inappropriately dyed green things for sale. This gets an eye roll from me because it looks silly but I don't feel like this is actually hurting Ireland or belittling the hard work my immigrant ancestors had to do. I'm going to avoid the parade where they don't bother to remove the purple beads from the green and gold ones on St. Patricks day and I'll do my own bit of celebrating.
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  #33  
Old 11 March 2014, 05:50 PM
lavender blue lavender blue is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Slick View Post
I think there are two separate issues with cultural appropriation:

1. This is what cultures do. They pull cool things from other cultures and bake them into their own. The US is probably the most notorious/best culture about doing that. And frankly, syncretism creates pretty much all of the best cultural memes we have. Jazz. Rock and roll. Tex/Mex food. Creole. Even things like "fusion" pizza (think: California Pizza Kitchen's stuff). None of these things would exist without a cultural conversation. And I'm sorry, this is stuff to cheer on, not whinge about.

And on a related note, culture is not a thing you can "steal". Your culture remains intact if I appropriate some aspects of it. I am not forcing you to eat spaghetti and meatballs when I choose to eat hummus. Maybe you don't agree with the way that I'm eating hummus - perhaps you find putting it on pretzels to be beyond the bounds of how hummus is supposed to be consumed. Well, guess what? You don't own hummus. Your culture doesn't own hummus. My culture doesn't own it either, and if someone else decides to do something further with it, that's entirely their prerogative. This is what it means to live in a multicultural world; other people will try on aspects of your culture for size. Not to be too mean about this, but... deal with it.
There are some people who would argue that any 'fusion' or '-style' restaurants are examples of cultural appropriation, particularly if the restaurant is owned by a white chef. Granted, the inability of minority chefs to get funding and acknowledgement for their ideas is something that needs improvement, and concern about supplying ingredients for hip new trends at the cost of native populations is valid. But I don't think that the umami power of soy sauce changes because of the ethnicity of the cook or that it's put on hamburgers instead of sushi. Inspiration about uses of soy sauce is not limited to Asian chefs.
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  #34  
Old 11 March 2014, 06:37 PM
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I can't wrap my head around this because I can't wrap my head around the concept of culture in general.

A culture is just a collection of ideas, traditions, habits, and other shared concept. So basically the whole idea of "cultural appropriation" is trying to argue that if someone else has a good idea you're not allowed to incorporate it into your world view.
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  #35  
Old 11 March 2014, 07:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellestar View Post
...
I first encountered this with yoga. I loved doing Hatha yoga classes. It was often the spiritual highlight of my week where I could really find ways to make connections between my body and my mind.....
Which culture 'owns' yoga? Are you trying to say that it was okay for you to do this yoga because you declare it to be 'real'. But other yoga isn't 'real' yoga and therefore it is culturally appropriated?

Even among Hatha yoga instructors teachings can vary widely, how do you know which ones are real and which ones are cultural appropriation? And if an Indian does 'yoga' for fitness is that wrong or only if a white person does it?
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  #36  
Old 11 March 2014, 07:30 PM
BrokenBiscuit BrokenBiscuit is offline
 
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Originally Posted by JoeBentley View Post
I can't wrap my head around this because I can't wrap my head around the concept of culture in general.

A culture is just a collection of ideas, traditions, habits, and other shared concept. So basically the whole idea of "cultural appropriation" is trying to argue that if someone else has a good idea you're not allowed to incorporate it into your world view.
I basically feel the same way and some people are completely unreasonable, but I can see why people get upset in some cases- culture and identity are probably felt more acutely if you're from a group that's marginalised for that identity or has been historically. Eg if you're racially Native American and it's a sincere and deep part of your identity it's probably a bit rich to see the same culture that demolished Native American spirituality and iconography give it back to you as something it was never intended to be or worse, as a joke.

But while I think it's polite to be sensitive to people's POV and listen to what they have to say, I don't know how to please people like the writer of the OP article and I'm not inclined to.
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  #37  
Old 11 March 2014, 08:15 PM
Ellestar Ellestar is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Beachlife! View Post
Which culture 'owns' yoga? Are you trying to say that it was okay for you to do this yoga because you declare it to be 'real'. But other yoga isn't 'real' yoga and therefore it is culturally appropriated?
I'm not saying it was "okay" for me to do the yoga I was doing, but I'm not saying that it wasn't, either. In fact, the yoga I did was probably one or two steps divorced from the way Indian culture practices it. However, I only realized this when I saw it taken much further from the original.

