Cultural Appreciation, Lets preach it.

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With many of our previous post and media attention around cultural appropriation, its all about what we can’t do. Hoping to educate and inform people about the issue and in return be respected and understood, there instead has been a back lash of complaints and brash comments of “well we might as wear nothing cause you’ll always be offending someone”. And hey its hard to be told what you’re doing is wrong. No one likes being told the faults.

So its no surprise the attempt to educate others about cultural appropriation hasn’t be received with open arms. Instead we’ve decided instead of cultural appropriation we’re here to tell you how to appreciate all cultures with out the implications of appropriation. However remember that sometimes whether its cultural appropriation or appreciation is contextual, assess the situation with common sense. We’re only hoping to act as a helpful guideline (and even then we’re not always right).

Cultural appreciation is what it is. An appreciation of a culture, an act that does so in a truly respectful way. Often this can be seen in an act of cultural exchange, as Jarune Uwujaren (2013) describes it “an exchange” must be a mutual act of sharing (more than just a “here’s my culture, let me have some of yours”). Unlike cultural appropriation which only sees a dominate culture taking aspects of a minority.

So how can we appreciate a culture? 
– Do your research! Really go and find an understanding about the culture, understand the history behind the item which you’re thinking about wearing. Find the purpose of it and ultimately is up to you to take an educated step to decide if its appropriate to continue with your act.

– Other avenues! There are always other ways to appreciate a culture other than just by wearing their clothes. If people of that culture are adamant that you don’t do so then be respectful. Instead ask them how can I learn more about it? How can I truly immerse myself and appreciate your culture without being offensive? More often then not they’d be happy to share with you! Showing an interest is always awesome.

When is it appreciation and not appropriation?
– Immerse yourself! If a friend or someone invites you to participate, do so! They’re inviting you to a cultural immersion and exchange. I’ve seen friends go to Indian weddings wearing Saris as requested by the family. And there was nothing wrong with that. They did so with respect. Understood the situation to be appropriate, an act of celebration. They we’re invited, found the correct and respectful outfits and most of all both parties had fun!

These aren’t much to go off on but they’re a great way to appreciate culture in a way that doesn’t cross the boundaries of appropriation. But remember we can not speak for a culture as a whole and there will always be people who may not be as eager to share, or even see this as being too sensitive. To that we can only suggest a bit of common sense. Back off if you need to. Best of luck!

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation

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Uwujaren, J (2013). “The Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation”, Everyday Feminism. (x)  

Fashionably Trendy Cultural Appropriation?

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Cultural appropriation in recent years has been highlighted by cultural items becoming fashion accessories, traditional clothing becoming tacky costumes and fashion styles that sometimes have questionable influences.

But we’re here to ask where can the line between cultural appropriation and appreciation be drawn in fashion? When does a fashion item become an act of cultural appropriation? Can we call it a “cultural influence” with respect or an act of appropriation that disrespects?

Recent festival trends have seen the popularisation of native headdresses, bindis and temporary “tribal tattoos” as the must have fashion accessories to these events. Coachella sees an influx of young girls wearing bindis on their forehead (so much so a hashtag #reclaimthebindi was ignited).

So when is fashion cultural appropriation? Well we’d have to say that sometimes it just takes some common sense. Are you taking an item that traditionally is regarded with high respect?Used on special occasions? Signifies an importance in a culture?When you’re using it does it still mean the same thing? Answered yes? Yep most likely that fashion trend is cultural appropriation.

That being said that doesn’t mean fashion can’t be influenced or draw from other cultures. Fashion can exhibit other cultures yet still be respectful and not be appropriating. Designers such as Akira Isogawa and Bethany Yellowtail both incorporate elements of a culture into their clothing with respect. Akira Isogawa sees Western influenced designs paired with  Japanese fabrics that exhibits creativity from both culture without appropriation. Similarly Bethany Yellowtail designs clothing with a Native American influence that aims to redfine beauty and experience of culture. Both sharing culture through fashion with the aim of appreciation rather then a loss of meaning through appropriation.

So next time you wear an item that you’ve given a second thought about and you’re unsure if its cultural appropriation. Ask yourself.
Are you taking an item that traditionally is regarded with high respect?Used on special occasions? Signifies an importance in a culture?When you’re using it does it still mean the same thing?

(Obviously a bit of common sense will also help, there’s no need to question everything you wear. Unless its about how clean your clothes are after a week and if they smell. Which is yes they do.)

