Israel winning The Eurovision Song Contest a couple of weeks ago raised more than a few eyebrows to say the least, some had a lot to say on Israel’s current political policies, others questioned the quality of the song itself…but there was also somewhat of a ‘twitter storm’ over the choice of staging that Netta, the Israeli winner, used to reach victory.
What Netta is being accused of is ‘Cultural Appropriation’ – by wearing an ‘oriental’ inspired outfit and surrounding herself on stage with ‘oriental trinkets’ (lucky cats for those of who are left scratching their heads) – she is, according to critics, denigrating and disrespecting the cultures from which these came.
Some comments included…
‘My culture is not your fashion’
‘Cultural appropriation, hello! Utterly disgusted!’
‘Israel is taking cultural appropriation to a whole new level’
‘Well done for offending the entire far eastern world’
‘This has made me so angry, tasteless orientalism!’
Now, I understand that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and people are of course entitled to be offended by whatever they want to get offended about…but seriously…can we all just grow up a bit now?
As an ‘oriental’ was I offended by a ‘non-oriental’ wearing a dress inspired by my culture? No. Of course not. Does it make me slightly uncomfortable that people are trying to impose rules on what one can and can’t wear based on their racial background – yes. I find that concept significantly more concerning than ‘white people’ wearing kimonos or cheong-sam.
Other related cases include…
A child being banned from dressing like Moana from her favourite Disney movie
Criticism of Chinese language tattoos (I mean, most of them don’t even mean what people think so surely you should be feeling pity not offence)
Outrage over Native American inspired headdresses featuring in fashion shows
Suggestions that the western uptake of Yoga is cultural appropriation
People with braided hair cause offence
I may be alone, but I for one think this is ridiculous.
Now, some may think I am not taking it seriously enough…but I have been on the receiving end of racism…and racism, the kind that makes you fearful and nauseous and feel worthless and lesser…that is something to be outraged by. Racism that limits your opportunities, mocks and in the worst cases, kills you…that is the kind of racism we should be standing up against.
I have had people pull theirs eyes in to slits at me, call me a ‘chinky’, ask if my dad has a chip shop (no, he doesn’t, but all my uncles do if you must know!), make inappropriate comments to me about Asian women being submissive and obedient wives (my husband will laugh so hard at that), comments about my eye shape and skin colour, people immitating Chinese language in mocking, even what some might call positive discrimination – with an interviewer once telling me I have a good chance at a job because ‘Asians have a good work ethic’. (Also, not all of this was from ‘white people’ – a little side note for those who mistakenly believe that only ‘white people’ are racist.) Wherever we went growing up, me and my siblings would get at least some malicious or mocking comments about our race. Although I consider my own experiences of racism to be relatively tame in comparison to some, my father was less lucky, experiencing terrible racism all of his life, growing up in a Britain that had not yet become used to seeing ‘foreigners’ on their streets, let alone ones with thick (adorable) Chinese accents.
Racism is not something to be taken lightly. It makes my stomach turn.
A woman standing with a lucky cat is not racism. I believe intention is everything. Do I believe she was trying to degrade the Chinese or Japanese culture by wearing the dress? Was she belittling us? Was she inciting hatred or negativity towards us? I actually believe that like most people who wear this sort of dress, she was wearing it because she liked it. Because these dresses are beautiful and cool and sexy and interesting. Those are good things! Great things! I’m thrilled she chose my culture’s garments over all others, she must think they’re awesome!
Like I said before, essentially telling someone they can’t wear something because of the colour of their skin…well to me that sounds a lot like racism.
I love seeing people wearing Chinese dresses and joining in with Chinese New Year celebrations and learning Kung Fu and eating our food. To me it’s nice. It shows people embracing your culture and traditions, appreciating them and showing them some love. People that would take offence at all these things…get a grip.
So Netta, if you’re reading this…I think you looked fab.
And don’t even get me started on Espadrilles.
If someone out there is horrified that a half Chinese woman in York is doing her weekly shop wearing Espadrilles…sorry…but not sorry.