Monet and Cultural Appropriation

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Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by JP McBride on Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:31 pm

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/style/2015/07/07/mfa-backs-down-over-kimono-event-response-protests/lv9NHcnpW0lsRE77d9hvkI/story.html

I was wondering what the crowd here thinks of this. Personally, I have a hard time seeing the justice in the protests.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by eselle28 on Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:54 pm

Hosting "Kimono Wednesdays" in front of that particular painting seems like a rather different matter than protesting Monet.

I'd consider this a borderline case, but I don't think what appears to be a group of two or three people expressing their opinion silently is an injustice or that having one's picture taken in front of a painting wearing a kimono is all that educational of an experience.
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by Wondering on Tue Jul 14, 2015 9:06 pm

I have no problem with what the protesters did. A culture is not a costume, and I don't really get what the point is of having people dress up in kimonos for a photo op.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by kath on Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:18 am

I'm also not surprised that trying on a replica kimono reads very differently in Boston than in Japan.

And in Boston, I don't think that activity, as presented, is much of an aid for you to think about what Monet was thinking about in the painting (and what you think about Monet and "Orientalism" etc). It might have been intended to be, but it's hard to think it would have been successful for many people unless there is a LOT of facilitation to that effect.

I hope the reconfigured activity have a place for that type of discussion, whatever the activity now looks like. The protesters definitely made the program more compelling!

(But this is pretty cool because I'm a public programmer in a science centre - so very different than programming for an art museum, but ... I can kinda imagine staring down the barrel of a Monet exhibition and wondering what to do as a public program. Impressionism glasses Wink?)
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by Wondering on Wed Jul 15, 2015 2:04 am

It's not in my book. Others my have different opinions. What's your opinion?

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by JP McBride on Wed Jul 15, 2015 3:19 am

Wondering wrote:It's not in my book. Others my have different opinions. What's your opinion?

That people who protest art exhibits are generally cultural reactionaries.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by Guest on Wed Jul 15, 2015 3:27 am

Wondering wrote:It's not in my book. Others my have different opinions. What's your opinion?

I don't think it's okay either.

I'm of the opinion that maybe (just maaaybe) a little introspection should be required before donning any culturally significant or -- as in the case of 'Cholo Culture' -- racist. What I mean is "Why are you dressing like that?" I'm not saying "Don't dress like that", I'm saying "Be mindful of what you're wearing and what it means to some people". What upset me (yes, this legit made me sorta mad) is that they're protesting Japanese cultural appropriation while Japanese people are doing the same thing only with a sub-culture from my roots.

The hypocrisy of their protesting is what got to me. Now you or others may disagree at me being upset, but dressing up in a Kimono and dressing up as a cholo are very similar to each other. As in both are perpetuating negative stereotypes about these groups of people. And as a Hispanic man, one is perpetuating a stereotype against me.

I was gonna be much snarkier about this in my initial response to the article but I had to keep myself in check. Gosh.

Anyway, I'll leave it at that for now. If anyone wants to ask me about why I feel this way, feel free to PM me.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by eselle28 on Wed Jul 15, 2015 3:40 am

Are you sure that these particular protestors are both aware of and complicit with this sort of appropriation? They're on the other side of the country, and they aren't engaged in the appropriation themselves from the pictures. I think it's a bit of an assumption to say they'd approve.
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by Guest on Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:01 am

eselle28 wrote:Are you sure that these particular protestors are both aware of and complicit with this sort of appropriation? They're on the other side of the country, and they aren't engaged in the appropriation themselves from the pictures. I think it's a bit of an assumption to say they'd approve.

No, I'm not sure. But I'm also not saying that they'd approve, either. What I am saying is that maybe them being aware of the fact that appropriation happens even within their own international ethnic community at large would be nice. They may or may not, I dunno.

Anyway, I'm out. I'm sorry I lost my temper a bit there.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:46 am

Ultimately, I think it's not our place to say what is appropriation of Japanese culture, but that it should be left to the lived experiences of Japanese people like Wang and Siyuan from the article.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by litterature on Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:23 am

Appropiation is denying someone's voice and turning them into cute little pets. Japan, or more accurately the State of Japan, has got its own resources to present its people however they want (and how they chose to present themselves is pretty awful for a number of reasons but that's another matter). The Japanese people isn't a minority who doesn't have really a say on what their state is like (well, they really don't, but you know, nominally), it's not a stateless nation, and it hasn't been a weak, bullied, nation for a long long time, so it's pretty damn hard to do anything that qualifies as really dangerous, other than overtly racist stuff, which I feel this isn't.