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation

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Akira Isogawa work can be found at (x)
Bethany Yellowtail work can be found at (x)
Ongley, H. 2015 “#ReclaimTheBindi: 8 Important Lessons About Cultural Appropriation and Coachella”. (x)

My Culture is NOT a Costume

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With Halloween steadily approaching we’ve seen an upsurge of the hashtag “culturenotacostume” and we thought its about time we weighed in on this topic.

That being said it is incredibly hard to speak for a whole culture and there will always be disagreement. The views represented below are my own personal thoughts and views and with time and even more education/information may change. So please go easy on me here.

Growing up in a white dominant culture as a minority I’ve experience all types of racism, stereotypes and prejudices.  I’ve experience people yelling “CHING CHONG” as a group of my friends walked down the street, or “Go Home its an Asian Invasion” (I’d have to say good work on the rhyme there didn’t think he’d be smart enough for that). I’ve been asked if I’ve eaten dog countless times, why do we put chopsticks in our hair (we don’t) and had people laugh at me as they pulled their eyes to make it look slanted. And the best bit, all this happened before I was even a legal adult, 18.

So to say I feel strongly about this subject is an understatement. So why is it that my culture gets joked about to my face but once someone else experiences it, it becomes “cool”? I’ve always wondered why in High School why some kids would wear chopsticks in their hair to look “exotic” or wear kimonos and cheongsams as a costume and everyone thought it was awesome. Whilst I stood here wondering if we would get the same reaction if we did it. Why it just felt plain wrong. I’d ask myself well we don’t do that? Why is it cool for them but when we do it we get isolated? Why does that costume have like 50 different asian cultures in one? So you can understand why when I found out there was an actual name for this I rejoiced a little knowing other minorities had experienced the same thing.

Orientalism, a term made popular by Edward W. Said in his publication “Orientalism” in 1978. Loosely put it is the term to describe how Western Society has a tendency to collate cultures from Asia into one whilst viewing them as “exotic” and “underdeveloped”. Reinforcing these ideas through constantly reproducing images to represent a single culture and VOILA we get stereotypes. Obviously this term goes a lot deeper and can be explored on multiple levels. But a great example of this is when someone says “Japanese” and immediately all we can think of is “Geishas” and “sushi” as if the culture has nothing else to present (a bit extreme but you get the general idea).

So this was what was happening to my culture alongside with cultural appropriation. I recently saw a picture come up on social media of a high school classmate with a group of his friend dressed up in short “kimonos” (looked more like a chinese hanfu) faces painted white with pink cheeks. Cheap tacky fans and chopsticks in their hair. Ouch. All I could think was. WHY? Don’t they understand how much effort goes into making traditional clothes. And it made me really think. How many times have I seen this happen. People wearing cheongsams but with geisha makeup and chopsticks in their hair with very little care about the effort, tradition and culture behind it.

It hit close to home. Why? Well my grandfather was a tailor in China, he worked to provide for my mother’s family making traditional qipao and tangzhuang out of the loveliest silk and handcrafted buttons. He’s made traditional clothes for me and I’ve witness his skills at work as he measured silk out with chalk string. Sewing with an old pedal powered sewing machine. Recently he made my grandmother a beautiful green cheongsam for a wedding. It took him a month and when I asked how much it would cost to buy one like this I got told close to $600AUD.

So when I do see people dress up in using clothes made for special occasions all I can  think is do they know how much effort goes into making those? Do they know anything about this culture? When it should be worn? How painstakingly hard it is to craft such an item?

So that is why I believe culture should always be more than just a costume worn at Halloween. Why should some get to pick the best of one culture whilst we have to carry the good, the bad the ugly side of it?

That being said I think its brilliant if you can invest some time just to find out about the culture, this doesn’t mean don’t wear it! If someone invites you to go for it! Its a moment of cultural appreciation. Really invest and be educated, be immersive. A good understanding and appreciation will give you the common sense of when you should wear/or not wear any culture’s items. So this Halloween have a bit of common sense.

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation

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Said, E. 1978. “Orientalism”, Vintage Books, United States.
Cheongsam/Qipao Image by Mity on Flickr, used under Creative Commons 2.0 for non-profit. No modifications. (x)

Celebrities & Cultural Appropriation, EVERYWHERE!

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Katy Perry, Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian! What do all these celebrities have in common? (Well besides the fact that all their names start with a ‘K’) They’ve all been recently called out for cultural appropriation and being serial offenders.

