Quotulatiousness

October 29, 2017

The Poutine crisis – “Toronto is living a cheese curd lie”

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Toronto loves to adopt anything trendy and try to claim it as its own. Poutine, an imported delicacy from Quebec, early on was lovingly described as “the culinary equivalent of having unprotected sex with a stripper in the parking lot of a truck stop in eastern Quebec”, yet has been culturally appropriated as part of Toronto’s myriad of “local” dishes. Yet, according to this explosive investigatory report by Jake Edmiston, the so-called poutine that Toronto loves is … falsely labelled, inadequate, lacking a key component:

Some time ago, I realized that in Toronto, the cheese curds do not squeak. And cheese curds that do not squeak are a dangerous thing. They can trick you into thinking that cheese curds are just chopped-up cheese. The whole idea, to those unlucky enough to have never had a good one, must seem absurd: Eating cheese by itself, piece by piece in the same compulsive way that someone eats more chips than they need.

Think of the nightmare lived by a man scouring a city for chips that crunch but finding each bag stale. I am him.

As food-obsessed as it is, Toronto is living a cheese curd lie. It’s not always a popular assessment, though. One local cheesemonger took it rather badly.

“Who said that?” Afrim Pristine, the maître fromager at Cheese Boutique, demanded over the phone earlier this month.

“I say that,” I replied.

“You say that?” he said, confused. “Have you been to the Cheese Boutique?”

“I haven’t had your cheese curds yet.”

“So why would you say that?”

“I haven’t said it in print yet. I’m just saying that.”

“Okay. Um, I think you’re very, very wrong,” he said. “I think you’re incredibly wrong. To say that you can’t find good cheese curds in Toronto, I think, is crazy, actually.”

[…]

Curds are the butterflies of the cheese world — beautiful, transcendent, but only for an instant. They offer the rare example of cheese reaching its full expression as a snack unto itself, so airy and texturally complex that it is liberated from the usual dependence on crackers or bread or wine. Curds have been spared all the pressing and squeezing that occurs in the late stages of the cheddar-making process. They’re pulled right from the vat before any of that happens, still full of air and whey. That’s what makes them so much different than the cubes of mild cheddar beside the slices of salami on your cheese tray. Not for long. As that moisture seeps out over time, they inch closer to their cubed cousins, closer to ordinary. The squeak is, really, the only thing separating the two.

H/T to James Bow for the link.

June 15, 2017

Activists lobbying the UN to make cultural appropriation an international crime

The stupid, it burns:

Due to the fact that the United Nations doesn’t have anything more important to deal with, delegates from 189 countries, including the United States and Canada, are lobbying in Geneva for the organization to institute laws to make cultural appropriation illegal – and for those laws to be implemented quickly.

The delegates are a part of a specialized international committee in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which was founded in 2001 to expand intellectual property regulations to protect indigenous art, forms of expression like dance, and even words.

According to CBC, James Anaya, dean of law at the University of Colorado, said that the United Nations document should “obligate states to create effective criminal and civil enforcement procedures to recognize and prevent non-consensual taking and illegitimate possession, sale and export of traditional cultural expressions.”

Not only could the state put you in jail for cultural appropriation, those who feel as though their culture is appropriated would be able to sue you for damages. In other words, you could go to jail for making and selling burritos if you’re not Mexican, or wearing a kimono while white.

There has never been a human culture that has not “appropriated” from other cultures except for those so isolated that they never encounter other cultures. Appropriation is literally older than civilization, and no action of WIPO is going to change that. It may, however, provide even more ways for emotional and legal blackmail to be made profitable, and give even more tools to those who long to force others to bend to their will.

Ed Krayewski has more at the Hit and Run blog:

What sort of appropriation does the committee want to stop? University of Colorado Law Dean James Anaya, an indigenous leader and a technical analyst for the IGC, points to products that purport to be made or endorsed by indigenous groups but aren’t. At the Geneva meeting, Anaya offered Urban Outfitters’ “Navajo line” as an example. The Navajo Nation actually brought suit in U.S. court against Urban Outfitters over that line of products in 2012, and the case was settled out of court last year. It’s unclear how an international intellectual property bureaucracy would improve the situation.

