Cultural Appropriation and Commodification

“I would feel shame. And for what? For being different. As Jaya points out, we are “perpetual immigrants” when we decide to don our Indian attire and bindis. We are treated as odd or different but when Selena Gomez wore bindis, it was cool! So this is the problem: when a Western public figure does the same thing as a typical Indo-American, but it is treated differently. One is given veneration and the latter – alienation.

So I speak for myself and I will not take it upon myself to speak for others, but as an Indian – please don’t disrespect where I’ve come from. My “elephant god” is not something cool to be tattooed on your calf, my bindi is not to be worn to your Billboard Awards and Indians are from India – Native Americans are not Indians.”

Truth Be Told

selena-gomez-dance-2

http://theaerogram.com/beyond-bindis-why-cultural-appropriation-matters/  <—Check out this link

This post is a tribute to a Facebook rant I had a couple of weeks ago about Western celebrities donning bindis.

Cultural appropriation – def: the borrowing of another culture’s elements such as dress, practices, language or mannerisms.

It sounds like a good thing, right? It seems like a the right thing to do – putting yourself in another’s shoes. However – it becomes more of a Halloween parade with Native American headdresses, Japanese kimonos, and North Indian lehengas. (I thought American Halloween is about being scary? – Freddy Krueger and Scream masks. I don’t know why dressing in cultural clothing gets mixed in the jumble but that’s for a more dense topic which I’ll probably write more in depth about in October).

I just got back from a yoga class (hot vinyasa yoga- Try it! It’s amazing) and I had a flashback from a…

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RIOTS, NOT DIETS!

Do you 🙂

Rad Amy

Earlier this week I was in the city looking for a place to eat and I saw a cute Vietnamese restaurant tucked away in a corner. I was so excited. If you’ve ever had an iced Vietnamese coffee with crème then you know what I’m talking about. I was alone but I wanted to treat myself to something nice. I entered the restaurant and was directed to a table near a window. I went to sit down only to find that I literally had to wedge my fat ass into the chair.

Oh, the bad feelings.

I quickly looked around to find a different chair that I could trade this one for but they were all the same. This was a restaurant designed (unintentionally) for skinny people. I was so upset! I felt like they should just put a sign on the door that says ‘No Fatties Allowed!’ Of course…

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Why I Want to Learn Spanish

The issue translates cross-culturally and I apply it directly to my relationship with the Hindi language.

Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz

Post By Valentina Forte-Hernandez

I don’t speak Spanish fluently. I have felt a lot of embarrassment in my life because of it, but that is the truth plain and simple. Because I am a white Latina who does not speak Spanish, I have been disregarded as a Latina countless times in my life. I am sick and tired of people acting like there are some sort of requirements you have to meet to be Latina. Being Latina is not about meeting some mythical standard, it’s not about having certain skills or traits. I am Latina because I was born that way, because of my childhood, because of the way I feel. Being Latina is something no one can take away from me. Yes, I do want to learn Spanish, but learning Spanish will not make me anymore of a Latina than I am already.

I am biracial, I am white…

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Cultural Appropriation and Yoga

Akhanda Yoga Blog

I went to a talk last night by Nisha Ahuja at Kula Yoga about cultural appropriation and yoga. It was a really helpful evening for making us more aware of the continuing effects of colonization, how this manifests in some of the ways we approach yoga in the West, and how to minimize this appropriation.

Firstly, I thought it was really helpful to name the forces of colonialism: denial, destruction, eradication, surface accommodation and tokenism. In yoga this may manifest as the denial of the rich heritage of yoga, or even the denial of its origins in South Asia. Destruction and eradication began during the colonial regimes that disallowed and suppressed the practice of the wisdom tradition and other linguistic and cultural aspects. If we teach yoga asana without mentioning or giving some access to students of the rich, plethora of yoga practices, giving some context to the heritage of…

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Parenting through obesity panic

“I am afraid that fat or thin my daughter will fail to grasp how much her vitality and pluck, her bold voice, the poignant beauty of her young skin, adds to the world. I am afraid that she will feel the need to make herself small — physically, or otherwise. Girls, after all, are not meant to take up too much space.”

