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Author Topic: Cultural appropriation
scifibum
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http://www.salon.com/2014/03/04/why_i_cant_stand_white_belly_dancers/

I think I read this because Tommy either liked it or commented on it on Facebook (now I can't find the link on FB anymore).

This - cultural appropriation - is a topic that leaves me completely divided.

One the one hand:

I can see how cultural symbols and practices are often treated without respect, and are reduced to casual fashion statements. Even when they are taken seriously (and the linked article explains one way this occurs) the attempt to imitate is often offensive - amounting to caricature. I can see how that dilutes or perverts the significance of those elements of culture. I can see how deeply frustrating that probably is to people who belong to the traditions where those symbols originated.

On the other hand:

The idea that there's any original culture that has title to a particular symbol or expression seems pretty iffy. These traditions all started somewhere, but where they started is rarely, I think, identical to where they are now. I think past centuries had a slower pace of cultural intermingling, and various factors (religion, royal fiat, both at the same time, physical isolation) may have enforced a more uniform and slow-to-change culture in the past. But even if the pace has changed, I don't think the tendency to imitate and adopt aspects of other cultures is at all new, and except for the most isolated and peculiar societies, I suspect much of what they *are* came from this same tendency.

I do have some sympathy for how annoying and offensive cultural appropriation may be. But I don't think it's realistic to participate in a multi-cultural society and not have it occur. There's no good way to make others attach the same significance to your symbols that you do. There's no good way to restrain someone from exploring an art form that they find interesting.

I expect I will try to let my kids know if they seem to be appropriating cultural symbols or practices that I suspect to be important to others, and encourage them to be sensitive to the offense they may cause (hence discourage them from going ahead with it). I think that's probably the right way to attempt to show some respect. But I think it's a lost battle, and there's simply no way that cultures can intermingle without mutual imitation.

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Seneca
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The more one group tries to isolate cultural practices as belonging to them and 'off-limits' to everyone else, the more it promotes hatred, intolerance, bigotry and bias.
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Pete at Home
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correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the wrongness of cultural appropriation the essential foundation of apartheid? How I'd this different than saying "why I hate black golfers"?

[ March 05, 2014, 04:34 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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NobleHunter
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If Arab women own belly dancing, can't they teach it to whomever they please? How brown does a woman have to be before she can legitimately belly dance? And bad arguments by your opponents doesn't necessarily strengthen your arguments.

That's not to say there isn't a problem with appropriation in belly dancing; I don't know (though Arabic stage names and heavy make-up seems like one). But she describes dancing as a communal activity, so why not share it among new communities?

That's a particularly hostile reading of appropriation, Pete. Proper examples of appropriation (as I understand it) transform markers of cultural identity into caricatures and propagates stereotypes about the group. It also tends to erase meaning in cultural differences and drive legitimate cultural performances out of the public sphere.

Hmm. Maybe the author has more of a point than I thought.

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Pete at Home
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The author isn't much of an Arab I'd she insists that Arabs are "brown".
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Pete at Home
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" That's a particularly hostile reading of appropriation, Pete"

History is hostile to some. Apartheid was the first theory of cultural appropriation just like Dredd Scott was the first real case of scotus federal activism.

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Pete at Home
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How do you distinguish "white girl should not twerk" from "spear chucker should not have gun?"
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scifibum
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I admit twerking is one of the examples that is very hard for me to take seriously.

However, I can see why it's painful. Miley Cyrus has nearly maximum privilege. (The exception being that she's not male.) And when SHE twerks, a lot more people pay attention than when the original twerkers twerked. She exploits her privilege* and fame to fool lots of people into thinking that twerking is what white female pop stars are doing these days, instead of knowing that it originated among black female dancers in the South. This identifying feature is no longer remotely identifying, and she didn't actually need it.

So yeah - I can see why it irks. Even if my personal opinion is that twerking is stupid.

But I'm not going to say that Miley shouldn't be allowed to twerk, either, or that people outside the-group-whose-claim-to-twerking-is-most-legitimate should revere the importance of that practice to that subculture.

Let's hope I never use the t word so many times in one post again.

*privilege is kind of a key thing here, I think. When a black southerner adopts broadcast standard american english instead of her native vernacular, she's most likely doing so because she NEEDS to in order to reduce her disadvantages.

