Shocking News: Rage Yoga Invented by Canadian
April 12, 2016 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Istace is now holding Rage Yoga classes in the dimly lit basement of Dickens, a bar in Calgary, Canada. “You should expect there to be foul language, laughter, and shenanigans. If these offend you, Rage Yoga is not for you.” Istace promises that her special brand of yoga will leave you “zen as fuck.” By the way, when you sign up, you get tickets for two draft pints at the discounted price of $4.00 each. Classes have been held on Monday and Wednesday nights since January.
posted by Bella Donna (249 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
If ever there was a clear-cut case of bullshit cultural appropriation, surely this is it.
posted by clockzero at 2:33 PM on April 12, 2016 [54 favorites]


You can do F*ck That: An Honest Meditation in the comfort of your own home.
posted by clawsoon at 2:38 PM on April 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


the dimly lit basement of Dickens, a bar in Calgary,

I've been to Dickens, many times, as I used to work a block away. It doesn't have a basement. It is the basement. The walls are painted black; it's dimly lit; and they served decent burgers.

Nothing against the place; I enjoyed having lunch there. And they also host things (or used to) like board gaming groups on Sundays. But I think it is important to have a sense of the space.
posted by nubs at 2:42 PM on April 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


clockzero: If ever there was a clear-cut case of bullshit cultural appropriation, surely this is it.

Done in one.
posted by SansPoint at 2:46 PM on April 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


If ever there was a clear-cut case of bullshit cultural appropriation, surely this is it.

It seems to me that she has at least made it her own, whether you agree with it with or not. I'd say that most Americans practicing mostly approach it as exercise, where it's Indian roots are much more about philosophy, the idea of perfecting the mind and the body are lost here.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:46 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'd be happy if we could have "yoga" and "American yoga", much like football. Confusion and dissolution are what bother me most about appropriation - take those away, and it's weh.
posted by solarion at 2:50 PM on April 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I know this ghoda left the barn decades ago, but I sometimes wish the Americanized version would be called "stretching."
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:51 PM on April 12, 2016 [64 favorites]


Yeah, but "Mad Stretching" doesn't sound like something you should pay for.
posted by euphoria066 at 2:53 PM on April 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


It seems to me that she has at least made it her own

Yes. That is what cultural appropriation is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:53 PM on April 12, 2016 [52 favorites]


i suppose this beats fuck yoga in winnipeg, but its all shades of greay, you know?
posted by boo_radley at 2:55 PM on April 12, 2016


If ever there was a clear-cut case of bullshit cultural appropriation ...

Oh I think the Western alphabet and numeric system is much clearer. I mean, shit, the letters from the Phonenicians and the numbers from the Arabs? Where will it stop?
posted by octobersurprise at 2:57 PM on April 12, 2016 [30 favorites]


Yeah, but "Mad Stretching" doesn't sound like something you should pay for.


How about FlexRage? Sounds like CrossFit* so those cultists will flock to it with money in their blistered hands.


As seen recently: "I wish the first two rules of CrossFit were the same ones as Fight Club."
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:58 PM on April 12, 2016 [31 favorites]


The Arabs stole the numbers from the Indians, so it's an appropriation of an appropriation.

Kind of like rage yoga.
posted by clawsoon at 2:58 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd be happy if we could have "yoga" and "American yoga", much like football.

This is Canadian yoga. Presumably there's unlimited backfield movement.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:59 PM on April 12, 2016 [30 favorites]


This is gross. Cultural appropriation for sure.
posted by agregoli at 3:00 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


You can really double down on the cultural appropriation and wear an Irish Yoga shirt to your Rage Yoga class.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:07 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is Canadian yoga. Presumably there's unlimited backfield movement.

Mea culpa. Cross-border yoga, perhaps.
posted by solarion at 3:09 PM on April 12, 2016


As seen recently: "I wish the first two rules of CrossFit were the same ones as Fight Club."

"The First Rule of CrossFit is you do not talk about Fight Club.
The Second Rule of CrossFit is you do not talk about Fight Club."

No, I'm not sure that helps.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:13 PM on April 12, 2016 [53 favorites]


My wife asked me to stop going to yoga with her because I was swearing continuously through the whole class. I admit it would be nice to not disturb others when I'm stretching. However, I'm pretty sure that her particular brand of yoga shenanigans would not be my thing.
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:18 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I may be showing some ignorance here but: Yes, this is clearly cultural appropriation, in that one culture has adopted a practice from another culture.

But is that a bad thing? I mean, that is how new ideas get created, by recombining and changing old ideas. Who is actually hurt by this?
posted by JDHarper at 3:44 PM on April 12, 2016 [36 favorites]


Who is actually hurt by this?

(Mostly) white people on the internet, I think???
posted by todayandtomorrow at 3:46 PM on April 12, 2016 [35 favorites]


Re: cultural appropriation. I apologize if this is asking for 101 level education but I have a hard time agreeing with what I've read (on MeFi and elsewhere) about the evils of appropriation, and especially seeing how those apply in this particular situation.

I am not of Indian descent. Nor do I have any family ties to that area. I have never visited.

Doing a series of exercises that has been derived from a portion of a set of religious practices makes me feel really good. Sometimes, I also like it when those exercises are combined with an aspect of mindfulness. I understand that some people also perform similar exercises as an aspect of their religious practices. Because of my beliefs about religion, I prefer to do these exercises without reference to any kind of spiritual aspects. Sometimes those references get made while I'm doing the exercises and I ignore them.

I am grateful that this type of exercise was invented and that I can access resources to help me do it. I think that this type of exercise is a net benefit to the world. I understand that there are many sub-types of this type of exercise and not all of them are for me. I also understand that some of the less-exercise related aspects of the exercises turn some people off, and they might enjoy some of the same exercises when recast in a different light and pursued from a different mindset (for example as a safe place to express rage, as opposed to a place to find restfulness and tranquility).

I think that I understand that, if I were to develop religious beliefs that aligned with, say, Jainism, and I practiced yoga as part of practicing that faith, it would not be appropriative.

I think that I understand that it is appropriative to pick and choose aspects of a religious practice to pursue. Hence, the yoga classes at my gym that let me exercise and meditate a little are appropriative. But what I can't understand is why that appropriation is a bad thing. It has brought something good to my life, while not taking anything away from anyone else's beliefs or practices.

Similarly, I can't really see a problem with Rage Yoga. The gentle music and soothing tones of most yoga classes aren't for everybody (heck -- they aren't for me a good chunk of the time) -- why not allow this good thing to reach more people?
posted by sparklemotion at 3:54 PM on April 12, 2016 [29 favorites]


Sorry to burst a lot of bubbles here, but this is Canadian Yoga.

/Mic Drop
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:03 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


*If ever there was a clear-cut case of bullshit cultural appropriation, surely this is it.

It seems to me that she has at least made it her own, whether you agree with it with or not. I'd say that most Americans practicing mostly approach it as exercise, where it's Indian roots are much more about philosophy, the idea of perfecting the mind and the body are lost here*

I assumed that the appropriation part was the Rage (r-eh-ge), not the Yoga.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:06 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


culture is appropriation
posted by Sebmojo at 4:08 PM on April 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Lululemon is cultural appropriation.

Rage Yoga does not involve wearing special, expensive pants. In fact, I suspect that pants in general are optional there.
posted by delfin at 4:14 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Y'all, c'mon -- modern yoga is part cultural appropriation designed for cultural appropriation. Movement-based yoga (as opposed to strictly breathing exercises), for instance, is a mix of traditional yoga and western physical culture, and was commissioned by the maharaja of Mysore as something Indians could be proud of and have others want to emulate. And we do, success!
posted by antinomia at 4:16 PM on April 12, 2016 [23 favorites]


Once when I was visiting a friend in Portland, who used to live in Japan, he asked me what kind of take out I wanted. Then had a fit when I asked for chicken teriyaki, because that's not Japanese, it's a totally made up American thing and he was going to an authentic place that didn't have it. So I was all, 1. Sorry I didn't know it wasn't authentic and 2. I like it anyway. But since the place doesn't have it, how about you get whatever you think I will like?

I wanted to post the Rage Yoga link because my ex taught me what he claimed were yoga stretches (but later admitted some were from pilates but whatever), and when we did them together he would swear through half the session. Its true that the original elements of the practice of yoga are totally being distorted in Rage Yoga. But isn't that already true with other, more popular forms of yoga in the Western world? Does Rage Yoga actually harm the practitioners of traditional and genuine yoga in the place it originated?

Americans and, apparently, Canadians, will happily crap all over anything available to be crapped on, especially if they can make a buck in the process. Yoga is no exception. That sucks, but I think it sucks more when native peoples and/or other marginalized communities are exploited or marginalized in the process. Is that really happening here?
posted by Bella Donna at 4:22 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I wanted to post the Rage Yoga link because...
Don't worry about it, this is Rage Meta Yoga Filter.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:39 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


13/10 would yoga hard af
posted by dame at 4:42 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I bet all those Indian yogis wouldn't have worked so hard to spread Yoga to the West if they knew we were just going to *appropriate* it...
posted by uosuaq at 4:46 PM on April 12, 2016 [17 favorites]


What this thread really needs is outrage yoga.
posted by clawsoon at 4:53 PM on April 12, 2016 [34 favorites]


If someone started a prayer workshop called Caesar Christianity, in which every participant put a golden cow on an altar, called it Jesus Christ, and thanked it profusely for all the material possessions in their lives, would you understand if actual Christians were a little put out by that?

This person and all her cohorts are explicit and unapologetic racists, and as committed to discordant rage as they are, I suppose it is their victory that they produce the same effect in me.

Does Rage Yoga actually harm the practitioners of traditional and genuine yoga in the place it originated?

