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July 12, 2014 9:26 AM   Subscribe

On July 8, the Daily Mississippian published Sierra Mannie's Op-Ed, "Dear white gays", which was then picked up by Time Magazine, and has spurred discussion on whether white gay men are stealing the culture of black women.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (163 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's stuff like this, I guess.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:31 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Culture isn't a pie with only so many slices. It's more like a river or a rushing torrent. And anyone referencing minstrel shows needs to read the definitive scholarly study, Love and Theft by Eric Lott (not the Dylan album, but that's where Dylan got the idea.)
posted by Ideefixe at 9:37 AM on July 12 [14 favorites]


I don't understand why this is framed as cultural appropriation. (And, disclaimer, I regard most claims of cultural appropriation with great skepticism.) Mockingly calling yourself Shanaynay and doing a minstrel show routine sans only the black facepaint seems more like straight-up sexism and racism to me.
posted by tyllwin at 9:41 AM on July 12 [45 favorites]


You know, I really hate the idea you can steal somebody's culture. In fact, I would suggest the idea that the reason the concept exists is to keep different groups from mixing, which leads to the perpetuation of racism, classism, etc.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:42 AM on July 12 [41 favorites]


I hate to be that "I'm a white straight male who doesn't know shit about this but for some reason I think everybody needs to hear my opinion anyway" guy, but just arguendo: given the baffling and ludicrous marginalization of black women in US culture, can she be quite certain that some cultural appropriation and cross-pollination, for all that it appears to be one-way in this instance, is more bad than good overall?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:52 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I'm sure there are ways for this "appropriation" to cross over into overt sexism and racism....

However, most gay men seem to be appropriating these mannerisms as a send-up to a subset of feminist culture that values strength and independence in the face of adversity.

tl;dr Beyonce's music resonates with a lot of us. The subject touches on a lot of sensitive subjects, but it's a loving homage in the vast majority of cases. (But maybe the gay community needs to back off if people are genuinely offended.)
posted by schmod at 9:53 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr: You know, I really hate the idea you can steal somebody's culture. In fact, I would suggest the idea that the reason the concept exists is to keep different groups from mixing, which leads to the perpetuation of racism, classism, etc.

The quote from the first article that best answers you is:
But here’s the shade — the non-black people who get to enjoy all of the fun things about blackness will never have to experience the ugliness of the black experience, systemic racism and the dangers of simply living while black.
posted by sukeban at 9:55 AM on July 12 [24 favorites]


Mannie said it frustrates her that gay men always come up to her and call her “Shanaynay” with a kind of stereotypical accent

Yeah...this seems just pretty much racism. I too have a lot of skepticism about appropriation claims, but there's a pretty big difference between doing this stuff and like white people playing jazz.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:57 AM on July 12 [50 favorites]


sukeban: But here’s the shade — the non-black people who get to enjoy all of the fun things about blackness will never have to experience the ugliness of the black experience, systemic racism and the dangers of simply living while black.

Well, maybe if people were allowed to come together over shared cultural experiences, they'd find some common ground and discover they weren't so different after all. But that's less and less likely to happen when you bin each culture by race and people are discouraged from experiencing the same things.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:01 AM on July 12 [16 favorites]


Her essay is interesting. I certainly see why there's an admiring element to many instances of this kind of act-like-a-black-woman behavior (because black women are coded as "strong"). But I've also seen plenty of instances of that behavior that are really... discomfiting/uneasy in the racial stereotypes they rely on, and in the racial dynamic that allows white people to feel like this kind of thing is totally okay to say to a stranger, and makes people of color who object seem like they're "taking it too personally." It's really easy for even very well-intentioned white people to not realize when they're crossing a line, in trying to be friendly/cool/down with people of color, and end up being too familiar in a way that's intrusive or offensive.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:03 AM on July 12 [11 favorites]


I don't really have an opinion on this subject, but...

At the end of the day, if you are a white male, gay or not, you retain so much privilege. What is extremely unfairly denied you because of your sexuality could float back to you, if no one knew that you preferred the romantic and sexual company of men over women.

I'm going to guess that the intersection of white gays who are trying to "pass", and white gays who appropriate the culture of black women is virtually zero.
posted by sbutler at 10:06 AM on July 12 [26 favorites]


She makes some good points but she really does herself a disservice with the whole "oh you could always just pretend to be straight" thing.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:08 AM on July 12 [18 favorites]


can she be quite certain that some cultural appropriation and cross-pollination, for all that it appears to be one-way in this instance, is more bad than good overall?

Can anyone ever really be sure about something like that? No, of course not. But--you know, there was just that whole post about marginalized people not needing other people to play Devil's advocate? I kinda feel like you're doing that here--well, ok, sure, she finds it hurtful and offensive, but what if it's not?

Like, what are the possible outcomes of this that are an actively good thing for black women? I'm trying really hard to come up with literally anything, and I'm just not finding it.

The behavior that she's talking about is grossly racist and sexist, and the fact that it's a bunch of gay dudes who're calling each other Shaniqua and talking about their ghetto booties doesn't make it less gross. What they're doing is only funny, for a value of funny, because it's transgressive--they're actively not acting like the stereotype of gay white guys because instead they're acting like the stereotype of a straight black women. Get it? It's hilarious!

And, I mean, I guess that for a subset of the population, it is, in fact, hilarious. But it's also punching down, not up, and it's pretty reasonable that the people getting punched aren't going to be thrilled.
posted by MeghanC at 10:11 AM on July 12 [70 favorites]



You know, I really hate the idea you can steal somebody's culture. In fact, I would suggest the idea that the reason the concept exists is to keep different groups from mixing, which leads to the perpetuation of racism, classism, etc.


No, that is not the reason the concept exists. I don't think it's as much about "stealing" but appropriation is often about mockery or superficial things without really understanding or respecting the entire culture. I think it's a conversation worth having, and I think if you're white in America and are calling out a black woman for perpetuating racism because she wants to talk about appropriation...I dunno, you're missing some things.

I mean, I can see how white men calling themselves "strong black women" or "ghetto girls" can get someone's back up. I've heard nonblack people do the "strong black woman" thing and it makes me wince.
posted by sweetkid at 10:15 AM on July 12 [30 favorites]


It's really easy for even very well-intentioned white people to not realize when they're crossing a line, in trying to be friendly/cool/down with people of color, and end up being too familiar in a way that's intrusive or offensive.

Yeah, and the thing with that is that it isn't cultural cross-pollination, which is a beautiful and good thing, it's people attempting to code switch with codes they're not really apart of.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:15 AM on July 12 [16 favorites]


Is gay white men imitating [the stereotype of] black women really, like, a thing?
posted by zennie at 10:17 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Well, maybe if people were allowed to come together over shared cultural experiences

No one is saying that you can't do that. What the piece is asking is that you at least try to appreciate the experiences of the people whose culture you wish to take part in.
posted by supermassive at 10:18 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Please don't do the thing of exaggerated ironic offensive comments, it doesn't help difficult discussions to go well. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:21 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Is gay white men imitating [the stereotype of] black women really, like, a thing?

Might could be a thing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:23 AM on July 12 [14 favorites]


isn't the obvious answer to "don't steal [my] black culture" immediately "ok, well then don't steal [my] white culture?" or "ok, have fun with that, i've gotta get back to running the world."

let's say a poor black person makes fun of a rich white person. rich person doesn't give a shit, because in reality they both know who has the power. rich white person makes fun of a poor black person, black person is super-offended, not because of the words, but because in reality they both know who has the power. but notice this also works between rich and poor white people, and between rich and poor black people. focusing on the offense taken is just focusing on the symptom, not the disease.
posted by facetious at 10:23 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Is gay white men imitating [the stereotype of] black women really, like, a thing?

I've known a few gay white men for whom it was definitely a thing. And they were men who were nice, and anti-racist, and had been bullied/etc so saw themselves as being in a vulnerable/lower position, and had black female friends they went dancing with, and so on. They intended it as an admiring thing and an attempt to be part of/in solidarity with a strong group. But even so it always struck me as sort of uneasy, and I'm curious to know what their black female friends really thought of it. I can imagine it's a behavior that some would be fine with/enjoy while others find it offensive and unwelcome.

(Plus obviously there's a spectrum of this kind of behavior - my friends were never calling themselves by jokey-stereotypical black women's names, which strikes me as pretty far over the line. But like, they might say "girlfriend" in a stereotypically sassy-black-woman way.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:27 AM on July 12 [7 favorites]


sweetkid: No, that is not the reason the concept exists. I don't think it's as much about "stealing" but appropriation is often about mockery or superficial things without really understanding or respecting the entire culture. I think it's a conversation worth having, and I think if you're white in America and are calling out a black woman for perpetuating racism because she wants to talk about appropriation...I dunno, you're missing some things.

Well, if the problem is mockery, call it that. Many more people are willing to respect that issue than the problematic one of cultural appropriation.

The issue with requiring 'understanding or respecting the entire culture' before using cultural elements, is that it doesn't seem to help. People will angrily confront anyone who is seen as using protected cultural elements without really caring if they have any knowledge or respect of the culture in question. I really feel like this helps conflate culture and race, which I consider incredibly destructive (as is mentioned above, the corollary of "You better not steal from their culture" is "Well, then they'd better not steal from mine"), and also helps isolate cultures so there is less interaction and mixing.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:27 AM on July 12 [7 favorites]


You know, I really hate the idea you can steal somebody's culture. In fact, I would suggest the idea that the reason the concept exists is to keep different groups from mixing, which leads to the perpetuation of racism, classism, etc.

I would suggest that you're wrong.

I'm aboriginal, descended from two of the First Nations in what is now Canada. From the 19th century until the 1950s, it was illegal for my family to practice their religion and culture. My grandparents were taken from their homes by the government at the age of six and transported hundreds of miles from their home communities to residential schools, where - on top of the devastating abuse and dangerous conditions - they were forcibly converted to a new religion, made to change their names and cut their hair, and punished for speaking their families' language.

So when, today, I see people using made-up "Indian ceremonies" in their Boy Scout troops or new age parties, or hipsters wearing sacred war bonnets for kicks, or people giving themselves "Indian names" or "Native American spirit animals," my objection is not based in self-segregation. It is based in the fact that white people still have the power to seize our cultural and religious practices and leave us with scraps.

My people have very few television shows or movies or books that show a complete view of our lives, or that show us at all (given that nine times out of ten, Native people are played by non-Native actors in any film), so yes, it's hurtful when the only thing we see of ourselves in wider culture are the things that white people have decided are cool. To have our style or history or clothing divorced so thoroughly from us - with no respect for our feelings, and often no understanding of the cultural context they come from, or that they come from different cultures at all instead of one blurred-together "Indian" culture - is just another reminder that white people wish we would just die off and be poignant history instead of an inconvenient modern reality.

This is doubly disrespectful when it involves taking things that were sacred to our ancestors and making them into silly games or fashion statements. When this is done by those who control the dominant culture, that takes away our ability to reclaim those items as sacred.
posted by northernish at 10:29 AM on July 12 [256 favorites]


I found her arguments strong and compelling. Cultural creations created by black people have repeatedly been hated/scorned, and then later performed/claimed by white people to great acclaim and profit. But those who came up with the blues, rock n' roll, etc. etc.--i.e., black people--did not get that benefit or the credit, at least not while they were still alive. That has improved, but it still happens.

And while "attitude" and slang are not the same as a whole genre of music, it's much the same thing; despised when black people do it, ok/praised when white people do it.

It's a bad pattern, and it needs to stop.

That doesn't mean no cross-cultural appreciation; it means that those who create the music or the fashion or the slang get full credit for it, and the spotlight they deserve.
posted by emjaybee at 10:30 AM on July 12 [17 favorites]


She makes some good points but she really does herself a disservice with the whole "oh you could always just pretend to be straight" thing.

There are a lot of times when straight people assume they are seeing other straight people and will keep assuming that right up until we start sucking face regardless of what cues we may give, and sometimes this lets us pass safely through situations that might otherwise be dangerous. Being black is immediately visible in a different way.

I think she could have said this better and talked about erasure and what it means to pass and the history of passing in terms of both race and LGBT+ status and how the two are similar or different. I also think this would be less of an issue if the white gay men's community were more invested in showing solidarity with people of color.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:31 AM on July 12 [24 favorites]


American gays have been appropriating African-American culture since at least to 60s. How do you think disco or bell-bottoms entered the mainstream?

I think the original essay is interesting. It's a shame the discussion has gotten hung up on the "steal" part. The powerful part of her argument isn't that gays are somehow depriving her of something uniquely hers, it's the disrespect and thoughtlessness that comes with white people pretending to be black. Or more generally the unexamined privilege that comes from appropriating culture from disadvantaged groups. Sierra Mannie isn't saying she can no longer be a strong black woman, she's saying it's offensive for white gay men to pretend they have some right to that heritage.

