Archive for August 14, 2014

Cultural Appropriation Has Lost Its Meaning

Once upon a time, though maybe it was an imaginary time in my head- the term cultural appropriation meant something- even if there wasn’t one totally precise definition, basically it meant ripping off pieces of a historically colonized culture, taking them out of context and playing with them for fun and profit, and publicly misrepresenting the culture. Now I feel like the term is so carelessly thrown around that it has lost its meaning and as a result people don’t take it seriously.

I suspect part of the issue is that this discussion began more within an academic context and has filtered into the rest of society, including many people who don’t have a systemic understanding of oppression, racism, colonialism etc. Granted, there are definitely people within academia who don’t get it, and people outside of it, including folks with high school or even less education that do get it, and have a very sophisticated understanding of systemic oppression, because they’ve lived it! 

Cultural appropriation is still a real problem but it’s in danger of being obscured by being misunderstood any kind of cultural borrowing. Indians wearing business suits in Mumbai is not the same as non-Indians wearing saris. There are certainly examples that we can easily place in the cultural appropriation/exploitation box, like New Age cult leaders charging lots of money to participated in a Native American sweat lodge.

But for the most part I would suggest instead of accusing people of cultural appropriation, we practice mindful cultural borrowing, and ask questions of ourselves and others when we try out things from other cultures. To return to my earlier example-

Is it always wrong for a non-Indian to wear a sari? There are billions of different opinions on that! (Here’s one) Do you know any Indians who you can talk to about this? What connection do you have to Indian cultures? What do you know about issues surrounding being a woman in Indian or in the Indian diaspora? Is it a special kind of sari, designed for someone of a particular status, or for a ceremony? Are you wearing it as a Halloween costume? Is this your SCA or LARP or cosplay persona? Tomorrow when you wear other clothes, are you going to make fun of people with “foreign” sounding accents, customs, other religions as not “properly” American, modern, Western etc.? If an Indian woman wearing a sari came to your company to be interviewed, how would she be treated, compared to a similarly qualified woman wearing a more standard dress of a similar formality level?

Are you an ordinary person or are you Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry and the sari is part of a music video inspired by Bollywood, the idea that Hinduism is All About Tantra & Sex and random pieces of Thai and Cambodian culture thrown in, cuz Asian Culture is All One Thing, right?

So maybe wearing a non-Indian wearing a sari is OK in some contexts, or maybe not. It might depend on how you answered those questions. And ultimately, I’m not Indian so it’s not my job to judge that.

My previous post has been well-received, though I still second-guess myself and wonder if it’s too “Oh, poor me, rootless, guilt-ridden white American”. It does seem I’m not totally seeing eye-to-eye with my Anglo-Irish friend about these issues. I have pretty limited opportunities to speak with British, Irish and Scottish people directly and in person. Online communication is never quite the same. I admit, my connection to my Irish and Scottish heritage is tenuous at best, I do not really have any more “right” to it than any other human being raised outside of Irish or Scottish culture.  While I make an effort to learn about Irish and Scottish culture, and I study the Irish language, I do wonder if I’m trying to plant a seed in foreign soil where it might not thrive. When discussing Celtic cultures, I get reminded constantly by various people (Americans and Europeans alike) that I’ve never traveled to the British Isles. Thanks for the “you’re poor” reminder, it’s really helpful! I know people don’t “mean it that way”, then again I don’t mean whatever cluelessly classist, racially insensitive or arrogantly American-centric things I’m sure I have said on countless occasions, in spite of my attempts to educate myself. We all need to be patient with one another, and admit when we’re wrong.  I realize how hard this is!

Acronyms: SCA- Society for Creative Anachronism- organization in which members create a fictional persona from the Renaissance era (mostly Europeans but there are growing number of non-European personae)

LARP: Live Action Role Playing

Cosplay- costume play, wearing a costume at a science fiction/fantasy/comic/anime convention or other fan event.

Resources about Cultural Appropriation/Borrowing in a UU context.

