Cultural appropriations and bicycles.

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Fleur
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Oct 21 2014 15:16
Cultural appropriations and bicycles.

gamerunknown wrote:

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fleur wrote:
Eagle feathers are earned and awarded to people, they're not a fashion item.
As the author of the article points out, war bonnets were restricted to men in the Plains nation. In Victorian England, bicycles were restricted items for women. Women chose to disrespect Victorian culture and use bicycles. The same is true in certain cultures in India today. Trousers were restricted items.

There is in no way a sensible comparison between cultural appropriation and Victorian women riding bicycles. Cultural appropriation is borrowing other people's traditions, without understanding or respecting their history, often perpetuating stereotypes. Usually cultural appropriation involves taking a significant cultural item from people who have been colonized, subjected to forced assimilation and have had their own cultures and traditions suppressed, and then using it because someone thinks it looks cool. War bonnets look really, really cool but never on white people. Let's not forget it was white people who took their lands, their lives, their children, tried to obliterate their languages and cultures. It is only respectful that if native people say please do not do this, then don't do it.

The article I linked to, and will link to again here
http://apihtawikosisan.com/hall-of-shame/an-open-letter-to-non-natives-in-headdresses/
is written by an indigenous woman who is very active in native organizing and education in the city I live in. Eagle feathers are awarded to men and women, they are traditionally worn in different ways. It is up to native women to challenge sexism in their own communities and they very much do. Native women are at the forefront of indigenous organizing. There are women chiefs (and warriors) and if they chose to respect their own traditions by not wearing war bonnets that's their call. Women do, however, wear eagle feathers.

Bicycles, on the other hand, are just a mode of transport and when Victorian women took up cycling they were not appropriating someone else's significant cultural traditions.

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Besides, there's a reasonable argument for not wearing any animal products whatsoever.

That is a personal choice someone would make and has no bearing on the argument. It also would be a difficult argument to put where I live, if you wanted to be inclusive of native people, given the high cultural significance of wearing animal products to native people.

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Mr. Jolly
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Oct 21 2014 15:21

What has this got to do with matted hair in London?

Fleur
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Oct 21 2014 15:25

Mr. Jolly wrote

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What has this got to do with matted hair in London?

Not a lot. I just figured that some people have a hard time distinguishing what the difference between cultural appropriation, eating curry, wearing comedy hats and riding bicycles is.

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Mr. Jolly
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Oct 21 2014 15:54

Sure but it sprang from a talk about hairstyles/subcultural fashion. Isn't it the case as will so much of radical politics, very valid criticisms are used to raise other things to the level of absurdity often as a hidden way, safe in a smug little clique using the discourse of equality to bully people because you dont like the cut of their jib?

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 21 2014 15:40

Yes.

Hang on, who are you referring to here? Black anarcha-fems or the whinging old sexist brigade?

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Oct 21 2014 15:46

Probably both to be honest. It seems inherent in the scene that puts so much empahsis on dress, language and diet.

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Oct 21 2014 15:57

"Whenever I hear the word 'culture', that's when I reach for the class analysis."

Fleur
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Oct 21 2014 15:58

Someone posted up the section from the Safer Spaces document dealing with cultural appropriation, adding a dismissive comment, and seeing as some people were clearly confused as to what cultural appropriation was, I thought I'd fill you in using one of the examples cited in the document ie war bonnet. Then there was the comment that we aren't responsible for the commodification of cultures, we are however responsible for respecting the wishes of the people who ask us not to disrespect their cultures. It seemed like a bunch of blokes snarking on an incident which none of them witnessed, picking up from twitter gossip. From what I heard, the AFem event was very successful but you'd never guess that because it's far more interesting to fixate on an incident that is ripe for taking the piss out of.

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Oct 21 2014 16:01

But you always get a fixation on the kick off's at the Anarchist Bookfair, the fact that it was at AFem is incidental.

akai
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Oct 21 2014 16:15

I just wonder where the limits to all this are. I mean, if I have a nose ring, have I made an appropriation is in some culture it has a special significance, or what if I have a tattoo?

Basically, we can see that throughout history, as long as their has been travellers and interchange, people have borrowed from other cultures, religions etc. In some cases, it might be quite difficult to know where somebody might feel disrespected.