What this is, though, is pretty stupid. (edit: "this" being posing in a kimono in front of a Monet)

disclaimer: i'm a white person from a 90% white country, majoring in Japanese and who feels more inspired by, say, ukiyo-e and Mao Tse Tung than Michelangelo and the fathers of democracy, so maybe my opinion doesn't qualify

edit: @ BasedBuzzed: I don't even agree with that as I'm too much of a modernist to care about a politics with no universal value whatsoever, because that would be closer to a community ethics which is fine with me but is definitely something other than a politics, but keep in mind that the two people you mention aren't Japanese. they're speaking on behalf of "Asian-Americans" as a whole, which, even in the case of Americans of Japanese descent, is a distinct thing from Japanese people in Japan, making this case extra-complicated.

That reminds me that the application of the concept of Orientalism is relatively dubious here, as unless you're talking about migrants from ex-colonies, the cultural relationship between an imperialist country and the periphery and the cultural relationship between a state's people and the minorities it doesn't represent are two rather distinct things. Whether Japan was even a periphery in Monet's time is debatable as well.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by Conreezy on Wed Jul 15, 2015 11:00 am

What I am saying is that maybe them being aware of the fact that appropriation happens even within their own international ethnic community at large would be nice.

Yeah, but why shouldn't a group respond to racism directed towards them, even if that group isn't perfect about not perpetrating racism towards others when they're in the majority? I'm Hispanic too, and goodness knows there's racism in Hispanic cultures towards other ethnic groups, whether we're also a minority or not.

Anyway, if the subject of the painting is a white women in a kimono, I don't see the harm in white women wearing kimonos, but I've never really cared too much for cultural appropriation, since I probably commit it myself. (I wear jika-tabi to my kendo/batto-do dojo, and sometimes when I'm out and about. Is that appropriation, or does my ability to use to a katana lend me enough street cred to pull it off?)

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by reboot on Wed Jul 15, 2015 11:16 am

Conreezy wrote:......
Anyway, if the subject of the painting is a white women in a kimono, I don't see the harm in white women wearing kimonos, but I've never really cared too much for cultural appropriation, since I probably commit it myself.  (I wear jika-tabi to my kendo/batto-do dojo, and sometimes when I'm out and about.  Is that appropriation, or does my ability to use to a katana lend me enough street cred to pull it off?)  

I wonder the same thing with my shalwar kameez or jilbaab/kaftans. I wore them all the time with accompanying head/face covering back in the day because they were climate and culture appropriate and cut through a lot of nonsense with local counterparts. I would love to wear them here (without the headwear and definitely without the burqa, whose moving mesh is hell to see out of) because they are beautiful and suit the AZ climate. But I would feel weird and awkward, maybe like I was dressing in a costume or somehow mocking the people who wear them on the reg? I wear the shit out of them at home, but outside....I do not know. It feels wrong for some reason.
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by JP McBride on Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:14 pm

BasedBuzzed wrote:Ultimately, I think it's not our place to say what is appropriation of Japanese culture, but that it should be left to the lived experiences of Japanese people like Wang and Siyuan from the article.  

Not sure if you're being sarcastic.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by rj3 on Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:48 pm

JP McBride wrote:
BasedBuzzed wrote:Ultimately, I think it's not our place to say what is appropriation of Japanese culture, but that it should be left to the lived experiences of Japanese people like Wang and Siyuan from the article.  

Not sure if you're being sarcastic.

I think the old rule needs updating.

Old rule: "Do not treat all Asian cultures as the same thing. Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, etc. all have distinct histories and practices.

New rule: "Do not treat all Asian cultures as the same thing unless claiming offense for a publicity stunt. You can assume that overeager 'allies' and lazy journalists won't be able to tell the difference."

I like the old rule better.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:57 pm

I was being sarcastic. Museum fucked up, protestors fucked up. I think this lady has the best analysis of the whole situation: http://japaneseamericaninboston.blogspot.jp/2015/07/japanese-american-and-japanese-reaction.html

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by Conreezy on Wed Jul 15, 2015 1:07 pm

But I would feel weird and awkward, maybe like I was dressing in a costume or somehow mocking the people who wear them on the reg?

