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25-10-2012
  61
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^ I agree with you about there being one human race. The whole concept of race as we know it is extremely minimally rooted in any kind of real science, and there are huge groups of people who don't fit into the three-race 'model' at all. It's no wonder that a model that is in fact racist doesn't work ...

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25-10-2012
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I go back and forth on this. But overall, I think I'm embracing the diversity is diversity idea in regards to fashion and cultural appropriation. The world is more global than it used to be. Not only are more people of multi-racial/ethnic descent, but also people tend to travel or live in places no associated with their heritage. So, I think it is an out-of-date idea, for example, to tell a white person you can't wear a kimono or burqa cuz it's not your culture, cuz there are white people living in Japan--and have lived there all their lives--and there are white Muslims.

Hell, just look at President Obama. I remember when he was running in 08 and there was a national discussion devoted to whether he could actually BE included as an African-American cuz his life story/heritage was atypical to that associated with African-American culture/history.

But at the same time, there is still the danger of western imperialism in how culture is appropriated. Meaning: the erasure of the original culture in favour of a romanticized inaccurate version of it. And I do think designers need to be aware of that. And that they shouldn't do that. Like, if you are going to insert other cultural references in your designs, then you should be educated on that culture and how the dress is used in that culture. Otherwise, the danger is offending and erasure.

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21-01-2013
  63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YoninahAliza View Post
I was thinking the other day about the use of cultural appropriation in fashion. It seems that so much of fashion is taken from a certain culture and then manipulated to mean something else. Cultural appropriation is described by wikipeida to be "the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, can take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held."
In particular I was thinking about the use of certain aspects of Native American in relation to fashion. For it always seems that fashion designers are taking the designs of a certain culture but then changing it to fit their own desires. But in the case of Native American cultures (which is just one example of cultural appropriation) they are using symbols such as feather headdress's without perhaps realizing how offensive it is (or maybe they do realize this?). For example a headdress in this culture is something which should only be worn by tribe chiefs yet we have designers and editors who use them all the time. So I guess my question is do you think cultural appropriation is okay or no? Do designers realize what they are doing? Or has it just become so a part of fashion that no one cares anymore? I know this can be a touchy subject but I hope that we can talk about it in a pleasant manner and so that I can understand what others think about it too. Thanks!

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_appropriation
I do have issues with this. Some days it's only slight, some days, it's huge. I can definitely understand that you draw inspiration from different things and places and everything, but sometimes it is taken too far. The recent D&G collection comes to mind. I also don't really like the editorials that take a white model and bring her into a poor community that is populated by people of color and have her pose there in expensive gowns while the locals standby. That's insensitive.

My basic issue with appropriation is this: Fashion is very unfriendly to people who are not white. Most of the models are white, most of the photographers, the designers, everyone is white, and it makes it seem like a cultural aspect of a person of color is only acceptable if it is being used/worn by a white person. (For instance: People in the US tend to discriminate against people of South Asian/Middle Eastern descent wearing turbans and headscarfs, yet when hipsters and the fashion-forward crowd wore them, they were cool and trendy.)

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21-01-2013
  64
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I agree with pretty much everything you just said. The only thing that infuriates me more is how dismissive and indifferent people can be about it. I don't know if we've just grown so used to it, like it's just the norm and people have grown calloused to it or what. This was on display at its worse in the DG collection discussion and even more recently Charlotte Casiraghi's extremely unwise decision to dress up as a "Native American" during one of her equestrian events. In both situations, you had people actually trying to justify these things by pointing the blame any and everywhere else BUT the person responsible for the disquiet in the first place. In both cases, at least some of the fault was directed at Americans being their typical oversensitive, easily offended, always-PC selves. Because, you know, slavery was solely an American thing. It never affected Europe, South America, the Caribbean or any place like that. And while Native Americans are restricted to America, let's completely ignore the fact that these people were oppressed, expelled from their homes, not to mention subjected to one of the largest scale genocides in history, one that that exceeds that of the Holocaust. I mean, from the discussion on TRF I got the impression that because this didn't happen in Europe, then Charlotte shouldn't be called out for it! I'm not from Australia, but I wouldn't dress up and mock Australian Aboriginals who endured pretty much the same thing. In what world is that just okay?

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22-01-2013
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^I certainly agree with you about a lot people having indifferent attitudes towards misused items of appropriation. They have apathy rather then empathy. It does make me sad that there are some people who apparently lack the ability to be sensitive towards other people's experiences. I know that sometimes I may react very strongly to culturally appropriated things (and perhaps sometimes in a PC way) but it's part of my upbringing I think. I will readily admit that my parents filled our house with works of art made by black artists, native americans, from asia, etc but they at least tried to educate my sister and I on why these artists were depicting such imagery. It can be fine to own art or certain items from another culture but perhaps it's the lack of understanding the emotions behind such things that gets to me. You don't have to be from a certain social background to feel empathy for another being.

So, I have a question I want to ask, do you think that the idea of empathy can currently be found in fashion? I'm still pondering this question right now, may come back later with an answer of sorts.