Movies that Widened my Feminist Lens.

I am writing this list because every one of these actresses is young, cis white and able-bodied. Blue Jasmine is a Woody Allen film. ScarJo is a robot in Her. And Spring Breakers is about white people behaving badly. We can do better.
My list is meant to be more subversive and not restricted to those released in 2013. Each film has influenced my feminist lens in some distinct, lingering way. I encourage you to use more stringent Bechdel Test standards for these films as well. Self-reflection never ends.

*this list is heavily-laden with white movies. this list is ever-expanding.
**also i may not have remembered each and every trigger warning. please, tread with caution.

Lemon Tree– visually and poetically discusses Israeli apartheid.

The East– dip your big toe into the conspiracies of capitalism, through the lens of eco’terrorism.’ i don’t use the word ‘terrorism’ because it’s not race-neutral.

The Secrets– secret lesbian feminists in orthodox Judaism.

Thin– documentary about women in treatment for eating disorders.

North Country– sexism in the workplace. the landmark case that changed sexual harassment law.

Beautiful Creatures– women are powerful and dangerous. watch if you appreciate twilight spin offs.

Sin Nombre– you thought your life was hard? illegal immigration is hard. resisting gangs and cartels is hard.

The Burning Plain– cheating isn’t always cheating. there is always a gray area. find comfort in ambiguity.

Winter’s Bone– see jlaw carry an entire movie on her shoulders alone. then standing ovation.

Haywire– watch a real mma fighter be the baddest badass assassin, never get threatened with rape, be fully clothed, and do all her own fight scenes. her acting could use some work, but the precedence of it all is undeniable.

Drinking Buddies– find comfort in the space between definitions and labels. boys and girls can be friends.

Walk the Line– johnny cash’s music is really great. watch the scene in folsom prison and remind yourself what goosebumps feel like. fun fact: joaquin and reese sang all their own covers.

Kinsey– how can anyone claim to study sex and never see this movie? i wonder if we’ll all end up as sexually liberal as these sexologists.

Corinna, Corinna– ever had a movie make you feel so warm inside and then you learned about the magical negro trope? *somewhere, a bubble pops*

Steel Magnolias– do you have a beating heart? then you should probably have seen this. note: there is a white and black version.

The Central Park Five– oh the police closed the case because there was a confession? that literally means nothing anymore.

Any Day Now– homophobia is a form of structural violence. the legal system fails families and children every day.

The Hairdresser– one can be fat while being fabulous, clever, resilient, creative, or beautiful inside and out. this trailer was in german and i could not find one with subtitles. but you can find the movie on netflix instant with english subtitles.

About Cherry– the friendzone is not real. the myth of female agency. the complexities of sex work. tw: lesbian rape scene.

Chicken with Plums– pure poetry set in tehran. same writers and director of persepolis.

Liberal Arts– patriarchy makes it super easy for young women to find older men attractive. older dudes are slimey/lazy when they use their status and power to sleep with subordinate or younger women. men are capable of self-evaluation and can selectively choose when not to self-evaluate/privilege-check. these sentences are not ageist and if you want to know why then google it yourself. see also: why reverse racism is not real.

The Inconvenient Truth Behind ‘Waiting for Superman’– don’t even watch the deliberately non-comprehensive ‘waiting for superman’ on netflix instant. it’s anti-union and anti-teacher and anti-student, really. this direct reply is enough to understand why the american education system does not function properly. the link will take you to the full movie because it has been purposefully made freely available online.

Sound of My Voice– cult psychology.

Seven Psychopaths– doesn’t pass the bechdel test, but it’s meta.

Bully– don’t ever tell me that bullying is something that kids need to go through in order to toughen up. “If we actually started calling bullying what it is and address it as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fat phobia, and classism, it would actually give children a better way to deal with the very same power dynamics they will face as adults, while also giving adults more responsibility to challenge the intolerance that is rooted within our society overall. –Amanda Levitt of Fat Body Politics

Hot Coffee– documentary on why torte reform is a sham. corporate lawyering is a sham. capitalism and money in politics are not separate things.

