Is there a right way to do cultural appropriation?

Let’s say that a U.S. college sorority (consisting of white women) wants to wear kimonos, or an American fashion company wants to make and sell kimonos.

They could get ‘permission’ from their Japanese friends - but - their Japanese friends don’t represent all of Japan or Japanese people. There is no “authorized representative” of Japanese sentiment to give them permission to use kimonos or not. What if their Japanese friends are okay with it, but 90% of other Japanese are not?

As such, is cultural appropriation therefore wrong in all circumstances? Or is there any situation in which it is indeed appropriate and permissible?

Ditto for, for instance, the Portland food stall that closed after accusations of cultural appropriation. Whose Mexican permission could or should they have gotten that would have made such a food stall legit?

Is it possible Cultural Appropriation is a stupid idea and flies in the face of the Melting Pot? I would say it is inherently a racist position that encourages more racism instead of reducing it.

The term is now so vague, and the various opposing uses so dog-whistley as to be nearly meaningless. Just like “PC”.

To a sane person, appropriation is borrowing with the intent to demean or hurt. The harm is in the demeaning and hurting, not the borrowing.

To the crazy people, it’s any borrowing whatsoever, or else a sneering denunciation of the slightest concern over even deliberately hurtful borrowing.

So what do you actually want to talk about?

Well, if they hadn’t implied that they’d spied on Mexican women to find out all the culinary secrets they weren’t giving away voluntarily, I doubt that anyone would care about two white women running a burrito stall. Maybe they were exaggerating for comic effect, I don’t know, but if they were actually peeking through Mexicans’ windows, then those are the Mexicans whose permission they should have gotten and didn’t.

That seems to describe a trade secret thing not anything that would be called “cultural appropriation”.

I think you can borrow and adapt from other cultures. It doesn’t become problematic until you try to market it as authentic as would appear to be the case with the Portland women. The other sin is borrowing and pretending your creation is wholly original.

Growing up I had long hair and when Bo Derek wore corn rows in the movie 10, I wanted to try that. Nowadays, I’ve seen cultural appropriation brought up if a white woman wears corn rows or dreads. It’s just a bunch of braids. Also, during the summer I love to get a dark tan. I have sun spots to prove it but I like how I feel. The only time I’ve heard of c.a. in response to tanning, etc., was one of the Kardashians using a filter and looking darker. People who act in plays/theater paint their faces different colors, sometimes white or black paint. Geisha used to paint their faces white. Someone mentioned it’s the intention behind the action. If I want to get a tan, wear braids, or paint my face with stripes or different colors, it doesn’t mean I’m demeaning anyone. Histrionics and the immediate apology of the offender lends credence to the idea of cultural appropriation.

Is Chipotle Mexican Grill doing cultural appropriation?

I mostly agree, although if you’re insensitive and clueless enough, you can demean and hurt without intending to.

But in reponse to the thread title’s question, I think that, if you’re doing it the right way, it isn’t “cultural appropriation.”

If you do it right, it’s not appropriation.

ETA Ninja’d!

If they tried to claim it was authentic Mexican food, I’d say yes.

As it is, just claiming it’s food puts them on thin ice.

My kindergartener granddaughter had some kind of farmer appreciation day. As part of it, the kids were to dress up like farmers. (Well, except my grandkid who didn’t quite get the message right, so she dressed in pink like a pig!) They did various farm-related “activities” which were not entirely clear to me in the retelling.

So, were all these suburban kids sporting plaid and neckerchiefs appropriating culture? (Hell - maybe my GK was appropriating swine culture. No need to be speciesist!)

My take is that it’s done with proper respect and research. By that I mean no kimono minkskirts, they must be designed and worn the correct way (there’s protocols for which side goes over which and type of sash or obi to wear), with the proper foot attire (no sneakers) and the appropriate print (it’s easy for non-Asians to confuse Chinese and Korean styles with Japanese).

Sounds like a lot to cover. Yes, but do it correctly or don’t do it at all!