But it’s clear how it could create new avenues for rent-seeking. The World Intellectual Property Organization generates revenue from fees, such as the ones it charges for international trademarks. Any system the IGC creates is likely to include a similar international mechanism for registering whichever “traditional cultural expressions” get protections. Such a setup could have a chilling effect on any commercialization of folklore, even by members of the original indigenous communities.

After all, the same forces of globalization and decentralization that have made intellectual property laws more difficult to enforce offer the potential to drastically expand native producers’ reach. KPMG has noted, for example, that the internet offers a “new potential for indigenous Australians in regional and remote areas to access global audiences.” An IGC-style intellectual property regime would inevitably require such entrepreneurs, not just the big corporations accused of cultural appropriation, to get additional approvals for their activity.

Meanwhile, the same governments with long histories of abusing indigenous populations would be responsible for deciding who belongs to such populations and who faces criminal penalties for not meeting the governments’ definitions. Kathy Bowrey, a law professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, tells Reason that she would love to see the IGC succeed in setting up an system that genuinely protects indigenous culture. But she has no hopes that it will. Given the “racist practices that mark everyday lives of First Nations people domestically,” she says, “I’m not sure why there is an expectation that these states would operate differently on the international stage.”

May 2, 2017

Cultural appropriation, to the max!

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the latest issue of Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith talks about the logical conclusion to the cultural appropriation discussion:

Not all of the transgressions that precious snowflake-thugs accuse real human beings of are sexual in nature. The most ludicrous I’ve heard of is “cultural appropriation”. If I were sitting here, writing this in my sombrero and grass skirt, instead of a t-shirt and jeans, I would be guilty of it. If I adopt any custom, article of clothing, item of cuisine, (yes, chili beans are evil, and kung-pao is beyond the pale) or turn of phrase from another culture (G’day, cobber!), I can be accused — and gotten rid of — by the Cult of Correctness.

But here’s the thing: there is no original American culture. The way we live — pass the spaghetti, please — is made up of bits and pieces from hundreds of different cultures, all mixed delightfully together. I can have Mexican beer — made by German brewers — with my pizza (or kung-pao) and my life is enriched. It is America’s great strength. The leftist crybullies know this, of course. I think it may have been Ayn Rand (we appropriated her from Russia) who pointed out the underhanded collectivist tactic of attacking a person or thing for its virtues.

If I eschew tableware (a French invention, I believe) and knap myself an obsidian knife before dinner, am I appropriating Neanderthal culture?

They don’t give a rat’s ass; it’s just another thing to get people they don’t like with. Whether they know it or not (most likely they do not), their moral exemplars are Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who infamously said “Property is theft.” and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who commanded them to “Eat the rich.” So deep and ancient is their resentment of the achievements of others and despite the fact that their ideological leaders have all hypocritically gorged themselves at the public trough, that they’d insanely rather see the right-wing wealthy destroyed than have enough to eat, themselves. […]

Proudhon and Rousseau are bandits on the highway of life, their “philosophies” a crude attempt to render theft respectable. And their vile spawn, Anti-fa, are giving anarchism a bad name. And that is the naked, unvarnished truth. Life is hard enough without trying not to commit “microaggressions” which are simply another way of playing the leftist Gotcha! game with people who actually work — and think — for a living.

April 25, 2017

Cultural appropriation of “poverty culture” in the Tiny House Movement

Filed under: Media, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ann Althouse linked to this older article by July Westhale on “Poverty Appropriation”:

How many folks, I wonder, who have engaged in the Tiny House Movement have ever actually lived in a tiny, mobile place? Because what those who can afford homes call “living light,” poor folks call “gratitude for what we’ve got.”

And it’s not just the Tiny House Movement that incites my discontent. From dumpster diving to trailer-themed bars to haute cuisine in the form of poor-household staples, it’s become trendy for those with money to appropriate the poverty lifestyle — and it troubles me for one simple reason. Choice.

The Tiny House Movement began in the ’90s, but has only been rising in popularity since the recession. And to be fair, it’s rooted in a very real problem: more and more people being displaced as a result of soaring housing costs, especially in tech-boom areas like the Bay Area.

[…]

It’s likely, from where I sit, that this back-to-nature and boxed-up simplicity is not being marketed to people like me, who come from simplicity and heightened knowledge of poverty, but to people who have not wanted for creature comforts. For them to try on, glamorize, identify with.