For a Good Time, Call…– it’s my personal mission to make this a cult classic. spreading girl love one movie at a time. do i even have to tell you nia vardalos is in it (my big fat greek wedding, i hate valentine’s day)?

Bad Education– catholic child rapists do not cause children to be gay. abuse can cause issues with sexuality, but this is often conflated.

Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene– cult psychology. what happens to your mind after leaving an abusive relationship.

The Women– have you ever seen a movie without a single man in it? no, i mean not even the extras.

Butter– a discussion on american exceptionalism, nationalism, and race (with a dollop of humor)

The Birdcage– blurring the lines between gender, sexual orientation, and family

Monster– the ‘serial killer’ Aileen Wuornos, a former sex worker, was executed in florida in 2002 for killing six men. you can be sure she would be alive if she had better legal representation. women criminals receive harsher sentences than men. this will instantly make you an andrea dworkin anti-sex industry convert. all/most sex work is rape.

The Magdalene Sisters– the sad history of the women who were sent to work in the Magdalene Laundries. the irish are pretty good at misogyny too.

Vera Drake– there will always be a value in underground abortion networks.

The Cider House Rules– abortion is a necessary medical procedure, race and white male privilege.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days– never forget that women die from botched abortions every day in places where it is illegal and unregulated. romanian is a beautiful language.

Where the Heart Is– poor single women are a vulnerable population and often re-victimized when people take advantage of them.

The Runaways– joan jett was a badass.

A Separation– muslim women come in a rainbow of agency. hijab (or any religious veil) does not equate oppression.

Mystic Pizza– privilege is relative.

Southern Comfort– trans*poverty is a symptom of structural violence, not a choice. transphobia is systemic and evident in the expensive, yet plausibly-deniable and sloppy top and bottom surgery scars shown in the film. being trans* does not reinforce the gender binary, just like being a poc does not reinforce racism.

Where Do We Go Now?– if you can’t respect ‘sluts’, you can’t respect women. there are many ways to end conflict. lebanese muslim and christian communities coexist without outside intervention. do some side research on liberia’s sex strike in 2003.

Working Girl– brilliance comes in many packages. plus joan cusack and sigourney weaver.

Blue Like Jazz– you’ll never know what you stand for if you don’t test it.

The Lives of Others– change is usually happening in a conversation that hovers below the mainstream and those in non-conforming professions are often the ones having those conversations. resistance is everything and it is infectious. #MUSTWATCH

Higher Ground– the friction between liberation and religiosity.

Tootsie– that time dustin hoffman had to dress up like a woman to understand sexism. as much as i love him, can we stop patting him on the back now?

Cracks– i still think about this movie. trigger warning: woman on woman rape

A League of Their Own– intro level feminism introduction. also you’ll wish they had a less paternalizing, more female coach. plus geena davis, madonna, and rosie o’donnell.

Pariah– qtpoc need a seat at the table every time.

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor– tyler perry punishes lose women by giving them STIs. underappreciated men have hearts of gold. and vanessa williams’ french accent is so bad it’s criminal. kim kardashian is mesmerizing, as usual.

The Whistleblower– even UN peacekeepers aren’t immune. if there is an advantage to be taken, someone is probably taking it. because capitalism. “The film was inspired by the story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska police officer who was recruited as a peacekeeper for DynCorp International in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999. While there, she discovered a sex trafficking ring serving (and facilitated by) DynCorp employees. Bolkovac was fired and forced out of the country after attempting to report (and shut down) the ring. She took the story to BBC News in England, and won a wrongful-dismissal lawsuit against DynCorp.” -from Wikipedia

Thelma & Louise– do you really need more reasons to love geena davis? go check out her institute on gender and media now.

The Skin I Live In– don’t try to understand the trailer. just appreciate almodovar for almodovar.

