Sunday, May 6, 2018

Cultural Appropriation and Seedlings

I went to the laundromat yesterday to pick up our cleaning, and I saw this amazing bag sitting beneath one of the laundry tables. It immediately brought to mind my dad and my brother, Volkswagen enthusiasts extraordinaire. The attendant laughed when I knelt down to take a picture of it, but since I can't own the bag I at least want a photo!

Remember that post I wrote a few weeks ago about experimenting with Twitter? Yeah, forget that. I deleted my account. No one ever answered my (two) tweets and I realized I can read the local-news Twitter feeds without actually being on Twitter myself. (I deleted my Pinterest account too -- I've never really understood Pinterest and how it's supposed to be useful. I'm on the fence about Instagram, which I've never warmed to, preferring the old-school Flickr.)

I was ambivalent about Twitter but what killed it for me was the debate about the high school girl in Utah who wore the Chinese dress to her prom. She posted pictures, and a gaggle of outraged Tweeters piled onto her for "cultural appropriation," criticizing her for wearing a Chinese dress because she wasn't Chinese and thus couldn't fully understand the garment's cultural meaning.

I could write a whole post about what I don't understand about the notion of "cultural appropriation." To me, clothing, dance, food and other articles of any particular culture are there to be admired and enjoyed. I don't see what's wrong with others adapting them, as long as it's done in a respectful way, and this girl seemed to be wearing her dress respectfully. Madonna caught a load of heat back in the '90s for adapting clothing and dance styles from minority and gay communities, and I felt the same way about it then -- she's an artist, and that's what artists do. A culture is not just hairstyles, clothing and dance moves -- it's more than that, and when others adapt the superficial elements for their own use, the deeper culture, it seems to me, remains intact. (Asians were completely mystified about why some Asian-Americans were upset about the prom dress.)

Besides, and at the risk of sounding like a crotchety grandpa, should we not eat pizza? Chow mein? Are Nehru jackets off-limits? Bangle bracelets? Is it bad for me to go to a soul food restaurant? Where does it stop?

So, anyway, this discussion seemed so patently ridiculous, and so unreasonably angry, that I deleted Twitter. I  just don't need the negativity. (Of course, I speak from the secure standpoint of the economically privileged white male, though I think I gain diversity points for being a gay liberal.)

I transplanted some of my approximately two million cosmos and zinnia seedlings yesterday. Now I have about a dozen pots sitting around that look like this. Pathetic, but hopefully they'll soon be more filled in.

It was painstaking work, and I gotta say, I don't really see the point of starting seeds in seed trays and then moving the seedlings -- which is what many gardening shows advocate. Can't we just wait until the frosts are past and put the seeds straight into the ground? Or does that delay planting too long?

I gave one of the seed trays to Mrs. Kravitz so she could have some plants, too.

Then again, putting seeds straight into the ground hasn't really worked in the wildflower garden, which is virtually devoid of life (except for that spectacular explosion of wild borage in back). I'm pretty sure I saw tiny sprouts that then disappeared -- perhaps eaten by birds or our voracious slugs? Anyway, I'm giving it more time. Something is bound to grow there, especially now that the sun is out and the ground is warming up. I may try a third packet of seeds if I get inspired.


Yorkshire Pudding said...

Cultural appropriation? I might have to give up potatoes (South America) and onions (Asia Minor). If only the vindictive fools who vented anger about the girl's dress had directed it to more worthy targets such as America's lax gun laws and its narcissistic president. We only have so much time and energy so why waste it on something that does not matter?

Sharon said...

I couldn't believe the title of your post today when I saw it. I had dinner with friends last night and that exact same thing was the topic of conversation. I can say that we all felt the same as you but, then again we were a group of privileged white people. To top that off, I had just gone to an art exhibit that also felt with the subject.

Ms. Moon said...

Yeah, I could not understand what the big deal was. The girl found a beautiful vintage dress and wore it to prom instead of going out and buying some horribly expensive disco dream.
I agree with you. That's part of the glory of being human- being exposed to and learning to enjoy the fruits of other cultures. What a bunch of crap to insist that this is somehow negative. It's not like the girl robbed a grave of sacred artifacts and glued them to her car or something.

Red said...

I don't tweet but I have a number of site that I follow. So the cultural police are alive and well!

37paddington said...

I totally agree with you about the vintage Chinese prom dress. I thought it was beautiful, and was worn with obvious joy, and all the outrage coming at that poor girl just mystified me. Yes, Twitter is an angry place. It is useful for me because I get to vent my anger and outrage and hurt about any number of things happening in our world there, and I don't have to get deep into expressing it in other forums. Some things do occasionally spill over to my blog, because what's going on these days is mind bending. I don't post much on Facebook, and Instagram for me is mostly a place of love and light (family photos!). But when it comes to the true evil of the NRA and police brutality against black and brown bodies, and the generalized MAGA ugliness in our nation, Twitter is the place. I can't carry that stuff inside me every moment of every day. I have to put it somewhere. I do often flirt with the idea of deleting my Twitter, wondering if I might be less angry and hurt if I just didn't know about everything, yet I feel the need to witness it somehow, so yeah, Twitter. It's definitely not a joyful place.

Anonymous said...

It truly was an utterly absurd story about cultural appropriation. A dress is a dress is a dress. We let our cosmos go to seed and in the late spring we have more cosmos showing up than we know what to with. True for the scabiosa as well. Popping up everywhere!

Unknown said...

Having worked in South London for 17 years, West Africans have thought it an honour when they've given me traditional shirts and suits to wear to parties and celebrations, and take photos with me to send to relatives 'back home'. Historians seem now to think that the members of the British Raj made a wrong step when they stopped wearing 'native dress' and insisted on European outfits.

TJ Davis said...

Regarding cultural appropriation I could not have said it better Steve. But Twitter as bad as it is is not the worst. Reddit is terrible. Seems young people sit and wait to attack there. I dumped them all a few years back. I'm an old man and I just don't need that.
We've had a wet, cool spring here, no nice flowers anywhere, not even my roses like it. But I'm not a good gardener, I admit it.

Jennifer said...

I saw pictures of the girl and her dress was lovely on her. What could possibly be offensive about appreciating another culture and wanting to participate in the parts of it you feel drawn to? I think most people are proud to share their unique cultures and traditions with others.

All the fake outrage over total nonsense gets really, really old.

Vivian said...

Yet when Beyonce goes blonde, nobody calls her out for appropriating Scandinavian culture.

But I read that the tide had turned and more Asian Americans were Tweeting support for the girl.

People are simply angry. They always have been, but these days there is no social pressure to keep it zipped.

jenny_o said...

Like everything else in life, I think there are good and bad accounts to follow on Twitter. It's a matter of finding the good ones and ignoring the bad ones. There's always going to be negative stuff out there. I try to be careful what I let into my life and what I put out into the world as well.

How is Olga's enforced rest going?

The Bug said...

Thank you for talking about cultural appropriation - I was feeling guilty for not getting what all the kerfluffle was about. Sometimes I can sort of see why a person is upset - here you have taken what makes my culture unique & used it for your own purposes. But really, that horse has left the barn. We are all an amalgamation, and every day I am slightly different after bumping up against other cultures.

Re: Pinterest - I use it to "file" crochet patterns that I'm interested in. Makes it really easy to go back & look at them. But I don't go to Pinterest to try to search for patterns - it's too annoying. And I have to admit that I have a bit of a culture shock thing going on if I go down the Pinterest rabbit hole - too many choices!