Such appropriation isn’t limited to the Tiny House trend, or even to the idea of simplicity. In major cities, people who come from high-income backgrounds flock to bars and restaurants that both appropriate, and mock, low-income communities. Perhaps the most egregious example is San Francisco’s Butter Bar, a trendy outpost that prides itself on being a true-blue, trailer park-themed bar, serving up the best in “trashy” cuisine and cocktails. With tater tots, microwaved food, and deep-fried Twinkies on the menu, the bar also serves cocktails that contain cheap ingredients, such as Welch’s grape soda. The bar has an actual trailer inside, and serves cans in paper bags, so that bar flies can have a paid-for experience of being what the owners of this bar think of when they think of trailer trash.

Butter Bar in San Francisco (Credit: Facebook)

It’s but one example of an entire hipster movement — can it be called a movement when it’s a subculture rooted not in political consciousness, but in capitalism? — that has brought with it an ethos of poor-culture appropriation and the “re-invention” of things that have largely been tools of survival for poor, disabled, working class, and/or communities of color for decades.

April 24, 2017

Today’s study in “problematic” issues for Teen Vogue

Amy Alkon fisks a recent Teen Vogue piece on soi-disant “cultural appropriation”:

Silly Teen Vogue-ers, Fashion *Is* Appropriation

This bit — from Teen Vogue — is hilariously sad and sadly hilarious:

    In our new column Don’t Do It Girl, Jessica Andrews explores the cultural appropriation epidemic at Coachella.

EPIDEMIC! Like AIDS, Zika, or Ebola!

Fashion always has been about appropriation. Appropriating style and appropriating culture. Those lace-up-the-ankle sandals? Ancient Rome!

Yet, do you see Italian kids mewling that you stole their culture? Of course not, because Italians, generally speaking, are exuberant people who really know how to live life.

Meanwhile, back here in America…

The kids growing up now, especially in the United States, are the freest people in human history — both as individuals and through the technology that removes the drudgery that’s been a constant companion for humans throughout the ages.

Naturally, their response to all this unparalleled freedom is to try to control other people’s behavior.

Fashion policing, in this case. Here, from Andrews story on that EPIDEMIC of appreciation:

    Even when people feign ignorance, there’s little excuse. In the past, I’ve worn a Pocahontas costume for Halloween. It’s a mistake I regret, and I’ll never do it again knowing how hurtful it is.

Oh, please. I grew up Jewish. If you pretend to be a character from Fiddler on the Roof, should I take to bed and cry for a few days?

    With appropriation being such a huge conversation these days…

So much talk…so little reasoning

    Like fashion, appropriative hairstyles are now ubiquitous at Coachella. Cornrows or box braids are not a “hot new festival trend”; black women have been wearing them for centuries. When outlets cover the hairstyle as if it started with Kylie Jenner, it’s not appreciation; it’s erasure. Those celebratory headlines are yet another reminder that black hairstyles are only acceptable when they’re removed from actual black people.

Do you need to be high to write for Teen Vogue? It’s a fucking hairstyle. Women wear it because they think it will look good on them. If they’re white with dark hair, they’re probably wrong (nothing like rows of scalpage showing through to make a woman’s head remind us of freshly plowed fields). Women with big honking faces like mine don’t look so hot in them, either.

    Unbeknownst to some Coachella attendees, there’s a stigma associated with cornrows and braids when black people wear them.

Unbeknownst to a fucking lot of us, I’d guess.

September 19, 2016

Cultural appropriation

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Larry Correia isn’t impressed when people scream “cultural appropriation” at him:

I’ve talked about Cultural Appropriation before, and why it is one of the most appallingly stupid ideas ever foisted on the gullible in general, and even worse when used as a bludgeon against fiction authors.

First off, what is “Cultural Appropriation”? From the linked talk:

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

The part that got left out of that definition is that engaging in Cultural Appropriation is a grievous mortal sin that self-righteous busy bodies can then use to shame anyone they don’t like.

Look at that definition. Basically anything you use that comes from another culture is stealing. That is so patently absurd right out the gate that it is laughable. Anybody who has two working brain cells to rub together, who hasn’t been fully indoctrinated in the cult of social justice immediately realizes that sounds like utter bullshit.