I can understand feeling awkward in a day-to-day setting (just because that stuff will get you looks and questions. My jika-tabi go by unnoticed. Plus, there is all sort of weird cultural baggage attached to anything Middle Eastern.)

But at an event that is related to that culture? I'd think it was okay. At my wedding, friend and relatives of all ethnic backgrounds wore saris. Sure, they were asked to by us, but my wife is not the arbiter of Indian culture, so who's to say it wasn't appropriation?

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by PintsizeBro on Wed Jul 15, 2015 1:37 pm

The question of where to draw the line between participation and appropriation isn't always a clear one.

I wore jinbei to a summer festival in Japan. Everyone there was in jinbei or yukata, and I wanted to fit in (at least as much as a white guy in Japan can fit in). In that context, I think I made the right choice - I'd have stuck out like a sore thumb if I'd shown up in jeans and a t-shirt. But I brought the outfit home with me, and I haven't worn it outside my home since. Would it be appropriation to wear it in the US? I don't know.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by rj3 on Wed Jul 15, 2015 1:50 pm

PintsizeBro wrote:The question of where to draw the line between participation and appropriation isn't always a clear one.

I wore jinbei to a summer festival in Japan. Everyone there was in jinbei or yukata, and I wanted to fit in (at least as much as a white guy in Japan can fit in). In that context, I think I made the right choice - I'd have stuck out like a sore thumb if I'd shown up in jeans and a t-shirt. But I brought the outfit home with me, and I haven't worn it outside my home since. Would it be appropriation to wear it in the US? I don't know.

I've found that if you're genuinely interested in something, people from different cultures are usually excited to encourage that, especially abroad.

"Cultural appropriation," not to be confused with straight-up mockery and ripping people off and not paying royalties, is a niche opinion that looks like consensus on certain corners of the Internet. That's because it's standard call out culture fare; you can't get called out for saying the wrong thing if you stay on the attack, so stay on the attack. Nobody ever became a Twitter star by saying, "I've thought this out and examined all the angles, and no, I don't think this is offensive."

That's why your average Japanese person will let you try on their kimono, but a non-Japanese busybody marinated in certain online communities will respond to the same thing with a list of demands.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by reboot on Wed Jul 15, 2015 2:41 pm

I do know that most Afghans/Pakistanis and Jordanians/Iraqis who are not raised in the US/do not live in the US are not particularly keen on outsiders wearing their traditional clothes outside of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Iraq, etc.. I know I could never wear the clothes to work without offending many of my clients and coworkers.

So this is not just an online thing.

EDIT: I think in this case it is because they feel most Westerners hate, fear, or distrust them so it is felt that it is less celebration and more mockery
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by Wondering on Wed Jul 15, 2015 2:59 pm

rj3 wrote:
PintsizeBro wrote:The question of where to draw the line between participation and appropriation isn't always a clear one.

I wore jinbei to a summer festival in Japan. Everyone there was in jinbei or yukata, and I wanted to fit in (at least as much as a white guy in Japan can fit in). In that context, I think I made the right choice - I'd have stuck out like a sore thumb if I'd shown up in jeans and a t-shirt. But I brought the outfit home with me, and I haven't worn it outside my home since. Would it be appropriation to wear it in the US? I don't know.

I've found that if you're genuinely interested in something, people from different cultures are usually excited to encourage that, especially abroad.

"Cultural appropriation," not to be confused with straight-up mockery and ripping people off and not paying royalties, is a niche opinion that looks like consensus on certain corners of the Internet.  That's because it's standard call out culture fare; you can't get called out for saying the wrong thing if you stay on the attack, so stay on the attack. Nobody ever became a Twitter star by saying, "I've thought this out and examined all the angles, and no, I don't think this is offensive."

I don't know that I agree with that. I think there are some uses and contexts that are absolutely appropriation objectively. Like white people wearing Native American headdresses to music festivals or dressing up as Native Americans for Halloween. Not okay. Not okay for non-Native fashion designers to use headdresses in their runway shows. That's appropriation. And I don't think there's a lot of support for non-Natives, and especially white people, doing that out of interest or "honoring" Native American culture.

reboot wrote:I do know that most Afghans/Pakistanis and Jordanians/Iraqis who are not raised in the US/do not live in the US are not particularly keen on outsiders wearing their traditional clothes outside of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Iraq, etc.. I know I could never wear the clothes to work without offending many of my clients and coworkers.

So this is not just an online thing.