Burma VJ– ever wanted to understand why everyone was so shocked at how suddenly Burma lifted international aid restrictions in may 2013? watch this to understand what life was like through the lenses of undercover video journalists. also get some background on why Aung San Suu Kyi is amazing despite her near constant house arrest from 1990-2010 under military junta.

Grindhouse: Death Proof– you will hate tarantino as much as i do after this one. women in his movies are good for only one thing: torture porn mannequins. i also learned about the rape revenge plot. why is this even a plot device, you ask? because patriarchy is lazy. trigger warning: graphic depictions of male violence against women. music from it was good, though.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell– how liberian women ended a war. a movement devoid of white savoir complexes.

Jungle Fever– discussions on interracial dating. as a poc, does dating a white person require a modicum of blindness to race and privilege in order to preserve the relationship?

Circumstance– did you know there were lesbians in tehran? they’re everywhere.

A Better Life– let’s start with the first time you thought your life was hard. (it’s probably not that hard.) remember this movie whenever you conjure images of the american dream. remember this movie whenever you laugh at jokes about undocumented immigrants, day laborers, and latina housekeepers, aka the laziest stereotypes in the book.

Hanna– badass, fully-clothed lady assassin.

Slums of Beverly Hills– reason number one to love natasha lyonne before OITNB. interesting discussion on masturbation. trigger warning: incestuous contact between uncle and niece

Secretary– do not confuse self-harm with BDSM.

Who Killed the Electric Car?– globalization/capitalism will shut you down if your ideas disrupt the status quo.

GasLand– hydraulic fracturing is bad and the anti-fracking movement defends our right to decent ground water quality. this is the documentary where homeowners lit their well water on fire.

GasLand: Part II– the update after five years and just how bad methane migration is for climate change. also more than half of all of these cement wells fail over time.

You Don’t Know Jack– the true intentions behind Dr. Kevorkian and medically assisted suicide.

Temple Grandin– biopic on one of the most famous american women on the spectrum (autism spectrum) who contributed immensely to the field of animal behavior and consults with the livestock industry. different is never less.

The Virgin Suicides– sexuality is essential to the human condition. trust women.

The Cove– gripping. eye-opening. an easy way to understand the reliance large industries have on structural violence. “because if you’re not an activist, you’re an inactivist.”

Iron Jawed Angelsfirst wave (and second wave, for that matter) white feminists depended on racism to become suffragettes. the apple has not fallen far from the tree, white feminists. also, alice paul’s home is new jersey’s only National Historic Landmark dedicated to a woman.

Inside Job– securities and economics are linked to academia. wake from your slumber. no one is safe.

For Colored Girls– just like precious, you’ll only need to see this movie once. read the book instead. trigger warning: graphic depictions of male violence against women, and rape.

No Reservations– this is the shot-for-shot american remake of the french film mostly martha. stubborn and unwilling women will always have a place in my heart. there are more than a handful of movies that rely on this plot twist of a woman not ready for children has children foisted on her and (surprise!) she actually loves it. also men just need to ‘tenderize’ stubborn women in order for them to actually accept that all she needs is a man to complete her. see also: raising helen.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel– ever wondered what bell hooks meant by ‘eating the other?’ why does dev patel have a fake indian accent? this whole movie reminds me why i roll my eyes when i see white people in india. they’re usually there for questionable reasons.

Eat Pray Love– watch a white lady ‘eat the other‘ as you rage vomit for 2 hours. why are white people always trying to ‘find themselves’? go watch a movie, read a newspaper, turn on the tv, look at a billboard. there, i found you. watch julia roberts ‘marvel at something’ with (the ever-talented) viola davis as her ‘magical negro’ sidekick.

The Help– the stories from the book were stolen. emma stone plays a terrible-white-ally by profiting off a story she writes about the black domestic workers in 1960’s whitopia. looks like white people patting themselves on the back. only noteworthy scene involves a homemade chocolate pie.

Life of Pi– watch a white man recount a story (originally told by a desi man) in an indian accent as you bristle in discomfort. watch another indian man relinquish this story to the same white man to tell/write/sell.

