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Cultural appropriation

(128 Posts)
Illte Tue 01-Sep-20 09:47:04

This has been in the news over the last couple of days.

I don't want to start a contentious thread. I really want to understand this. I think I might have unwittingly done this in the past and maybe still am.

Ive always worked in mukti-ethnic schools and mostly lived in multi-ethnic communities. If I saw something I liked I adopted it.

For instance learned how to use spices properly and my cooking definitely tends to Southern Asian rather than traditional British.

The music of Southern Africa appeals to me and it was played at my husbands funeral. He was white British like me.

When Im invited to Diwali celebrations I go in a sari. But now I'm wondering if I've been making a mistake.

I'm looking for guidance from someone who understands cultural appropriation more than I do.

Elegran Tue 01-Sep-20 10:00:27

I don't understand most of it any more than you do. I can understand how blacking-up like the Black and White Minstrels comes over as a parody and is resented, but I would have thought that enjoying the traditional music or the food of another culture is more of a compliment than an insult.

Then how about the way Western clothes have become the norm for people in many more nations than where they were first worn? Are all those wearers guilty of cultural appropriation too?

kittylester Tue 01-Sep-20 10:17:35

I agree Illte

Surely it is a result of the world becoming smaller either in terms of actual or virtual travel. Everything is much more homogenous.

I have an Indian friend who ran a series of cookery courses so I went along to support her and really got into it, similarly a Chinese friend copied the idea and ran courses.

I have no Italian nor French friends but still cooking in their style.

Our favourite music is Soul and Blues - have we appropriated that too?

Nonnie Tue 01-Sep-20 10:35:27

It always seems to come about about hair of all things. I have asked why, if cornrows are CA for white people why is hair straightening not CA for Afro Caribbeans? There are so many important issues regarding racism that it is a shame these things get taken up and, perhaps, detract from what matters.

Callistemon Tue 01-Sep-20 10:36:56

I think only a few extremists will see it as cultural appropriation.

Will they have inspectors situated at tills in supermarkets, ensuring anyone who looks inappropriate has their wasabi, Madras paste or sweet and sour sauce removed from their trolley?

Thought police knocking on doors in case a white British person dares to play New Orleans Jazz or sing along to Bob Marley?

I would have thought that enjoying the traditional music or the food of another culture is more of a compliment than an insult.
Me too.

merlotgran Tue 01-Sep-20 10:46:47

I'm wearing a pair of harem pants today. Not the very baggy ones but loose enough to be comfortable for lazing around getting on with the housework. Should I be asking permission?

Will Judi Dench be castigated for favouring long and loose cheesecloth tops with baggy trousers because she's appropriating Indian fashion?

The fashion, music and food industries would be in a poor place without appropriation.

The world's going mad.

Gwyneth Tue 01-Sep-20 11:18:19

What about Meghan Markle who clearly straightens her hair?

Sparklefizz Tue 01-Sep-20 12:28:33

Exactly Gwyneth

sodapop Tue 01-Sep-20 12:44:50

Doesn't really matter does it as there will always be someone somewhere who will take offence.

I agree that enjoying the music, food etc of another culture should be seen as being complimentary not the other way round.

Blinko Tue 01-Sep-20 13:00:09

I would have thought that copying a particular cultural style of hair or clothing or cuisine would be a compliment. But no, somehow some people regard it as CA. Though not when for instance, Beyonce straightens and lightens her hair...


JenniferEccles Tue 01-Sep-20 13:40:01

I was going to mention Meghan Markle’s hair too!
Her father released pictures of her as a child and teen and they clearly show that she inherited her mother’s frizzy African hair.

I can’t understand why it’s acceptable for her to have her hair straightened, yet women with European hair come under fire for having ‘cornrows’ ?

Illte Tue 01-Sep-20 13:58:51

Thank you for your replies.

Nice as it is to see that I'm not alone and other people don't really get it either, is there anyone out there that can give me the appropriation point of view?

EMMF1948 Tue 01-Sep-20 14:08:37

Generally it's all a lot of wokey-wokey nonsense and we're all expected to kow-tow to it, in itself a 'cultural appropriation'. While one can understand the apparent offence created by Black and White Minstrals, if we're supposed to be moving to a cohesive multi-cultural society what's wrong with admiring a copying elements of other cultures? Interstingly not all people are criticised for 'cultural appropriation', how many women with naturally curly hair, indicative of their culture, are criticised for using straighteners? As ever, it's all a one-way street, hence I can only despise it.