So are question is why are celebrities & cultural appropriation everywhere recently? Is this getting to a point where its ridiculous and we really need to just “get over it”?

As you’ve probably guessed by now we @ Stop the Cult really don’t think cultural appropriation is okay. Why? Simply check any of our previous post and there is a plethora of information about it. So to simply “get over it” would mean admitting defeat at letting cultural appropriation be okay. But we do have to admit it is getting a bit ridiculous.

Constantly we are seeing the same celebrities culturally appropriating items for pure aesthetics. So why is this? And why are we letting it happen? Celebrities live in a world of their own and whilst many of us don’t like to admit it often the rules of society (and occasionally the law) don’t apply to them. A simple slap on the wrist, apology on social media and in about a month lets just repeat this cycle again. Its easy to see how we’re getting just plain sick of it. But hey DON’T ‘get over it’. Because every single bit of exposure raises that bit more awareness of cultural appropriation and if you’re also starting to get sick of all this hype, good cause thats when we can all finally shout ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP’. (Lets just hope thats soon).

So if you’re sick of the Kardashians (in general) or for just cultural appropriation (still not sure when they did it? Check it out!)

Have no fear! There are celebrities out there who are finally calling it all out. Recently Amandla Stenberg posted a thought provoking video on cultural appropriation, Zendaya called out the racist comments on her faux locs hairstyle by a TV commentator and explained to us the severity of cultural appropriation and Nicki Minaj articulated her problems with cultural appropriation and fellow celebrity Miley Cyrus (Whats Good?).

So we say, don’t “get over it”. Keep interested, get educated about the topic and share why cultural appropriation is wrong. Get frustrated if you have to but always reason and educate with a level head! And don’t forget to check out those inspiring celebrities below!

Amandla Stenberg on Cultural Appropriation (x).
Zendaya “Explains the Severity of Cultural Appropriation” (x)
Nicki Minaj “Her problem with cultural appropriation and Miley Cyrus” (x)

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Cultural Appropriation vs Cultural Assimilation

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Appropriation? Assimilation? Appreciation? What is all this?

Why can they do it but we can’t? Isn’t the same thing? Isn’t this just double standards?

All these questions float around when the topic of cultural appropriation comes about usually in the comments. However are three main terms that many people often get confused with when discussing cultural appropriation. One may start commenting on cultural appropriation when actually what it really is is appreciation or assimilation. So here we are to help clear everything up and help you understand where your argument stands!

First off cultural appropriation what is it?
When elements of a minority culture are taken by members of a more dominant culture for their own use. This results in the original context to become distorted and it’s meaning reduced. Those taking elements of the culture do not experience the same cultural significance.

and what about cultural assimilation?
This is the process by which elements of a dominant culture are take by members of a minority culture this often occurs when a minority enters into a dominate culture and assimilates in order to survive.

The difference between the two terms answers the commonly repeated questions about cultural appropriation of ‘Well if they do it why can’t I?” or “Isn’t this double standards?”

Unfortunately in this society not all cultures are perceived as equal. That’s the truth. Minorities take on aspects of dominate cultures to survive or be accepted (or even to hopefully perceived as equals). Where as cultural appropriation sees dominate cultures taking on elements of a minority often for the sake of being ‘trendy’, ‘fashionable’ etc

And then recently we’ve been seeing cultural appreciation
What is this? Well from what we gathered it is when people take the time to learn, educated and understand a culture before taking an educated decision to express the culture in way that does not offend ands till respect it.

However to speak for a whole culture is incredibly hard and there will be inevitable be people who will be offended. So when attempting to do cultural appreciation tread lightly and be aware.

We hope this has helped you out in learning more about cultural appropriation!

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation

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Definition by Young, J 2010, Cultural Appropriation and the Arts.
Definitions by Encyclopaedia Britannia (x)

“They know better and yet, they still don’t care.”

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Halloween is coming up and to many of us that means free candy, parties, dressing up and just a whole bunch of fun in general.

But for others it’s seeing what embodies your culture being turned into a tacky costume for one night as people parade around in store bought costumes of Native Americans, Mexicans, Japanese, Chinese and the list goes on.

PulleyWrites at diamondfordumps has written a post about her thoughts as she contemplates dressing up as Pocahontas this year for Halloween. A train of thoughts that soon delves into what it means to respect a culture. How a moment of fun for this Halloween overlooks decades of culture that people have fought to preserve.

