I think that tumblr seems to have a very warped idea of what cultural appropriation is. Maybe I’m wrong, but to me something isn’t cultural appropriation unless it is blatantly offensive to a certain culture.
Obviously I’m a middle class white girl who, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t know…
I think you made great points that I really appreciate you for sharing, because I find myself nodding to a lot of parts. As a person of color, I feel you and also do see it a little differently sometimes. I think it is often so difficult for individuals to tell the line between, what is appropriation and what is appreciation, because for everyone the line seems to be different, the standards are different, and it does seem like nobody can ever “do it right,” kind of a lot like feminism debate. Which is why I personally believe, like many other things in life, finding your own personal definition after a lot of research is the way to go. And be confident in that, but also be open to taking responsibility and hearing other people out if something you said publicly hurt someone too.
Sometimes, even when you are truly appreciating the culture, it might upset some people if they feel like you are only trying to take the pretty surface value of it and not the history that comes with it. I can see that too. And such criticism, I think, is often the natural consequence when you are willing to openly explore your own cultural identity and other cultures as well. And by no means I think we should all shut down and explore only what other people tell us we are allowed to explore. We are living in a true mixture of all different cultural influences nowadays, which is a huge part of me, and I think these are great debates we are having.
I also think that learning from other culture and being immersed in it is an important process for us to find our own identities, because there are people who are of mixed decent, or people who were born in one culture but moved to another, or even people who live in a certain culture but identify more deeply with another. And those are all great, I really think those are all choices people should definitely be free to make for themselves. I am also a person who was born and raised in Asian culture who have identified more with American culture, and was criticized for it - “whitewashed” was the word people used to hurt me. But this is who I am. And I think such process of exploration comes with a lot of harsh critique that can certainly seem unfair. Overall, I truly believe that as long as we all remain open and willing to consider the other person’s feeling when it comes to something so sensitive, we can truly define our own selves and our own cultural identity as well as validate other people’s emotions and our own about it.
I’m just really glad we are all speaking up about our own perspectives. I was really forced to shut down and adopt Asian culture as my only true culture when I was growing up, even if in my heart it really was not, at all. I know there are decisions you must make for your own, if it really feels right to you. And also questions that must be asked.
Taylor Swift’s music is not really in my taste. I will say that.
And I do think that sometimes she says things that play into the virgin/whore dichotomy: how she “finds it easy to keep her clothes on,” as if it is wrong to want to take your clothes off, and her songs that allude to virginity as a commodity.
And I do absolutely think that many celebrities think, it is okay that Marc Jacobs never pays his models as long as they’re getting free stuff, that taking pictures with Terry Richardson is cool as long as they’re on the cover, and starring in movies by directors with rape convictions is totally cool because that’s art, because that’s just how it is. And they never own up to it and say, “it was a mistake.” A lot of them seem to think that it is just “haters hating” if you vocalize about how certain thing isn’t fair. And they take instagram pictures with said criminals, and think they are really chill, really cool, I’m in the love club. I do, really, get upset about that.
However, it just seems like women can’t win, ever. From the moment we are young girls, we are constantly told on how we should behave, dress, and talk. Strangers comment on our bodies like they have the right to, and we’re supposed to be flattered. We are taught just how aggressive we can act, because there’s a limit. We are taught that if we are vocal and opinionated, then we are “feisty,” we are too aggressive, we are too promiscuous. Surely you don’t want that, people tell us. Surely they know better than us girls. People shame Taylor Swift all. the. time. about her boyfriends, saying “she dates too much,” or that she is “desperate.” All the guys who she has been with has been linked with plethora of women, some even half their age. But it is Taylor who gets all the flack, which roots to slut shaming. Should she just give up after one failed dating try, at her young age, and never, ever date again just so she can please other people’s dating quota?
