Posted by Lil Miss Hot Mess on September 29, 2009
Some pictures from the APAture show this weekend!
For those who weren’t there, it was a number about Asian-American women taking their “shit” back from culture vulture Gwen Stefani, notorious for her exploitation and appropriation of Japanese Harajuku culture. Here’s our definition of cultural appropriation:
Cultural appropriation: for pleasure or benefit, a dominant group mines a subordinated group’s culture for the jewels of its heritage.
I think this is a really good, succinct definition. I do sometimes go back-and-forth on the problematics of cultural appropriation — I’ve seen a lot of blatantly racist performance and other art in San Francisco (not to mention the fashion on some people just walking down the street), but I’ve also seen people be really quick to jump on someone for stepping outside of their lived experiences (or seeming to). It’s tricky. There are ways of respectfully sharing and crossing cultures, and there are ways of taking things out of context, or exploiting them, or benefiting from them that are demeaning and hurtful. It’s interesting to me that gender can feel really fluid, and crossing it can be subversive, but crossing lines of ethnicity, race, or other forms of culture can be really offensive and painful. It’s also just problematic in our post-modern world (oh dear!) to think about who really owns or has rights to certain cultural traditions — there are many aspects of “my cultures” that I don’t really own, or that weren’t my direct experience, yet that I’m interested in learning about or participating in. Like, baking challah for goodness sake! It’s not like I’m using my bubbe’s recipe (and it’s not like I even called my grandma Bubbe either). And, you know, there are aspects of most cultures that were shared, borrowed, or swapped at some point — how far back can we go, and how useful is that?
Whoa, I’ll stop there, but, you know, some thoughts to think about. Ultimately, though, I’d say that we live in a world in which certain people (straight, white, able-bodied, men, with money and access, etc.) have certain privileges and powers, which makes being respectful and sharing equitably an even more difficult conversation.
Special thanks to Charleston Chu, Chan Dynasty, Lazy Suzan, and Princess Pony Pants for letting me be in this number! OMG, and special special thanks to Thisway/Thatway for putting together our amazing outfits! (Again, how weird is it that we all look super cute, even though we’re supposed to be deconstructing this bullshit?) Anyway, look for us doing this number again in the Bay Area sometime! (And hopefully I’ll get to post video soon.)