In Her Shoes– the bonds of sisterhood are strong. sometimes when you’re value lies in superficial qualities you aren’t encouraged to think/exist deeper than surface level. that value can become a prison because it is so precious and valuable/hard to reject.

The Family that Preys– watch tyler perry punish successful ‘uppity‘ black women over and over again.

Desert Flower– from our western imperialist colonized perspective is it our ‘right’ to insert our opinions into other cultures to ‘save’ *helpless* brown girls and children? or is grassroots change most effective by those who share ethnic and cultural backgrounds? do somali nomads need americans to save them? or will those brave somali women already doing great work on the ground figure it out on their own? how much of our worldview is decorated by these images of helpless brown children, white saviors, and a global FGM epidemic? hint: it’s not an epidemic. how much does mainstream western media affect what we know about somalia on topics other than food security (formerly known as the word famine), FGM, and pirates?

The Act of Killing– western imperialist governments have funded dictators (ie. 1965 Indonesia) and genocide for centuries. we as americans are complicit in american imperialism by benefiting from it. at times this film feels like we are supposed to be watching ‘savage’ brown men re-enact their killings. feels like we’re in on a joke. makes me wonder how we’d treat leftover nazis if they weren’t still revered by white supremacists.

Send me your film suggestions here:

Exotification – I’m Not Your Pretty Little Lotus Flower

Media Diversified

memoirs-of-a-geisha-hd-trailer-085
Rowena’s Story

I love Asian women!” “Asian women are so hot.” “Japan, Korea, China?” “Asian women know how to treat a man!”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you? If they do, congratulations. You’ve come across (or you are) a man — probably white — with so-called “Yellow Fever”.

As an Asian woman living in a country full of white men, I meet these guysa lot. You know, the ones who blurt out all of the above, who try to guess what “type” of Asian I am, whose favourite actresses are Gong Li, Lucy Liu and Zhang Ziyi, who insist on discussing Korean/Japanese/Chinese dramas with me despite me not having seen the series in question, who tell me about all the other Asian women they’ve dated, who complain about how ugly white women are and why Asian women are so much better, and who try to get…

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Is ‘color throw’ cultural theft?

*DISCLAIMER* I do not claim to be an expert on what Desi Americans appreciate. I also do not claim to represent the opinion of all Desi Americans. We are a bunch as diverse as the consonant juxtapositions of our surnames. There will always exist a context where some of us enjoy the mutual admiration of desi culture with non-NRIs. Just understand I am usually not one of them.

You know what grinds my gears? Thievery. No, not like the plethora of stolen Bollywood plotlines– no one cares about those. Unless you’re talking about Chachi 420. I cannot definitively tell you how many times we watched that movie or the original it’s inspired by. I’m talking about cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is the usage of a cultural or religious tradition by non-participants of that culture or religious tradition without the acknowledgement of where that cultural or religious tradition came from. Let me also specify that cultural appropriation happens only to a marginalized culture or religion. Do not come at me with your exclamation, “But crosses are emblazoned on toilet seats cushions!” You sound like an MRA because I will not allow you to utilize this space to 1) defend a custom that benefits you and 2) decry appropriation against your dominant culture. If it could be considered subversion then it’s probably not appropriation.

It helps to understand what appropriation is by understanding what it is not. This is because appropriation is context dependent. For example, appropriation is not a situation where your Indian American friend offers to dress you in a sari to wear to her Indian function. In this situation you, the non desi, are borrowing clothing with the clear understanding where this tradition originates. If you are lucky, your desi friend may be able to drop some knowledge on how to keep your runaway bra straps from creeping past your blouse or explain that sindoor is not actually blood. I know. Common misconception. It’s important to remember that when we invite you into a safe space for us to share our culture with you, you will be hyper-aware of our differences and in that minor discomfort will come learning. It may be in this space that you are able to ask questions freely. Do so with thoughtfulness and respect so that when possible, answers can be provided without shame or embarrassment. You will know if you did well based solely on the number of desi friends you are able to retain.

