Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

Musings #27: Cultural Appropriation Madness

Yes, cultural appropriation does exist and everyone should be aware of it.   However, it is madness to call everything cultural appropriation to the point where people are afraid to buy a tawa, dolsot, or rebozos.     Recently in a group someone asked if it was okay to buy this item:


They asked because it was called a teepee, and they wanted to know if it was culturally insensitive to  buy it for their child to play with.    I, personally, was shocked at those who said it was insensitive, even after someone with personal knowledge pointed out that it wasn’t actually a tipi.  And it is true.  This is a pole tent that has a tipi-like shape.   When you build a tent angled with poles it tends to have a certain shape and footprint.  Americans do recognise this iconic shape and the word teepee is in common vocabulary much like the word skunk.

It’s true that America has absorbed a lot of cultures, and not always with a good note.  But, when did we get to the point where a pole tent is culturally insensitive and on the same level as when movies cast Caucasians in ethnic roles, or Native American headresses are sent down the runway.     There was the fiasco where the Museum of Fine Arts displayed a painting of Monet’s wife in a gorgeous Kimono and invited people to put on a replica of said Kimono and pose with the portrait (people going to a fine arts museum are generally going to appreciate art and history).  A genuine Monet painting; a non-sexual, non-violent painting that could have opened up a lot of dialogue about the past as well as our present cultural crises.   Most people will never get the opportunity to try a Kimono.    Why can we not wear non-religious garments to appreciate them?  I could not wrap my mind around the scathing protests even when I viewed interviews of Japanese people from Japan who were also confused and did not see it as racist.      Kimono is a beautiful article of clothing and they say foreigners are generally met positively when they wear them.

Yes, we must all be aware of cultural insensitivity so that we can improve our society, support diversity, and squash racial inequality.   Yes, too many groups are underrepresented on TV, in movies, and in literature.   A thousand times yes!  However, in the process we should not see cultural appropriation where there is none, and not punish people for simply daring to want to buy a pole tent that happens to be in a vague tipi-like shape.   Racism and cultural appropriation exist every where, but not every thing is racist.  Just like not all nudes are pornographic.

Know it when you see it, but don’t go off the rails.


One comment on “Musings #27: Cultural Appropriation Madness

  1. Anonymous
    November 14, 2015

    When people live in fear of offending or being insensitive, they allow themselves a form of imprisonment that promotes oppression. If we are not free to express ourselves, yes, even with something so simple as to purchase a small tent that resembles a wigwam, we shrink into a hole of compliance and invite a climate of tyranny. (I know that sounds harsh but it is only the beginning.)

    Liked by 2 people

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