Yes. It does. The very purpose of hatha yoga, its overarching aim, is oneness, stillness, and serenity. It's fine if those aren't worthwhile goals for someone. But to take the yoga that you have been taught and pervert it into an expression of anger, selfishness, and addiction is to spit on your teachers and their teachers and the culture which gave you something because it believed in your earnest desire to learn. It is the moral equivalent of learning Hindi in order to swear and rail about what a shitty and stupid people Indians are in their own language, so that you're certain they understand you. It could not be more brazenly racist and harmful. You don't like boring stretches and quiet meditation? Fine. Don't do yoga. No one fucking asked you to.

Oh, am I the only Indian in here? What a fucking surprise. No, please, why don't y'all continue to snicker at the idea that anything not pale as shit is grist for your imperial mill, without any value or sanctity of its own. It's very edifying to learn what you think of me.
posted by Errant at 4:54 PM on April 12, 2016 [173 favorites]


If someone started a prayer workshop called Caesar Christianity Prosperity Gospel, in which every participant put a golden cow on an altar, called it Jesus Christ, and thanked it profusely for all the material possessions in their lives, would you understand if actual Christians were a little put out by that?

Yes, it's blasphemous.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:07 PM on April 12, 2016 [17 favorites]


So not the point, jstyutk
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:13 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought that was just a (not great) 22 minutes sketch, not a real thing.
posted by jeather at 5:14 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Errant: If someone started a prayer workshop called Caesar Christianity, in which every participant put a golden cow on an altar, called it Jesus Christ, and thanked it profusely for all the material possessions in their lives, would you understand if actual Christians were a little put out by that?

You're talking about a Jewish guy whose message and image has been culturally appropriated in so many ways it's ridiculous.

E.g., what would Jesus think of the whole idea of a "prayer workshop"?
posted by clawsoon at 5:15 PM on April 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


why don't y'all continue to snicker at the idea that anything not pale as shit is grist for your imperial mill, without any value or sanctity of its own. It's very edifying to learn what you think of me.

Errant, I appreciate your thoughtful response to my question. Thank you for taking it seriously, because I did not understand the harm it did. Your comments are much appreciated. Still, I'm baffled by why you think folks here who find Canadian rage stretching an amusing thing are making any kind of pronouncement about you, specifically, or Indians generally. Naturally, you can take any comment personally but why would you? And yes, Money-Worshipping Christianity is as thing as justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow points out.
posted by Bella Donna at 5:16 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Why would you? I'm honestly shocked you would ask this question.
posted by agregoli at 5:19 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do yoga--very rarely as I am terrible with being consistent with it--to try and still the stupid chemical dervish that is my brain. This sounds like the very opposite of something I want out of it.
posted by Kitteh at 5:25 PM on April 12, 2016


If we're going to be careful about cultural appropriation, casual use of the word "dervish" seems ill-advised.
posted by uosuaq at 5:31 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


And what does "zen" mean, anyway?

("As fuck" may be a cultural appropriation from somewhere else in the pub.)
posted by sneebler at 5:36 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Istace promises that her special brand of yoga will leave you “zen as fuck.”

I'm all for this sort of gentle mockery of the po-faced wisdom-of-the-easters it is apparently targeting, but get your intellectual traditions straight, god damn it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:37 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


The first rule of Rage Yoga...

SHUT THE FUCK UP!
posted by Splunge at 5:41 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


And what does "zen" mean, anyway?

Well, exactly. Zen (or chaan in China or sohn in Korea) Buddhism is a re-emphasizing of the wordless, non-rational elements brought into (or at least emphasized) in Buddhism when it entered China and fused with Daoist ideas (the way is not the way that can be spoken etc) and terminology, leading back via a notionally unbroken thread to the first direct-transmission of enlightenment, from the story of the Buddha holding up a flower wordlessly rather than speaking during a teaching and a disciple smiling in response. One branch of it in Japan at least emphasizes seated meditation as a path to waking up.

There's not what you'd call a whole lot of connection to yoga, other than roots in classical India.

I know, pedantry. Still, mildly annoying.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:44 PM on April 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


This person and all her cohorts are explicit and unapologetic racists

Whu...what? I'm all about acknowledging racism and the pervasiveness of white supremacy in western culture without pussyfooting around the feelings of white folks, but this seems like kind of a sweeping statement.

Who else is racist to you here? People who would consider doing Rage Yoga (I admit, I'd try it once)? People who do yoga as exercise without the spiritual aspects of it? This dog?

Regarding the harm that various flavours of yoga cause to traditional practioners:
The very purpose of hatha yoga, its overarching aim, is oneness, stillness, and serenity. It's fine if those aren't worthwhile goals for someone. But to take the yoga that
you have been taught and pervert it into an expression of anger, selfishness, and addiction is to spit on your teachers and their teachers and the culture which gave you something because it believed in your earnest desire to learn.

These folks aren't barging into temples and trying to force anyone to do something The White Way. Hell, they aren't even doing this in traditional Western studios (which really, for the most part are a kind of cargo-cult zen that seems like it could be even more offensive than this stuff). They are gathering together, in spaces that it appears that you don't approve of anyways (I assume that the "addiction" thing is because they have the audacity to meet in bars), to do something that works for them, and might actually help bring them closer to "oneness, stillness, and serenity" as it means to them. It honestly seems like these folks are not "fucking asking you" to do the version of yoga that they like.

And as far as "spitting on teachers" goes, how would you suggest that people go about modifying things that they have been taught? Would it be ok to do these exercises if they just called it something else (*ahem*pilates*ahem*)? What about the exercises that were developed independently of an actual Hatha tradition (a la Bikram)?
posted by sparklemotion at 5:47 PM on April 12, 2016 [22 favorites]


On a more serious note, I'm in a situation, due to family, that has me essentially angry as fuck for over a month. I eat, sleep and breathe anger. My rage level is higher than it has ever been. I'm looking for ways to ameliorate my anger, my rage. I'm no stranger to meditation. Or many forms of relaxation. I am trying so very hard to work my anger into something else.

This is a bunch of bullshit. You may quote me if you wish.
posted by Splunge at 5:47 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Still, I'm baffled by why you think folks here who find Canadian rage stretching an amusing thing are making any kind of pronouncement about you, specifically, or Indians generally. Naturally, you can take any comment personally but why would you?

Because it explicitly appropriates Indian cultural heritage? If they called it "Rage Stretching," then nobody would bat an eye. Instead, they explicitly use "Yoga" and conflate it with "Zen," not even bothering to disguise the fact that they don't care enough to differentiate between the different cultures presented in those two terms. It's another example in a long line of white Westerners taking concepts from other cultures and presenting them as some kind of exotic window-dressing for whatever bullshit they're trying to sell.

If they want to make fun of hippie-dippy white people practicing yoga, they should try mocking those white people, not perpetuating the same bullshit. Ironic racism is indistinguishible from racism perpetuates the same problematic bullshit, like a hipster wearing an "ironic" headdress.

Anyway, we've had lots of long threads in Metatalk discussing how minorities are treated on MetaFilter, and Errant and other folks have done a lot of emotional labor in those threads. Maybe go read some of them.
posted by Existential Dread at 5:50 PM on April 12, 2016 [60 favorites]


As well, the author has no idea of who Paramahansa Yogananda was. Nor have they ever read his book. If they did they wouldn't sully his name in their puff piece.
posted by Splunge at 5:51 PM on April 12, 2016


Here's a link to get you started.
posted by Existential Dread at 5:54 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Those 2 pints of discounted beer are going to make the yoga fart situation much, much worse.
posted by chococat at 5:55 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


If it's cultural appropriation, does that make it wrong or mean that it shouldn't be done? Seems like this is more of a wacky remix of yoga, rather than something that anybody would mistake for a highly authentic cultural expression. Reminiscent of how Christmas in Japan is a day for couples to eat KFC and go to a love hotel - nothing to do with traditional American Christmas.
posted by theorique at 6:15 PM on April 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


Thanks, Existential Dread. Great link, much appreciated.
posted by Bella Donna at 6:16 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can't wait for Rage Curling.

HEAVY! HARD! I JUST THREW OUT MY BACK!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:21 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


How many more comments do we need that can be summarized as "Sure, Rage Yoga completely misses the point of what yoga is, but how could that possibly ever be a bad thing?"
posted by 23skidoo at 6:28 PM on April 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


C'mon people, if you're going to appropriate, go for the gold: RAGE MORRIS DANCING ...
posted by octobersurprise at 6:33 PM on April 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm all about acknowledging racism and the pervasiveness of white supremacy in western culture without pussyfooting around the feelings of white folks, but this seems like kind of a sweeping statement.

It is very obviously a sweeping statement. Perhaps you mean that you think it is an unjustified statement. You're welcome to think so.

Who else is racist to you here?

More than I'd like.

Hell, they aren't even doing this in traditional Western studios (which really, for the most part are a kind of cargo-cult zen that seems like it could be even more offensive than this stuff).

My opinions on Western yoga studios which strip-mine my culture for exoticism and adornment are readily available elsewhere on the site. I'm sure you could click one of those tags up there and find out what I think about them if you're so inclined. I will say that this is more harmful than that as an instance, although the other one is ultimately more harmful due to volume.

They are gathering together, in spaces that it appears that you don't approve of anyways (I assume that the "addiction" thing is because they have the audacity to meet in bars)

I have no issue with bars and I have no issue with them meeting in a bar. I have an issue with them mixing toxins into rituals of purification, and I have an issue with them recommending drinking beer during yoga as a way to deal with addiction issues, as the person in the article claims.

And as far as "spitting on teachers" goes, how would you suggest that people go about modifying things that they have been taught?

I would suggest that they refrain from tilting the swastika 45 degrees, inverting it, and claiming it means hate instead of love.

Would it be ok to do these exercises if they just called it something else (*ahem*pilates*ahem*)?

Sure. At least then they wouldn't be dressing up in metaphorical saris for the titillation of how foreign and quixotic it all is.

What about the exercises that were developed independently of an actual Hatha tradition (a la Bikram)?