If you know anything about the history of the world, you would know that it has been one long session of borrowing and stealing ideas from other people, going back to the dawn of civilization. Man, that cuneiform thing is pretty sweet. I’m going to steal writing. NOT OKAY! CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!

Everything was invented by somebody, and if it was awesome, it got used by somebody else. At some point in time thousands of years ago some sharp dude got sick of girding up his loins and invented pants. We’re all stealing from that guy. Damn you racists and your slacks.

This is especially silly when white guilt liberals try to enforce it on Americans, the ultimate crossroads of the world, melting pot country where hundreds of cultures have been smooshed together for a couple hundred years, using each other’s cool stuff and making it better.

This weekend I painted miniatures for a war game from Spain, played a video game from Belarus, listened to rap music from a white guy from Detroit, watched a cop show from Britain, had Thai food for lunch, and snacked on tikki masala potato chips, while one daughter streamed K dramas, another read manga, and my sons played with Legos invented in Denmark.

A life without Cultural Appropriation would be so incredibly boring.

And most of you missed the really insidious part of that that academic, all-consuming definition. Without Permission… Think about that. So how does that work exactly? Who do you ask? Sure, these new Lays Tikki Masala chips are delicious, but are they problematic? Who is the head Indian I’m supposed to get permission from? Did you guys like appoint somebody, or is it an elected position, or what? Or should I just assume that Lays talked to that guy already for me? Or can any regular person from India be offended on behalf of a billon people?

This is all very confusing.

But hang on… India owes me. That’s right. Because vindaloo is a popular Indian dish, but wait! It was actually Culturally Appropriated from the Portuguese hundreds of years ago. I’m Portuguese! I didn’t give them permission to steal the food of my people!

So we will call it even on these chips.

And don’t get me started on Thai food, because the Portuguese introduced the chili pepper to Thailand. YOU ARE WELCOME, WORLD!

April 6, 2016

QotD: “Cultural appropriation”

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The whole notion that culture can be “appropriated” in any negative sense is one of the most absurd notions being bandied about (and that is really saying something given the carnival of absurdities that passes for critical thinking these days).

Such ideas about culture are profoundly fascist in origin, a collectivist notion that somehow culture and identity must be preserved in a “pure” state from outside influences and somehow “belongs” to an ethno-national grouping. It is very much akin intellectually to abominating miscegenation. Yet strangely the same people who spout such arrant nonsense tend not to picket performances featuring oriental ballet dancers or black opera singers (as well they shouldn’t). Sorry (not really) but the future is cosmopolitan and voluntary. I will take whatever aspects of any culture I think are worth incorporating and there is not a damn thing anyone can do to stop me.

Perry de Havilland, “No one owns a culture”, Samizdata, 2016-03-26.

November 23, 2015

“Food can be used as a tool of marginalisation and oppression”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

David Thompson works his way through a “social justice” “analysis” of how ethnic food is — or should be — a minefield of oppression and cultural appropriation:

Again, note the loadedness, the questions begged. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten, say, chili while convinced that said meal was an adequate distillation of the entire population of Mexico and Texas, past and present. Nor can I recall “fetishizing the sustenance of another culture.” It’s a meal, not an attempt to absorb world history or to flirt with some notional brownness. Yet this is asserted as “what happens,” as some universal fact:

    Eating food from another culture in isolation from that culture’s history and also current issues mean that we’re just borrowing the pieces that are enjoyable – palatable and easily digestible.

Um, and? Isn’t that rather the point? You know, tastiness without baggage? Isn’t that what makes foreign cuisine commercially viable, a livelihood of millions? Should every visit to, say, a Pakistani restaurant entail a stern lecture on the pros and cons of European colonisation and a lifetime subscription to the fever dream of Islam? Would that aid digestion? Stated plainly, it sounds a little silly. But Ms Kuo wishes to appear concerned, deeply concerned, that people of pallor might enjoy falafel and a spot of hummus “but not understand or address the ongoing Islamophobia in the US.”

Well. I’m pretty sure that the family running my local Chinese takeaway actively encourages heathen white folk to sample their wares, regardless of whether those paying customers are intimately familiar with All Of Chinese History, and regardless of whether those customers dutifully ponder how the cooking of this particular family differs from other Chinese families, from any particular town or province, in a country as vast and sprawling as China. What they want is custom. Pretentiously agonised pseudo-sensitivity is, alas, not billable.

