The definition of cultural appropriation is: ‘the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture.’
further that: cultural appropriation involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups, often with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions,
So, this defines appropriation as using an aspect of another culture, and taking credit for it, without actually understanding it…
Here’s the opposing argument though, many will say that, these definitions can be interpreted so strictly that we are stuck not doing anything, basically we are forced back several centuries because we have suddenly denied ourselves any cultural integration and with that a good deal of evolution.
Take the widespread tradition of tea drinking for an example… Tea is the second most drunk liquid in the world, second only to water.
Now the origin of tea can be traced to 2700BC in China, but then, Japanese Buddhist scholars went across to china and brought it to Japan. Was this appropriation? Then the export of tea to the western world took place through the Dutch East Indian company in 1610 to Europe, where it sort of spread like wild fire.
Do we accept the idea that this ‘appropriation’ of tea from China to Japan, to Europe, to everywhere was all wrong? Or do we say that no person should ever be allowed to drink tea unless they have carefully studied and appreciated the history of tea?
Perhaps not, perhaps because no one judges the discovery of tea, no one is caught dissing how bitter tea is in China and praising how sweet it is in Britain… does this make drinking tea a form of cultural appreciation, not appropriation?
As you can see, this stuff gets all muddled up, it becomes such a tangle to try and navigate that we just end up giving up.
Rather than forcing yourself into tiny unmovable corners, where in you can’t do much at all, rather, jut don’t be a dick, and listen and be open to those around you, especially those who are part of a group often appropriated.
Well, that takes are of that issue, (sort of, in an extraordinarily over simplified way) but, lets have a look at the finer ideas behind ‘ridicule’ because some may say that a ‘sexy Indian’ Halloween costume is simply appreciating, and thus, we enter into the joys of fetishism. We enter into a space where we are abrasively sanding down an incredibly complex culture, full of traditions, history and humanity, to a one sided, sexual object, for (most commonly) patriarchal entertainment. This is a feminist blog guys, you cant expect me not to go there.
This is where the sexism in our society hits home, because we are struck blankly with the idea that pretty much anything, as long as its female, can be dumbed down into a sexual object. We see this, not only in cultural appropriation, but in most female dominated career fields as well. i.e nurse or school teacher. Why? because our society, that of a patriarchal dominance, are still, so quick to see women as objects of sexual use.
Please, can we stop doing this.
Thanks for reading, try not to be a cliched racist sexist.
– The Woman In The Room