[ March 05, 2014, 05:19 PM: Message edited by: scifibum ]

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NobleHunter
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Pete, because one is an edict from the ruling class and the other isn't.
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Seneca
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Cannot tell you how many times I've dealt with this absurd issue. Being of uncommonly-mixed lineage, half Japanese, quarter black, quarter caucasion Ashkenazi Jew, I've faced discriminatory attitudes in some interesting settings. Visiting Japan it was made clear to me that some Japanese were more accepting of pure-caucasion Gaijins than of half-breeds, and some obviously had a big problem with the quarter black.

To look at me you wouldn't see much of the caucasion at all, though when I was a cop I've met many blacks who thought I was part hispanic and gave me a hard time for it.

My kids have gotten involved with lots of heritage stuff, like volunteering to help with Japanese cultural displays and events at their schools, as well as some African stuff. They've told me they get weird reactions and even a few people were outright hostile toward them and assumed they had no business being involved. I guess all that pales in comparison to the hard discrimination I got growing up and visiting the south, but I do find it funny that if people want to be accepted, why do they go to so much trouble to differentiate cultural customs and who can be allowed to "use" them.

[ March 05, 2014, 07:12 PM: Message edited by: Seneca ]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
I admit twerking is one of the examples that is very hard for me to take seriously.

However, I can see why it's painful. Miley Cyrus has nearly maximum privilege. (The exception being that she's not male.) And when SHE twerks, a lot more people pay attention than when the original twerkers twerked. She exploits her privilege* and fame to fool lots of people into thinking that twerking is what white female pop stars are doing these days, instead of knowing that it originated among black female dancers in the South. This identifying feature is no longer remotely identifying, and she didn't actually need it.

So yeah - I can see why it irks. Even if my personal opinion is that twerking is stupid.

But I'm not going to say that Miley shouldn't be allowed to twerk, either, or that people outside the-group-whose-claim-to-twerking-is-most-legitimate should revere the importance of that practice to that subculture.

Let's hope I never use the t word so many times in one post again.

*privilege is kind of a key thing here, I think. When a black southerner adopts broadcast standard american english instead of her native vernacular, she's most likely doing so because she NEEDS to in order to reduce her disadvantages.

I specifically used that twerking example so as not to be taken seriously, SciFi. Apartheid twerking? Please someone tell me they laughed at my hyperbolic argument.


How do you use the term legitimate and twerk in the same clause?

[ March 05, 2014, 07:44 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by NobleHunter:
Pete, because one is an edict from the ruling class and the other isn't.

Precisely. Hitler was just a funny little thug of the beer hall putsch, until he got power.
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scifibum
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Don't worry, I didn't misunderstand you Pete.

It wasn't easy to write the clause you asked about. [Wink]

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Pete at Home
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Good. because it was hilarious. Glad to hear that I was laughing with you and not at you
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Pete at Home
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Ah.

So when the perky white oppressor takes her wrecking ball to the proud African american twerking heritage, it's a hostile twerkover, but when a black man wins a golfing tournament, we should lament that he has been ... gasp ... culturally assimilated. Victim of white oppression. Why those sneaky honkies! They win even when you beat them at their own game!

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NobleHunter
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The assimilation thing is apparently a big issue for black activists. Do they create and protect their own culture in defiance of their oppressors? Or adopt mainstream ideas and assimilate into the majority? No easy answers.
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Pete at Home
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So when a movie introduces an armor-clad spastic named Sir Twerks-a-Lot, has the white oppressor been infiltrated, or Africanized like those Brazilian killer bees? As postmodern scholars we must ask the question, who is twerking whom?
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D.W.
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quote:
No easy answers.
Sure there is.

There is no way to preserve the perceived good of a unique cultural identity while eliminating all the negative reactions by those who identify with a different cultural identity.

We all want to believe that we, as an individual and as a smaller more exclusive group, do something better, are smarter, more artistic, more resilient or more favored by a higher power than the others. Then we can't figure out why those others don't like us! Or we just decide that they are jealous of our success, or worse.