I'd love to read some more writing on gay African-American men, particularly the queeny stereotype vs. the culture of the Down-Low. There's a lot of complicated race, class, and gender stuff going on there.

I don't know any white gay men who think it's OK to mimic the queeny gay black man steretotyping. Mimicking sassy black women is de rigeur, though, and I think draws from an admiration of the strength of black women in American culture. Which is problematic, in ways that Sierra Mannie points out so effectively, but is coming from a well-meaning place. Maybe?
posted by Nelson at 10:33 AM on July 12 [6 favorites]


People will angrily confront anyone who is seen as using protected cultural elements without really caring if they have any knowledge or respect of the culture in question

Possibly we have really, really different ideas of what constitutes "respect", but I feel like I can say with confidence that while I've seen this behavior plenty of times, I've never seen it done in a way that didn't feel like black women were the punchline.
posted by MeghanC at 10:34 AM on July 12 [7 favorites]


It's a shame the discussion has gotten hung up on the "steal" part. The powerful part of her argument isn't that gays are somehow depriving her of something uniquely hers, it's the disrespect and thoughtlessness that comes with white people pretending to be black.

This is where I went wrong as well; but the problem of misplaced emphasis is present in the original, starting with the headline and perpetuated in the framing of this post. In other words, people aren't wrong in thinking it's about that if it largely presents itself as being about that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:37 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Mimicking sassy black women is de rigeur, though, and I think draws from an admiration of the strength of black women in American culture. Which is problematic, in ways that Sierra Mannie points out so effectively, but is coming from a well-meaning place. Maybe?

This is a moot point, I think. If someone came up to me acting like a stereotype of a black woman, I wouldn't care if they 'meant well'. Taking the broadest assumptions of what is assumed to be my culture and acting it out, as if I'd find it cute or funny, is offensive.
posted by supermassive at 10:40 AM on July 12 [12 favorites]


How do you think disco or bell-bottoms entered the mainstream?

Well, in this instance, through hippies buying old sailor's clothes from thrift stores. But whites have been lifting from blacks for a lot longer than since the 70s.
posted by maxsparber at 10:47 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Here in San Francisco they had Native American day at a Giant's game. Some non Native American guy came wearing a feathered headdress. It led to a fight and an arrest. Cultural appropriation usually involves latching on to some small stereotype and then assuming that this shows respect. Or just looks cool. Which I guess is worst. But it seems that for most people we only relate to people "unlike ourselves" through cliche or stereotype. And what propogates these? We do. It is all through our culture and hence our media. All we get are simple minded representations of others and we in our own simplemindedness keep it going. It probably won't stop until we finally relate to the other (a nice distancing term) as people, complex and unique individuals, and not generic classes easily simplified as cliches and stereotypes.
posted by njohnson23 at 10:49 AM on July 12 [6 favorites]


I think she could have said this better and talked about erasure and what it means to pass and the history of passing in terms of both race and LGBT+ status and how the two are similar or different. I also think this would be less of an issue if the white gay men's community were more invested in showing solidarity with people of color.

I definitely agree with you, and, of course, part of the issue is that this is a college paper op-ed written by an undergraduate. She's trying to pack way too much in too small a space with a bit too little life experience to really make her thesis clear and cover the whole issue. It think it's interesting that Time, that well-known champion of blacks, women, and gays, chose to reprint this rather than inviting her to develop her ideas at greater length.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:49 AM on July 12 [11 favorites]


I am beginning to think that accusations of "cultural appropriation" are just advanced forms of "That's Racist" where (in many times) White People are telling other "White People" that something is racist on behalf of other groups.

If this was some kind of even footing, would Germans be able to claim sausages and beer as their cultural heritage and then demand that only Germans enjoy Oktoberfest? Is this where we are heading?

This does not sit well with me; I want to have us all sharing and remixing our culture and placing boundaries on it where only "oppressed people" can have or display certain attitudes , clothing or behaviors because of "reasons" well founded or not smacks of establishing cultural ghettos.
.
posted by NiteMayr at 10:55 AM on July 12


I am beginning to think that accusations of "cultural appropriation" are just advanced forms of "That's Racist" where (in many times) White People are telling other "White People" that something is racist on behalf of other groups.

Really? You got that from an essay written by a black woman?
posted by maxsparber at 10:57 AM on July 12 [50 favorites]


If this was some kind of even footing, would Germans be able to claim sausages and beer as their cultural heritage and then demand that only Germans enjoy Oktoberfest? Is this where we are heading?

You hear arguments like this all the time around St. Patrick's Day.
posted by sbutler at 11:00 AM on July 12 [5 favorites]


Every time well-off white folks say "namaste," I want to deliver a snippy lecture.

At the same time, I surround myself with the bossa nova and with the blues and the glorious clangorous tapestry of the gamelan and Stromae's songs and bansuri music and tropicalia and field recordings from Morocco and sweet krautrock and Chinese pop music and the Carter Family and all the stuff that used to filter in all night long on my old vacuum tube shortwave radio, and without that wild blender of cultures and ideas, I don't know who I'd be.

I tend to think that when it's done with real affection and sensitivity, the way themes and motifs and cultures used to swirl in and out of jazz, and not in the sort of Victorian orientalist exoticism, it finds its place and becomes more than just a borrowing. When it's just a pointing finger and a sneer, it is as worthy and enduring as either a pointing finger or a sneer. Sometimes, it's just a lazy social tic, captured in lieu of genuine invention or sincere adoption.

When it's something borne out of love, the synthesis succeeds.

A bit of reflection and observation of the Wil Wheaton principle works wonders.
posted by sonascope at 11:02 AM on July 12 [7 favorites]


I am beginning to think that accusations of "cultural appropriation" are just advanced forms of "That's Racist" where (in many times) White People are telling other "White People" that something is racist on behalf of other groups.

The great fear with cultural appropriation and the reason that it's called "theft" is because it allows outside forces to control that culture, not just participate into it. When that happens, the positively-received aspect is given to the culture at large while the negative depictions of the culture just sit there. That way, people think of poverty, deadbeat dads, and gun violence when they think of black men, but all the positive aspects of their culture have been harvested by the culture at large, which means that by black men participating, they're not seen as participating in their own culture, but the culture at large.

And that's a problem. Culture appropriation isn't racist, but it serves racism by denying an oppressed people control over their own culture. It also can be pretty insensitive and hurtful if you're the person on the other side of that appropriation.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:11 AM on July 12 [46 favorites]


It seems to me that the complaint can take several forms: (a) the copying is inauthentic and a poor knock-off, and hence annoying; (b) the copying is motivated more by a desire to appropriate than out of any better motive, like genuine appreciation or love, and thus annoying; (c) the copying takes part of the identity without paying the full price.

The last one, which gets extensive treatment in the essay, seems weakest to me.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:13 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Cultural appropriation is complex but I think ever one knows what it is to feel like we've witnessed it. If you know the original culture, it comes across as really bad taste. Someone not realising (often) that they are doing something really out of context, in a not-good way.

Every time well-off white folks say "namaste," I want to deliver a snippy lecture.

I sort of know what you mean - though by stressing "well off", you seem to be suggesting an axis of dichotomy there which ... well, there are and have been, all the way through colonialism, a class of extremely well-off people in the Indian subcontinent who might use the word.
posted by iotic at 11:16 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


I am beginning to think that accusations of "cultural appropriation" are just advanced forms of "That's Racist" where (in many times) White People are telling other "White People" that something is racist on behalf of other groups.

Go back up and read northernish's comment, really carefully.

If this was some kind of even footing, would Germans be able to claim sausages and beer as their cultural heritage and then demand that only Germans enjoy Oktoberfest? Is this where we are heading?

It would be if drinking beer and eating sausages was generally disparaged and considered to be a signal of unintelligence; if "beer" and "sausage" had the same cultural connotations of "purple drink" and "watermelon", and if Germans who ate and drank these things were constantly mocked and considered to be subhuman, and, in the past "Oktoberfest" had been banned and Germans prohibited from celebrating it, and then, some non-German hipsters decided to have an "ironic" beer and sausages party and call it Oktoberfest, then that would be cultural appropriation.

But since that's not the case, no, that's not where we are heading.
posted by damayanti at 11:17 AM on July 12 [65 favorites]


(c) the copying takes part of the identity without paying the full price.

The last one, which gets extensive treatment in the essay, seems weakest to me


Would you mind expanding on what you find weak about it? Because that's the textbook definition of cultural appropriation: that more powerful people in society are able to take on aspects of a culture from a marginalized group that those marginalized people can't take on without issue. Think of a white woman wearing a bindi who gets to be "chic" while an Indian woman with a bindi gets to be called "dot head". Likewise, she's saying that gay white men get to take on aspects of black femininity and get the positive aspects of "sassy" and "strong"; when she does it she gets the negative aspects of "angry black woman".

To me, that's extremely damaging and a pretty convincing argument.
posted by damayanti at 11:22 AM on July 12 [62 favorites]


I think the metaphor of turning culture into property isn't a very good fit for what's meant by "cultural appropriation" but when I try to come up with a better one, it doesn't really work either. I guess it's sort of like plagiarism? But trying to apply notions of academic integrity to pop music makes no sense. Maybe it's like false advertising? But when you talk about false advertising you're worried for the consumer, and in this case it's the consumer who's the problem.

The problems here are real, but at the same time, misunderstanding them is not necessarily an expression of privilege. The rhetoric is so messy, it's not surprising how often miscommunication occurs.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:24 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Think of how you feel when you hear "London Calling" used to advertise airlines or "Imagine" used to sell Nike shoes. Or whatever your favorite song is, stripped of meaning, used to market something in a slick campaign that costs millions and was put together by MBAs who couldn't care less that their product is antithetical to the meaning of the song.

That's what appropriation feels like.
posted by Metafilter Username at 11:24 AM on July 12 [32 favorites]


That's what appropriation feels like.

Well, with the added dimension of having gotten beaten up while singing the song in the first place, which you had written because you weren't allowed to sing other songs that "normal people" sang.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:28 AM on July 12 [24 favorites]


The gay guys I know who are outraged by Sierra Mannie's essay are the same ones who complain loudest whenever a group of straight girls shows up at the gay bar.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:30 AM on July 12 [18 favorites]


damayanti, thanks for pressing me. I was too hasty. I would better have distinguished between (c) the copying takes part of the identity, while neatly sidestepping the baggage associated with that particular part; and (d) the copying takes part of the identity without bearing the full burdens of the disadvantaged group.

Between the two, she struck me as saying (d) -- e.g., "who get to enjoy all of the fun things about blackness will never have to experience the ugliness of the black experience, systemic racism and the dangers of simply living while black." This is an impossible standard that I doubt is really meant.

The bindi example is more akin to (c). It rubs me the wrong way, FWIW, because of what I styled as (a) and (b). I am not sure that it is always a trump. I mean, while I am inclined to think it is wrongful appropriation, that kind of use is one way in which a behavior can be reimagined by a dominant group and rendered more appealing to it, sometimes in its original context. I am NOT celebrating the notion that this is how things work, but as an empirical matter it might work. If the behavior is sanitized and made unthreatening in that fashion, it is maddening and even enraging that it can only be done in that way, but those with a more authentic claim -- say, those who dress in a particular way, and always have -- might benefit as a collateral matter.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:37 AM on July 12


But those who came up with the blues, rock n' roll, etc. etc.--i.e., black people--did not get that benefit or the credit, at least not while they were still alive.

Benefit, no; credit, absolutely. Only back in the day, it was widely called "blame".
posted by IndigoJones at 11:40 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]


Think of how you feel when you hear "London Calling" used to advertise airlines or "Imagine" used to sell Nike shoes. Or whatever your favorite song is, stripped of meaning, used to market something in a slick campaign that costs millions and was put together by MBAs who couldn't care less that their product is antithetical to the meaning of the song.

That's what appropriation feels like.


As someone not sure I agree with the full breadth of the case against misappropriation, I still don't think this holds a candle to what appropriation feels like. Your example feels more like what happens when less cool groups start endorsing my favorite indie band.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:41 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


I mean, I can see how white men calling themselves "strong black women" or "ghetto girls" can get someone's back up. I've heard nonblack people do the "strong black woman" thing and it makes me wince.

Although I'm not a white, old, straight, male, I understand that I still have some kind of privilege being a straight male. And because of that, I try hard not to be all "ooh, I'm so disenfranchised. I pretty much can be offended at whatever, and take on characteristics of disenfranchised groups in a very superficial manner".

White guys- gay or straight- same as it ever was.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:42 AM on July 12


I still don't think this holds a candle to what appropriation feels like.