Shouldn’t we first define what exactly cultural appropriation is before moving forward? Wikipedia has a somewhat neutral definition of cultural appropriation saying that it is the adoption of an element or elements of of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. But everyday feminism adds a little to that saying cultural appropriation “also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”

It can be difficult to talk about cultural appropriation because we don’t all think of it the same way. I tend to think of it using the more neutral definition so when asked if there’s a right way to do cultural appropriation I’m going to say yes but I would also agree there’s a wrong way to do it. But if the definition were to include the dominant group taking from those they have systematically oppressed I’m probably going to say no because there’s no way to do that correctly.

I’m not really interested in bogging down any discussion in pedantry. But whenever I see this topic come up the discussions are very heated and I think it’s partly because people define cultural appropriation differently.

Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting take on cultural appropriation where he actually vindicates Taco Bell and Pat Boone.

Then the sorority should wear kimonos, and the fashion company should sell them.
It’s a free country.

Well, it used to be a free country.
Nowadays, the sorority students would be expelled, and the fashion company would be boycotted

And Trump will get re-elected, partly because of this kind of stupidity.

Wearing a kimono is not the same as wearing blackface, or a swastika.
But you can’t explain that to the woke folk.

If a piece of somebody else’s culture has a history of being used to degrade people, then don’t use it.
But wholesale banning of simple things like wearing clothing, eating food or having a hairstyle from somebody else’s culture is political correctness gone wild.

The fact that the OP has to ask this question , and we all have to fear for our jobs if we answer incorrectly, is sad.

And it is the perfect fodder for Fox News.
Remember, folks–Trump is still out there. Don’t tease him and encourage his followers…

There’s nothing racist about calling out people wearing significant pieces of culture as costume for cultural appropriation - e.g Native American war bonnets at Coachella. That is unquestionably cultural appropriation.

Are there misguided or overeager people calling it out wrong? Yes - dreadlocks are not just an African thing, never mind a religious thing, for instance, so calling dreads cultural appropriation makes me laugh.

Kimonos? From what I’ve been told (by Japanese people), most of the Japanese don’t care - or if they do care, they are happy about it. If done right, as pointed out.

For the OP’s one specific question - there is often, in fact, an authorized representative of Japanese sentiment. A whole team of them in some places. Ask them.

It is an idiotic term and an idiotic concept, always has been.

Wear what you want, how you want. The though that there is a “right” way to wear a piece of clothing seems nonsensical to me
Make music, make art, cook food.
Take your influences from wherever you like. mangle it, morph it, change it.
The world is a much better place without any retrictions on such things.

You like the look of feather headdresses? make one and wear it. You want celtic pattern tattoos? go for it. You want to wear a tarten Kimono? great. You want to have a blond afro? all good fun. You want to make vietnamese food? Yum.

“Authenticity” is irrelevant unless you are purposefully trying to sell something in a dishonest way. e.g. making art in an Australian aborignal style is fine. Trying to pass it off as being made by actual aboriginals is not.

There’s nothing wrong with that. I see plenty of non-Asian women wearing cheongsam dresses (i.e. Kirsten Dunst in Spider Man) and no one seems to take issue.

Scarlet Johansen playing a Japanese character from a Japanese anime/manga living in a futuristic Tokyo is a bit of a stretch.

A US college sorority wearing kimonos and oshiroi face paint as part of a Japan-themed Geisha party would definitely be taken as offensive.

How could a non-Japanese person, at a Japanese-themed party, dress in a Japanese way and be guaranteed of avoiding causing offence to anyone?

As it happens I worked for few years for a Japanese company and such parties were a regular event.
People were encouraged (by the Japanese management) to dress in home-made cross-cultural ways which included many half-arsed Kimonos, Geishas, Sumo, Ninjas and Samurai. On one memorable occasion my boss, Arisaka-san, a genial but fairly reserved chap, came dressed as a football hooligan, complete with England football shirt and beautifully done but hilarious fake tattoos (a big thing for him given the Japanese aversion to such things)

So while I don’t doubt that some people would take offence I also don’t doubt that plenty others would not. In any case I reserve the right to offer the Stephen Fry defence to it all…
“you 're offended? so fucking what?”