October 27, 2015

Cultural appropriation is bunk

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At The Federalist, David Marcus explains how he considered the arguments of those pushing the idea of “cultural appropriation” … and rejected them:

I read a lot as a kid. Books were a pleasure and window into worlds. I read James Joyce and Marcel Proust, but I also read James Baldwin and Zora Neal Hurston. Every book spoke to me in its own way, and I felt a connection to their authors. I felt like I was having a private conversation with them. After finishing a book, I felt a kind of ownership of it. Each volume took a permanent place in my consciousness.

This was before the popular emergence of the idea of cultural appropriation. Nobody told me that books, music, and clothing created by people who didn’t look like me didn’t belong to me, that I was somehow borrowing them. Today, people do tell me this. They tell me that I must tread lightly when engaging in cultural forms not invented by my white ancestors.

I have listened to their arguments, read their theories, and arrived at a conclusion. They are wrong. All cultures are mine.

Over at The Atlantic, Jenni Avins writes about the dos and don’ts of cultural appropriation. To her credit, she explores how culture blending is central to the development of, well, everything. Since time immemorial, from the spice road to Times Square, cultures have influenced each other and produced the world as we know it.

[…]

But in America there is one culture that anyone and everyone is free to appropriate. White culture, be it classical music, the novel, or the business suit, is never the subject of claims of appropriation. Last week, a perfect example of this disparity was on display in an announcement from the theater world. Howlround, a website that describes itself as a theater commons and has a strong influence on the theater community, announced its call for 2020 to be a Jubilee year to promote diversity in theater.

What form will this Jubilee take? Well, it’s a doozy: “We declare the year 2020 the year of Jubilee. For the 2020–2021 season, all performances produced in the United States of America will be by women, people of color, artists of varied physical and cognitive abilities, and LBGTQA artists. Every theatre large and small is included in the vision…This is also a time for straight, white men to rejoice, to witness, to listen, and to be fed for one year by the stories they’ve also been denied. “

On its face, this is absurd nonsense. The idea that any American artists would seek to officially prohibit — in other words, ban — any artist’s work on the basis of his or her race or gender is mind-numbing. It is also quite likely that any theater company without an ethnically based mission that officially signed onto this plan would be breaking the law. Finally, it’s obviously not going to happen. But for all its preening silliness, this Jubilee fiasco tells us something interesting about cultural appropriation.

Here’s a clue: if the race or gender of an author or playwright matters more to you than the quality of the book or play, the problem isn’t the artist: the problem is you.

October 1, 2015

“Welcome to the new war on cultural appropriation”

Cathy Young trips over cultural appropriation everywhere:

A few months ago, I read The Orphan’s Tales by Catherynne Valente. The fantasy novel draws on myths and folklore from many cultures, including, to my delight, fairy tales from my Russian childhood. Curious about the author, I looked her up online and was startled to find several social-media discussions bashing her for “cultural appropriation.”

There was a post sneering at “how she totally gets a pass to write about Slavic cultures because her husband is Russian,” with a response noting that her spouse isn’t even a proper Russian, because he has lived in the United States since age 10. In another thread, Valente was denounced for her Japanese-style LiveJournal username, yuki-onna, adopted while she lived in Japan as a military wife. In response to such criticism, a browbeaten Valente eventually dropped the “problematic” moniker.

Welcome to the new war on cultural appropriation. At one time, such critiques were leveled against truly offensive art — work that trafficked in demeaning caricatures, such as blackface, 19th-century minstrel shows or ethnological expositions, which literally put indigenous people on display, often in cages. But these accusations have become a common attack against any artist or artwork that incorporates ideas from another culture, no matter how thoughtfully or positively. A work can reinvent the material or even serve as a tribute, but no matter. If artists dabble outside their own cultural experiences, they’ve committed a creative sin.

To take just a few recent examples: After the 2013 American Music Awards, Katy Perry was criticized for dressing like a geisha while performing her hit single “Unconditionally.” Last year, Arab-American writer Randa Jarrar accused Caucasian women who practice belly dancing of “white appropriation of Eastern dance.” Daily Beast entertainment writer Amy Zimmerman wrote that pop star Iggy Azalea perpetrated “cultural crimes” by imitating African American rap styles.