I'm definitely not qualified to state which yoga is culturally appropriated or not, but I can see a trend in making it more "commercial," or something that is more "palatable" to the majority. The last yoga class I took didn't even feel like yoga, to me.

Quote:
Even among Hatha yoga instructors teachings can vary widely, how do you know which ones are real and which ones are cultural appropriation? And if an Indian does 'yoga' for fitness is that wrong or only if a white person does it?
Like I said, I'm not the arbiter of what's culturally appropriated yoga or not, but there has been a definite change I have noticed over the years as yoga has become more popular. Suddenly, Hatha classes are renamed "yoga for beginners," which can be true, but it's also not quite accurate. There's no meditation in these classes, no chanting, none of the more advanced poses. I've come out of more than one class with tears in my eyes because I went there to lose myself and refresh my spirit, but only succeeded in light stretching and a few poses. I've stopped going to yoga.

Where it becomes problematic, I think, is when workout yoga (more frequented by the majority, from what I've seen) becomes the only thing available. I haven't seen anything resembling the yoga I fell in love with in over five years. It becomes problematic when some people (and I include myself in this) don't even know what it originally felt like and may never be able to in the future.

I also don't necessarily think fitness yoga is wrong, no matter who does it. But I do think they should be up front about what it is (and with a lot of the new labels, they are). That way, I don't go in expecting what I've thought is more traditional yoga instead of a good way to sculpt my glutes.
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  #38  
Old 11 March 2014, 08:42 PM
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Or does appropriation only happen when white people do something?
Pretty much.
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  #39  
Old 11 March 2014, 09:14 PM
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I wondered when I read the article if she would be okay with a Latina doing Middle Eastern Dancing in any form since that woman wouldn't be white.

Orientalism isn't just appropriating another culture but ALSO selling it back to the original culture as though the new version was their own. These days I feel like the original cultures (for lack of a better term) can own what they do and allow foreign mash ups or not if they want. However, I don't think they have any space to control what other people do.

For all the OP author knows there are Latinos cooking her food at the Middle Eastern restaurant where the white woman is dancing.

To hijack my own post - My favorite local Middle Eastern restaurant had a server who looked just like James Marsters as Spike. I thought it was funny that a place with garlic in every dish would have a vampire as a waiter.

Last edited by Aud 1; 11 March 2014 at 09:22 PM.
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  #40  
Old 11 March 2014, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by BrokenBiscuit View Post
Eg if you're racially Native American and it's a sincere and deep part of your identity it's probably a bit rich to see the same culture that demolished Native American spirituality and iconography give it back to you as something it was never intended to be or worse, as a joke.
And the Persians probably weren't too keen on the Greeks who conquered them appropriating their culture. The Greeks probably weren't too keen on the Romans who conquered them appropriating their culture. And the Roman Brittannians probably weren't too keen on the illiterate Anglian and Saxon barbarians who conquered them appropriating their culture. But they didn't just ape those cultures, they kept them going, advanced them. That's how global civilization develops. Even in the face of conquest and historical injustices, cultures exchange important ideas and in the process spread the good ones. Cultures improve and advance the state of civilization, far faster than it can happen in total isolation.

There wasn't one single Native American culture. There were hundreds of cultures. And each one of them borrowed lots of ideas from the others and gradually spread them. Sometimes through peaceful trade, but other times because one tribe was conquering/"demolishing" another. If they were all isolated each one of them would have far less culture to appropriate. The only thing stopping them from borrowing ideas from Eurasia over the millenia was an ocean, otherwise such exchange would have been a natural part of their cultural evolution. No culture is static and very few cultures developed all their own ideas with no influence from others.

Now some drunk sorority girl in a headdress and war paint isn't exactly a very valuable improvement to our shared culture, so the disrespect there probably outweighs any negligible benefits from that. But if tribal clothing were to influence fashions in ways that were not just a joke, then that's fair game. It's how civilization has always worked.
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