EDIT: I think in this case it is because they feel most Westerners hate, fear, or distrust them so it is felt that it is less celebration and more mockery

That kind of makes me think of what I've read of the headdresses issue (which often is being spoken of alongside the DC NFL team's name issue): That Native Americans not living on reservations, living out among predominantly non-natives, tend to be more bothered by the appropriation and team name slur because they aren't surrounded by their own people and culture to counteract the negative messages those actions send.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by rj3 on Wed Jul 15, 2015 3:40 pm

Wondering wrote:
rj3 wrote:
PintsizeBro wrote:The question of where to draw the line between participation and appropriation isn't always a clear one.

I wore jinbei to a summer festival in Japan. Everyone there was in jinbei or yukata, and I wanted to fit in (at least as much as a white guy in Japan can fit in). In that context, I think I made the right choice - I'd have stuck out like a sore thumb if I'd shown up in jeans and a t-shirt. But I brought the outfit home with me, and I haven't worn it outside my home since. Would it be appropriation to wear it in the US? I don't know.

I've found that if you're genuinely interested in something, people from different cultures are usually excited to encourage that, especially abroad.

"Cultural appropriation," not to be confused with straight-up mockery and ripping people off and not paying royalties, is a niche opinion that looks like consensus on certain corners of the Internet.  That's because it's standard call out culture fare; you can't get called out for saying the wrong thing if you stay on the attack, so stay on the attack. Nobody ever became a Twitter star by saying, "I've thought this out and examined all the angles, and no, I don't think this is offensive."

I don't know that I agree with that. I think there are some uses and contexts that are absolutely appropriation objectively. Like white people wearing Native American headdresses to music festivals or dressing up as Native Americans for Halloween. Not okay. Not okay for non-Native fashion designers to use headdresses in their runway shows. That's appropriation. And I don't think there's a lot of support for non-Natives, and especially white people, doing that out of interest or "honoring" Native American culture.

reboot wrote:I do know that most Afghans/Pakistanis and Jordanians/Iraqis who are not raised in the US/do not live in the US are not particularly keen on outsiders wearing their traditional clothes outside of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Iraq, etc.. I know I could never wear the clothes to work without offending many of my clients and coworkers.

So this is not just an online thing.

EDIT: I think in this case it is because they feel most Westerners hate, fear, or distrust them so it is felt that it is less celebration and more mockery

That kind of makes me think of what I've read of the headdresses issue (which often is being spoken of alongside the DC NFL team's name issue): That Native Americans not living on reservations, living out among predominantly non-natives, tend to be more bothered by the appropriation and team name slur because they aren't surrounded by their own people and culture to counteract the negative messages those actions send.

Wait, I think things are reversed here. In the post to which you were replying, reboot was writing about people who are still in their native culture, not those who had moved elsewhere.

Anyway, I think the headdresses at Coachella fall under the category of mockery - people seem to be looking for "wacky and loud" and finding it in headdresses. Never underestimate the ability of attention-seeking to cloud judgment. Perhaps the non-Japanese MFA protestors are Exhibit B.

Now as for the football team, I see an awful lot of white media types very loudly proclaiming that they won't call the team by its name* and looking for Native faces to put on what is essentially a lot of in-group piety signaling. The funny thing is that the team's management is similarly looking for Native faces while encouraging the right to defend the name as anti-PC in-group piety signaling.

Whether Native American people actually care about it as much as their defenders is an open question. Polls have been conducted, but the lack of basic utility access in many reservations made things difficult.

*I'm not doing it either, specifically because I don't want to be seen as unnecessarily provoking in this particular space.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by reboot on Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:25 pm

I was being unclear. I work with refugees and immigrants here in the US. They would be pretty offended and be untrusting of my motives if I wore their traditional clothes here. When I worked in their countries it was different since it was adhering to cultural modesty rules.

EDIT: And I know one Navajo woman and her friends and family who get hugely pissed about people misusing sacred ceremonial garb as costumes. Here is a link she sent me from Indian Country Today Media Network I also know that their tribe sues designers when their objects and patterns are appropriated. So my feeling is they are more pissed than the people you are talking about, but less visible online


Last edited by reboot on Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by rj3 on Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:26 pm

reboot wrote:I was being unclear. I work with refugees and immigrants here in the US. They would be pretty offended and be untrusting of my motives if I wore their traditional clothes here. When I worked in their countries it was different since it was adhering to cultural modesty rules.

Aah, gotcha.

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