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23-01-2013
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Thats a really interesting question,empathy in fashion. Which level of fashion are you reffering to though? The business side or the clothes related side of it?

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23-01-2013
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^I think the question could refer to the business side or the clothing side. Whichever one you feel more inclined to answer, the question of empathy could apply to the both of them.

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25-01-2013
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Empathy seems to be lacking all around. Separating empathy or sensitivity for business's sake is, in my opinion (which may be over the top), reprehensible. Being unable or unwilling to even consider that something may be offensive to others regardless of whether you personally are bothered by it seems indicative of a problem, too. I don't know what that problem is, but it was really frustrating that the discussion in the D&G thread as well as in the Casiraghi incident discussion on other forums seemed to turn into some kind of Americans-are-so-PC/oversensitive bash fest. What I've noticed is that the people who are "tired" or "exhausted" of having to be PC "all the time" are typically people who do not belong one of those regularly discriminated against groups. As to whether empathy can be found in fashion? Well, we are talking about an industry that not only protects but approves of Terry Richardson, a man who openly and unabashedly exploits women, placing them in sexually degrading positions and calling it art. So...I'll just say I don't have a lot of faith in them.

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27-01-2013
  69
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I think the fashion industry is a pretty apathetic one in general. There is so much exploitation of people at the bottom of the bottom of the industry that it makes one wonder what labour laws are there for. There are so many issues (some of which we're not allowed to mention on tFS) that seem so terrible to outsiders but seem to get completely overlooked by insiders. The fashion industry loves fur (and I admit that I love fur as well) and I'm pretty sure everyone knows the implications of fur. Some of fashion's greatest icons are practically soulless robots.

In such an appearance-based and apathetic industry, it's almost a little inevitable that things like this will happen. I think the biggest problem is that the people at the top of the fashion industry will appropriate from cultures because it looks beautiful or artsy or interesting, and they'll be vaguely aware that it means something to other people but not really care.

But as for whether or not cultural appropriation is okay in cases like the Native American headdresses, I have a question. Have they been offended by it?

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27-01-2013
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^In the case of the use of headdresses it's an issue which has been written about by a good number of native americans. Two great blogs which have written extensivly about the issue are http://nativeappropriations.com/ and http://this-is-not-native.tumblr.com/. I really like these two and find that they provide an extensive amount of resources about cultural appropriation of imagery and items from within their cultures. From what I've read, part of the reason that there are issues with cultural appropriation of such imagery and items is because they paint ideas that all indigenous people are from a singular culture, which isn't true.

And I hope you don't mind that I'm including a part of an article that I found explaining why people are uncomfortable with non-native's wearing headdresses.
Quote:
HEADDRESSES IN NATIVE CULTURES
For the most part, headdresses are restricted items. In particular, the headdress worn by most non-natives imitate those worn by various Plains nations. These headdresses are further restricted within the cultures to men who have done certain things to earn them. It is very rare for women in Plains cultures to wear these headdresses, and their ability to do so is again quite restricted.
So unless you are a native male from a Plains nation who has earned a headdress, or you have been given permission to wear one (sort of like being presented with an honorary degree), then you will have a very difficult time making a case for how wearing one is anything other than disrespectful, now that you know these things. If you choose to be disrespectful, please do not be surprised when people are offended… regardless of why you think you are entitled to do this.
Even if you have ‘native friends’ or are part native yourself, individual choices to “not be offended” do not trump our collective rights as peoples to define our symbols.
TRY REAL CELEBRATION INSTEAD OF APPROPRIATION
It is okay to find our stuff beautiful, because it is. It is okay to admire our cultures. However I think it is reasonable to ask that if you admire a culture, you learn more about it. Particularly when the details are so much more fascinating than say, out-dated stereotypes of Pan-Indian culture.
You do not have to be an expert on our cultures to access aspects of them. If you aren’t sure about whether something is restricted or not, please ask someone who is from that culture. If people from within that culture tell you that what you are doing is disrespectful, dismissing their concerns because you just don’t agree, is not indicative of admiration.
If you really, really want to wear beaded moccasins or mukluks or buy beautiful native art, then please do! There are legitimate and unrestricted items crafted and sold by aboriginal peoples that we would be more than happy to see you with. Then all the nasty disrespectful stereotyping and denigration of restricted symbols can be avoided, while still allowing you to be decked out in beautiful native-created fashion.
If you are an artist who just loves working with aboriginal images, then please try to ensure your work is authentic and does not incorporate restricted symbols (or perpetuate stereotypes). For example, painting a non-native woman in a Plains culture warbonnet is just as disrespectful as wearing one of these headdresses in real life. Painting a picture from an archival or modern photo of a real native person in a warbonnet, or in regalia, or in ‘street’ clothes is pretty much fine. Acknowledging from which specific nation the images you are using come from is even better. “Native American” or “Indian” is such a vague label.
MIYO-WÎCÊHTOWIN, LIVING TOGETHER IN HARMONY
It’s okay to make mistakes. Maybe you had no idea about any of this stuff. The classiest thing you can do is admit you didn’t know, and maybe even apologise if you find you were doing something disrespectful. A simple acknowledgement of the situation is pure gold, in my opinion. It diffuses tension and makes people feel that they have been heard, respected, and understood.
If you make this kind of acknowledgement conditional on people informing you of these things ‘nicely’ however, that is problematic. The fact is, this issue does get people very upset. It’s okay to get heated about it too on your end and maybe bad words fly back and forth. My hope is that once you cool down, you will accept that you are not being asked to do something unreasonable.
Remember that BINGO card above? It demonstrates how not to go about the issue. You and I both know this issue is not the end of the world. But it is an obstacle on the path to mutual respect and understanding.
Thanks for listening.
http://apihtawikosisan.tumblr.com/po...in-headdresses