Sure - alhtough I think it's still a possibly useful comparison, though, for getting people to understand a little more the visceral "that has a MEANING, you can't just do whatever you want with it" feeling, if they've never been in a position to experience actual hurtful cultural appropriation.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:46 AM on July 12 [7 favorites]


When you, like Perez Hilton, equate being ‘fierce’ with black womanhood, you are not simply complimenting black women’s perceived awesome sassiness. You are saying that we are overtly strong, both emotionally and physically, which leads to us being denied the facets of femininity that white women are so easily given. This is dangerous in ways I cannot completely describe, but I’m going to try: Black women are raped more often than white women, because our ‘fierceness’ is linked to ideas of sexual promiscuity – rapists believe we ‘want it more’. When we are raped the police believes us less than white women, because our ‘fierceness’ makes them think we could have fought back if we really wanted to. When we are beaten by our partners, the same applies. When we argue with people, we are seen as immediately aggressive. If we raise our voices or get angry, it isn’t because you’ve done something stupid, it’s because we are black and we are female and our innate ‘fierceness’ makes us unreasonable and unworthy of being listened to. When we lose our children to violence, when we have to survive on food stamps and benefits, even when we go to prison, it’s all a-ok because black women are the fiercest of the fierce and so none of that is a problem and we can handle anything that’s thrown at us – and all of this has lead to a point where when we knock on a door to ask for help because our car has broken down, we are not given hugs and a cup of tea. We, like a young American woman called Renisha McBride, whose killer claimed self defence, are shot in the face at point blank range because we are fierce, and therefore aggressive, unpredictable, and worthy of the mocking, fear and scorn that the world looks at us with.
The ‘Fierce Black Woman’ Inside You Doesn’t Exist by Bridget Minamore
posted by NoraReed at 12:00 PM on July 12 [82 favorites]


Divide and conquer.
posted by Poldo at 12:03 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]


I happen to think that 'cultural appropriation" is a reified concept created by academics, social scientists, cultural advocates and others to institutionalize and explain tacky/thoughtless behavior, ridicule and excessive cultural self protection. Over time all cultures appropriate and misappropriate the culture of others. When it is tacky it is tacky and you know it--who has not been in a 'Mexican" restaurant with way to many sombreros on the wall, an Irish pub with leprechauns or a restaurant with "real southern cooking" dripping with antebellum artifacts. And I would guess that is cultural appropriation when I see a woman wearing a hijab, robed in black, hoping out of the drivers seat of a GMC Suburban rushing to class at the local State University. Cultures clash, adapt, evolve and most often find shared common ground in economic self interest. While i personally appreciate northernish's eloquence and sentiment I will choose free speech (less so freedom of expression) over the protection of sacred cultural or religious icons/symbols. I am going to stick to tacky is tacky, ridicule is ridicule and gay white men appropriating the culture of black women can be tacky and rude. Tactlessness and rudeness are not acceptable.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:21 PM on July 12


Taking the broadest assumptions of what is assumed to be my culture and acting it out, as if I'd find it cute or funny, is offensive.

Culture is a hypothetical construct of convenience. It is a line in the sand imagined by one and then emulated by many.

There is no such thing as an original idea and people are followers by nature. Get over it.

Get over the fact that everything in this world gets co-opted. Everything. It is called progress, evolution, and broadening your perspective. The food you are wolfing down, whether it be pizza, pasta, samosa, or sushi probably is not native to your culture. The words you use came from other cultures. The music you listen to was influenced by other cultures, as are the stories you read. Life is not some static little entity with clearly defined lines, especially not now in an Internet-driven culture.

That has always happened since the beginning of our species, except we did not have the technology to bring those shifts as quickly or broadly before. The evolution was small, slow, and uneven, but now everything we know is out the window and that reality does not just apply for the Gay White Male, but also the Straight Black Woman and every other group around.

After all, I am writing this in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, yet there are people rich, poor, young, old from all over the world who are reading this and are reacting positively, negatively, and even indifferently -- and they, too, write and have the same opportunity for expression as I do. Some may even weave my ideas into their own and vice versa.

But where that weaving ultimately leads to is anyone's guess. If ideas get co-opted, culture is merely an expression of an idea, and it is fair game.

I keep saying Western culture is now firmly in a Post-Progressive world and there are a lot of seemingly scary truths one must grasp and the first is you don't get to have a monopoly on culture. The Us versus Them secret handshakes are dead. If it looks like it is hip, fun, useful or profitable, get ready for the tidal wave of followers who very quickly forget about where it came from, but know how it enriches their lives.

Rule number two is whatever cultural perk you give to one group, you have to bring enough to share with everyone else. Any act of denial is one of prejudice and futility.

And rule number three -- whatever significance a particular cultural artifact has for one group will change to suit the wants and needs of other groups -- so those biker tattoos will have a completely different meaning than the tats granny gets for herself.

It's a done deal, the gates have been torn down, and there is no going back. Period. Grandma is a punk rocker who can dump gramps for an Asian woman half her age as she meditates in an ashram, dresses up like Beyonce before dying the three hairs on her head purple and getting that Che Guevara skull tattoo she's always wanted.

And anyone who has a single negative word to say about her life choices is just being petty and selfish.

At least the Global Village isn't boring.

If you haven't got the memo, we are in a state of cultural and economic anarchy and have been for the last few years, and if Sierra Mannie thinks the co-opting is bad now, just give it a couple of years and see where the wild ride takes our collective perceptions and beliefs. This psychological shift is only just the beginning and when the revolutionary earthquake finally rocks the world, that diatribe will seem antiquated by comparison.

You can sit there and whine that reactionary whine, but I, for one, am ready and dressed for the party...and hey, I'll even bring the Turkish coffee...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:23 PM on July 12 [13 favorites]


As someone not sure I agree with the full breadth of the case against misappropriation, I still don't think this holds a candle to what appropriation feels like. Your example feels more like what happens when less cool groups start endorsing my favorite indie band.

Because as a member of majority groups there's no fucking way for somebody like me to actually experience appropriation. There is no actual, useful comparison because when the power is on your side, you are not subject to having your culture appropriated. "It's like when some fucking shoe commercial uses "Wild in the Streets"" is as close as you're going to get to a useful comparison because it is an effort to find a comparison that is relateable to white people when there really is nothing comparable. Is it a good comparison for somebody who's not part of a minority culture? Not really. Is there a good comparison? Absolutely not.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:38 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


It's a done deal, the gates have been torn down, and there is no going back. Period. Grandma is a punk rocker who can dump gramps for an Asian woman half her age as she meditates in an ashram, dresses up like Beyonce before dying the three hairs on her head purple and getting that Che Guevara skull tattoo she's always wanted.

And anyone who has a single negative word to say about her life choices is just being petty and selfish.

At least the Global Village isn't boring.


I'm gonna play my harmonica
Since i charge $35 a note I'm not gonna play much of my harmonica
You see the blues
The blues isn't an art form
It's not a type of music
The blues is a product
Not unlike computer chips or tampons
The blues is a way for white kids to feel
That they understand the feelings of black people
Without ever having to meet any of them
The blues is all these things and more
Available for $19.95

posted by Pope Guilty at 12:40 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


The problem with cultural appropriation is not people taking part in other people's culture. It's when members of the dominant culture are tolerated or CELEBRATED for the same behaviors and cultural artifacts for which members of minority cultures are persecuted. That's the element that so many people are missing when they're all "This is the 21st century! What, can I not eat Mexican food now? People of color go to college, that's just the same thing!"
posted by KathrynT at 12:42 PM on July 12 [35 favorites]


And I would guess that is cultural appropriation when I see a woman wearing a hijab, robed in black, hoping out of the drivers seat of a GMC Suburban rushing to class at the local State University.

really? i see women dressing like that fairly often and it never occurred to me that they were appropriating someone else's culture - it's almost like you're saying that one can't be an american and a member of a traditional conservative muslim culture
posted by pyramid termite at 12:45 PM on July 12 [24 favorites]


One of the things that I find interesting in thinking about this is the irritation I feel when, say, the execrable human-opposite-of-funny, Robin Williams, trots out his tiresome gay voice for the ten billionth time, to the howling adoration of whatever banal talk show audience he's gracing with his majesty, or when Seth MacFarlane gives us one more honest-I'm-laughing-with-you-people cliché character, or when Futurama, of all the damn shows, brings us Randy yet again because…wait, who keeps writing that bit, anyway?

Whenever our straight allies make ha-ha-omigod-shoes quips, or a straight girl includes me in the prestigious inner circle of "her gays," or straight guys play playgay because chicks dig gay, there's that little urk, partly because I fucking hate shoes, I'm nobody's goddamn gay, and the way to "get" chicks is to be a good person with a good heart, but mostly because it's just so . very . unsurprising. If you want to play gay, try to play it like someone not executive-produced by the soulless Chuck Lorre, for chrissakes. Does anyone have their own internal comedy writing team anymore, or are they just thumbing through their mental More Truly Tasteless Jokes books for a line in the desperate moments of sudden conversational silence?

That's how I think it must feel to see a group of howling teenyboppers born after the Reagan Memorial AIDS Epidemic® playing a copy of a copy of a copy of a decades-old Mad TV funny black character that was itself a copy of a copy of something someone sort of think they saw somewhere once.

With smarts, love, and nuance, you can coöpt anything you want, and do it well, but without it?

Run.

Of course, as someone who comes from a family of mostly educated Southern folk, this is also a lot like watching everyone ever bring out a bad Southern accent whenever they want to convey dumb people or backwards thinking.

Sigh.
posted by sonascope at 12:51 PM on July 12 [21 favorites]


[As someone not sure I agree with the full breadth of the case against misappropriation, I still don't think this holds a candle to what appropriation feels like. Your example feels more like what happens when less cool groups start endorsing my favorite indie band.]]

Because as a member of majority groups there's no fucking way for somebody like me to actually experience appropriation. There is no actual, useful comparison because when the power is on your side, you are not subject to having your culture appropriated. "It's like when some fucking shoe commercial uses "Wild in the Streets"" is as close as you're going to get to a useful comparison because it is an effort to find a comparison that is relateable to white people when there really is nothing comparable. Is it a good comparison for somebody who's not part of a minority culture? Not really. Is there a good comparison? Absolutely not.

Umm, yeah, I think we agree. Using something out of context, or even contrary to a work's thesis, is not at all the same, so I think this is a fundamentally misguided attempt at empathy . . . well motivated but still. In point of fact, this is pretty similar in structure to the misappropriation that's being complained: taking an authentic reaction, local to a disadvantaged group, and reapplying it within a dominant perspective. It strikes me that if you're hardline about misappropriation, you're also wary of doing this kind of thing too, even if you think you're being supportive. After all, that's how a lot of misappropriaters view themselves, isn't it?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 12:53 PM on July 12


I always thought the whole 'sassy black woman' thing was camp - whoever was doing it.

I know some men (gay, straight, latino, asian, white - but always men) who slip into that mode whenever they talk to a black woman. It's painful to watch, especially when I know they don't speak like that normally.

But most people I know drop the sassy black woman thing in as an embellishment - and even then it's gay black male friends who've mastered the art. I've never met a woman who fit that stereotype full time.

And for the white guys who try, it always struck me as 'trying to be down with black culture' rather than 'trying to a black woman.'
posted by kanewai at 12:54 PM on July 12


It's stuff like this, I guess.

...what the fuck did I just watch?
(And am I more socially enlightened because I didn't laugh at anything? Or am I turning into a comedy snob, because I'm usually very easy to amuse?)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:54 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite--really, is that what I am saying or do you just want to find a problem. Of course you can be an American and be a member of a conservative muslim religious culture. But I do believe it is the "appropriation" of two powerful cultural traditions and part of what makes American, Europe and and certainly other places powerful statements of the reality of what could be called cultural appropriation. And your comment signifies, from my point of view, the essential problem of the notion of "cultural appropriation"as a negative.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:55 PM on July 12


when Futurama, of all the damn shows, brings us Randy yet again because…wait, who keeps writing that bit, anyway?

I have wondered this too. My guess is it's to humor John DiMaggio, who voices Bender et al. He loooooves to do that voice. Busts it out during the commentaries all the time, even when it sounds (to me) like other people are being politely reserved about it. I think he must get some people in Hollywood thinking it's hilarious (generational thing?), and other people are willing to kind of go along with him because they like working with him generally and they know him so they feel like "well, he doesn't mean anything negative by it" or whatever.

posted by LobsterMitten at 12:56 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


The problem with cultural appropriation is not people taking part in other people's culture. It's when members of the dominant culture are tolerated or CELEBRATED for the same behaviors and cultural artifacts for which members of minority cultures are persecuted.

I think this is like what I meant with my claim (c) above at 11:37. The interesting question is, is that the only thing wrong with it? Because the original essay, and much of the commentary here, takes a broader view of the concern.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 12:57 PM on July 12


So, I read the article. I read the thread, particularly northernish's comment. I reached Alexandra Kitty's comment, read that, and then I scrolled back to re-read northernish's comment all over again.