Articles from different viewpoints-

What Tiger Lily Can Teach Us About Cultural Appropriation– Very helpful advice from Kenzie Allen, an Oneida lady about how to respectfully borrow from other cultures.

Appropriate Cultural Appropriation– discussion of borrowers as “Invaders, Tourists and Guests” Reminds me of a talk a Hindu UU minister gave at my church in which he talked about the difference between being a Spiritual Pilgrim and a Spiritual Tourist.

Hey, grievance mongers, lighten up on ‘cultural appropriation’ complaints– this does show how broadly C.A. is getting used but I think author is too dismissive of real problems

You can’t ‘steal’ a culture– some good points, but doesn’t seem to get that for example, white people have profited from Black people’s music while the same Black folks didn’t benefit.

August 14, 2014 at 10:15 pm 5 comments

Witchy Blog Award

witchy-blog-awardThanks to Nornoriel of the Serpent’s Labyrinth for nominating me for this award!

The Rules:

  • Dedicate at least part of a post to receiving the award and share the award logo
  • Thank the blogger who passed the award to you
  • Answer the seven questions below
  • Nominate five Wiccan/Pagan bloggers (If you don’t know five other pagan bloggers, nominate as many as you can)
  • Notify your nominees of their pending award
  • Stop by Ayslyn’s Corner to add your name to the list of bloggers awarded (she’s got a big list)
  • How did you “discover” Wicca/witchcraft/Neo-Paganism? I was very into mythology as a kid, met a neighbor’s daughter who introduced me to Wicca/Paganism and lent me some books. Growing up I realize was already thinking like a Pagan- when people talked about “Mother Nature” I thought she was God’s wife, and since my parents taught me to be tolerant of other religions, I was confused that worship of other Gods was condemned in the Bible. Shouldn’t it be a choice? I thought. I also liked finding out the origins of holiday customs and superstitions, and that was another way I connected with Paganism.
  • Do you grow herbs? I have a very shady lot with acidic soil, so it’s hard to grow things other than hostas & ferns. Plus, the squirrels dig up everything else we plant!
  • Are you “in the broom closet”? If not, share your coming out experience. As a teenager my Dad thought Paganism was just part of my mythology interest and not a real religion but later he “got” it. My mother believes in fairies, so it wasn’t too hard for her!  I am open about my religion to people I know well enough to discuss religion with and don’t set off my finely tuned fundamentalist detector. I often tell people I’m Unitarian (they usually don’t know what that is either!)  If they seem more interested in talking about it, then I’ll further explain Druidry.  I live in a pretty liberal urban area (Twin Cities) so I have the luxury of being pretty relaxed about using my real name at public Pagan events.
  • What tradition do you follow, if any? Currently I am working on re-defining and re-building my spiritual life while recovering from a period of depression-related agnosticism & doubt. I am a member of Ar nDraiocht Fein, a Neo-Pagan Druid organization and a Unitarian Universalist– which for me is more of a philosophy than a religion, but my UU church is my primary spiritual community currently.
  • Do you consider yourself a witch, Wiccan or Pagan (or maybe something else?) I use Celtic polytheist or Druid
  • How much of witchcraft/Wicca are you able to incorporate into your everyday life? Right now as I mentioned my focus is on recovering from depression and anxiety, so I’m creating a list of mental health self-care virtues based on Celtic and Norse cultures and building off of that base. I am mostly an armchair philosopher/theologian/ethicist and writer, but am trying to motivate myself to get back into actual practice.
  • Do you have a familiar? If you do, tell us how you meet him/her and how s/he takes part in your practice (if at all) No, but one of my favorite anime shows is Zero no Tsukaima, the Familiar of Zero 😉 It’s fun- kinda like an anime version of Harry Potter.

Nominations for Witchy Blog Award:

Jack-a-Dreams

Writings of a Pagan Witch

Ozark Pagan Mamma

Scorched Ice

Mist Seeking

 

 

 

August 14, 2014 at 12:41 am 1 comment


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