Monet and Cultural Appropriation

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by litterature on Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:27 pm

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

IMHO the changes Japan has gone through since the Meiji period, especially during the Shouwa era and later, are a much touchier issue with Japanese people, much more likely to elicit the "this is Japan and you just don't understand" response, than traditional stuff. It's also interesting how there's a fair bit of Monet-style stuff from Japan (from Sakamoto's music, to Shinohara's early houses, to Aoshima's superflat ukiyo-e), as well as artists who absolute hate Japanese traditions (such Takemitsu, or Ooshima's hatred of Ozu's films), and artists who loathe some traditions and love some others (Kurosawa hated Kabuki but loved Nou, which makes sense, especially since these two traditions come from different periods and cater to different classes). But then again all of these artists are very popular in Europe, so maybe they're not the best example.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by reboot on Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:32 pm

reboot wrote:...

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

Just to bump my edit
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by litterature on Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:48 pm

By the way, I think this issue has the following layers:

1. The haute bourgeoisie of the Third Republic.
2. Meiji Japan.
3. Heisei Japan.
4. Present day Asian-Americans.

So we have an exhibition trying to explain how the haute bourgeoisie of the Third Republic lived fads to visitors. It's up for debate whether the attitude of the Third Republic towards Meiji Japan had an element of imperialism, which is pretty much the only thing worth calling "orientalism" here. If this was the case, then you could criticise how maybe some of the visitors might not get enough critical distance and latch onto a fad just like those haut bourgeois did. Of note that Meiji Japan was all about becoming westernised!

Then we have Heisei Japan, which I'm 99% certain doesn't give a damn about this, and has the means to stop being presented like that if it mattered to them.

And finally we have Asian-Americans, who as a minority feel uncomfortable with the USA as a state, lacking control over it and lacking control over how they themselves are presented. How this exhibition relates to that is unclear to me, but if it actually does, then protesting it would be valid. My opinion is it doesn't, but I really have a hard time understanding race relations in the US (and US progressive politics in general), so I'm likely to be wrong.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by reboundstudent on Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:55 pm

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?)  

Cultural appropriation is one of those things that makes me want to go rock in a corner and hope no one asks my opinion. I majored in Japanese, and was active in a Korean martial art all through college. During social outings, we had certain social rules that could have been traditionally Korean; we were obligated to bow to superiors, to not eat until our elder belt had eaten. I spent one party drunk off my ass because a superior belt kept clinking my glass, which meant I either had to finish the drink, or do push-ups.

When I lived in Japan, I was constantly being forced into yukata, kimono, and traditional Japanese cultural experiences. I think it was in the spirit of making me feel welcome, but I spent most of the time freaked out about appropriating culture. Looking back, I wish that I could have enjoyed the experience more. A college friend became a licensed kimono dresser, and it's one of those unique cultural experiences that I never allowed myself to partake in out of fear of how it appeared that I, a white person, was participating too heavily in Japanese culture.

That said, I also did my senior thesis on Native American appropriation at Boy Scout camps. There is a very long and exploitative history of "playing Indian," even when the participants initially mean to be respectful and reverent towards the culture. So *throws up hands*
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by Wondering on Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:17 pm

rj3 wrote: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.

Considering that a Native American successfully got the team's trademark revoked by the US Patent Office, considering the Oneida were airing ads against it during NFL games, and considering this video by the National Congress of American Indians, I think that, yes, many Native American people actually care.



And here's a blog by a Cherokee woman who talks about mascots often. She has an informal poll of just her readership of Native people with official tribal affiliation who object. She has a lot more issues she discusses, too, like headdresses.

If you're referring to that Sports Illustrated poll (from a decade ago?), that is not reliable. Just for two issues with it: The respondents were self-identified as Native; there was no vetting that the people who claimed they were Native in the poll actually were, and it excluded Alaska and Hawaii which makes up a huge percentage of indigenous populations in the US.

I do look side-eye at anyone who claims that the word used for that NFL team name is not a racial slur and/or that it's okay to use as the team's name.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by reboot on Wed Jul 15, 2015 8:03 pm

Thanks to my politically active Navajo friend, I have seem from the Native American media (she forward me tons of stuff) how offended people are by the team name and misuse of ceremonial garb. I linked one story from Indian Country Today Media Network, but if you Google "Indian Country Today Media Network" and the team name you get a metric fuckton of articles calling for change from a bunch of Tribes nationwide, going back years. Here is that search

Then there are a couple of YouTube videos by the 1491s, a Native American activist comedy group that cover mascots and costumes:



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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by nearly_takuan on Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:52 pm

As the protesters said, one of the most wide-spread manifestations of racism against Asians in Western societies is the projection of more cultural distance than is really necessary: the assumption that we're mysterious, mystical, Other. We are sometimes invisible, sometimes fetishized/romanticized, but we do not get to be human.

Now, this is just me, and maybe I'm a dummy who just doesn't get it, but...isn't viewing kimono as a special sacred cultural thing that whities aren't allowed to touch way more packed with unfortunate noble-savage bullshit implications than inviting people to a museum to try on some clothes?

Same with martial arts and the corresponding sport gear. I'd much rather people go learn a fun sport (and some physics!) and wear the correct attire for it, than have people thinking karate consists of shooting kamehameha waves and blocking swords with fingers.