I wish I could favorite northernish more than once.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 1:02 PM on July 12 [15 favorites]


pyramid termite--really, is that what I am saying or do you just want to find a problem. Of course you can be an American and be a member of a conservative muslim religious culture.

then it wouldn't be cultural appropriation - it's my perception that those i see dressing like this are doing it as an expression of their culture, not someone else's
posted by pyramid termite at 1:06 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


"You hear arguments like this all the time around St. Patrick's Day."

Made by the same thoughtless type of people who liked that band before anyone else.

I think we've found the ultimate in elitism. "You can't wear, do, sing, imitate, or resemble that because it's appropriation. It's just for US/THEM."

Pointless posturing. I'm going to enjoy my mixed culture and those of you who want your little walled gardens can sit in them, never looking over the walls and feel all superior that you are NOT sharing with anyone else.

The Future is Remixed/Mashed up/Appropriated/Chopped and Stolen and if you can't accept this, you're going to live in your segregated, sterile and safe little past.

If we don't keep swapping things around and mixing them up we risk everything starting to settle and stratifying. That will make some folks happy; they like having everything being as they are or were traditionally, out of sight and out of mind. Thank goodness for people like Chuck D, Like Ice-T, like Trent Reznor, Nivek Ogre, Lenny Kravitz, etc people who chopped and screwed the culture....

Stop trying to preserve "culture" you can't put it in a jar and then say "this jar is only for the right people" everyone should get a taste, even if we don't think they deserve it.
posted by NiteMayr at 1:09 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]


I hate it when someone steals all my gestures and then I can't move my arms anymore until I think of some new ones.
posted by w0mbat at 1:10 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


I think it's worth noting that there are dollar signs prominently attached to the appropriation of black culture. Hip Hop, which had been coded Black / Latin@ for decades is now finally turning white, as anyone who knew history knew it would, along with a healthy dose of critiquing black people for doing hip hop wrong because they are too violent or negative, while perpetuating sexism and racism in their own songs (but white sexism and racism, so it's not as bad as black sexism and racism). Financially, it was pretty much always run and consumed by white people, but now the stars are white too - and like sports it is slowly beginning to stop being a way for people of color to jump class in the US.

Like the long history of men using the world of women in order to raise themselves up, and then pretend the women simply didn't exist, this is about appropriation of creativity and labor. "Twerking" didn't hit mainstream media until a woman did it while objectifying black women - but it is incredibly similar to dances I've seen Nigerian dance troops do which are dances going back centuries, if not millennia.

Now it's fodder for white women to reinvent themselves as mature women, and for white, gay people to subvert their own stereotypes of being effeminate.

There's an added pain to black women, however, since they are hit by the twin discriminations of sexism and racism, and have a horrifying history of being objectified twofold - the stereotype of the "strong black woman" is used to delegitimize their natural and human responses to suffering. Since they are "strong" they must not show weakness, and they cannot help but dominate the people around them. In essence, it's another instance of the Sapphire stereotype which is used to attack First Lady Michelle Obama in the tabloids (look sometime at how they portray her and her relationship with her husband, and then compare it to actual images of the two of them). It's used as a way to justify why black women shouldn't be trusted with power. It is directly, immediately, and currently harmful to black women - and it is a punch line for white people.

If you honestly want to know about this sort of thing, it is regularly and thoroughly discussed by black women; that's how I learned about it. Google is free, and it has lots of information to read, digest, and incorporate.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:15 PM on July 12 [26 favorites]


Or, you know, you can mock the idea and pretend that culture is separate from the people who create and perform it, and exists in a universe where there is no colonialism and no one group has disproportionate power, money, and control.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:18 PM on July 12 [30 favorites]


The BuzzFeed "quiz" makes the point that this is indeed a thing, which I hadn't been aware of, and I would sure be irritated by it if I were in her shoes. That having been said...
What is extremely unfairly denied you because of your sexuality could float back to you, if no one knew that you preferred the romantic and sexual company of men over women.
...sure sounds like the claim that the closet is a form of privilege.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:19 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


I say this pretty much every time, but i think my favorite part of this article is the reaction to it, from white people. It's like that sugar sphinx sculpture.

People sure are really fucking defensive, even when they're not someone who does this. People are also walking right up to that line of saying that calling something racist is like, a club with an unfair advantage that you can't defend yourself from or something(which it got really close to in this thread a couple times, jeeze).

This is a thing. It happens pretty readily. It's fucked up. Can we not debate whether or not it's fucked up, or how fucked up it is or whatever for the Nth time?

When someone says "i'm hurting, and these people are hurting me" the correct response is "Well how can i help?" if you're a decent human being, not "are they really hurting you though? does it really hurt?".

Because yea, seriously, as a native american dude whose had this goddamn discussion so many times that i often stay silent when it comes up offline.... yea, just, that.

That's what appropriation feels like.

This is cute, like the "wanna know what it feels like to be a woman? ride a bike" thing. Like that though, it's pretty shallow and i worry it'll make white people go "See, i get it! i know how it is! It like, totally kicked me in the soul when that song by the XX was in a commercial during the olympics".

Because no, how about fuck you. And that's always where these "analogies you can relate to" go, people claiming ownership of the same level of offense/hurt/etc or at the very least an actual concrete understanding of it.

Since, in the end, there's no way around the fact that it falls as flat as someone with a vagina trying to explain what sex feels like to someone with a penis.


also, god damn, some of you guys really embarrassed yourselves early on in this thread. I'm happy most of you didn't keep digging. I thought MeFi was better than this, fuck.
posted by emptythought at 1:22 PM on July 12 [29 favorites]


Pointless posturing. I'm going to enjoy my mixed culture and those of you who want your little walled gardens can sit in them, never looking over the walls and feel all superior that you are NOT sharing with anyone else.

The Future is Remixed/Mashed up/Appropriated/Chopped and Stolen and if you can't accept this, you're going to live in your segregated, sterile and safe little past.

If we don't keep swapping things around and mixing them up we risk everything starting to settle and stratifying. That will make some folks happy; they like having everything being as they are or were traditionally, out of sight and out of mind. Thank goodness for people like Chuck D, Like Ice-T, like Trent Reznor, Nivek Ogre, Lenny Kravitz, etc people who chopped and screwed the culture....


You're pretty aggressive and smug about this position that you plainly don't understand at all.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:23 PM on July 12 [53 favorites]


The Future is Remixed/Mashed up/Appropriated/Chopped and Stolen and if you can't accept this, you're going to live in your segregated, sterile and safe little past.

If you're willfully ignorant to the difference between remixing/mashing up something and appropriating or stealing it, and want to place them in the same category because you think the distinction is entirely arbitrary and like, too up to people whose opinion you don't want to have to respect then i don't know how i'm supposed to help you.

Because what you're doing here is definitely a thing people do, and it's a weird sort of power play. Like "i give you three examples and you give me three different points where the line is at, so there obviously isn't a line and it's just up to you or something, so i'm just going to act like there is no line.

Just because you don't think there's a difference between remixing, appreciating, and appropriating doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And a really easy way to tell if you're on the wrong side of that line, is if someone tells you that you are or even that you're uncomfortably in the grey area and you should examine what you're doing, and you get super fucking defensive.

And it's especially weird when you come to the defense of nebulous other people, or like everyone doing those things, like you just did. It reeks of "PC police gone wild" sort of rhetoric.

Think long and hard about how much effort you're willing to put in to defending this position, and how many bullets you're willing to take on this hill. Because seriously, it's pretty indefensible.
posted by emptythought at 1:34 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


NiteMayr, since you keep harping on that, allow me to join you at the harp:

The complaint is not about people from $CULTURE1 trying/doing/enjoying things that sprung from $CULTURE 2.

The complaint is not about people from $CULTURE1 trying/doing/enjoying things that sprung from $CULTURE 2.

The complaint is not about people from $CULTURE1 trying/doing/enjoying things that sprung from $CULTURE 2.

The complaint is not about people from $CULTURE1 trying/doing/enjoying things that sprung from $CULTURE 2.


No, really, it is not, so please spare us a third repetition of the same "I am so enlightened because I can see that the Internets made a big melting pot even meltingier and you apparently can't!" thing. It's seriously insulting, especially since I am fairly certain that in a place called Metafilter, there are long-contributing people who have thought systematically, on a meta-level, about what the Internet is and can be.

I am not going to tell you what the problem is about, because it's already been said, several times, and in much better ways than I can, abovethread. For a pre-101 level intro, I found Metafilter Username's analogy with GenjiandProust's immediately-following expansion useful. damayanti illustrates some key distinctions here and subsequently. sonascope explains very well what it means to love, or even adapt, something without it sneaking into cultural appropriation, here and later.

And of course, northernish's comment is a masterpiece. Please don't come back saying anything about how if you see something Shiny! in someone else's culture, you'll grab it, and we all do too hence sushi restaurants in Kansas, without understanding what northernish says there.



(And I say this as someone who had been skeptical about the whole concept of cultural appropriation for a long while when I first learned about it. I am from one of them "exotic" cultures, and whenever I see people Not From There adapting/admiring aspects of that culture my reaction had always been "No, please, have some more!"

BUT, and that's a economy-sized "but," there is literally a continent, an ocean, and multiple hundred years of disparate historical/colonial experience between my culture and the other main examples given in this thread. There are ways in which my culture can be appropriated, too, but I had never experienced it deeply for a long time. I actually got to understand what cultural appropriation is before the first time I did feel it in regards to my own culture, and I did so by a very simple expedient. It's a two-step program:

1. Actually listen to people who complain about it,
2. Show them the base minimum amount of respect to, an outlandish idea I know, believe when they say it hurts when you press there.)
posted by seyirci at 1:37 PM on July 12 [30 favorites]


pyramid--thanks for your civility (seriously)--let me think about this. I do see the symbols (Hijab and Suburban) as deriving from two cultures with very different histories. But I will take the point.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:38 PM on July 12


When someone says "i'm hurting, and these people are hurting me" the correct response is "Well how can i help?" if you're a decent human being, not "are they really hurting you though? does it really hurt?".

I agree with the gist of your remarks, including about analogies, and I will stop posting after this because I think I'm among those upthread that you and others find so annoying. But your "correct response" edict is a little limiting.

I think some of the comments (including mine) are asking, genuinely, not the "does it really hurt" question, but the "let's figure out what exactly is hurting so we can avoid it" question . . . at a remove, since the original author isn't here. Secondarily, admittedly, some are asking, "is what hurts really as broad as you might be read as suggesting." Maybe that's intrusive and inappropriate, but it might provoke clarification, and -- no getting around this -- this isn't just about helping someone, but also about suggesting that others pipe down, and in this particular case it isn't just the white hetero dude dominants.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:40 PM on July 12


I don't get it! From my reading the her main problem is white gay men appropriating banal / racist stereotypes that "rightfully" belong to black women? How is that helpful or progressive?
posted by Middlemarch at 1:42 PM on July 12


Cultural appropriation sucks. Saying racist shit and perpetuating racist stereotypes are bad. That Shanaynay guy can fuck off.

But the particular issue of white gay men adopting the mannerisms of black women is not quite as clean-cut as that. There was a middleman: Black men, especially black gay men.

Paris is Burning, Snap Divas, RuPaul--even Men On Film, which was two straight men playing outrageous gay stereotypes. Heck, Little Richard, Flip Wilson.

Black men have been massively influential on a particular segment of gay culture, and as problematic as it is, it's in there, and taken root, not as black gay culture, but as general gay culture (of the flamboyant variety), and, well, now what? A MOPE-off?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:47 PM on July 12 [15 favorites]


...and actually, reading back, I find that I have conflated NiteMayr's comments with someone else's. That's what I get for reading the thread, going away and doing something else, and coming back to respond. I would like to apologize for the unbased "harping on" framing of my comment and singling NiteMayr out. Mea culpa.

I still stand by my negative assessment of the mindset and suggestions about changing it, however.
posted by seyirci at 1:47 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Middlemarch, I think she's objecting to two kinds of behavior -- one is appropriation (e.g. of certain cultural figures as being "ours") and the other is enacting (sorta racist) stereotypes as if it were "all in good fun between us girls." She's saying that neither of those behaviors is welcome or okay coming from someone not actually in the group, even if the people doing them have good intentions.

And I take it the other piece of it is, somebody in the group - a black woman - can choose to regard a certain cultural figure as hers, or can play around with those stereotypes, and is entitled to do those things because she has to deal with all the negative stuff of being in the group, which the white gay men don't.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:47 PM on July 12


Taking a subset of any group and writing a screed which expands your experience with that subset into a blanket statement about ALL members of that group is never satisfying.

I'm a gay white man, and I don't think I've ever once appropriated anything involving stereotypes about strong black women into my life. That pretty much goes for all the white gay men that I know.