This article isn't about them, so I didn't address them, but if you'd like to know what I think about the molester and rapist who created a physically dangerous perversion of yoga in order to get women to wear less clothes in his presence, I'm sure I've said something about that somewhere around here.

Naturally, you can take any comment personally but why would you?

You don't appear to understand how any of this works, but you appear to want to, so I will gently suggest that this is a profoundly bad way to engage on this topic.

Seems like this is more of a wacky remix of yoga, rather than something that anybody would mistake for a highly authentic cultural expression.

You get to have your wacky remixes of my culture once you've demonstrated you have the faintest ability to deal with it honestly, sincerely, and respectfully first. Until then, it turns out that you get to have them anyway, because no one can stop you from doing anything you want, and there has never been much evidence to suggest that this culture appreciates any distinction between "shouldn't" and "can't".
posted by Errant at 6:36 PM on April 12, 2016 [132 favorites]


Previously: Page Yoga
posted by box at 6:39 PM on April 12, 2016


23skidoo: "How many more comments do we need that can be summarized as "Sure, Rage Yoga completely misses the point of what yoga is, but how could that possibly ever be a bad thing?""

Exactly. The average person thinks of yoga as slim women in silly poses, farting. Or being ogled by men because, hey I'll be in the back row staring.

Yoga is so very much more than even poses. It's breathing. And meditation. And so very much more. Trivializing it more is so very wrong. It may well cause people that might be helped to ignore it.
posted by Splunge at 6:40 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Privelege, amongst other things, is not even having to try to understand anothers perspective. Take that and set it aside. First listen, and then try to think about it. If you can understand how Chief Wahoo is appropiation, then you should be able to understand how this is apporpiation. Acculturation and cultural diffusion happen, but this isn't that.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:52 PM on April 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


What unnerves me about your position is that it's not actually about cultural appropriation at all. It's about there being a right and wrong way of performing culture. Based on your arguments, it would be entirely possible for someone in India to practice yoga in a way you find revolting. If they did that, what should happen to them? Who should be responsible for making it happen?
posted by great_radio at 7:14 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


What unnerves me about your position is that it's not actually about cultural appropriation at all. It's about there being a right and wrong way of performing culture. Based on your arguments, it would be entirely possible for someone in India to practice yoga in a way you find revolting. If they did that, what should happen to them? Who should be responsible for making it happen?

Stop putting words in other Mefites mouths.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:19 PM on April 12, 2016 [24 favorites]


It's about there being a right and wrong way of performing culture....by people not of that culture. By people who are part of/descended from a colonialist society that took over that region of the world and co-opted what they deemed good and suppressed what they deemed bad. THAT is a key difference here.

I mean, imagine that you have some aspect of your identity that most of the world does not share. Something deep and special and meaningful to you. Now imagine people are gleefully aping some caricature of that part of your identity in a casual display that has NOTHING to do with the reality that you see. Would that piss you off?
posted by Existential Dread at 7:22 PM on April 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


Yoga is so very much more than even poses. It's breathing. And meditation. And so very much more. Trivializing it more is so very wrong. It may well cause people that might be helped to ignore it.

But what about people who are intimidated by the yoga-as-religion thing or even the yoga-means-that-you-need-to-be-silent-and-calm thing, who otherwise might be helped by yoga but have ignored it thus far because it didn't suit them?

If even one person tries rage yoga, likes it, and seeks to find out more about the traditions, that seems like a win...right? At least for those who aren't more interested in maintaining the purity of the One True Practice.

I've admitted my biases above. If there were a cultural appropriation police, that stopped anyone who grew up in mainstream Western culture from participating in non-Western practices without embracing every aspect, my life would absolutely get worse. But, you know, not so much worse that it, by default, overrides the feelings of non-Westerners who are harmed by some form of appropriation. See, e.g., not dressing up as a geisha for Hallowe'en.

But, in my experience, the physical-and-mindfulness aspects of yoga are a net good for me, and, I think, for plenty of other Westerners and non-Westerners alike. It seems like taking those aspects that work, and (importantly) not making a claim to authority about any of the spiritual traditions from which Yoga is derived is no more harmful of an appropriation than when the Romans started using 0, or when the Russians started driving on the right.

I guess most people in this thread are in agreement that it would have been better for the Westernized version of yoga to be called something different (e.g. no one would be offended by "Rage Stretching"). And I think there is something to that. But I feel that there is something good about maintaining a, at least linguistic, connection to where and by whom these techniques originated.

To me, the real harm in appropriation comes from the idea of some westerner learning some yoga, coming home, and marketing it as Relaxation Gospel in order to erase the taint of the non-Westernerness from it. Obviously this kind of take-rename-erase cycle has happened countless times in Western history. And it's not that the practitioners of traditional yoga should be grateful to the west for deigning to give them an attribution. But as had been made clear, appropriation is inevitable when cultures interact -- and it's the responsibility of the dominant culture to try to be respectful when that happens. Keeping the name is, arguably, a sign of respect (while also arguably being a sign of exoticism/orientalism).

So yeah, you can put me solidly in the camp of rage yoga seems silly, but harmless. If there were an equally effective Western/Canadian tradition for Istace to name her venture after, I might encourage her to do that. But yoga is what we call the exercise-and-mediation practice that is a portion of the Yogic religions. And unless it makes sense to ban exercise-and-meditation, I don't think it makes sense to say that rage yoga is a thing that shouldn't exist.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:29 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


So yeah, you can put me solidly in the camp of rage yoga seems silly, but harmless.

Is there any bastardization of yoga that you would be able to see the harm in?

Keeping the name is, arguably, a sign of respect (while also arguably being a sign of exoticism/orientalism).

A sign of respect according to who?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:47 PM on April 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


There is not "a" right way and "a" wrong way to perform culture, but there are many right ways and many wrong ones, especially when you are blending issues of race, colonialism, and marginalization. None of this is happening in a vacuum. Last I checked, Calgary is still part of Canada, and Canada's legacy with regard to India and especially British India is pretty spotty (the continuous journey regulation, Komagata Maru, immigration race riots, citizen and vote suppression, etc.). We are not talking about a nation and a people with an unrivalled history of respect for and celebration of the Indian diaspora. You are beginning from a deficit and with all benefit of the doubt expended. Most of the right ways to perform culture involve making explicit your awareness of that history, of those issues, and addressing them in some fashion. Most of the wrong ways to perform culture involve thinking that none of those things matter.

Earlier, Bella Donna asked me why I would take this discussion personally. I take it personally because after stating in no uncertain terms that this is harmful, to me at the very least, people still find it easy to say that they think this is silly and harmless. Not negligibly harmful, not ultimately a net positive or even overall neutral. Harmless. I'm sitting right here telling you otherwise, and it doesn't matter. That's how I know what you think of me.
posted by Errant at 7:47 PM on April 12, 2016 [73 favorites]


I see a lot of harm in this. Errant, I share your sentiment.

If someone tells you they feel harmed, then it is not harmless unless you mean to invalidate their emotional experience entirely. Rarely is one person alone. So many are harmed by this cavalier attitude.

"Oh I don't feel harmed by native American sacred grave site being built over so it therefore doesn't cause harm."

It doesn't matter if your definition of spirituality is what you are forcing down the throat of the entire world, dismantling indigenous cultures while destructively taking their knowledge of herbs and plants. This attitude is destructive and harmful and mocks other peoples experience of divine connection and turns it into something not quite valid enough to accept their real experience of it but real enough to be coveted and bought and sold as long as it's stripped of it's true meaning and context and the hearts of the people whom have experienced it.

Someone says they feel harmed, how many words will you expend to explain to them and those around them why you know better than they do that they are not in fact harmed?
posted by xarnop at 7:53 PM on April 12, 2016 [30 favorites]


Butting in belatedly to add that the analogy of the Prosperity Christianity may get it right in terms of the sense of the irony of applying practices that are contradictory religious to principles right but it misses the racial angle. There is a difference in people of a different ethnicity doing something that is probably sacreligious to another ethnicity's religion (drinking and swearing and 'shenanigans' during yoga) and doing it for larfs.

While Lindsey gives lipservice to it being cathartic, it's hard to take her seriously when she says it made her aware of her addiction issues and assume she's actually saying that with a straight face. It's like saying, "We became aware of our vegetarian beliefs by eating Big Macs". It's pretty obvious that the Rage Yoga is done for laffs and maybe they find that cathartic but that's still sacreligious (if that is the appropriate term here). Prosperity christianity and any number of evangelists maybe cynical exploiters, but they're generally not of another ethnic group mocking the religion of a colonized culture. They're generally people of the same demographic group either misinterpreting Christian principles or out-and-out exploiting them, but they're doing it in a way that they expect to be taken seriously.

I say this as a white person who is used to hearing about yoga as an exercise practice, so I don't think I could be accused of being, ummmm...hypersensitive. If anything, I'm a tasteless athiest. But as a white person making an effort to think outside of my habits, yeah, it can be seen as pretty sacriligious and therefore racist given the relationship between the joker and the jokee, as it were.

(pardon my sloppy sentences and semi-coherence; I'm sick and on flu medicine)
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 8:10 PM on April 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


I take it personally because after stating in no uncertain terms that this is harmful, to me at the very least, people still find it easy to say that they think this is silly and harmless. Not negligibly harmful, not ultimately a net positive or even overall neutral. Harmless. I'm sitting right here telling you otherwise, and it doesn't matter. That's how I know what you think of me.
posted by Errant


Errant, I'm honestly stunned at what has been said to you here...this is the most ugly stuff I've seen on MeFi in a while. It makes me feel sick to my stomach. I'm not trying to perform here by saying so just...thank you for standing out and making clear why this is hurtful.
posted by agregoli at 8:35 PM on April 12, 2016 [47 favorites]


Is there any bastardization of yoga that you would be able to see the harm in?

This sketch, which is problematic in its own ways, portrays a yoga studio in which an actual hindu is belittled and made to feel unwelcome. His expertise is ignored, he is shamed for his attire, and assumed to be a lech.