And this summer, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has been dogged by charges of cultural insensitivity and racism for its “Kimono Wednesdays.” At the event, visitors were invited to try on a replica of the kimono worn by Claude Monet’s wife, Camille, in the painting “La Japonaise.” The historically accurate kimonos were made in Japan for this very purpose. Still, Asian American activists and their supporters besieged the exhibit with signs like “Try on the kimono: Learn what it’s like to be a racist imperialist today!” Others railed against “Yellow-Face @ the MFA” on Facebook. The museum eventually apologized and changed the program so that the kimonos were available for viewing only. Still, activists complained that the display invited a “creepy Orientalist gaze.”

March 9, 2014

More on that “cultural appropriation” meme

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:45

A couple of days back, I linked to a Salon article where an Arab woman was expressing her anguish and hurt that non-Arabs were appropriating belly dancing and how this was something she just couldn’t stand to see. Eugene Volokh responds in the Washington Post, asking “What would Salon think of an article called, ‘Why I can’t stand Asian musicians who play Beethoven’?”:

Appropriation — the horror! People treating artistic genres as if they were great ideas that are part of the common stock of humanity, available for all humanity to use, rather than the exclusive property of some particular race or ethnic group. What atrocity will the culturally insensitive appropriators think of next? East Asian cellists? Swedish chess players? The Japanese putting on Shakespeare? Jews playing Christians’ Christian music, such as Mozart’s masses? Arriviste Jewish physicists using work done for centuries by Christians? Russian Jews writing about Anglo-American law? Indians writing computer programs, using languages and concepts pioneered by Americans and Europeans? Japanese companies selling the most delicious custard cream puffs? Shame, shame, shame.

But, wait: Maybe — and I know this is a radical thought — artists, whether high or low, should be able to work in whatever artistic fields they want to work in. Maybe they should even be able to work in those fields regardless of their skin color or the place from which their ancestors came.

Maybe telling people that they can’t work in some field because they have the wrong color or ancestry would be … rats, I don’t know what to call it. If only there were an adjective that could be used to mean “telling people that they mustn’t do something, because of their race or ethnic origin.”

March 7, 2014

White belly dancers are “appropriating” inappropriately, says Salon writer

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:08

That vast invisible knapsack of white privilege is even deeper and more capacious than we thought: Randa Jarrar writes that the sight of white belly dancers is something she cannot stand:

Google the term “belly dance” and the first images the search engine offers are of white women in flowing, diaphanous skirts, playing at brownness. How did this become acceptable?

The term “belly dance” itself is a Western one. In Arabic, this kind of dance is called Raqs Sharqi, or Eastern dance. Belly dance, as it is known and practiced in the West, has its roots in, and a long history of, white appropriation of Eastern dance. As early as the 1890s in the U.S., white “side-show sheikhs” managed dance troupes of white women, who performed belly dance at world’s fairs (fun trivia: Mark Twain made a short film of a belly dancer at the 1893 fair). Many white women who presently practice belly dance are continuing this century-old tradition of appropriation, whether they are willing to view their practice this way or not.

[…]

“It’s Arab face,” my friend Nadine once said, pointing at an invitation from a white acquaintance of hers. The invitation was printed on card stock and featured the woman and a dozen of her white friends dressed in Orientalist garb with eye makeup caked on for full kohl effect and glittery accessories. We wanted to call these women up and say, “How is this OK? Would you wear a dashiki and rock waspafarian dreads and take up African dance publicly? Wait,” we’d probably say, “don’t answer that.”

The most disturbing thing is when these women take up Arabic performance names — Suzy McCue becomes Samirah Layali. This name and others like it make no sense in Arabic. This, in my estimation, completes the brownface Orientalist façade. A name. A crowning. A final consecration of all the wrongs that lead up to the naming.

Women I have confronted about this have said, “But I have been dancing for 15 years! This is something I have built a huge community on.” These women are more interested in their investment in belly dancing than in questioning and examining how their appropriation of the art causes others harm. To them, I can only say, I’m sure there are people who have been unwittingly racist for 15 years. It’s not too late. Find another form of self-expression. Make sure you’re not appropriating someone else’s.

H/T to Steve Muhlberger, who wondered “what kind of purity test will would-be dancers have to pass?”

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