See, it’s not just women who are “desperate” or “needy.” Women are human beings. Human beings make mistakes. Every human being can be emotionally vulnerable, and even desperate about something they really desire. But media, and very often, we, portray other females as that; belittling their emotions and attributing emotional qualities only to female gender. Often, if a person is going through any vulnerable moment in public and the person happens to be a female, the media paints her as “emotional,” “crazy,” and “unstable.” If the person were to be male, however, most will paint him as honest, vulnerable, and sensitive, or worse, call him a “pussy.” Because yes, apparently a sex organ that pops all the human beings out into the world is a sign of the hugest weakness. But is it weak to be brave enough to show your vulnerability? Or to hold it in and create a facade because you are afraid of being judged? Which one is truly weaker?
It can be problematic to have celebrity role models, because you will possibly never know them as who they are. Which is why I don’t look up to public figures most of the times. I know who they are in real life will be absolutely different, even to a minimal degree. But from what we can see, it seems that it is Taylor’s personality to be emotional, vulnerable, self-deprecating, and out in the open about her life. And she has the right to be that person, and talk about her own life, which is the only experience she can speak of in her own songs. Why should she pretend to be somebody else, why should she try to talk about other things that are not important to her?
Having emotions to the point where you feel like you are desperate, whether because you have failed in love before or you have low self esteem, is natural, human, and we’ve all been there. Shaming others for their emotions doesn’t make you any stronger. People are hard on Taylor often because she lays it all out for people to pick on without shielding herself. And yes, it would be nice if she owned up to her mistakes when or if she makes them, but you don’t need to bash her as a brainless being who can’t think for herself, a lost lamb who isn’t in control of her life because you despise weakness in other human beings. There are all kinds of women in this world, and not everybody has to be Beyonce. There are room for all of us in this entire world, and each and every one of us is incarnated in this body as only one person in the entire world, and we can’t ever be anybody else. We can only do us.
Same goes for Katy Perry, or Miley Cyrus, or Rihanna, who all have made mistakes, because human beings make mistakes. Yes, I do get upset when people reject feminism altogether because we can’t agree on one thing, or casually exploit other human beings, or imply that gun symbolizes power and strength. But people often call these women “immodest,” that they “can’t keep their clothes on.” Why should they keep their clothes on? For whom? The concept of modesty is a subjugation tool used to shame women to alter their appearances to fit the stereotypical “good girl” mold. And if they don’t fit into the societal mold of so-called “good girls,” then they are not welcome. If you want to like your body and be sexy in public? You want to say you love sex? Shame! Because people say that there is no way they are empowered, there is no way they are doing that for themselves. And how do we know that? We don’t. We don’t know. But we still treat women like they are infantile creatures who need men to think for themselves. We don’t trust women when they say “I like my body, I like sex.” And we don’t forgive women if they make a big mistake in public and want to turn it around. But we forgive Terry Richardson, we forgive Roman Polanski, we forgive Woody Allen, we forgive Marc Jacobs, we forgive R.Kelly, we forgive Sean Penn. Why?
We tell Miley Cyrus, you are just “acting out.” Even if it is a perfectly natural thing for people to grow up, discover their bodies, love it more, explore with it, and be more comfortable with nudity. If Miley Cyrus does it, it’s always “acting out.” It’s always “exploited.” Nobody thinks that a grown, female adult can possibly make her own decisions about her body. Yes, there is a ton of exploitation in the industry, and even pressure. Yes, maybe she really was coerced secretly. But we don’t ask young men who write explicit sex lyrics if they are brainwashed. We don’t ask Channing Tatum why he posed shirtless with his chiseled abs on the cover. We don’t think they are coerced, we don’t think they are acting out. We think it’s just boys being boys, as if only men have sex drives, as if only men can own their bodies truly, as if we weren’t once hormone raging teens who grew up to discover what we like and what we don’t like in sex and relationships. And I do have a problem with this. I do have a problem with how hard it is out there for all of us.
Wear whatever you want, be whomever you want to be, do whatever you want to do as long as it doesn’t hurt people. And if it did, if you made a mistake, own it, learn from it. Define every single thing in your life on your own, gender, sexuality, ethnic identity, whatever there is. This is your life. This is our lives.