And in some cases, we should wonder, really. In my country there are lots of people who get furious when the culture or religion is, according to them, disrespected. But I don't really care about it.

I am not trying to be dismissive here, but in any case, if there were some legitimate issue to be discussed, I hope it was discussed and not presented as something obvious, because I don't think the question would have necessarily been to obvious to the offender.

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Oct 21 2014 16:42
rat wrote:
"Whenever I hear the word 'culture', that's when I reach for the class analysis."

Whenever I delve into anarchist ghetto politics, that's when I reach for the sick bag.

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Oct 21 2014 16:49
Mr. Jolly wrote:
But you always get a fixation on the kick off's at the Anarchist Bookfair, the fact that it was at AFem is incidental.

In fact, when discussion on this incident started in the libcom bookfair thread, Afem had not even been mentioned and the incident was assumed to have taken place in the bookfair itself.

Fleur
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Oct 21 2014 17:29

So, let me get this straight. Some people are finding it hard to tell the difference between cultural appropriation, which is when a person or persons takes a highly significant cultural thing or practice from a marginalized group of people, generally people who have had a history of being marginalized by said dominant group, and exploits it for profit or their own personal gratification, such as in a fashion statement, against the express wishes of the people for whom this has been appropriated, and riding bikes and having piercings.

And drawing comparisons between the anarchafems and Richard Starkey and the national front. That was an especially nice touch.

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Oct 21 2014 17:45

"Besides, there's a reasonable argument for not wearing any animal products whatsoever."

"That is a personal choice someone would make and has no bearing on the argument. It also would be a difficult argument to put where I live, if you wanted to be inclusive of native people, given the high cultural significance of wearing animal products to native people."

I assume that the same would not apply to Spanish and French who enjoy bullfighting and have lots of ideas of cultural significance about it and all of that. How come there is so much inconsistency in general as regards to when 'tradition' is sufficient to justify certain behaviours?

Fleur
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Oct 21 2014 17:51

Seriously, what the fuck does that have to do with the discussion? Did someone turn up at bookfair dressed as a picador? Or am I just being speciesist again?

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Oct 21 2014 17:56

I dont think you would have had anyone turning up dressed like a Native American either.

Fleur
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Oct 21 2014 18:00

I don't suppose they would have. However, again, I used the example because that was the example copied and pasted into the thread. I'm finding it hard to understand how people seem to find easy comparisons to doing something which it essentially racist and wearing leather, which was one of the statements I responded to.

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plasmatelly
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Oct 21 2014 18:00
Fleur wrote:
So, let me get this straight. Some people are finding it hard to tell the difference between cultural appropriation, which is when a person or persons takes a highly significant cultural thing or practice from a marginalized group of people, generally people who have had a history of being marginalized by said dominant group, and exploits it for profit or their own personal gratification, such as in a fashion statement, against the express wishes of the people for whom this has been appropriated, and riding bikes and having piercings.

And drawing comparisons between the anarchafems and Richard Starkey and the national front. That was an especially nice touch.

I think people understand what you mean by that definition of cultural appropriation - I just think you are really going to struggle to find someone who deliberately does this. Culture isn't cast in stone and usually people will buy clothes or make fashion statements in reletive ignorance and innocence. Challenging cultural appropriation on the terms you set out may be fair enough, but in the instance that started the whole debate, it was around dreadlocks. I may need a bit enlightenment here, but afaik there is no recognised culture that can lay exclusive monopoly over this particular do. Or is there? I'm not even sure if this is remotely important to bottom out; there are any amount of decent, militant anarchists with dreadlocks - lets not label them something they aren't.
With regards to "drawing comparisons between the anarchafems and Richard Starkey and the national front.." - there was no mention of the National Front. The poster pointed out that the text on cultural appropriation reminded him of Starkey's well known ravings on the cross over in black and white youth culture. It's important that no one walks away from this thread with the misundstanding that someone has compared anarchafems to fascists. It just didn't happen.

Fleur
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Oct 21 2014 18:36

Plasmatelly

It was the general piss-taking attitude of people who weren't there and didn't particularly want to take the time to find out what actually happened which annoyed me. As far as I've been able to find out it was a productive day, and the incident relating to the dreadlocks happened right at the end, during the wrap-up but it has come to overshadow discussions of the event. Maybe someone who was actually there might do a write up but this seems something of a hostile place to do so, if the prevailing attitude is to snark on hairstylegate.