I'd say the author of this has run into a bizarre intersection of southern racism coupled with an oppressed, often invisible minority seeking expressions of power they see in the world around them that they admire but are expressing and incorporating that in an inappropriate way.

That's a really shitty way for anyone to act, and I get why she wrote this. But really, don't paint "gay white men" with a giant brush. That's stereotyping of the exact type you're railing against.
posted by hippybear at 1:48 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]


NiteMayr >

Made by the same thoughtless type of people who liked that band before anyone else.

I think we've found the ultimate in elitism. "You can't wear, do, sing, imitate, or resemble that because it's appropriation. It's just for US/THEM."


You're misunderstanding the critique being made here. Badly. There's nothing elitist about this. This specific critique is being made by a Black woman on behalf of other Black women against White men, and if you think that one of the most socially excluded and marginalized groups criticizing one of the most privileged is elitist, you do not understand what the word means.

Pointless posturing. I'm going to enjoy my mixed culture and those of you who want your little walled gardens can sit in them, never looking over the walls and feel all superior that you are NOT sharing with anyone else.

Uh, your mixed culture? Your response to critiques of perceived cultural appropriation is to argue self-righteously that when you like something from another culture, it automatically belongs to you? I think you've completely missed the point of this whole situation, friend! You don't actually have a stronger right or a claim to elements of culture than other people just because you like them. And the people you're quixotically arguing against don't want walled gardens so much as they want respect from others who may feel inclined to borrow from them or their culture. Which, by the way, is not inherently incompatible with the "mixed culture" you're so possessive of.

The Future is Remixed/Mashed up/Appropriated/Chopped and Stolen and if you can't accept this, you're going to live in your segregated, sterile and safe little past.

Disrupt culture! Brilliant. Anyone who threatens your claim on stuff you like is living in the past, tautologically.

The key thing missing in your understanding is that you lack any sense of historicity. I know that you brave futurists don't have time to listen to Black people whining about oppression or whatever, of course, because you're too busy enjoying your Malian-Chinese fusion cuisine while listening to Hmongcore house music REMIXEDD! by Rio de Janeiro's hottest AI to actually consider the reality of people's lives, but culture doesn't just condense into reality out of nowhere for you brave new worlders to enjoy. Culture comes from lives and from history, and sometimes there's a lot of terrible suffering inherent in those.

When you sever those empirical connections and say that you don't care who or where something cultural comes from, and the only thing that matters is that you and other people who also maybe don't know where it comes from like it and don't want actual human beings to harsh your mellow, you're the one being an elitist, speaking from a position of privilege to tell others that everything you like belongs to you and not to those who it comes from. Your sentiment is a pathetically tone-deaf defense of your right to enjoy cultural appropriation without anyone ever making you feel bad or self-conscious about it, essentially. You don't actually have that right.

tl,dr: White dude likes his privilege, resents the idea of anyone making him feel uncomfortable about enjoying it without having to think about it, and doesn't get why some people think "culture" is a thing that comes from specific people. Shocking.
posted by clockzero at 1:50 PM on July 12 [26 favorites]


From my reading the her main problem is white gay men appropriating banal / racist stereotypes that "rightfully" belong to black women? How is that helpful or progressive?

Because white gay men have more power in the world. When they reiterate and repeat and reinforce these stereotypes, those stereotypes gain more traction. Black women, on the other hand, have little access to the kind of power that can even allow for influencing dominant stereotypes.

The question is power. It always is.

Some of you are asking: "Why isn't *everything* available to me at *all times* for *free*?" You should really think about the difference between the world you live in, your place within that world, and the world you wish it to be. They are not the same thing.

Here's a quick set of guidelines. Try not proceed to step two until you can complete step one-
1. Do no harm.
2. Help, if you can.
posted by jammy at 1:50 PM on July 12 [5 favorites]


A lot of people seem to have missed this paragraph from the original editorial:
All of this being said, you should not have to stop liking the things you like. This is not an attempt to try to suck the fun out of your life. Appreciating a culture and appropriating one are very, very different things, with a much thicker line than some people think, if you use all of the three seconds it takes to be considerate before you open your mouth. If you love some of the same things that some black women love, by all means, you and your black girlfriends go ahead and rock the hell out. Regardless of what our privileges and lack of privileges are, regardless of the laws and rhetoric that have attempted to divide us, we are equal, even though we aren’t the same, and that is okay. Claiming our identity for what’s sweet without ever having to taste its sour is not. Breathing fire behind ugly stereotypes that reduce black females to loud caricatures for you to emulate isn’t, either.
Nobody is going to come and take away your shitty toys.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:55 PM on July 12 [32 favorites]


One think that strikes me about this discussion is the hidden assumption that the culture being appropriated (stolen? emulated?) is a small slice of a group that is, internally, I'm guessing just as varied and nuanced as any other group. To be more specific, the mannerisms being appropriated from black women seem to originate with black women of a lower economic status and perhaps less education. My initial impression of Sierra Mannie's op-ed is that she wasn't taking issue white gay men acting like Condoleeza Rice, or Gwen Ifill, or Michelle Obama.

Sierra Mannie was writing about elements of culture that she isn't so thrilled to see highlighted those elements of subculture that are unflattering. Same as me, as a Jew, being not so thrilled when the Hasids in Williamsburg make it into the news for being jerks to women. Or as a white guy in the tech startup space, it drives me a little bonkers every time I see a story about brogrammers being jackasses.

This is a great post and one of the reasons I still love MeFi after many years. Good stuff roomthreeseventeen.
posted by ben242 at 2:04 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


I think some of the comments (including mine) are asking, genuinely, not the "does it really hurt" question, but the "let's figure out what exactly is hurting so we can avoid it" question

Yo just to be clear i know, and i wasn't talking to you. You're not the problem, and you're not doing anything wrong.

Sometimes people saying what you're saying could use some extra effort on framing/phrasing, but the fact that you're even willing to engage from a place of believing it's real makes it not the same thing.

Secondarily, admittedly, some are asking, "is what hurts really as broad as you might be read as suggesting." Maybe that's intrusive and inappropriate, but it might provoke clarification, and -- no getting around this -- this isn't just about helping someone, but also about suggesting that others pipe down, and in this particular case it isn't just the white hetero dude dominants.

The biggest problem with that statement, which is really almost an accusation, is that very few people say it in good faith. And because of that, when people hear it who are used to hearing it they get all "Shield up, red alert, all hands to battlestations" which usually also leads to the bad-faither going "Woah, why are you so defensive, jeeze" or something.

There's no legitimate reason, in my opinion, to not just proceed along the lines of "Lets assume that what you're saying it an accurate assessment of the situation, now what?" unless you have a vested interest in it not being a Big Deal. I realize that's hard to accept, and i find myself thinking or asking those sorts of things at times, but it's really a completely unproductive direction for the conversation to go.
posted by emptythought at 2:08 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Because white gay men have more power in the world.

If we are doing a MOPE-off... You let me know when a white gay man is Secretary of State, m'kay?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:12 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


How about we don't do a mope-off?
posted by TwoStride at 2:14 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


Agreed.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:14 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Caveat: Ms. Mannie is one of my former students.

With that being said, I think that many of the folks in this thread who are dismissing her arguments are engaging in a bit of privileged behavior. As members of the dominant culture, you always retain control of your culture. You are allowed to define it, you are allowed to set its limits and people's expectations of it. You are the arbiters of its authenticity. Additionally, you quite often are gifted with the privilege of doing this for other cultures. There is never a threat of white American culture being usurped, or seriously undermined by non-whites. Because of this, I think that it is very difficult for some white people to appreciate what this experience of cultural appropriation is like. Once again, if this stuff is alien to you, then perhaps you should listen. Quit rules-lawyering and trying to critique from a vantage of "well, technically its not this . . ." Listen to the experience of others, perhaps you might learn and perhaps you might gain some compassion.
posted by anansi at 2:15 PM on July 12 [37 favorites]


In the spirit of MartinWisse's comment above, here's another part of the essay some are ignoring-

Regardless of what our privileges and lack of privileges are, regardless of the laws and rhetoric that have attempted to divide us, we are equal, even though we aren’t the same, and that is okay. Claiming our identity for what’s sweet without ever having to taste its sour is not. Breathing fire behind ugly stereotypes that reduce black females to loud caricatures for you to emulate isn’t, either.

Reminds me of when Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) was asked once in an interview about gangsta rap and how it differed from his more 'conscious' rap. Wish I could find it online - because he was like: 'No, ain't gonna play that game. The media want black people to be hating on each other and I WILL NOT DO THAT FOR YOU."
posted by jammy at 2:20 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


This essay has been great for the amount of discussion it's engendered. Even if someone disagrees with Mannie's argument, I hope they learn something from the ensuing discussion around identity politics. Hell of a success for a student newspaper.

You let me know when a white gay man is Secretary of State, m'kay?

1845 maybe? Twelve years before he became president. Whether Buchanan was gay or even what "gay" meant in the 19th century is ambiguous, but I'll claim him as one of mine.

Now if you want to ask about out gay, no argument from me. But this speaks to one of the points of discussion here, the privilege gay men enjoy when passing for straight. I pass all the time, both by accident and occasionally on purpose. That power comes with its own costs too, but it definitely exists. I've never confused my personal struggles of being gay with the struggles many African-American people in the US have. Among other things, my ancestors were of the ownership class, not the chattel.
posted by Nelson at 2:30 PM on July 12 [10 favorites]


This book is over ten years old and is still, unfortunately, so goddamned relevant: Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture

If you have not read it, and have questions about cultural appropriation, I would highly recommend it. It's an anthology, edited by the superlative Greg Tate - many different perspectives offered.
posted by jammy at 2:30 PM on July 12 [14 favorites]


It's nice to know the internet will never change, that there will always be white people telling people of color that hey, this thing that white people did wasn't hurtful, and they have no reason to be angry.

TLDR: Alexandra Kitty, enjoy wearing your Indian feather bonnet to a Redskins game.
posted by happyroach at 2:44 PM on July 12 [8 favorites]


Man, I wish I could find a copy online of Marlon Riggs super-fierce essay on a related topic from 23 years ago, Black Macho Revisited: Reflections of a Snap! Queen, because it would add a lot to the conversation. Can anyone find it out there?
posted by sonascope at 2:47 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Ooh, wait, maybe this is it.
posted by sonascope at 2:49 PM on July 12


Here's a simple HTML copy of Marlon Riggs' essay. RIP, man, you were a hell of a strong voice.
posted by Nelson at 2:55 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


Think of a very favorite piece of music.

Now suppose that the world is arranged in such a way that you can't avoid hearing 10 Karaoke versions of it for every time you get to hear the real thing.

Would that interfere with your appreciation of the real thing?

That's what this kind of appropriation does; it devalues the real thing and deprives its creators of the benefits they deserve for their creativity -- and in a case like this, where the creation is bound up in the selves of the creators, it attacks their very being.
posted by jamjam at 2:58 PM on July 12


As members of the dominant culture, you always retain control of your culture.

Gay people are dominant culture? Gay people always retain control of our culture? Oh, OK.
posted by erlking at 3:00 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


White men are the dominant culture. Gay white men can disappear into the dominant culture without even trying hard.
posted by hippybear at 3:02 PM on July 12 [14 favorites]


The reason I cite the Marlon Riggs piece is that I think there's an interesting cultural back-and-forth between black women and unapologetic black sissies, in that there's a history of gestures and concepts bounced between the two camps that make ownership of presentation a little murky.

Was the sassy black woman a thing unto herself without the sharp-tongued sissy, the drag queen, or the man with a little extra sugar feeding into that loop? Do white gay folk feel a meager bit of ownership of black camp often deployed by black women, but authored by black gay men, out of a sense of joint ownership through communal gayety?

It all feels like there's a Venn diagram here in which it's not just straight-up appropriation, like white folks getting replica Samoan tattoos, but a once-removed familial connection strained by the circle of the overall power dynamic.
posted by sonascope at 3:22 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


One think that strikes me about this discussion is the hidden assumption that the culture being appropriated (stolen? emulated?) is a small slice of a group that is, internally, I'm guessing just as varied and nuanced as any other group.

That's a good, thoughtful point. In discussions like this, it's common for people to flatten the communities they're discussing into false homogeneity. Black women have their Blackness and womanhood in common, of course, but there's still all different kinds of people in that group.

To be more specific, the mannerisms being appropriated from black women seem to originate with black women of a lower economic status and perhaps less education. My initial impression of Sierra Mannie's op-ed is that she wasn't taking issue white gay men acting like Condoleeza Rice, or Gwen Ifill, or Michelle Obama.

I think you should be a little more circumspect about this part. There's an extensive history of characterizing all Black women (contra your good point about intra-group diversity) as a low socio-economic status, low education "type" of person in the context we're indirectly referring to, and it's kind of gratuitous to think that certain ways of behaving should stigmatise a woman through being thought to evince where she comes from, so to speak.