Here I am thinking about how awesome it would be for me to dress up as Pocahontas and bite the culture that others are trying to preserve and honor.

Realising the errors of her ways, she ultimately sums up the thought process of what many think about Halloween costumes from the other side quite easily.  That many people do in fact understand that what they are doing maybe wrong but ultimately for a moment of fun, they just don’t care.

 I think all the time about the people who understand these things but just don’t care. They know better and yet, they still don’t care.

Instead we all encourage you to find something better to go as this Halloween (we reckon you’ll probably look better too). Stop cultural appropriation with a bit of education and with you!

Read more about PulleyWrites article “I Smell Halloween…and Cultural Appropriation”

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Image by DeusXFlorida found on Flickr (x). No modification has been done. Used under Creative Commons 2.0.

How can I avoid Cultural Appropriation?

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SO how can we all avoid cultural appropriation?

Well first thing, stopping it all beginnings with know what it is! Get EDUCATED.
Simply hit up our other post and find out what cultural appropriation is exactly and why its so important.

Now that you know what it is simply as your self these questions:
Am I offending a culture by wearing/doing this?
Has someone from that culture told me explicitly not to wear/do this?
If I do this will it alter the original meaning or eliminate the meaning behind the act/item?

If you answered to yes to any of these then hey take a step back they could be indicating that some cultural appropriation is going on here. Whilst this is just a short guide there are obviously   people (hopefully a small percentage) that do take it to the extreme and think everything is cultural appropriation. (Which unfortunately while their intentions may be good, does more harm in the long run when people start to think of cultural appropriation as a joke/non-existent). So if your educated, decide for yourself!

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Why should I care about cultural appropriation?

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Why should I care about cultural appropriation?

BECAUSE CULTURE IS IMPORTANT!

Simple as that!

Cultural appropriation is when a dominate culture takes aspects of a minority culture and changes it resulting in a loss of its traditional meaning and context.

A person’s culture embodies their values, heritage, tradition and history all which should not be belittled. Lets take a look at the Japanese Kimono. The kimono is a traditional garment made from the finest materials and only worm on very formal occasions. It is a very polite and reserved garment, with countless variations for different occasions. Yet cultural appropriation has taken such a garment and made it into a tacky  and skimpy costume often seen on music shows and halloween. And often or not such an appropriation incorporates other elements of other cultures (Chinese, Korean can anyone say orientalism?). Gone are the traditional elements and value of such a piece. So don’t do cultural appropriation.

Culture is important to everyone. Its all about respect. Appreciation not appropriate.

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation @ Stop The Cult
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‘Geisha’ image by Kate Nevens (all credit) used under Creative Commons 2.0. No alteration has been done. Source (x)

Share your experience about cultural appropriation with #stopthecult

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Cultural appropriation affects all, share with us why your culture matters to you and why we should appreciate and respect it.

With Halloween approaching we asked why culture shouldn’t be a costume. One of our follows shared with us their personal opinion about their culture.

I take a lot of pride in my native heritage. And every Halloween I see cultural appropriation everywhere when people ” dress up ” like native Americans. I feel like first of all they stole a nation and now they think it’s ok to try and be native for a night. My culture ( and any culture for that matter ) is not a costume.

dvmien.j (@dvmien.j)

‘Stop the Cult’ helps to educate people about cultural appropriation and why it matters. Share your opinions and experience of culture/cultural appropriation with the tag #stopthecult

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“You can wear it, But I can’t”

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Ishani Jasmin post on the commodification of culture hits close to home. With Halloween soon and up and coming how many of us have walked out at night and seen our culture as costumes. When we see that girl in the Kimono does she understand the cultural heritage behind it, the worth it carries? Does the guy in the poncho overtly stereotyped Mexican costume understand the racial stereotypes that his subtle pushing onto all those that see him. Whilst their intentions are never meant to harmful, in the long run just like Ishani Jasmin says

“our culture continues to be commodified”

Take a look at her post and the insight on the commodification of our culture. Be encouraged, stop cultural appropriation and understand the harm it does.

“I have somehow been locked out of a culture that I want to be proud of”

Beautifully well written. Check it out!
Ishani Jasmin “You can wear it, But I can’t” (x)
All quoted text and images belong to Ishani Jasmin, we at Stop The Cult take no credit and are only aiming to promote/discuss her post. Thank you.

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