Cultures do not exist in a vacuum and are ever changing but if marginalized people tell other people what they are doing is racist, then the very least we can do is listen and reflect upon it. People do chose fashions out of ignorance but ignorance is a poor excuse if other people are willing to educate you and again, listen and reflect.

It was this comment

Quote:
As the author of the article points out, war bonnets were restricted to men in the Plains nation. In Victorian England, bicycles were restricted items for women. Women chose to disrespect Victorian culture and use bicycles. The same is true in certain cultures in India today. Trousers were restricted items.

which made it sound that disrespecting Victorian sexism was the same as disrespecting native cultures, maybe a good thing. Maybe the poster just badly phrased it.

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Oct 21 2014 18:38

Fuckwit DJ, Mike Reed, doing a UKIP song in a fake Jamaican accent, that's proper cultural appropriaton.... but some anarcho with a dodgy haircut, that's just a fashion victim.

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Oct 21 2014 18:56

Fleur - I'm not sure if people have been piss taking about the conference, if they have I missed it and if so, they be need to pull their socks up. IMO, I think it's important to try and isolate dreadlockgate from the conference if we are to discuss anything like cultural appropriation without risking distorting what is reported to have been a well organised and productive meeting.

Fleur
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Oct 21 2014 20:23

I think I pointed out in my post on the other thread that I don't give a toss about dreadlocks but posting up the section from the safer spaces agreement about cultural appropriation and dismissing it as if it isn't even a thing, but then you can argue that nothing is a thing, unless it affects you.
And then there's always the accusations of identity politics, which is very convenient when it's not your identity which is being undermined or sidelined in the class trumps everything else argument.

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Oct 21 2014 21:39

Removed cos im being a bit twatty.

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Oct 21 2014 20:58

I think I’m in general agreement with Fleur #1. I think however that when she states that:

‘War bonnets look really, really cool but never on white people.’

This is a total red herring – to hell with trendy aesthetics, why is looking cool so bloody important? It used to be asked can white people play the Blues. My answer is yes. However the real question is why do they bother? Surly because it masks our own cultural impoverishment.

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Oct 21 2014 23:20

Um, the context of the sentence helps explain it? Like, when white people wear a war bonnet the ugliness comes not from superficial aesthetics but from the meaning wrapped up in that particular act. You look ugly when you're doing ugly, racist-ass things.

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Oct 22 2014 06:51
Fleur wrote:
I think I pointed out in my post on the other thread that I don't give a toss about dreadlocks but posting up the section from the safer spaces agreement about cultural appropriation and dismissing it as if it isn't even a thing, but then you can argue that nothing is a thing, unless it affects you.
And then there's always the accusations of identity politics, which is very convenient when it's not your identity which is being undermined or sidelined in the class trumps everything else argument.

So while cultural appropriation obviously exists, has anyone experienced it actively at play within the anarchist movement?

Because in my experience, it's a term wheeled-out by the most activisty types in relation to mohawks or dreadlocks or maybe tribal tatoos - things that I think everyone on this thread agrees are just examples of bad fashion more than anything else.

And maybe I'm totally wrong and there are legitimate examples, but it does feel like for all the faults of the anarchist movement, cultural appropriation is not one them. So I'm not sure why it makes sense to make it an issue within the movement?

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Oct 22 2014 07:01

I'm for cultural appropriation. Historically societies have always taken things of others. It's one of the ways in which human culture has developed. Even today is what is effectively a globalised society it still results in the development on new cultural forms.

Cultural appropriation is a good thing.

Devrim

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Oct 22 2014 07:16

I'm not sure what I think about cultural appropriation (this thread is the first time I've heard it spoken about seriously as opposed to about white people with dreadlocks or twerking or baby names from other cultures -> these are literally the only other contexts I've heard it spoken in) but I'm pretty sure Devrim's hyper-literal understanding isn't what Fleur meant. I think there are power dynamics in the appropriation as well.

That said, I still don't know if I agree with this the concept. We'll see how I feel after a day at work!