Let’s break down some linguistics. Appropriation is a word used in terms of re-use and proliferation. Seeing the bindi appear more in pop culture costume should come to mind. Economically, appropriation describes an origination of human ownership. Sociologically, appropriation is used to describe the spread of thought.  Trending among the definitions here is the spreading of an uprooted ideology in attempts of rebranding. To appropriate a tradition or custom would mean to remove its human origin with the intention of self-ownership.

 

Back to the fury of why I came here. Have you pulled up your newsfeed lately? There was a ‘color throw’ in Philadelphia this weekend at a marathon called Color Me Rad. It happened again today at the Salem County Fairgrounds during the Free Form Art Festival. How a ‘color throw’ celebrates an art festival is beyond me. Though you’re probably most familiar with its spotlight at The Color Run.

The ‘color throw’ comes from a Hindu festival called Holi celebrated in March-ish, depending on the lunar calendar. Using my definitions, we can see the free usage of ‘color throw’ has been clearly appropriated. For example all photos lack brown or desi participants from event websites or social media friend’s photos. Secondly, the race and festival websites lack reference to the inception of the ‘color throw,’ therefore disposing its human origin. And finally, these race and festival events lack an inherent connection to Hinduism or the tradition of ‘color throw’ during Holi.

Cultural appropriation is contributing to cultural erosion. Do not let that feel alarmist. From these examples you should see a positive relationship between appropriation of religious/cultural traditions and the watering-down of those religious/cultural traditions. When social forces like colonialism and westernization claim ‘color throw’ as their own, Hinduism relinquishes a fraction of its ownership. Be clear this is not by invitation, but by imposition. I do not see any Hindus board members leading the ‘color throw’ as a means of sharing a culture. I see for-profit organizations rebranding ‘color throw’ as something original, creative, and even artsy. None of these events allow for an environment where the marginalized group is acting as an agent for social change by sharing their culture. So it should not be a leap for us to imagine a conclusion where we agree that ‘color throw’ outside of Holi is an act of cultural appropriation and must be discouraged. Instead we should encourage the appreciation of our cultural differences and wait to experience those cultural differences with those who claim agency within those cultures.

TL;DR: Yes. And a wise friend once told me this. “It’s okay to feel hurt and it’s okay to voice that you were hurt; there is never anything oversensitive or weak about speaking up against harm. It’s also okay to like problematic things, but please be aware of why they are problematic. Whenever you hear someone talking about something messed up in their life that you did or did not experience, please consider how different circumstances can lead people to have different reactions and outcomes in their lives. Also, be comfortable with people criticizing things you like for being problematic. You are not the things you like; they do not need you to defend them.”

Gold Dipped Champagne Flutes

The champagne glasses are from Goodwill- 99 cents for 3 glasses. The third was chipped so you can see I used it for practice. This was my first successful craft using spray paint. Don’t ask about the other one-

 

This was my practice flute, which I used to experiment with the spray paint coating.

 

Once I understood how to spray lightly and evenly and allow for drying between coats, I was good to go!

This was maybe 3-5 coats in. I sprayed very lightly. And you can see I used a plastic bag to cover up the areas I did not want to spray. The painters tape was good for peeling and re-sticking. It took me a while to get the placement of the curves right.

 

This is probably closer to 10 coats in.

I let the paint sit for 2 days because I’m usually too antsy for the reveal. This is me peeling of the painters tape!

A piece of painters tape on the bottom keeps the lines clean.

The bottom looks neat without it being painted gold too.

 

Easy as pie!

 

 

NOTE: Be sure to cover all surfaces before you spray paint. Don’t forget the ground surface. I like newspaper and old cardboard boxes to stand behind the spray.

 

 

 

Kumaré

CURRENTLY WATCHING ON NETFLIX INSTANT: Kumaré
“I wanted to prove to others who are looking for answers that no one is more spiritual than anyone else. That spiritual leaders are just illusions. And we are the ones who decide who and what is real.”