Ilovecheese Tue 01-Sep-20 14:35:07

I think on a site like this one, there are not going to be enough people of different cultures to answer your question from another viewpoint. The posts so far are all agreeing with you , which is what I would have expected to happen.

The demographics are just not wide enough to give an opposing view, going by previous threads on these sorts of subjects.

But nobody is really asking anybody else to "kowtow" to anything are they.

Illte Tue 01-Sep-20 14:39:38

I'm not a member of any other site and an Internet search only brings up news items not the thinking.

Good decisions are based on understanding I think.

SueDonim Tue 01-Sep-20 14:39:45

When it comes to hair, cornrows on white women are seen as inappropriate because until recently (and maybe still now) black women wearing cornrows has been considered unprofessional by employers. It also has connotations of slavery. Black women with curly hair resorted to straightening their hair in an effort to fit in.

This article explains cultural appropriation, for any one wanting to learn more.

Illte Tue 01-Sep-20 14:40:41

Oh thanks. I'll take a look at that.

Elegran Tue 01-Sep-20 14:50:27

I think that when someone objects to anyone copying a style of appearance or music because it belongs to their culture and so is being stolen, they are asking them to kowtow. If they have copied it in all sincerity because they admire it, it is a compliment (imitation is reputedly the sincerest form of flattery) However, if it is used as a "marker" to indicate the inferiority of the culture copied, then fair enough if that causes objections. It is any implied inferiority that is objectionable.

When we get into the sphere of theatre, comedy, cartoons, satire, and so on, the boundaries become more and more blurred. Where does humour end and discrimination begin? It all becomes very subjective.

janeainsworth Tue 01-Sep-20 15:00:39

I read an article recently which cited the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and the subsequent film, as an example of cultural appropriation.
Kathryn Stockett is white and belongs to what is seen as the dominant culture. Because she doesn’t have the lived experience of a black woman, and in particular, an enslaved one, she cannot understand their culture by writing about it, and because they are oppressed, it means more to them than if they weren’t oppressed.
I’ll see if I can find the article.

janeainsworth Tue 01-Sep-20 15:02:28

Here it is

Baggs Tue 01-Sep-20 15:05:04

Language is the most cultural thing of all. I don't think anyone has suggested yet that one's learning a foreign language would be cultural appropriation. It's more likely that as an expat somewhere not learning the local language could be seen as the insult. It is certainly impolite in my opinion not to try to learn the language of where one chooses to settle.

Copying fashions, be they hairstyles, clothes, recipes or musical styles is usually done, I would suggest, out of admiration or, at the very least, liking.

People complaining and throwing out accusations of cultural appropriation are just joining the leagues of identitarian victimhood that are currently a blight on societies everywhere they occur.

Elegran Tue 01-Sep-20 15:08:50

SueDomin Perhaps cornrows will cease at some point to remind anyone of slavery. The passage of time is a factor in the connotations that one thing has with another.

How many of us wear a wedding ring? It is generally considered that such a ring was once used to mark possession of a woman, similar to the iron ring that was welded around the ankle or wrist of a slave. A gold ring for gilded slavery? Now millions of brides (and grooms, and same-sex couples) wear their rings happily, without thinking of any connection except the one of love.

janeainsworth Tue 01-Sep-20 15:21:28

Adele has upset people in the US but David Lammy & Naomi Campbell have defended her.

Illte Tue 01-Sep-20 15:35:27

That's interesting about The Help. I found it a very powerful book and had to read until 3am because I couldn't leave the main character where she was. I had to read her to a better place!

I'll read that article too. Thank you.

trisher Tue 01-Sep-20 15:55:55

I think there are many people who are guilty of this. A few years ago I was offered an opportunity to be involved in a production about freedom and oppression. Organised by a predominantly white group it involved a few people of non-white backgrounds and intended to present the Amritsar massacre, the Sharpeville massacre, the Peterloo massacre and the Jarrow march. I said I could only be involved in either of the last two but was still listed for workshops on the other two. I considered it cultural appropriation and dropped out. I think it is fine to teach or talk about the these things but to imagine we can in any way experience or portray those events is wrong.