That fictional yoga studio is explicitly harmful obvious ways. I have been lucky thus far to not have encountered a yoga teacher or studio that I have perceived to be as explicitly racist, sexist, or American exceptionalist, or to imply that those kinds of attitudes are "OK". I am also willing to believe that those teachers and studios exist and I would hope that I wouldn't support them. So, that's one example, albeit grounded in satire.

In the real world though, of course there are are some appropriations of yoga that are harmful. Generally, they are bastardizations of yoga that purport to have some kind of religious/spiritual significance, while being led by folks who either have no knowledge/experience of the actual religious spiritual practices (see, e.g. hippy dippy crystals and oils Western studios), or who choose to monetize and attempt to monopolize aspects of those religious/spiritual practice that they may have been born into (see, e.g., Bikram).

Rage Yoga isn't those things. It's pulling out the universal bits of yoga (exercise, some aspect of mind-body connection), and adding in some stuff that works for the ragers (mainly, going after the mind-body connection by being intentional in choosing to do things that might otherwise be frowned upon - drinking, swearing).

Maybe it's jokey, but the joke isn't on actual practitioners of traditional yoga. The joke is very clearly at least partially on the ragers themselves, and moreso on Westerners who take their exercise+meditation WAY more seriously than it deserves, given that the vast majority of Western yoga is a watered down version of a watered down version of what could be considered an actual religious practice.

But yeah, this is a lot of words to talk around the fact that there is at least one person who, by virtue of his heritage, is a better judge than I of the harm in this who disagrees with me about this being harmless, if not a net good. I've learned a lot from his comments about how even non-practitioners of yoga are hurt when they see yoga being "perverted." I think that someone can acknowledge that harm while also recognizing the benefits that this practice generates for the ragers. And as someone who is not Indian, but is also not White, I don't feel a whole ton of guilt about putting those two viewpoints in the balance.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:58 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I feel like any of us doubling down on "actually it's not cultural appropriation because, and even if it is it's the good kind" to, as pointed out, the only person in the thread for whom this is a personal issue and not an abstract one, is probably being kinda clueless and really just continuing a slightly less blatant version of the "well actually" that is also going on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:18 PM on April 12, 2016 [20 favorites]


JDHarper >

I may be showing some ignorance here but: Yes, this is clearly cultural appropriation, in that one culture has adopted a practice from another culture. But is that a bad thing? I mean, that is how new ideas get created, by recombining and changing old ideas. Who is actually hurt by this?

You're implying that the creation of new ideas is inherently good or valuable, but that is not obviously the case. Whether something is new or traditional doesn't, by itself, tell us much about how good or bad it is. And cultural practices can be absurd or insulting or just stupid even if they don't directly 'hurt' anyone, though in this case at least one Metafilter member has said that they find it harmful and offensive, so hopefully we don't need to discuss how many people need to feel that way in order for it to count.

sparklemotion >

I think that I understand that it is appropriative to pick and choose aspects of a religious practice to pursue. Hence, the yoga classes at my gym that let me exercise and meditate a little are appropriative. But what I can't understand is why that appropriation is a bad thing. It has brought something good to my life, while not taking anything away from anyone else's beliefs or practices.

If you dilute something, you could be changing it in a bad way even though you're not taking anything from it. Cultural appropriation can be a form of palimpsest: an effacement of what was, and the writing-over of that original thing with something else. Erasing and diluting aren't the same as taking, but they are frequently experienced as frustratingly callous and disrespectful, especially because cultural traditions are also part of the same world in which social, political, and military domination take place.
posted by clockzero at 9:45 PM on April 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


If you dilute something, you could also be changing it in a good way. Allowing women to become Christian priests, or to practice Yoga, for example. I need to hear more than that some people experience things a certain way: I need to hear reasons to believe it.
posted by uosuaq at 10:00 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think that someone can acknowledge that harm while also recognizing the benefits that this practice generates for the ragers.

The entire article is about the benefits imparted by this practice to its practitioners, which is accepted at face value and not questioned, at least by me. I have no reason to think they're lying when they say they get something out of it. I believe hipsters turning conscious rap songs into twee ukelele ballads gain something from that experience. I believe that rasta posers in dreads and Jah t-shirts gain something from the experience. I believe that people in geisha costumes and those who perform the Chop gain something positive.

The question is, what does it cost, and, more importantly, who does it cost? The price of cultural appropriation is marginalization, pain, and erasure, but it isn't the appropriator who is assessed the bill. Why should I or anyone like me pay the price of humiliation and mockery for someone else's catharsis? What right do they have to extract that hurt from me, and by what right do they trade it for their own pleasure? I'll tell you: it is the right of the colonialist, the imperialist, and the subjugator. It is the right they know they have and that they'll never lose or suffer for exercising. The more that another is made an unwilling minstrel, their culture made to step and fetch for sport, the greater one's own light entertainment. Tell me why I should think of that as balance.
posted by Errant at 10:02 PM on April 12, 2016 [92 favorites]


At this point yoga has pretty much become a generic term for stretching exercises around here. Like people call tissues of any brand Kleenex, they call stretching yoga. This is likely offensive to those that view yoga as a spiritual thing, but the ones doing it do not mean to be offensive. I think it's way too late to reverse the "yoga does not mean this" thing.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 10:05 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I need to hear more than that some people experience things a certain way: I need to hear reasons to believe it.

Wait, wait, wait.

Hold up.

You think Errant, Existential Dread, 23skidoo, and others are just making this shit up? That they are just saying people experience things a certain way? That you don't feel the need to take their words at face value and believe them when they say this stuff?

Good faith, right here.
posted by qcubed at 10:09 PM on April 12, 2016 [35 favorites]


I need to hear more than that some people experience things a certain way: I need to hear reasons to believe it.

This is more or less the definition of privilege. People don't need to prove their harm to you, and your implied demand that they do is really crossing the line.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:14 PM on April 12, 2016 [44 favorites]


This is likely offensive to those that view yoga as a spiritual thing, but the ones doing it do not mean to be offensive.

So we're going with the intent angle? I mean, as a Chinaman I could go around and call all my Chinaman friends all the various slurs, with a jokey, non-offensive intent, but that's worth fuck all, really, if they're not in on the joke.

And my intent worth even less than fuck all if someone I don't know hears it and is harmed by it.
posted by qcubed at 10:17 PM on April 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


If you dilute something, you could also be changing it in a good way. Allowing women to become Christian priests, or to practice Yoga, for example.

The point I was making was that taking something from another culture or social context is not the only manner in which some kind of harm can be done. The things you characterize as dilution here are not the kind of thing I'm talking about anyway.

I need to hear more than that some people experience things a certain way: I need to hear reasons to believe it.

It's frustrating to need things that other people can't be bothered to give, isn't it?
posted by clockzero at 10:25 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I take their words at face value, I believe they feel hurt, yes, of course. And in a previous version of my comment which I deleted, I said that I believe in taking people's feelings seriously and trying not to hurt them (apparently that *does* need to be said explicitly).
What I was getting at is that I would like to hear the reasons why something is or isn't (mostly isn't) okay, not just how people feel about it. And yes, FFFM, while I'm not asking that people "prove their harm", I'm asking for some kind of measure *I* can use, maybe something I can use myself without the help of the one person on the thread who has the job of standing in for the other 1.3 billion Indians.
posted by uosuaq at 10:25 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


That one person has explained at great length why it's not okay. Why is listening not enough? How someone feels about something is why it isn't okay; this isn't an abstract thought exercise.

This is something deeply valuable to at least one member of this community that in their view has been shat on, again, by some white people. I don't understand what further explanation from them could possibly be necessary, or indeed even appropriate for you to ask for.

"You're hitting me in the face, please stop, it hurts me."
"Yes well I'm going to need to hear the reasons why that's not okay, not just how you feel about it."

Ridiculous, eh? And yet that is precisely what you're doing. If you take someone's words at face value, you don't need some kind of 'measure' to decide whether they're 'actually' being harmed or have justification for feeling the way they do.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:35 PM on April 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


What I was getting at is that I would like to hear the reasons why something is or isn't (mostly isn't) okay, not just how people feel about it.

> The very purpose of hatha yoga, its overarching aim, is oneness, stillness, and serenity. It's fine if those aren't worthwhile goals for someone. But to take the yoga that you have been taught and pervert it into an expression of anger, selfishness, and addiction is to spit on your teachers and their teachers and the culture which gave you something because it believed in your earnest desire to learn.

> they explicitly use "Yoga" and conflate it with "Zen," not even bothering to disguise the fact that they don't care enough to differentiate between the different cultures presented in those two terms.

> It's another example in a long line of white Westerners taking concepts from other cultures and presenting them as some kind of exotic window-dressing for whatever bullshit they're trying to sell.

> If they want to make fun of hippie-dippy white people practicing yoga, they should try mocking those white people, not perpetuating the same bullshit. Ironic racism is indistinguishible from racism perpetuates the same problematic bullshit, like a hipster wearing an "ironic" headdress.

> Exactly. The average person thinks of yoga as slim women in silly poses, farting. Or being ogled by men because, hey I'll be in the back row staring. Yoga is so very much more than even poses. It's breathing. And meditation. And so very much more. Trivializing it more is so very wrong. It may well cause people that might be helped to ignore it.

> It doesn't matter if your definition of spirituality is what you are forcing down the throat of the entire world, dismantling indigenous cultures while destructively taking their knowledge of herbs and plants. This attitude is destructive and harmful and mocks other peoples experience of divine connection and turns it into something not quite valid enough to accept their real experience of it but real enough to be coveted and bought and sold as long as it's stripped of it's true meaning and context and the hearts of the people whom have experienced it.

Does that help?
posted by qcubed at 10:36 PM on April 12, 2016 [23 favorites]


Oh, I think I understand what you were saying a little better now, clockzero...dilution can be bad, even if it's not outright "taking"...good point.
posted by uosuaq at 10:36 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ok, fuck it, why not. I'll tell you two stories. One's personal. One isn't.