That is to say, unless a woman herself is talking about her relationship with the cultural context where her mannerisms come from, it's probably better not to interpret that for her, at least in situations like this.
posted by clockzero at 3:34 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


Was the comment about the hijabi woman rushing to class seriously suggesting that universities are solely for non-Muslim White people?
posted by divabat at 3:47 PM on July 12 [9 favorites]


Was the comment about the hijabi woman rushing to class seriously suggesting that universities are solely for non-Muslim White people?

-

And I would guess that is cultural appropriation when I see a woman wearing a hijab, robed in black, hoping out of the drivers seat of a GMC Suburban rushing to class at the local State University. Cultures clash, adapt, evolve and most often find shared common ground in economic self interest.

There's the comment. It is not inappropriate to ask of this commenter why they think that a "woman wearing a hijab, robed in black, hoping (sic) out of the drivers seat of a GMC Suburban" is somehow not part of the local culture of said local State University.

Wherever this local University is, it apparently doesn't regard one of those categories as legitimate for its local citizens: woman, hijab, woman driving an SUV (?)

Because, otherwise, obviously, she's *appropriating* stuff from *us* - she's some woman in a foreigner gown taking our education away.

Or, something like that....

Cultures clash, "adapt/evolve", then profit!!
posted by jammy at 4:01 PM on July 12


Gay white men can disappear into the dominant culture without even trying hard.

Oh, geeze. Maybe this is true for some gay white men, but by no means all. That great essay sonascope cited and Nelson found addressed just that issue for gay black men -- the problem is that many gay men can't pass, and, even if they could, passing is its own sort of prison with its own costs. Homophobia is damaging in different ways than racism (although they share symptoms and outcomes), and pitting the two against each other is not a winning strategy for anyone other than the Patriarchy.

Which brings me back to the article that started this -- Ms. Mannie's op-ed -- which makes a solid point: gay white men can be sexist and racist, and a black woman has every right to be bothered by this and to call it out when she sees it. Then she stumbles over homophobia in an apparent effort to block off an obvious rhetorical challenge. This is a mistake avoided by Bridget Minamore in NoraReed's cite, which should come as no surprise -- Ms. Minamore is a more mature writer and, crucially, she is not writing a college paper op-ed. She has much more room to carefully develop her argument, and I have no idea what Time was thinking reprinting that. It's a complex and knotted subject that needs more than a couple of hundred words to develop. I'd like to see Ms. Mannie's thoughts developed at longer length, because there is definitely room and a need for this discussion.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:10 PM on July 12 [9 favorites]


That's a really shitty way for anyone to act, and I get why she wrote this. But really, don't paint "gay white men" with a giant brush. That's stereotyping of the exact type you're railing against.

Hi, did you read the article? Or just the title? In the first two lines: "I need some of you to cut it the hell out. Maybe, for some of you..."

As a gay man who does not engage in any of the behaviours the article takes issue with, I know that I am part of another audience whose take-home from it should be "look, you may not do this yourself but be aware that this widely invoked cultural trope is actually offensive to me for these reasons".

When an author frames a piece with "Dear men" or "Dear gay men" or "Dear [group x]", it's important to realise that they are not necessarily accusing you personally of the most abhorrent behaviour described within. Unless you actually are doing that, they are addressing you because you need to be aware of this trend in [one of] your group's culture[s], because it is hurting people, and as a member of that group you are in a position where you have the ability to generate positive discussion on friendly terms and affect change.
posted by Quilford at 4:21 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


Is gay white men imitating [the stereotype of] black women really, like, a thing?

I can only assume you've never seen a drag show. Imitating a caricature of a black southern woman is sort of the standard drag persona (amongst white men; I think it's obviously a different thing altogether when it's a black drag queen doing it).

I found myself slipping into it a billion years ago when I did drag. While these sorts of appropriations/insults weren't really on the radar, and I didn't have the language then to recognize and articulate my problems with it, I more or less consciously walked away from perpetuating that stereotype (though not, as I said, recognizing it as a stereotype, just seeing it as somehow uncomfortable and gross), and forged my own drag persona that didn't rely on it. Or maybe didn't rely on it as much, and (again language I didn't know back then) my privilege preventing me from realizing what it actually was, and thinking I was doing something less gross, while being totally wrong about being less gross.

I need to re-examine how I interact with the world as a white gay man now. Thank you for posting this and making me do that thinking. Cuz I know I still do the finger snap thing from time to time, and it seems like I should be excising that from my gestural vocabulary.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:29 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


Middlemarch, I think she's objecting to two kinds of behavior -- one is appropriation (e.g. of certain cultural figures as being "ours") and the other is enacting (sorta racist) stereotypes as if it were "all in good fun between us girls." She's saying that neither of those behaviors is welcome or okay coming from someone not actually in the group, even if the people doing them have good intentions.

I agree, and what I think that both of those behaviors have in common is reducing a whole varied group of people to a gimmick/stereotype, and then using that gimmick/stereotype against them (by dehumanizing them).

Where I think that appropriation becomes really maddening is when people who have reduced you to a gimmick/stereotype, dig in their heels that they're really Being You/TRUTHFUL or even being FLATTERING (as though the stereotype is BETTER than your actual humanity) when they mimic that gimmick/stereotype. Especially if you tell them flat out, "no wait, we're human beings just like you are and not reduce-able to a caricature like that just like you aren't," for them to respond with "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

To me, that's what appropriation is -- reducing/dehumanizing people to caricatures of themselves and then talking about and disseminating those caricatures as though they're the truth. And even worse is that often, the world at large actually comes to believe that the caricatures ARE the truth and starts treating YOU accordingly (which is, for example, how I think the "don't worry about black women, they're FIERCE" dangerous dehumanization likely happens).

I can't say I really understand appropriation as an abstract concept, and there are also lots of times when I'm honestly confused about whether something is an example of appropriation or not. But, at least for now, my personal line in the sand is, if you're evoking stereotypes as though they're real/truths (ie, you're talking about your "inner black woman") then imo you should probably stop, because stereotypes aren't real/truths and (EVEN if the stereotypes are "positive") they deny people humanity in ways that make the world actively more dangerous for them (because if you deny people full humanity then you implicitly justify inhumane treatment of them).
posted by rue72 at 4:36 PM on July 12 [11 favorites]


I completely agree with Mannie's argument (to the extent where I hesitate to make a small critique in fear of seeming to discredit it), but I wish she had framed the line, "I don't care...which black male you’ve been bottoming," differently.

While she's completely right that sleeping with Black people definitively does not preclude you from being racist or appropriative, her implication that white gay men are solely bottoming for Black gay men (in my opinion) seems to reify limiting and oppressive stereotypes that Black men are exclusively hyper-masculine, sexually dominant, etc. Of course, white gay men are often the ones fetishizing Black gay men in this way, so maybe she's making an intentional commentary on that?
posted by kylej at 4:40 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Was the sassy black woman a thing unto herself without the sharp-tongued sissy, the drag queen, or the man with a little extra sugar feeding into that loop? Do white gay folk feel a meager bit of ownership of black camp often deployed by black women, but authored by black gay men, out of a sense of joint ownership through communal gayety?

I think the steel in the spines of American black women was forged in slavery and tempered by the horrors of Reconstruction, post-Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era; I don't see the likes of Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells as owing much to black sissies.
posted by jamjam at 4:47 PM on July 12


You can sit there and whine that reactionary whine, but I, for one, am ready and dressed for the party...and hey, I'll even bring the Turkish coffee...

I am so glad I wasn't able to respond before now.

I have no problem with with cross-cultural pollination. Not all of these exchanges are equal, though, because of historical events and power disparities. A white person picking and choosing what they want from black culture is not the same as me picking what I want from white culture, simply because mine is not the dominant culture and I live in a society that has a history of slavery, segregation and systematic discrimination.

I have no idea if this is purely academic for you, but it is not for me. Not wanting someone to roll their neck at me or try to touch my hair without asking is not whining. What it is is not wanting to be made into a caricature. What I want is to not be made the center of a dog and pony show, and to not have people make racist assumptions about me before even getting to know me.
posted by supermassive at 4:52 PM on July 12 [21 favorites]


I don't see the likes of Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells as owing much to black sissies.

In terms of presentation, though, you don't see a lot of white gay guys or contemporary black women emulating the manner of Ida B. Wells.

I'm talking sass and comportment, not steel. That's a whole other realm.
posted by sonascope at 4:56 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


One of the biggest problems (and problems can be surmounted or insurmountable) is that appropriation strips context. A culture isn't earned per se, but it is something that you're constantly immersed in and you carry around, even if you don't mean to. When a black woman uses a system of signs and language to convey something conscious of her culture, she does them within context. When a white man does so, he can do so either within context or out of context. That's the great privilege of the dominant culture: to chose what context you act in, if any.

This doesn't mean that white men can never play jazz or straight women can never have a gay best friend or that a white woman can never wear a sari. It means that when they do these things, they tread on the idea that other people's cultures are due a certain amount of respect, and that they should be participated in without appropriating them.

As a straight white cisgendered middle class heterosexual male, it's hard. Because you never have to think about it. Because you're not used to people saying, "No, you can't do that because people would get the wrong idea." Because most of the time, you can pick something up, try it on, take it off, and it doesn't even occur to you that there's a context outside of you specifically wanting to try it on.

But that's what it means to be an ally, to be conscious of these things, and to realize that others can be doing the talking. Instead of taking something out of context, wait for someone to bring that cultural artifact to the larger culture. Let them curate and decide the terms that they share something core to them with everyone else. Let them set the limits and the boundaries. Let them. Which is really, really hard for me, I know, 'cus I'm excited and I like to talk and I like neat things I've never seen before.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:54 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


That's a really shitty way for anyone to act, and I get why she wrote this. But really, don't paint "gay white men" with a giant brush. That's stereotyping of the exact type you're railing against.

Is this like "not all gay white men"?
posted by hal_c_on at 5:59 PM on July 12 [8 favorites]


An interesting demonstration that discrimination is relative, and depends on context: When Stereotypes Cancel Each Other Out
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:04 PM on July 12


While I try to understand culture, there is one thing I am pretty certain about. Hats are important!
posted by breadbox at 6:08 PM on July 12


Cuz I know I still do the finger snap thing from time to time, and it seems like I should be excising that from my gestural vocabulary.

but is there no statute of limitations or degree of separation that removes a gesture from the context of appropriation? one of the things i love about ru paul's drag race is that drag appropriates everything and the show mixes it all together, and the popularity of the show more and more disseminates this repackaging of those elements. the culture of the show owes a lot to paris is burning, which itself raised controversy about appropriation and exploitation. but how much due diligence is expected from viewers who have no connection to that context of appropriation and who imitate or appropriate (from drag queens, who don't care) what they find harmlessly entertaining? and we're talking a 20-something-year degree of separation here, which is a lifetime compared to the broadband speed at which culture is disseminated now.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 6:12 PM on July 12


we're talking a 20-something-year degree of separation here, which is a lifetime compared to the broadband speed at which culture is disseminated now.

I'm not sure that one can unilaterally set the pace that things should be becoming acceptable for dominant cultures to integrate and repackage for their own use. At least, not like this. It seems overly handwavey.
posted by CrystalDave at 6:32 PM on July 12


But really, don't paint "gay white men" with a giant brush. That's stereotyping of the exact type you're railing against.

Yeah, it occurred to my lesser self to comment "gee, if it's okay for gay guys to do stereotyped impressions for lulz can I go back to doing that limpwristed gay schtick we used to do in school and stopped doing because it was insensitive?" And of course that would be an assholish question because A) I don't actually want to do that and nobody's violating my civil or human rights by telling me I shouldn't (shades of the injured "oh why am I not allowed to use the N-word???" vomit that your not-very-suppressed racist goes into) and B) "gay guys" aren't all one person with a single set of behaviors and hypocrisies.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:45 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


I remember years and years ago reading some numbered primer for the newly out gay man which included as a prominent point 'You are not a large black woman'. So this is something that is real.

However, I do think it would be interesting to see how much of it comes also from gay black culture, as mentioned above. Because I don't know the line of appropriation is quite as direct as she makes it out to be. Or at least has made several stops between black woman and gay white man. I also thought that, while colour is a more obvious signifier than sexuality, she was getting into muddier terrain when it comes to the idea of passing privilege, something not exclusive to gay white men and something not all gay white men can do.

A lot of her complaints are less 'appropriation' and more 'racism', though, of what I would have thought a fairly obvious sort. But there's this perception amongst certain minorities (in this case, thoughtless gay men) that there is a connection to other minorities through being on the oppressed side of things together, which is understandable, possibly even desireable, but can easily skip into forms of appropriation because the oppressions are different, so it doesn't feel earned.