Shrug. I liked the article BasedBuzzed linked. Seems right to me.
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by reboot on Fri Jul 17, 2015 1:54 am

I think it depends a lot on the relationship between the cultures and the history between them. I get the sense from my contact with Native Americans that they feel that people feel OK using what are actually sacred symbols (e.g. eagle feather headdress) because people think they as a people and culture do not exist anymore. That they are extinct or quaint zoo exhibits to feel sorry for.

A kimono or martial arts garb feel different because: a) neither is a religious symbol and b) no one has any doubts that Japaesen (kimono, some martial arts gear), Chinese (some martial arts gear), Koreans (martial arts gear again) still exist and are still viable cultures. It is more exoticism than patronizing I guess???

But this is mere speculation on my part as I belong to none of the cultures listed above and am just guessing at what might be going on.
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by nearly_takuan on Fri Jul 17, 2015 2:53 am

Those would be my guesses, too.

As a follow-up point that's also related to the first remark BasedBuzzed made in this thread, I think one of the things Asian-Americans have in common with Native Americans is we don't like being lumped together as a single group. When it's a very specifically Japanese topic in play, doesn't it seem strange to ask the opinion of a Wang, and not that of a Watanabe? (Pardons asked if it happens that Wang and/or Siyuan have Japanese heritage in addition to Indo-Chinese....)
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by litterature on Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:45 am

Yeah, to treat a sacred vest as a symbol of silliness and partying and to find kimonos stylish are not the same thing.

I'm under the impression that cultural artifacts belonging to the traditional urban classes have translated well (and their influence can't be understated - there wouldn't be modern architecture without machiya for example), while there's a fair bit of bollocks with anything more to the taste of monks and the ruling classes (sadou, nou theatre, martial arts, etc). But it's true that the people who get interested in these things generally are very serious.

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by reboot on Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:44 am

nearly_takuan wrote:Those would be my guesses, too.

As a follow-up point that's also related to the first remark BasedBuzzed made in this thread, I think one of the things Asian-Americans have in common with Native Americans is we don't like being lumped together as a single group. When it's a very specifically Japanese topic in play, doesn't it seem strange to ask the opinion of a Wang, and not that of a Watanabe? (Pardons asked if it happens that Wang and/or Siyuan have Japanese heritage in addition to Indo-Chinese....)

Oh hell yeah. Hispanics feel the same way. They may both be Garcia, but the one from El Salvador has a very different culture than the one from Dominican Republic or Paraguay. Same goes for Arabs since Yemen and Morocco and Syria are very different. And let's not get started on how Africa gets treated like it is one country (there is a good Ali G making fun of this when he visits the UN)
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by skullbearer on Sun Jul 19, 2015 2:07 pm

My view is that if you go to the country and they have no problem with letting you use/buy the thing (it gets dodgy in more economically troubled countries- but Japan is not one of them) that cultural appropriation is not a problem as long as you're not using it as mockery. Using it as a costume is a bit more grey, because a lot of fancy clothes are 'costumes'.
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by nearly_takuan on Sun Jul 19, 2015 2:55 pm

skullbearer wrote:My view is that if you go to the country and they have no problem with letting you use/buy the thing (it gets dodgy in more economically troubled countries- but Japan is not one of them) that cultural appropriation is not a problem as long as you're not using it as mockery. Using it as a costume is a bit more grey, because a lot of fancy clothes are 'costumes'.

I can go to Mexico and buy a sombrero and a copy of Pokemon: Omega Ruby. That doesn't make Ludicolo not offensive.

In the particular case of Japanese-Americans, I (as a fourth-generation Japanese-American whose nissei grandfather worked with MIS to interrogate Japanese POWs) think modern Japanese culture and politics don't have a lot to do with us. We are gaijin, and the culture my great-grandparents brought with them when they immigrated was the culture of early 1900s Japan—very different from what it is today. So, what Japan thinks about a given issue does not necessarily reflect what Japanese-Americans will think.

There is a certain extent to which I think the MFA did fuck up: which aspects of a culture can be shared is not a decision that should be made by people entirely outside that culture. We may be gaijin, but kimono is a part of the history that Japanese-Americans do share with Japan, and it is very strange having white people and Chinese-American people tell me (via art exhibits and news columns) how they think I ought to feel about it.

I would otherwise personally say that I don't consider any part of my "heritage" (such as it is) off-limits for exploration, and it makes me happy (if a little jealous) when people learn the Japanese language or other aspects of Japanese culture. But, I also don't speak for all Japanese-Americans, and these days I don't even know any outside my own family, so your guess is as good as mine when it comes to what the broader community of Asian-Americans thinks....
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by kath on Mon Jul 20, 2015 1:39 pm

nearly_takuan wrote:
There is a certain extent to which I think the MFA did fuck up: which aspects of a culture can be shared is not a decision that should be made by people entirely outside that culture. We may be gaijin, but kimono is a part of the history that Japanese-Americans do share with Japan, and it is very strange having white people and Chinese-American people tell me (via art exhibits and news columns) how they think I ought to feel about it.

I think that's very important.

And like, Monet was a white dude. And apparently,he was trying to criticize cultural appropriation in that painting ... but whether because the symbols he was using to tell us it was criticism aren't ones that were ever very obvious, or just aren't obvious to north american audiences now, the MFA saying "try on this kimono" doesn't get into any of that, and just seems to reinforce the exoticism.
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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

Post by skullbearer on Mon Jul 20, 2015 5:26 pm

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Re: Monet and Cultural Appropriation

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