I grew up not knowing Hindi or Gujarati other than a few words and phrases I picked up from scattered family conversations, because my parents wanted me to assimilate as much as possible into their adopted country, and that meant to them not diluting my apprehension of English. I grew up with rituals and holidays that I only sort of understood. The rest of the time, I thought of myself as just another kid. As I got older, my growing awareness that I was different, whether I wanted to be or not, was accompanied by a growing fascination with the culture I only dimly knew but found myself increasingly drawn to. But a funny thing happens when you're a third culture kid. The more you try to learn and grow into one part of your heritage, the more alienated and foreign you become to the other part. The more Indian I became, the more Hindu, the more brown, the more I was a token and a spectacle and an oddity in a very, very white world. So to see some ignorant people take pieces of the culture I've had to fight and work to internalize and accept as part of myself, to see them take those pieces and contort them into grotesque images for their own amusement, reaffirms to me that I can never be Indian and one of you at the same time.

Along with principles like ahimsa and satyagraha, hatha yoga forms a pillar of Indian Hindu identity, whether cultural or religious, which is deeply embedded as a mode of being present and averring harm in a harmful world. These principles became supremely important in the resistance against British colonial occupation, subjugation, and genocide. In the face of tremendous bigotry and anger from white faces, anger that murdered thousands at Amritsar and Calcutta, bigotry that tore apart families and destroyed whole settlements, the principles of nonviolence, universal oneness, and serenity helped Indians survive, resist, and overcome. Now a white woman from the Commonwealth wants to turn one of those precepts into a channel for the very negativity and white rage which generated race riots, exclusion, expulsion, rape, and murder of those who relied upon this practice to maintain their identity in the face of oppression from people like her.

It's not enough that they want to kill you. They want to take from you the reasons you didn't die.
posted by Errant at 10:56 PM on April 12, 2016 [150 favorites]


And FFFM, you're quite right...if you implicitly believe whatever someone says, you don't need to think about questions of veracity.
posted by uosuaq at 11:04 PM on April 12, 2016


And my intent worth even less than fuck all if someone I don't know hears it and is harmed by it.

There is always someone that will be offended no matter what the issue is. I think intent does matter a lot, it separates those that are misinformed or uneducated on a subject from those that are doing it because they give no fucks.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 12:47 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


That one person has explained at great length why it's not okay. Why is listening not enough? How someone feels about something is why it isn't okay; this isn't an abstract thought exercise.

How would you say, I'm very sorry that you are upset over this, I can see why you'd see it that way, however I don't agree? Is my not agreeing there an insult? If I owned a yoga studio, as a white woman what should I do? Apologize for the unintended insult and close down the studio? Apologize and keep it open? I get that there are cultural issues at play, I just have no idea how to apply them in the real non-theoretical world. I tend to go through life with a "don't be a dick" attitude but that doesn't always help.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 12:53 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Errant: "If someone started a prayer workshop called Caesar Christianity, in which every participant put a golden cow on an altar, called it Jesus Christ, and thanked it profusely for all the material possessions in their lives, would you understand if actual Christians were a little put out by that?"

Here in Japan non-Christians get married in church-like places by either actual priests or non-priests acting like priests.

I understand why actual Christians get upset about it. They aren't wrong to get upset.
I understand why Japanese folks do these pseudo-Christian marriages. They aren't wrong to get married that way.

I think there's a false dichotomy in these cultural appropriation things that either A) cultural appropriation is fine, and the people who are upset are wrong, or B) cultural appropriation is wrong, and the people who get upset are fine. The reality, I suspect, is that it's fine to do, and it's fine to get upset about other people doing.

(Parenthetically, I also find the reference to Zen interesting, as Zen is a cultural appropriation of Chan Buddhism, which is a cultural appropriation of Indian Mahayana Buddhism with a dash of yoga)
posted by Bugbread at 1:16 AM on April 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


Errant: The very purpose of hatha yoga, its overarching aim, is oneness, stillness, and serenity.

I've read the argument in a couple of places that part of the purpose of hatha yoga was to create a "muscular Hinduism" that would help Indians rise against the British "muscular Christianity". This was done by blending Indian yoga traditions and exercises with British gymnastics exercises, in a sort of reverse cultural appropriation - the oppressed appropriating some of the tools of the oppressor.

What do you think of that idea? (Here's one well-informed disagreement with that view.)

Also: Someone in the thread asked how it would feel if someone took a practise I find deeply meaningful and made a mockery of it. I've been trying to do this for a couple of hours, even though I'd rather be sleeping, but I can't come up with anything that'd make me mad (so long as it involves consenting adults).

When I was younger, and a Christian, I might've been outraged by the "Japanese Christmas" mentioned above, or by the canonizing of South American or Celtic local gods into Catholic saints. But since then I've realized that virtually all Christian practise is appropriation upon appropriation. It started when Paul logick'd up Jesus' message in order to sell it to the Greeks, and it hasn't stopped since then. Every culture which has encountered Christianity has made it its own. Constantine saw a cross in the sky and appropriated Christianity for the Roman killing machine. St. Patrick brought it to Ireland with a shamrock. Local gods were canonized as saints pretty much everywhere. American slaves appropriated Exodus, and their owners appropriated the story of Ham. The church I grew up in appropriated gospel music from the Black gospel tradition, hymns from the Lutheran tradition (which were in turn often appropriated from local German pub song traditions), the Old Testament from Jewish tradition, some logic from the Greeks via Paul, Scholasticism, and Calvinism, heaven and hell from the Zoroastrians, the Trinity (and other Nicene Creed stuff) from the Catholics, and using grape juice instead of wine for communion from the temperance movement.

Etc.

And the "traditional American Christmas" mentioned above is such a mish-mash of appropriation that it's amusing to think that someone might be offended if it got appropriated a little more. Santa Claus (Greek), Christmas trees (Germanic), roast turkey (Native American), flying reindeer (Odin's flying horses), December 25th (Saturnalia), Christmas carols (British), and White Baby Jesus surrounded by people dressed up in clothing that I'm guessing is mostly from the Italian Renaissance.

So if someone adds KFC and a love hotel to Christmas, or adds some golden tablets and magic underwear to Christianity, who am I to be offended?

As a result, I can maybe feel some sympathy for how you're feeling, but no empathy.

Or maybe not so much sympathy, since you remind me of a younger me. I was offended then, like you are now, by appropriation of my traditions. My feelings were sincere. If people had merely listened to and accepted my feelings as explanation enough, I might never have realized how arrogant I was being in claiming a tradition as my own and condemning other people - of my own race and others - for Doing It Wrong.

But I've realized since then that I was wrong. I was, in fact, part of a rich tradition which was appropriated in thousands of different ways by thousands of different people - including by me and the church I grew up in - mostly in ways that made their own lives better and richer. That's something to celebrate.
posted by clawsoon at 2:55 AM on April 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


Where did doing yoga to music come from? I have never been to a yoga class where music was played, but I know plenty of people who have. I think I would find it very distracting and it would detract from the experience.

Having said that, I went to a good Tai Chi class for a while and the instructor would play 'inspirational' music while the class performed the sequences, but not while teaching. I suppose it was good practice for blocking out superfluous sensory input while doing martial arts! My feelings about Bette Midler's rendition of You are the Wind Beneath my Wings did not improve due to repeated exposure.
posted by asok at 3:03 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I want to say in public that I am seriously squicked out by the way people are speaking to Errant in this thread.
posted by Naamah at 3:08 AM on April 13, 2016 [55 favorites]


Where did doing yoga to music come from? I have never been to a yoga class where music was played, but I know plenty of people who have. I think I would find it very distracting and it would detract from the experience.

I don't know the exact time frame, but it seemed to coincide with the proliferation of different yoga styles and hybrids: Yoga-lates, dance yoga, hip-hop yoga, and so forth. Probably the last 10-15 years.

I've attended a handful of these "hybrid" or "non-traditional" yoga classes, and the influence of the music has ranged from "relaxing and helpful" to "jittery and distracting". Perhaps not surprisingly, the type of music selected has a really big impact on the mood it creates.
posted by theorique at 3:42 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I neither request nor require your condescending sympathy or your patronizing empathy. Trust me when I say whatever resemblance you perceive between yourself and me is quite in your own head. You find no practice deeply meaningful and thus sneer from on high at the very concept of finding meaning in practices, as similarly you have done nothing in this thread but snicker from behind your hand. That's your own issue and your own arrogance. Please stop projecting it onto me. Further, please stop presuming that because the nature of your entire cultural upbringing is appropriation, that appropriation is therefore the natural and just way of things. We will not disagree that you were raised with the finest imperial traditions; we will disagree that they are broadly enriching to anyone outside the tiers of primary power. I believe you when you say that they've served you quite comfortably. Your disdain for objections to your culture's aggression is noted. Please excuse me if I refrain from prostrating before its inexorable rectitude.
posted by Errant at 3:59 AM on April 13, 2016 [56 favorites]


Errant: We will not disagree that you were raised with the finest imperial traditions

The cultural traditions of my father's family weren't appropriated by the British. They were actively, deliberately destroyed. Sections of the Dominion Lands Act were specifically written to do so. And they worked; I grew up with little idea of what those traditions were.

I'm sure that the British did the same to many Indian traditions. We probably share more in common than you'd like to think.
posted by clawsoon at 4:13 AM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I thoight they already had rage yoga and it was called "hockey".
posted by w0mbat at 4:34 AM on April 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Errant: Thank you for sharing those stories. I did not understand how this could be harmful to anyone and now I think I do.
posted by JDHarper at 4:48 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think intent does matter a lot, it separates those that are misinformed or uneducated on a subject from those that are doing it because they give no fucks.

Sure, manslaughter is different than murder, but in the end, someone's still fucking dead.

Intent is useful to know, but it not always apparent. Intent is interesting to have, but doesn't change the effect.