I think one of the concerns with these sorts of discussions about offence at appropriation comes from wondering whether there's a breaking point, considering that there's a difference in scale between jazz and, say, snaps, just as there is between waggling a finger and randomly calling a black woman (or yourself) Shaniqua. I remember a thread on Big Freedia where a user said they wouldn't go to one of his shows for fear of appearing to be appropriating the music of groups they didn't belong to, and though that was self-policing it also suggests the idea, expressed above, that there's certain things you can only like if you're from the right group to do so.

I mean, there's clearly a difference between those two poles, but it's often posited as being much more clear-cut and objective than it is.

She has a good point, she's not wrong, but I think when it comes to appropriation vs. racism the situation is murkier, though an article that would be reprinted in Time is hardly going to be able to get through the nuances.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:57 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


However, I do think it would be interesting to see how much of it comes also from gay black culture, as mentioned above. Because I don't know the line of appropriation is quite as direct as she makes it out to be. Or at least has made several stops between black woman and gay white man.

Then why aren't gay white dudes saying they have an "inner gay black man" instead of saying they have an "inner black woman"?
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:10 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Then why aren't gay white dudes saying they have an "inner gay black man" instead of saying they have an "inner black woman"?

For the same reason they call themselves and each other 'gurl' and 'diva'?
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:18 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Some white, gay men are unfairly characterized as effeminate, and associated with women, because they want to have sex with other men.

Some white, gay men, as a way of answering the abuse they received for being associated with women have responded by picking up the "strong" caricature of women and "owning" the characteristics they were bullied/abused with; black women who have done a similar thing with the Sapphire stereotype that has been applied to them for centuries were an obvious target to emulate.

Those some white, gay men often do so without actually being aware of what is behind that stereotype that some black women emulate some of the time - how it can be used as a defense, or be a response to internalized racism.

These same some white, gay men also can easily ignore how the stereotype of the Sapphire is applied even to women who aren't emulating it - like the aforementioned First Lady Michelle Obama (former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was stereotyped as more of a Jezebel, which was why people focused on her wearing boots to a ridiculous extent). It won't be applied to them against their will in tabloids across the country - they can set it down in a way black women cannot because they aren't targets of racism, and are not targets of sexism in the same way.

Black women are targets of racism and sexism. White, gay men are targets of sideways sexism due to being associated with women.

As for RuPaul, his interactions with both communities of black women and trans gendered women have fallen under a lot of critique. The reason you don't know about that is because RuPaul has television shows and doesn't use his platforms to respond to the critiques of what he has said and done.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:45 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


RuPaul is such an interesting person because that is his ACTUAL NAME, not a drag name, and he uses it for both his male and female presentations.

(And his appearance in To Wong Fu Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar as "Rachel Tensions", descending from the heights on a swing wearing a stars-and-bars leotard is one of my favorite things ever.)
posted by hippybear at 9:00 PM on July 12


I actually came to the essay via an awful CNN interview, where the host spent more time mansplaining the issue (and poorly, I might add) than letting his guest talk, and seeing the click-baity title popping up all over my news feed.

It took a few reads to untangle that garbage from the actual essay, and to see that it was much more nuanced than the actual title.

So much of the discussion, though, has been on appropriation. And yet, to me, this feels different. When I went through my (brief) white boy wearing a Malcom X hoodie in college, that was, right or wrong, appropriation. When I see white boys at the club doing the sassy black sister thing when they talk a black woman, , that's - - - well hell, I don't know what that is.

Imitating a caricature of a black southern woman is sort of the standard drag persona

Gawd, what is this about??? I went on a gay cruise, and it seemed that every single fucking performer or 'comedian' did either a sassy black chick routine or a ghetto hoodlum routine. When people complained we started to get speeches about how they are "doing this because they actually love and respect black women" and that everyone else needed to lighten up and stop being so judgmental.

It was doubly disheartening because the company, Atlantis, had previously come out so strongly against anti-Asian racism in the gay community.

But it is hard to tell where to draw the line. I laugh during Archer, and cringe during many drag routines. Go figure.
posted by kanewai at 9:24 PM on July 12 [5 favorites]


Holy fuck, that article by Marlon Riggs is sublime.

His point about Malcolm X being embraced for his pre-Hajj, aggressive form, rather than his more self-reflective, self-critical, multi-cultural post-Haj presentation is striking in particular. I remember reading that X himself commented on how participating in the Hajj gave him a sense of belonging that he hadn't had before, which had profoundly altered his place in the world because for the first time he felt like anyone could be his brother; he was part of a vast community of fellow worshipers in peace and reverence.

(I believe X didn't express any awareness of the effect the gender segregation in the Haj and his Letter from Mecca mentions brothers but no sisters; nonetheless, the point about what is embraced about him stands, I think. I also believe the post-Hajj part of his life also involved rethinking his sexism and I would have loved to have seen what he would have done had he not been murdered.)

I like RuPaul for a lot of reasons, but I can't ignore the effect he has by legitimizing a transphobic slur, for example, or the complicated role he plays in his Performance of Femininity that I have mixed feelings about. My life has become a crash course in How to Love Problematic People / Things, and step one is to Acknowledge The Fail.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:33 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


I guess half the debate on this thread is about what "Cultural Appropriation" really means. I have real trouble with this term and this probably comes down to my trouble about: What is "Culture"? Earlier in the thread anansi says:

There is never a threat of white American culture being usurped, or seriously undermined by non-whites.

But for at least my view of culture this is patently not true. Even if you agree that there is a homogeneous overarching white American Culture - You have to agree that most people who would form that culture today do not find segregation and non-miscegenation acceptable whereas even in the 1950s it was and it was considered mandatory by a large proportion of that culture. If a mandatory part of a culture has been dropped surely it has been seriously undermined. (For the better!)

To me it appears that Culture is always changing, and arguing about Cultural Stealing or Appropriation has less to do with Culture - i.e. the behaviours, practices and beliefs of a group. Which includes its languages, literature, history and shared identity - and more to do with the less powerful losing their identity and being abused by the more powerful. The term "Cultural Appropriation" to me leads to the idea of monopoly on behaviours and practice, and an Unchanging Perfect Culture - Ideas to me that are both dangerous and ahistoric. That is not to say I'm dismissing the pain that people feel when they complain of appropriation but that I worry that its not helpful as a term because it conflates so much.
posted by zeripath at 1:56 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


To me the discussion would have gone a lot better if the term appropriation had not be used in the original (I thought excellent) article, because it's led to a whole world of misunderstanding.

For me, the article is saying there is a fine line between celebrating and mocking something you don't really understand and that fine line is often crossed when the people doing the celebrating hold a more privileged position in society. They probably don't even realise they're doing it, hence the need for the article.

The 'celebration' also relies on a very crude and often damaging stereotype of the object of celebration, simply because those doing the celebrating are not of the group and only see the very obvious external manifestations of it (or the false cliche).

FWIW I think the use of the bitchy, finger clicking gay stereotype to sell sitcoms, chat shows and reality shows could also fall under this argument.

As a woman, I also have the same issue with drag.
posted by Summer at 3:45 AM on July 13 [3 favorites]


The term "Cultural Appropriation" to me leads to the idea of monopoly on behaviours and practice

Culture's not only behaviors and practices, though; it's also beliefs and power structures and language and how ideas are framed. And of course it changes over time. It's still not great for people in one culture, especially if that culture is one that tends to take over everything, to pluck out uncontextualized bits and pieces of other cultures for our amusement as if they're somehow just floating out there, meaningless, for our consumption.

White American culture does tend to be rather consumption-oriented and not very history-oriented. So we pull other people's cultural icons or words or behaviors into ours in a very particular way that is much more about pleasing ourselves than about honoring the source.
posted by jaguar at 8:07 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


paris is burning, which itself raised controversy about appropriation and exploitation

Paris Is Burning was about the exact opposite of cultural appropriation, unless you're trying to say that people can appropriate their own culture(s).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 AM on July 13


Well okay it was about appropriation inasmuch as Madonna took ball culture and vogueing without any attribution.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:17 AM on July 13


I'm so glad I stepped away from this thread without posting. I'll just leave this here:

Columbusing: Discovering Things for White People
posted by magstheaxe at 9:07 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


OK, I actually don't think the whole Columbusing thing is funny or interesting. Maybe I'm alone there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:11 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Paris Is Burning was about the exact opposite of cultural appropriation, unless you're trying to say that people can appropriate their own culture(s).

My understanding is that the performers in the film were very angry about the project because they weren't compensated for their appearances and didn't realize the scope of the film before they agreed to be on camera; they were pissed off that this white woman had "stolen" the ball culture for her own project and her own profit. I think there are arguments to be made on both sides (everyone signed releases, after all) but it definitely belongs in a discussion of cultural appropriation.
posted by KathrynT at 9:31 AM on July 13


It's a documentary. Documentaries can be exploitative, sure, but PIB isn't, and there's no stealing going on.

Madonna, however, flat out stole from that community with Vogue.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:38 AM on July 13


It's a documentary. Documentaries can be exploitative, sure, but PIB isn't, and there's no stealing going on.

hey, I'm just reporting what the actual subjects of the documentary felt, going so far as to file suit in court.
posted by KathrynT at 9:40 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Paris has Burned (1993, NYT).
posted by Nelson at 11:48 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Paris Is Burning was about the exact opposite of cultural appropriation, unless you're trying to say that people can appropriate their own culture(s).

yeah, pretty much what people said already, but also, unless you're going to define appropriation as occurring in only one direction, i think it was even commented on in the film by Dorian Corey that vogueing and the drag balls were themselves an appropriation of a higher-class, higher-fashion culture (Corey referred specifically to Dynasty as a representation of that)--which they referred to not in terms of 'fantasy' but of 'realness.' you could argue that it is not exploitative because of the relative positions of privilege, but i'd still call it appropriation.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 12:51 PM on July 13


[Apologies in advance for the wall of text]


Most of the points, true-true-true. Especially cultural appropriation.


But. Buuuuuttt.
A few angles:
There's the wider cultural perspective which says only the dominant culture is an acceptable influence. So if kids from all sorts of non-european, non-american cultures are aspiring to that English speaking or America ideal, that's NORMAL, but you'd have to be bad and wrong and strange, or only doing it in a mocking way to identify with a non-dominant culture.

And thing is, yeah. Maybe sometimes it's the latter, but at other times, it's just a form of cultural hegemony to think it isn't worth identifying with.
In New Zealand, Jamaican Reggae, is and was hugely influential among NZ Maori. If you've listened to Fat Freddy's Drop, then they're outgrowth of the musical culture from Herbs, and from various reggae artists visiting NZ.
African-American political movements, were an inspiration for local political movements. I've been told (by a white american), that it was insulting to African-Americans for, basically, Maori and Pacific Islanders to occasionally identify with the term 'Black' (Brown is more common, but, anyway), like the name of, not the best example, the gang 'Black Power'.

I'd say it's more accurate to say that something was seen in that music, that was good. And the movements, that were inspiration. And frankly, screw all the dominant white culture that didn't get it, and didn't value it.


Next, this seem like an offshoot of that old argument:
That being a Drag Queen is a mockery of WOMEN.
And it's therefore bad, and wrong, and sexist. So this is nothing new, this is just that same argument, come round again as subset - that of it being a mockery of black women instead. If you believe the first, maybe you believe the latter. But for both, I mainly believe it's both an homage, and a new and different culture. It's performative gender, giving room to the idea that a lot of gender and culture is performed, it's not innate. There is a current of misogyny, just as the overculture is misogynist, but overall, I see it as homage.


For white gay men to be drawing from black female culture, is, I think, mostly because of the influence of some super-influential black drag queens. So first, what does it say that black men were able to succeed in those areas, without having to give up certain cultural markers? Because sure, you can succeed, but you usually have to be more white than white. In some ways, it says that gay culture can be less racist.
It is, still, racist. Even as our culture is racist.

Still, take the group of gay drag queens as a whole - some of the copying is racism. Unconscious or conscious. Most of it is trend. They're doing what they do because that's how drag queens act, because others have.
But still, for it to be notable, I think the main reason is because a large enough group of drag queens had to be identifying with black women, consciously or unconsciously, and again, I'm taking it back to an homage. Why?
Dressing up in drag is both power, and realisation, for many men, of the incredible lack of it. Walking through town as a single drag queen is more dangerous than for a woman, even a black woman. There's a hugely tough shell, but you are risking being yelled at, spit on, beated. The first is almost a guarantee on a weekend.
There's this undercurrent for drag queens where, well, I don't think they can identify with being dressed up as a White Woman. You can be invisible when you're gay, but not when you're in drag. You're in danger based on your appearance, you're discriminated, on more than one level. More than just being a woman. Appearance based discrimination, recognized and felt, really strongly. I think they identify with the similar social model is that of how race is treated. This is what it's like to not be invisible. This is what it's like to be afraid when you meet strangers. This is what it's like to face appearance based discrimination, like racism.