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Oct 22 2014 07:30

The last time I saw it being discussed, on the Internet because it is something I have actually only heard talked about once in person, it was an American woman with an Indian background going on about how terrible it was that American women without Indian backgrounds were painting their hands with henna.

Now ignoring the fact that the whole henna on hands thing is not an native Indian tradition anyway, and the fact that it originated in the Eastern Mediterranean, so the Indians must have 'culturally appropriated' it in the first place anyway, it is not exactly the oppressed masses of India are complaining about this.

You can imagine two Indian peasant women struggling out there in the rice field saying to each other "it's bad enough that we are starving, get pay the landlord his rent, and our daughters are being raped by our higher class neighbours, but these American women putting henna on their hands and having a bit of fun is just too much to bear."

That's not exactly how it happens. In reality it is an almost exclusively American thing. In my opinion it has developed from certain members of the middle classes who are seeing their cultural capital devalued. Those who want a monopoly on the product they are selling.

If you want to be consistent with this argument though, you could always give these back, ١٢٣٤٥٦٧٨٩٠.
Devrim

Max_Anarchies
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Oct 22 2014 08:21

I feel like I should probably have definitely took a little more time before I made a shitty comment.

I'd like to clarify some stuff here. I don't necessarily think it's ok for white kids to have dreadlocks, I'm sort of stuck with that one. The article you posted, fleur, cites restricted and non-restricted items, with the possible exception of sadhus in hinduism, I don't think any culture views dreadlocks as a restricted item, by that definition dreadlocks are fine. That being said I am aware that some black people aren't comfortable with white people having dreadlocks as they do view it as cultural appropriation.

IMO, it's down to the people who's culture it is to define what is and isn't cultural appropriation and as people don't speak with one uniform voice we don't have one definition. It isn't like I've just heard about cultural appropriation once and then decided "nope, don't like it, s'all about class innit!", I just genuinely think it is a lot more difficult to define than you say. Some black people are fine with white people having dreads, some aren't, deciding which one of those opinions accurately represents the experiences of black people isn't as trivial a task as you imply.

I don't have dreads, I don't have a mohawk, I don't have tattoos or any piercings, stretched or otherwise or any clothes that aren't basic block color western dress. I'm not trying to defend my, or anyone elses "right" to act however they choose. Of course we need to respect other peoples wishes to not do things that are insensitive or disrespectful, when I said we aren't responsible for the commodification of culture that wasn't meant as a carte blanche for a do-whatever-the-fuck-you-like approach to race issues. As every single person is going to have a different view of what is and isn't acceptable, no one can be expected to never get it wrong. When I said a white kid isn't guilty of cultural appropriation I meant that, based on the current cultural climate, it's a reasonable assumption for a white person to make that it is ok to have dreadlocks. Lots of white people do and lots of black people have no issue with it.

Re the AFem conference, I'm not attacking it because I don't like that it exists, I'm not picking at trivialities because I'm some fedora-wearing MRA. I went to the meeting were it was originally planned and was gutted when the decision to not allow cis-men was made, I wanted to be involved in it because it's really, really important. My partner intended to be involved in the organisation of the conference, until she saw the email lists. After the original meeting was dominated by a few older women who talked over other people, sniggered at them and acted really condescending, the email lists were dominated by thinly veiled personal attacks that were then copy-pasted to twitter accompanied by a snarky remark and there were several "twitter storms" because people weren't keeping internal discussion internal.

I'm not attacking AFem based on some trivia in an attempt to undermine it, I saw some really shitty posts about how disgusting dreadlocks were, which is definitely racist if nothing else, from people who claimed they were so pleased that the racists were called out. The "activist scene", which seems to coalesce around big events like the bookfair and these conferences (like the anarchist conference in '09 as well) is just poisonous and exclusionary. My frustration is aimed at that, which is why I didn't originally specify that it happened at AFem, because that didn't seem important. I appreciate that it might not have come across that way and I genuinely understand the assumption that a guy on the web critical of a feminist anything is just being intentionally critical and I should have considered that before I posted.

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Oct 22 2014 08:47

Another evil act of cultural appropriation as Arafat stole his headgear from the inhabitants of a small Iraqi town.

Devrim