The road to hell, for instance, is paved with good intentions.
posted by qcubed at 5:25 AM on April 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


And really, once you have knowledge of someone pointing out that x is inconsiderate, even if your original intent wasn't offensive, continuing x after that point kinda erodes away any claim you have of "not being offensive" in intent.
posted by qcubed at 5:29 AM on April 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


Canada has also brought us naked ganja yoga (no, I'm not linking, as the leader is an acquaintance of mine) which allegedly has resulted in vast quantities of giggling and crawling about pretending to be small animals.
posted by scruss at 5:41 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


For anybody else who wants to bring up BUT PEOPLE DO IT TO CHRISTIANITY TOO I DON'T SEE WHY IT'S SUCH A BIG DEAL derail that always, always comes up in these threads:

It's one thing when a non-dominant cultural tradition incorporates patterns from a dominant cultural norm (like American black slaves adopting Exodus) or two cultures interacting sorta-kinda-like-probably-not-historically-but-it's-at-the-very-least-super-complicated-and-situational-and-contextual equals and one of the cultures picking up cool images from the other (like Japanese people in Japan liking the trappings of Western church weddings, and getting the stained glass and white dresses without buying into Jesus).

It's another when the flow of culture follows the not-distant-at-all tradition of white Western colonial power trying to take every single desirable thing from non-white and/or non-Western people, and then remaking the stuff for white people.

(This thread is one of the ugliest threads on race I've seen in a while time on Metafilter, for the record. The drumbeat of BUT PROVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! being directed to Errant in the middle of a goddamn series of top-notch, thoughtful, personal, specific comments talking about their reasons is horrifying.

I also hope people who are like OH NOW I GET IT WHY IT'S HARMFUL remember this for the next time cultural appropriation comes up.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 5:54 AM on April 13, 2016 [38 favorites]


One question that always comes to mind in any discussion of appropriation is, "how long is enough?" before a borrowed practice can be considered to be an authentic part of the culture doing the appropriating.

Yoga has been widely known in the West for perhaps 50-80 years, and "mainstream" for about 30. Maybe this isn't long enough to be considered an "American tradition" yet, though there are a great many styles and schools that have sprouted up, based in the USA, such as Baptiste, Bikram, Forrest, and others. Obviously, yoga has Indian cultural and religious roots and this is generally known and acknowledged by these serious practitioners. (I'm going to presume that no one has a problem with this kind of respectful borrowing and extending.)

However, when someone wants to do something whimsical, or possibly disrespectful, the question of "your people don't own this" comes forward. It's reminiscent of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry is upset because his dentist converts to Judaism and immediately starts telling edgy Jewish jokes.

So the questions arise:
  • Who 'owns' yoga?
  • Is yoga culturally 'American' (or 'Canadian') enough yet for Americans (Canadians) to do whimsical or disrespectful remixes and reinterpretations of it?
  • What should a remixer do, practically, if confronted by a person of the culture of origin who claims that his remix is disrespectful?
posted by theorique at 6:15 AM on April 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


Errant brought up Christianity as a direct comparison to yoga, which is why I assumed that it would be valid to expand on. Apologies for becoming a stereotypical derail.

I'm afraid that I still don't agree, despite the patient explaining by Errant and others. Condemning consenting adults who are doing something they find enjoyable is a bigotry I have mostly escaped from. It's disturbing to me to see it so vigorously supported here on Metafilter, especially when the basis is religion and traditional cultural practise.

I know what it's like to be lost between two cultures, not able to find a home in either. It's painful. There can be years of emptiness and loss, a lack of meaning. That I can empathize with. What I can't support, though, is coming out of that wilderness as a committed convert who uses religion to condemn. Religious people and people whose identity is tied to traditional cultural practises are hurt and offended by a lot of things that consenting adults do on their own time. The pain and hurt they experience is real. It's not the basis for a morality that I can support, though.
posted by clawsoon at 6:17 AM on April 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


Condemning consenting adults who are doing something they find enjoyable is a bigotry

Sorry, what? Just because adults are consenting to doing Rage Yoga and they enjoy it means that no one can point out how it's harmful? That's nonsense. Consenting adults enjoy doing all kinds of shitty things all the time. Consenting adults enjoy flying the confederate flag. Consenting adults enjoy doing Nazi salutes in public. Anything that can be summarized as "But people consented to doing an activity, and they enjoyed it, so there can't possibly be anything harmful about it" is horse-shit.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:26 AM on April 13, 2016 [37 favorites]


Clawsoon, I don't really believe your feelings are correct. I understand you feel them, but I think perhaps they should not be validated. What exactly is the culture that you lost and feel the pain of? Can you describe it more because I don't believe you yet.
posted by xarnop at 6:29 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


xarnop: Clawsoon, I don't really believe your feelings are correct. I understand you feel them, but I think perhaps they should not be validated. What exactly is the culture that you lost and feel the pain of? Can you describe it more because I don't believe you yet.

Is that a sincere question? I'd be glad to expand on it, but it seems like it would be a much larger derail than those I've already contributed to this thread. :-) (Some of it came up tangentially in the recent toxic masculinity thread, though, if you're curious.)

I'd respectfully reply that my feelings, and Errant's feelings, are what they are. They're not "correct" or "incorrect". They don't need to be validated, just like "I have two arms" doesn't need to be validated. They're facts. But feelings don't directly map to morality. I have plenty of feelings of my own that I would not base my morality on, and Errant has expressed some feelings that I would not base my morality on, either.

Knowing about Errant's experience and his feelings of harm is helpful for me, though. Next time I hear about Rage Yoga I'll feel uncomfortable, knowing that someone was deeply offended and hurt by it. I don't like hurting people's feelings. It makes me feel bad. And maybe, gradually, my moral positions will change, because my feelings inform morality even if they don't directly map to it.

I've learned, though, from painful personal experience, that basing morality directly on the expressed pain of others is sometimes a road paved with good intentions that leads to various hells. I don't know what struggles Lindsay-Marie Istace has faced, and what joy or relief she gets from Rage Yoga. I don't know how she would react if Errant contacted her and let her know what pain she has caused him. I'm not ready to condemn her, or what she's doing.
posted by clawsoon at 6:52 AM on April 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


Just wanted to drop in and say that the treatment of Errant is despicable.
posted by odinsdream at 6:54 AM on April 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


Ok, so are you part of a culture that is still directly facing poverty and the results of colonialist rule in which direct harms are still being endured by the people? Like say, India?

You have not yet stated you have experienced anything like what Errant has, if so I would like to hear you clarify, but you seem to be equating a very different experience of privilege with a kind of suffering you have not yet described having experienced and then using this supposed similarity to invalidate someone else's experience which sounds like a totally different experience than what you have been through.
posted by xarnop at 6:56 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


What I can't support, though, is coming out of that wilderness as a committed convert who uses religion to condemn.

There's a difference between using religion to condemn and condemning the appropriation of that religion. I find it difficult to believe that you're honestly comparing this to RFRA laws.
posted by Etrigan at 7:09 AM on April 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


If I owned a yoga studio, as a white woman what should I do? Apologize for the unintended insult and close down the studio? Apologize and keep it open? I get that there are cultural issues at play, I just have no idea how to apply them in the real non-theoretical world.

Take the opportunity to learn about the practice you are selling, and endeavor to align your principles more closely with the original intent of the practice? Learn about the culture? Talk to people in and of the culture to understand their concerns? One thing you can't do is get offended when someone tells you, "Hey, you're appropriating my heritage." It's on you to learn and understand, if you want to use the word.

Condemning consenting adults who are doing something they find enjoyable is a bigotry I have mostly escaped from. It's disturbing to me to see it so vigorously supported here on Metafilter, especially when the basis is religion and traditional cultural practise.

Consenting adults? What are you on about? Consenting adults do all kinds of hurtful things to one another, and to the non-consenting. And there's a number of parties here who are telling you that they don't consent.

Yoga has been widely known in the West for perhaps 50-80 years, and "mainstream" for about 30. Maybe this isn't long enough to be considered an "American tradition" yet, though there are a great many styles and schools that have sprouted up, based in the USA, such as Baptiste, Bikram, Forrest, and others.

I can't understand this either. Length of time of appropriation has nothing to do with whether the appropriation is offensive. White Americans have been appropriating black and native cultures for centuries, and yet minstrelsy and white people aping native dress are still horribly offensive.

I don't know what struggles Lindsay-Marie Istace has faced, and what joy or relief she gets from Rage Yoga. I don't know how she would react if Errant contacted her and let her know what pain she has caused him. I'm not ready to condemn her, or what she's doing.

Ah, I'm glad we identified the real victim, here. Why, she might get her feelings hurt if she were told that what she is doing is harmful.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:10 AM on April 13, 2016 [23 favorites]


Condemning consenting adults who are doing something they find enjoyable is a bigotry I have mostly escaped from.

So many variations of "offence is taken, not given" in this thread, I've stopped bothering to count.

As an agnostic desi who didn't even start out as Hindu in the first place and no particular feeling of spiritual connection towards yoga to begin with, I'm kind of surprised by how irritated I am by this thread. It seems easy to me to draw a connection between this rage yoga and say, the Redskins, but I guess as long as people don't think they're being mean, I guess it's A-OK.
posted by vanar sena at 7:11 AM on April 13, 2016 [46 favorites]


I've been reading this whole thread because cultural appropriation and my feelings about it are something I'm still working through. I have to say that all the yelling at people being "horrifying" for expressing their thoughts is not helpful. It just makes people get defensive, throw up the walls, and either check out or yell back. But personally I don't think this is a black-or-white issue with "sides", at least based on my experience.

And I've been hesitating to share my experience because it's weak and I'm as white as the day is long. But the truth is I am from an oppressed subculture whose language has recently all but disappeared and whose culture is appropriated all over the place. The town where my ancestors' farms were is now one big oil refinery. I'm cajun.