Also, I've been thinking about the question I asked a few days ago, and it does seem that empathy is lacking in fashion. There are some designers and labels which are creating garments/brands that feel empathetic; that use sustainable materials, fair trade, and treat workers well. Yet, like TianSoFine said, much of the industry is formed on exploitation. It almost feels like the bread and butter of the fashion industry. It is certainly not the only industry which exploits people/cultures/ideas/etc but it's the one I feel the most familiar with. However, I wonder if people were informed about how their clothes were made or that an indigenous group's pattern's were used without consent, if people would give a damn at all. I'd like to think so, but I'm not totally sure about that. Unfortunately, it probably comes down to the idea of "us" and "them." An idea which is used by apathetic people.

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Last edited by YoninahAliza; 27-01-2013 at 09:01 PM.
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28-01-2013
  71
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Thanks for sharing the article.. and the links.. I found them to be a bit of an eyesore to be frank, purely sensationalist, leaning (in aspiration?) towards yellow press territory, dogmatic.. as if Malinowski was passed over and over through a hundred voices and they picked up the leftovers of some pretty biased functionalism.. with all the symbols and their (moral) purpose deviated into something so.. hum.. exclusive and discriminatory, with a bit of humorous/ironic informality in between ("the classiest thing you can do"). It's an interesting phenomenon though (aggressive sensibility, segregating with the purpose of fighting segregation, something along these lines..). Not that the culture in which these exact parameters of conceiving culture would be able to sustain a different type of resistance..

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28-01-2013
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Thanks for the articles! The links are really insightful but I'm not sure if I agree with everything. Like on nativeappropriations.com, there's an article on the Karlie Kloss VS incident. Now I can see why it would be offensive in terms of the significance of the headdress, but I do think the argument that it's sexualizing Native Americans and the connection to historical matters is a little oversensitive. I know a lot of people would disagree with me, but the way I see it is that VS is the sexualization of absolutely everything, and sexualization is also not the same as sexual violence.

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28-01-2013
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IMO, cultural appropriation is a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself (with the problem being lack of respect, understanding, racism, prejudice, et. al.). Chastising people about for wearing a headdress isn't going to make them particularly care about why it isn't appropriate to wear one.

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29-01-2013
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I completely agree with this. I think our energy should somehow go to dealing with those problems (neocolonialism, exploiting the weaker, ignorance) because distasteful stylings that use cultural appropriation are just a symptom of the state of the society.


Last edited by ssgghh; 29-01-2013 at 02:58 AM.
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29-01-2013
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I think the problem is that it designers (who are mostly European and mostlyy white) have ever since treated (non-European or non-WASP) cultures as treasure troves from which to get whatever they find ~pretty~ or ~inspiring~ while those cultures have suffered from oppression and a lack of autonomy for centuries at the same time. Cultural appropriation is a form of colonization in that the original peoples do not have the control over what is being said about them. I know that many peoples during colonialism and imperialsm were not allowed to were their traditional clothes or speak their languages. And if they did they were considered backward and wild. All the while being misrepresented in "human zoos" all across Europe and America just 90 years ago. Brown and black people from Africa and Asia were mixed together and simply presented as "colonial people" doing things which they never did in their homelands. Clothes and traditions or dances were mixed up or simply made up in order to entertain the European population. Not to mention the racism.

Sure times have changed, but the issue remains the same. Cultural appropriation is about misrepresentation, glamourizing and covering up the (colonial) past and the idea that non-while cultural objects look better on white bodies. (Just think of how bindis on white women are supposed to be the epitome of ~edginess~ *coughgwenstefaniandgrimes* but as an Indian women you'll be told to go back to India with your backward ways. Same goes for things like tattoos and body modification)

As for the Victoria's Secret thing I don't think that was too sensitive. While sexualisation doesn't equal sexual violence in can very easily lead to it. Native American women in particular have had to fight with a high number of rape, so why sexualize them even further? Not to mention that as far as I know women very rarely wore war bonnets anyway. That whole outfit was a mess.

I think the idea about educating people is a good one, but it is tiresome because a lot of times it is not a lack of knowledge that leads to CA but the refusal to be denied something which people think they are entitled to. And that one is harder to change. Also most people are simply apathetic or think it's an exaggeration to talk about and enlighten people about CA.

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