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Pete at Home
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Ever notice that hews don't bitch when Yiddish words mainstream?
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Pete at Home
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Eve notice that Jews didn't demand that people stop calling them "Jews" at a time tthat "Jew" became "a curse and a byword"? And the word came back. This is what happens to people that don't run away from their own shadow.

[ March 06, 2014, 11:13 AM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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D.W.
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I use to worry about my poor spelling. Then Pete was confined to cellphone posting only.
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Kit
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I think this concern is related to the "melting pot" concept. Multiple cultures assimilating each other. By taking the "good" from all of them and leaving behind the "bad", we get a better/stronger end product (at least theoretically).

It is kind of a tricky issue emotionally. I want people to like and appreciate my culture, but I also want it to be treated respectfully.

Plus, everybody wants to be unique and special. And imitating (or appropriating) my uniqueness makes me less unique.

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D.W.
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The problem with the melting pot concept is I think we fight for it and against it at the same time. We pressure each other to fit in, but eventually the group gets too big and we feel compelled to create (or focus on) other differences. Lest we be lost in the crowd.

Pride is considered a sin by some for a reason. [Wink]

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Gaoics79
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My favourite cultural appropriation story was a piece on the news where black Greek fraternities lamented the inclusion of white Greek fraternities in traditionally black marching band competitions.
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Gaoics79
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My favourite cultural appropriation story was a piece on the news where black Greek fraternities lamented the inclusion of white Greek fraternities in traditionally black marching band competitions.
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Pete at Home
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"Ask not for whom the bitch twerks; she twerks for thee"
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D.W.
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Is it hard twerk to continue shaking up our forums with your new fassination Pete?
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Pete at Home
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It's been a had day's night and I've been twerking like a dog.
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Pete at Home
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"[Twerking] originated among black female dancers in the South."

I thought it originated from the basic human sex act! Do you mean that black southern dancers are less likely to just lie there like a dead fish? If so why does anyone date honkies? Where do all these white people come from if none of them know how to do hip thrusts? Artificial insemination?

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MattP
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quote:
Ever notice that hews don't bitch when Yiddish words mainstream?
I really wished you would have said kvetch here.
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NobleHunter
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DW, that's too simple. Maintaining a unique culture may preserve metaphors and support systems that are more effective at dealing with challenges the members of the group face. For example, some of the gay community is opposed to legalizing gay marriage because they feel it would stigmatize gays who enter into non-standard relationships. It may be easier to maintain those options if gays separate rather than assimilate. There is a cost to separation, but it might be worth the rewards. I personally prefer assimilation because I'm subverise like that.

It's easy to mock dancing and other secular cultural products, but what about the cultural appropriation of religious items?

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
Ever notice that hews don't bitch when Yiddish words mainstream?
I really wished you would have said kvetch here.
Damn. You are right. Goy boy can't kvetch!
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by NobleHunter:
DW, that's too simple. Maintaining a unique culture may preserve metaphors and support systems that are more effective at dealing with challenges the members of the group face. For example, some of the gay community is opposed to legalizing gay marriage because they feel it would stigmatize gays who enter into non-standard relationships. It may be easier to maintain those options if gays separate rather than assimilate.

Damn. I can't believe I wasn't the one to connect that topic. SSM = heterocentrist assimilation. Oh.... stepford wives Ii already adressed that.
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NobleHunter
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I was just remembering a connection you'd made at some point in the last decade or so.
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Pete at Home
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Haha. I imagine my lv day contacts and clients aren't the only ones to see that issue. Surely you know someone in Canada who realized that gay males, of all people, should not be p----- whipped?

Where is Richard Dey when we need him?

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NobleHunter
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The joys of SSM, no p---- necessary. Whipping is negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
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Pete at Home
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Life would be so much simpler if I found men remotely attractive, but got to deal with the cards i was dealt.

I like p-----, it's good enough for me ...
I like p-----, it's good enough for me ...
I like p-----, it's good enough for me ...
P..... p...... p...... starts with p

[ March 06, 2014, 02:12 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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MattP
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What's great is that "penis" fills in the blanks (as it were) just as well.
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MattP
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oops, double post
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Pete at Home
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That doesn't rhyme with the Elmo original, though. Mine is a great line BTW in the case of a false gaydar ping.
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