My great-grandmother spoke with an accent and everyone in her generation spoke the cajun dialect of French as their first language. Unfortunately from the 1920's to the 1960's if you spoke cajun French in school in Louisiana you were beaten. So my grandmother can only understand it but not speak it, and my mother's generation and everyone younger can't speak or understand it at all (at least in my family, there is still a vanishingly small number of folks in small communities who speak it). There's been a bit of a revival in learning the language, but I think it's far too late. Most of my family still lives in small communites dominated by chemical and oil refineries that pollute like crazy so every time I go back someone new has cancer or has just died of cancer.

Our food was considered back-woods and unworthy (and some of it was considered disgusting, like boudin and hogs head cheese) until cajun food was popularized by chef Paul Prudhomme and those that followed him. Now it's everywhere, and of course it's done wrong everywhere. At a burger place here in NYC -- one of the ones with a ketchup bar -- one of the ketchups was "Cajun style, with chipotle, just like they do down in New Orleans!". Uh.. no. My family members had no idea what chipotle even was until that burrito place became popular. And spicy food = cajun is also totally false. My family's cooking growing up (gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, stuffed mirliton, various stews made with roux, etc.) was, flavorful yes, but burn-your-tonge no. Most of my family can't even handle spicy food.

When I see this sort of thing I get a twinge of resentment. The "Cajun ketchup" thing provoked the strongest reaction and at the time it made me stop to think about what I was feeling, and I realized it was "that person who did that is an idiot and is doing it wrong", but I wasn't personally offended. And when I eat at some place that has "cajun" food that is totally wrong, again, I'm not offended. If people like it they'll look up the real thing, and my culture is dying so the more people who are interested in looking up the real thing the better. Me shouting at them for getting it wrong is just going to make them go "welp, I guess I'll just eat Italian food, then".

So, to sum up, my personal feels on the matter are:

You dress up in hip waders and go around yelling "Ah garohntee!" ==> yeah, I'm offended.
You cook my food wrong ==> Not personally offended. I'd actually be happy if you check out some cajun food bloggers and tried to learn more.
You have your Mardi Gras party on Wednesday ==> you know it's lent now, so you're supposed to stop partying right? But whatev's, not offended, have fun.
You're Minnesotan and put filé in your hot dish ==> I'm going to high five you.

I *totally* get the angry "you're doing it wrong" feeling, and when I feel it in myself I think it's petty and a personal failing. I also totally understand that someone actually mocking my culture would hurt me and the person doing the mocking would be in the wrong. I also see how it is very easy to conflate the two feelings, and that is not a good thing.
posted by antinomia at 7:14 AM on April 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


I have to say that all the yelling at people being "horrifying" for expressing their thoughts is not helpful.

Not helpful TO WHO?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:15 AM on April 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


xarnop: You have not yet stated you have experienced anything like what Errant has, if so I would like to hear you clarify, but you seem to be equating a very different experience of privilege with a kind of suffering you have not yet described having experienced and then using this supposed similarity to invalidate someone else's experience which sounds like a totally different experience than what you have been through.

I'm sure that Errant's experience is much worse than mine was - his is probably closer to my brother's, who was the only Black for many miles around - but I see parallels in the rhythm. You grow up in one culture - in my case, Evangelical Christianity in its most sensitive, "pussified" phase - that's looked down on and laughed at and condemned by the larger culture around you. When you decide you no longer want to be part of that culture, you can never quite fit into the larger culture - in my case, because I was never able to master secular masculinity. Yes, they'll hire you, and they'll hire people like Errant, too (because Indians are even smarter than white people, amirite??), but you never fit.

I'm sure that Errant faced much worse punishment for not being "normal". My experience is "Cry Me A River" in comparison, and any responses I get along that line will be completely valid. However, I can empathize with the feelings of loss and disorientation and not fitting in to either culture that Errant describes, because I've felt some of them, and they dominated my life for many years.

Ok, so are you part of a culture that is still directly facing poverty and the results of colonialist rule in which direct harms are still being endured by the people? Like say, India?

No, I'm not, and neither is Errant. He's a "third culture kid", not part of either North American or Indian culture, but he has made parts of Indian culture his own while retaining some of the advantages - i.e. not having to directly face poverty - of North American culture. There's nothing wrong with that, and I empathize with the struggle of constructing an identity out of broken bits of two cultures that both don't fit.
posted by clawsoon at 7:17 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Who the hell are you to put words in his mouth?
posted by Existential Dread at 7:22 AM on April 13, 2016 [23 favorites]


[One comment deleted. This is getting into some pretty weird territory, clawsoon, please take a step back in here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:23 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Please do not bring third culture kids into this thread. I can handle one heritage dig but not two simultaneously. As someone who has to watch her previously democratic country become a dictatorship, as well as my compatriots making an exodus because of it, I have some pretty complicated...feelings.
posted by kinoeye at 7:31 AM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


And when I eat at some place that has "cajun" food that is totally wrong, again, I'm not offended. If people like it they'll look up the real thing, and my culture is dying so the more people who are interested in looking up the real thing the better.

I reallyreallyreally don't think that people whose first tiptoe into cajun food is "not-real" cajun food are going to run out and learn about real cajun food, I think they're going to think that what they're eating IS real cajun food. Cultures die out when people think a watered-down, not-really-accurate version of something IS the real thing.

Similarly, I reallyreallyreally don't think that anyone whose first tiptoe into yoga is Rage Yoga taking place in a bar with drink specials is going to go out and learn about how real yoga is a really serious thing focused on stillness and serenity.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:33 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


[Another deleted. theorique, please step back also and in the future if you find yourself typing the sentence "that's not really offensive," that's a clue to just pause and reconsider.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:37 AM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Condemning consenting adults who are doing something they find enjoyable is a bigotry I have mostly escaped from. It's disturbing to me to see it so vigorously supported here on Metafilter, especially when the basis is religion and traditional cultural practise.

This is an appalling thing to say in this context. Also, your own negative experiences with religion are leaving you blinkered as to how inappropriate your comments on this subject really are.

Telling someone whose religion has been attacked and mocked by the cruelest excesses of imperialism that treating faith/ritual as sacred is meaningless--which is essentially what you are doing here-- is...horrifying.

In fact, it is simply a reification of imperialist attitudes. I know that it might feel like being intellectual and enlightened, but that is how the British officers in India felt too. They felt that the traditions of that country were laughable, and meaningless, and they treated them as such, and the result was a neverending list of atrocities.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:38 AM on April 13, 2016 [24 favorites]


So, there's a pattern of behavior here in this thread that I've encountered (not just on MetaFilter - other places online and definitely in Real Life) often enough to recognize as a pattern. I don't know if there's an academic term for it, or if any kind of study has been done on the phenomena, but in my own head I call it "Too Far Syndrome."

All too often, when a member of a dominant cultural group (dominant in the context of the discussion - maybe white or at least of Anglo/Western European background, or cis, or male, or straight, what have you) is in a discussion about the experiences of a non-dominant group, maybe especially in a discussion with members of the non-dominant group, there's a point at which the Dominant Group Person (DGP) thinks that things have gone TOO FAR, and they begin to nitpick the Non-Dominant Group Person's (NGP) experiences and reactions and put forward arguments about why the NGP is over-reacting. You wind up with conversations that go like:

NGP: "[A] is a problem because this that and the other."

DGP: "Oh yeah, sure, I see what you mean."

NGP: "Also [B] is a problem because of so on and so forth."

DGP: "Right, right, gotcha."

NGP: "And [A] plus [B] results in [C], which is a problem because -"

DGP: "WHOA WHOA WHOA! You're going Too Far. I don't see why [C] is a problem, [C] is just a natural result of things, you can't get mad about [C], we can't do anything about [C], why do you want me to not do [C] if I find it personally rewarding, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam. . . . "

You see this again and again and again when cis people enter into discussions about trans* issues, or straight people discuss queer issues, or men discuss women's issues, or white/Anglo folks discuss PoC issues, or middle-class people discuss poverty, on and on and on.


So. For everyone in this thread pushing back against defining this idiotic "Rage Yoga" or even yoga in general as cultural appropriation - and I know damn well many of you are members of the Dominant Group in this context - I think it's worth asking yourself WHY you are pushing back. Why is it a problem if we are now realizing that 'Thing' we thought was harmless is now potentially offensive? What is the actual harm to us if some or even all yoga practice in the US or Canada or Western Europe gets redefined as cultural appropriation? What is causing you to object to parts of Errant's (and others') points but not others? Where is your "Too Far" point, what triggers it, and why do you have one?
posted by soundguy99 at 7:42 AM on April 13, 2016 [34 favorites]


[Another comment deleted. If we can just back this thread up and try to point it back toward the subject of the article rather than at individuals in here, it will probably lead back toward a more workable conversation.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:55 AM on April 13, 2016


When they're doing yoga in freaking Mary Worth, I think we're long past the point of reversing cultural perceptions.

I have read articles condemning those who consider "American yoga" to be anything other than a distinctly Eastern religious and spiritual endeavor. However, they come at it from... um... a slightly different perspective.
posted by delfin at 7:56 AM on April 13, 2016


This is something I think about a lot. I am a mixed race woman that presents white. I am privileged. I practice yoga. I have practiced yoga for seven years. My first class was a glorified stretching class and the second Ashtanga/Vinyasa fusion. I kept up with the second for about two years for a workout. At this point it turned into something more and I started to find yoga to be the most spiritual experience of my life. At the same time I feel guilty for practicing yoga, even though its a hugely meaningful part of my life. I am hesitant to talk about my yoga practice because of the connotations and sexualization that it receives. "Thats sexy" or "I bet you're flexible" are pretty common catcalls. Its embarrassing and I am ashamed of the culture I live in for not being aware. I practice primarily at home but also at a strict Ashtanga studio. Its an extremely complicated issue and I can't believe the negativity of this conversation. To bring it back to the article, things like Rage Yoga make it all the more difficult for people to believe that I have a legitimate spiritual practice.
posted by Marinara at 7:57 AM on April 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


I have read articles condemning those who consider "American yoga" to be anything other than a distinctly Eastern religious and spiritual endeavor. However, they come at it from... um... a slightly different perspective.

omg can we not?