Then, well, all you have to do is be aware of the social currents against black women. The dating disadvantages.
I think drag queens are more likely to acknowledge the beauty of black women, because we're taught as a society that black women are less attractive (despite Beyonce!) and it's complete bullshit. Can I say that again? COMPLETE BULLSHIIIIIT.
Gay men are not attracted to girls, but they can see attractiveness, and gay culture is, again, racist, but in some ways less racist than straight culture (and especially with the dating! Go check the OK Cupid stats on race :( ).
So yeah, I don't think drag queens are always able to identify with the (relative!) privilege of white women. They don't get seen as white women, or as privileged. They still having that privilege living as men. But I think many of them see and empathise with women, and then even more with black women, with fat women (Hairspray!), and genuinely see these strands of culture as beautiful ones, which are neglected, ignored, and discriminated against by wider culture.
So yeah, on the whole, I believe it's an homage.

But, we're from a racist enough culture, that I think many people assume that the only reason to copy would be for mockery, and not that there is more worth there than is acknowledged in our society (lets just sit back an appreciate the last century of black female singers for a moment? Exactly!).
There is a current of racism, just as the overculture is racist, but overall, I see it as homage.

Again, I think calling yourself Shaniqua is yeah, ministril-style racism (strands of racism!), buuut, at the same time, that's ONLY because our overculture says it's a racially-identified, 'terrible' name - because overculture is freaking racist!
Seriously. Roll back a moment. There is NOTHING inherently wrong with the name Shaniqua. Say it. It sounds beautiful. It's like Tolkien's "Cellar Door".


What I wish I could link to, is an interview with a white american drag queen, who talked about being taken into the fold (of being a drag queen) by her black american drag-mother - who literally gave her a place to stay. It didn't really go into race too much, but I'm pretty she's going to be seen as the type of drag queen who is copying black women. But, reading it, it was more like she was born again as a gay kid who got kicked out of her home, as the family of her drag mother, and that WAS her culture now. She got adopted. She was family now.
Wish I could find what I was thinking of.

Anyway, so yeah, extrapolate that into the generation of drag queens who kind of see Ru Paul as their Drag Mother inspiration? Gay culture is acknowledging the finery that overculture won't see. That is their familial inspiration.

When representation by a dominant culture is preferred to that of a culture itself, that's cultural appropriation. That's speaking for, speaking instead of.
I feel that in drag queen, and transwomen circles, black men/women/individuals, are acknowledged, recognised, and represented far more than in the wider culture, so... if there's a problem, it's still more with straight culture than with gay culture.



Disclaimer: I'm a female, with white privilege.

I'm about to screw up the above simplicity, but to be more complicated, in US terminology, I think I might be classed as mixed race? I pass as white, but I've always been aware of it, been aware that I had advantages despite an underprivileged background that I wouldn't have had if I'd taken after some of my equally genetically mixed, but much darker (but luckily way more wealth privileged!) cousins.
Also, I've dressed up as a drag queen well enough that people thought I was a guy dressed as a woman, and treated me in a accordingly, which was worrying at times (only in small ways, like a guy in a crowded room telling me "Don't touch me!" when I bumped his outer shoulder in perfectly crowded-room acceptable manner. Then there were the drunks in town...).

posted by Elysum at 2:40 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


For white gay men to be drawing from black female culture, is, I think, mostly because of the influence of some super-influential black drag queens.

What? Your "wall of text" is mostly conjecture. And I don't understand what your point is after going through it twice. But mostly, it's kinda saying "yeah, everything is racist, so nothing is racist".

What I wish I could link to, is an interview with a white american drag queen, who talked about being taken into the fold (of being a drag queen) by her black american drag-mother - who literally gave her a place to stay. It didn't really go into race too much, but I'm pretty she's going to be seen as the type of drag queen who is copying black women. But, reading it, it was more like she was born again as a gay kid who got kicked out of her home, as the family of her drag mother, and that WAS her culture now. She got adopted. She was family now.
Wish I could find what I was thinking of.


Yeah. This was an episode of 'The Mentalist'.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:21 AM on July 14 [3 favorites]


I don't understand why we're having a protracted discussion about cultural appropriation and not discussing the homophobia at display in Sierra Mannie's article:

I'm talking about phrases like "which black male you’ve been bottoming for" or "You know what I’m talking about. Those “anonymous” torsos on Grindr, Jack’d and Adam4Adam..."

Yes, Sierra, we *do know* what you're talking about: you're talking about some very narrow stereotypes of gay people.

White, gay people - just like white people in general - can be racist and say stupid stuff and act in offensive ways and that needs to change. But that IN NO WAY JUSTIFIES some of the belittling things you've said in your article.

So, fuck you, Sierra.

Finally, playing the which-minority-suffers-most game is a nonsense as best, dangerous at worst. It plays right into the right-winger's hands.
posted by axon at 5:35 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why we're having a protracted discussion about cultural appropriation and not discussing the homophobia at display in Sierra Mannie's article:

It has been discussed by a couple of people upthread.

White, gay people - just like white people in general - can be racist and say stupid stuff and act in offensive ways and that needs to change. But that IN NO WAY JUSTIFIES some of the belittling things you've said in your article.

Well, no. Not at all. But, at the same time, the article's homophobic elements don't invalidate her other points, either. As I've said above, I think the piece is harmed by its length (the article NoraReed linked makes very similar points while being much better about sexuality issues), and its student newspaper origins. Myself, I blame Time for giving a flawed response to a real problem a national platform.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:48 AM on July 14


Covered in Vice's This Week in Racism
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:16 PM on July 14 [2 favorites]


Hal_c_on:
What? Your "wall of text" is mostly conjecture. And I don't understand what your point is after going through it twice. But mostly, it's kinda saying "yeah, everything is racist, so nothing is racist".

My failure of communication. Oh well.

The respective most well known drag queen, and transwoman in US at the moment, would be Ru Paul, and Laverne Cox.
Going down the line, it still looks pretty good.
Conjecture: Black american drag queens have more representation as drag queens than say, black americans in Hollywood or on tv.
How many shows set in New York represent the population as 28% black?

Racism - Gay culture is, slightly less racist the mainstream culture.
Some of the presumption of racism is because gay culture is picking up elements of black culture that the rest of American culture is essentially going, ewww, that's got black cooties on, who would want to be inspired by black females?
Some perceptions on this, I believe, due to under-representation by the mainstream, due to racism, rather than misrepresentation by other subcultures.
Representation, rather than invisibility.

The rest of is, is the tired old argument that all drag is misogyny/mocking women, now it's racism/mocking black women.
If you conclude both are true fine, but it's not any more the latter than it is the former.


Yeah. This was an episode of 'The Mentalist'.
No.
No it wasn't.
posted by Elysum at 8:29 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Trans women are not drag queens.
posted by jaguar at 8:55 PM on July 14 [3 favorites]


And, more to the point, RuPaul isn't a transwoman at all.

RuPaul is a drag queen.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:05 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Some of the presumption of racism is because gay culture is picking up elements of black culture that the rest of American culture is essentially going, ewww, that's got black cooties on, who would want to be inspired by black females?

And that makes no sense as a response to an article written by a black woman objecting to the behavior.
posted by jaguar at 9:09 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]



The respective most well known drag queen, and transwoman in US at the moment, would be Ru Paul, and Laverne Cox.


I don't agree with Elysum otherwise but I think they are not calling RuPaul a transwoman. I think the above awkwardly written comment means

Rupaul = well known drag queen
Laverne Cox = well known trans woman.
posted by sweetkid at 9:10 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


This is what it's like to not be invisible. This is what it's like to be afraid when you meet strangers. This is what it's like to face appearance based discrimination, like racism.

I just saw this -- really, no no no NO, dressing in drag is NOT the same as facing discrimination as a black woman. Jesus.
posted by jaguar at 9:11 PM on July 14 [3 favorites]


Sweetkid: yes.

Jaguar, indeed, it's not the same.
posted by Elysum at 4:30 AM on July 15


I think maybe people don't know what "respective" means?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:24 AM on July 15


Elysum, sorry, but you're not even wrong.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:25 AM on July 15


A Huffington Post reply. Which I thought better than the one Time ran, which was (predictably, for Time) shallow.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:28 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Nobody is going to come and take away your shitty toys.

Thanks, MartinWisse, for linking to this funny post!
posted by salix at 2:29 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Well, no. Not at all. But, at the same time, the article's homophobic elements don't invalidate her other points, either.

Sure, but if the goal of the piece was to encourage self reflection on the part of those engaging in the behaviors she is calling out, is trotting out the same homophobic stereotypes and being so blatantly insulting about it the right way to go about it? "Being correct" about something does not give one the right to be equally insulting in the other direction.

Someone up thread played the "not all gays" card, and while it's true that the author did preface the article with "Some of you", she still goes on to invoke hateful and negative stereotypes that harm the LGBT community at large. As she tacitly attacks those of us she deems too feminine in presentation while simultaneously attacking those of us with "passing privilege" (I can't believe I just typed that), I'm left to wonder who, exactly, is "medium gay" enough to fall within her defined range of acceptable ways of being gay. This is why I, personally, find it difficult not to react in a "not all gays" type of way, because even though the article's supposedly not about all of us, she sure attempts to make it so.

Came here to post the HuffPo response, which quite nicely sums up my feelings on the matter.
posted by wats at 1:40 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


If anyone is still following this, Andrew Ti tackled this article and one response (also from Time) in the Yo, Is This Racist? podcast this Monday. Amusingly, Ti comes pretty close to blaming Time for the whole thing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:42 AM on July 30


"Hip Hop, which had been coded Black / Latin@ for decades is now finally turning white"

I'm not sure you are aware of this; but there have been white people in Rap since the early eighties and several Hip Hop artists had mainstream success in movies and television since those early days.

Perhaps where you lived was different. However, "Rap" as we preferred to call it; was popular in my 99.9% white home county from about '83 on. I can hardly describe where I come from as urban, what with it taking 3 hours to drive to the nearest city with a population cresting a million (at the time).

And white people have been "in" HipHop all that time, so your "finally turning white" statement is perhaps misguided or ignorant.
posted by NiteMayr at 8:25 AM on August 3


And for the record, y'all can have those pleated skirts people call "kilts" they are a symbol of English oppression and I'd prefer if they were no longer associated with my own history.
posted by NiteMayr at 8:26 AM on August 3


what
posted by Sys Rq at 9:31 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Oh, you're not familiar with the wholesale cultural appropriation of the symbol of oppression forced upon Highland culture that is "the Kilt"? Let me explain.

Way back in the day, wealthy land owners had highlanders working on land that was formerly theirs, but as conquered people they were vassals on their own lands. However, the traditional belted plaid of the highlanders was seen as too unwieldy for them to work in an an englishman got a tailor to make the more familiar pleated skirt that people call the kilt these days.

Now people wear a symbol of English oppression and it is held as a Scottish tradition.

I'm a full blooded Scot, born there and in possession of deep genealogical and historical roots (there are no members of my family, for example, who owned slaves, as we were merchants and doctors, but not gentry) but our ancestors were thrown from their land and imprisoned.

Long story short, if people are going to wander around complaining about Cultural Appropriation, I'm willing to just give up the kilt. It's a bad, bad, bad thing.
posted by NiteMayr at 9:36 AM on August 4


Way back in the day, wealthy land owners had highlanders working on land that was formerly theirs, but as conquered people they were vassals on their own lands.

This is utterly incorrect, and glosses over the fact that Scotland's clan system was feudal. Due to the nature of Scots law, the vast majority of Scots did not own land, which is what made the Clearances -- an atrocity committed by their Scottish lairds -- possible. (Frankly, if you're a Scot in Scotland, then your family was spared from -- possibly even complicit in -- the worst part of Scottish history. Being a Scot in Scotland makes you an outsider to the history of the Scots. A True Scotsman® is still in exile.)

However, the traditional belted plaid of the highlanders was seen as too unwieldy for them to work in an an englishman got a tailor to make the more familiar pleated skirt that people call the kilt these days.

This is not true either. It did probably happen, but there's evidence of the feilidh-beag going back a hundred years prior. And even if it were true, surely the more oppressive move would be to ban Highland dress altogether -- or, indeed, to obey and enforce the ban that was in place at the time.

Tartan kilts are the national dress of Scotland specifically because they were banned by the (German!) Georgian usurpers of the rightfully Jacobite throne. Kilts got short for practical safety reasons, and likely stayed short because wool is expensive. Generally only people of Scottish descent or Scottish nationals wear them, so the label "cultural appropriation" hardly applies.

Now people wear a symbol of English oppression and it is held as a Scottish tradition.

Well, it is a tradition now, going on 300 years -- 100 years longer than the belted or great plaids were ever around. (For a full thousand years before that, Highlanders wore plain cloaks.)

Anyway. What any of this remotely has to do with the topic at hand is anyone's guess.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:21 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


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