Last time we had a cultural appropriation thread we had people trying to make the point that those pushing back against appropriation were no different than white power cultural purists

jesus fucking christ
posted by qcubed at 8:00 AM on April 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


So the questions arise:
Who 'owns' yoga?
Is yoga culturally 'American' (or 'Canadian') enough yet for Americans (Canadians) to do whimsical or disrespectful remixes and reinterpretations of it?
What should a remixer do, practically, if confronted by a person of the culture of origin who claims that his remix is disrespectful?


No one. North Americans can do whatever they want, so we are told. What they should do is pause, listen, and try to understand, which is almost invariably not what they will do.

Not by accident, this conversation has drifted into "who owns it, what can change, is there one true way" territory. The problem with Rage Yoga isn't that it's a different kind of yoga than prudes are used to. The problem is the rage part, what that rage has historically meant for the people who exported the yoga now being performed, and how that specific expression of rage and anger is at conceptual and denotational odds with the point and pursuit of the practice, which has real implications for real people.

No one cares if you play music and do yoga. No one cares if you smoke trees and do yoga. No one cares if you do yoga and then think The Big Bang Theory is funny. It is a fallacy to infer that objection to this specific idea indicates a general objection to North Americans doing Indian stuff.

He's a "third culture kid", not part of either North American or Indian culture, but he has made parts of Indian culture his own while retaining some of the advantages - i.e. not having to directly face poverty - of North American culture.

I brought up "third culture", so I need to address this, which is a particularly poor way of thinking about what "third culture" means. I am certainly a part of North American culture. I am certainly a part of Indian culture. I am sometimes alienated from one because of my place and participation in the other, and I am also a part of another culture that is an indivisible blend of two modes of experience, but that isn't the same thing as not belonging. Further, "directly facing poverty" is neither an intrinsic quality of Indian culture nor foreign to North American cultures, to say nothing of the frankly Orientalist assertion that I have avoided facing poverty due to being in North America instead of India.
posted by Errant at 8:01 AM on April 13, 2016 [66 favorites]


When they're doing yoga in freaking Mary Worth, I think we're long past the point of reversing cultural perceptions.

Yeah like when major sports teams are using horribly racist names denigrating First Nations people we're long past the point of reversing cultural perceptions

o wait
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:02 AM on April 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


This thread is a baffling experience, but I wanted to speak to the point about to whom this matters. I'm also a a third culture kid and, unlike Errant, I have no living religious commitment to Hinduism. (Though I have a lot of respect and admiration for Hinduism and some family background in Hindu religious practice). I still find "rage yoga" an intensely grating concept and the response of some in this thread deeply frustrating. That's because I definitely think of myself as affected, to this day, by the legacy of colonialism and this stuff sounds pretty colonialist to me.

Colonialism isn't (just) about poverty and material disadvantage and being physically taken into indentured servitude. It's also about being refused any voice -- let alone a dominant voice -- in the description of your own family history, language, and the religious practise you grew up in. The idea of "rage yoga" sets my teeth on edge for exactly that reason. It sounds to me like a century of British civil servants and pseudo-experts explaining the barbaric/fascinating Indians to each other, borrowing concepts here and there, without needing to bother including any actual Indians in the conversation. It's like GK Chesterton's stupid meditations on barbaric Asiatic pessimism or whatever, where he conflates Hinduism and Buddhism and (!) China and India. I believe he even uses the word "hordes". This sort of use of Sanskrit words in English has a long and painful history; it depends on the idea that non-Western culture is infinitely malleable, consumable, and ultimately to be best understood by the brilliant all-encompassing Western mind rather than the benighted superstitious natives. It isn't harmless.

In specific relation to the yoga stuff, this involves taking a specific Sanskrit word -- a sacred word -- and treating it as the linguistic equivalent of "gobbledygook". Of course funny natives may think it means something, and we could condescendingly accept that their point of view is subjectively valid, but it's not a real word in a real language that has any meaning that we need to worry about. It's not like taking an important English word like "democracy" and using it to describe wretched dictatorships, or using the Christian concept of the "Eucharist" to describe a pub crawl. Those words have given objective meanings, and people who misuse them are not just offensive but wrong. Well, Sanskrit words have meaning too. I'm not a Hindu, I don't practice yoga, but as an Indian I have an important stake in the claim that India has a real intellectual and spiritual and religious history and that there is a way to engage with that history with respect. That doesn't mean totally orthodoxy in religious practice - whatever orthodoxy means in Hindusim - but it means you understand the norms of a religious practice before you go about changing them. That's a matter of basic respect. The reason that Indian religions are so seldom extended that respect, while Christianity usually is, is not sheer coincidence. It's the result of colonialism. Which, I've explained, is the problem of everyone who has any Indian heritage that they would like to understand and take seriously, not just people experiencing poverty in India. Can I suggest that if you can't read this - योगा - you basically shouldn't say the word "yoga" to describe your own made-up practises?
posted by Aravis76 at 8:06 AM on April 13, 2016 [53 favorites]


What is the actual harm to us if some or even all yoga practice in the US or Canada or Western Europe gets redefined as cultural appropriation?

I'd be hard pressed to find any participant in this thread who doesn't think that Rage Yoga (like the vast majority of Western yoga) is a cultural appropriation. What is still up for debate (and what rational people can disagree about) is whether or not this thing is a bad thing because of that cultural appropriation.

Cultures die out when people think a watered-down, not-really-accurate version of something IS the real thing.

Cultures die out when the people whom the culture represents stop practicing that culture. It can happen because those people were subjugated and forced to give up the culture (see, e.g., native american traditions), it can happen when people in a dominant culture belittle and mock aspects of a less dominant culture, and it can happen because the people themselves loose interest (see, e.g., immigrants choosing not to teach their children their native languages).

But, absent any Westerner trying to say that their variant of yoga is "real" yoga, or "better" than yoga, or mocking traditional practitioners of yoga, I don't see anything about Rage Yoga, or Les Mills BodyFlow, or Aerial Yoga or Doga or whatever that stops, or even discourages, the traditional practitioners of "real" yoga from continuing their culture as they see fit.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:07 AM on April 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


What should a remixer do, practically, if confronted by a person of the culture of origin who claims that his remix is disrespectful?

In this case, not calling it Rage Yoga would be a good start.
posted by h00py at 8:07 AM on April 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


it can happen when people in a dominant culture belittle and mock aspects of a less dominant culture

How is Rage Yoga NOT Canadians belittling and mocking what yoga means to Indian culture?
posted by 23skidoo at 8:14 AM on April 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


Can I suggest a thought experiment? Imagine that a group of white people dressed up in blackface and started a Gospel choir which consisted of them - badly - mimicking the traditional music and practices of an African-American church in the US. Let's say they call this thing a Gospel choir and they state that they are in the tradition of African-American gospel music. None of them are Christians, or Protestants, or have the faintest knowledge of the tradition they are using. Would you really say this was unproblematic because African-American people can still have their own churches, no problem, and no one is stopping them?
posted by Aravis76 at 8:14 AM on April 13, 2016 [23 favorites]


I don't see anything about Rage Yoga, or Les Mills BodyFlow, or Aerial Yoga or Doga or whatever that stops, or even discourages, the traditional practitioners of "real" yoga from continuing their culture as they see fit.

There are a hundred things we talk about all the time here on MeFi that don't... "actually hurt", I guess you could say. Having to use the wrong bathroom for your sex or being The Representative Minority or knowing that there's an NFL team named after a racial slur doesn't do that. But that stuff still sucks, and pointing that out to people and asking that maybe they stop committing microaggressions is still a worthy effort.
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 AM on April 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


No one. North Americans can do whatever they want, so we are told. What they should do is pause, listen, and try to understand, which is almost invariably not what they will do.

That's fair. I think you're right that there's a mindset in some parts of US culture (fostered and encouraged by the secular worship of the First Amendment) that conflates a response like yours with a desire to actually stop the thing taking place. But what I'm really hearing from you is "I'm uncomfortable with this and here's why ..." And listening to that is very important.

The problem is the rage part, what that rage has historically meant for the people who exported the yoga now being performed, and how that specific expression of rage and anger is at conceptual and denotational odds with the point and pursuit of the practice, which has real implications for real people.

An interesting thing is that traditional yoga, without beer and metal music, is actually a great way to work with uncomfortable and difficult emotions, including, but not limited to, "rage". But it's certainly not about indulging in or empowering such emotions.
posted by theorique at 8:19 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can we not all just hate on Rage Yoga because it's stupid? Seriously, it's like the words "cultural appropriation" magically call white people out of the woodwork to defend whatever it is being called out like it's the goddamn Mona Lisa, but this is DUMB. It's like a teenager's idea of subversiveness. "Oooh, I'm going to drink and swear!" Good for you. Pat on the head.

Normally I would not come in just to hate on the subject of an FPP but the way this thread is going this will still be above the 75th percentile of least nasty comments so here we are.

Also, may I humbly suggest that people perhaps consider not treating the whole idea of cultural appropriation like a big goddamn joke BEFORE anyone from the culture in question even shows up to comment. No wonder Errant came in here already pissed off.
posted by sunset in snow country at 8:21 AM on April 13, 2016 [31 favorites]


It's not like taking an important English word like "democracy" and using it to describe wretched dictatorships, or using the Christian concept of the "Eucharist" to describe a pub crawl. Those words have given objective meanings, and people who misuse them are not just offensive but wrong.

I'm going to remember this argument for the next time Metafilter dogpiles over a grammar pendant because "language is fluid" and "refusing to accept linguistic changes is a form of privilege." But good luck telling the Democratic People's Republic of Korea how offensive they are being.

How is Rage Yoga NOT Canadians belittling and mocking what yoga means to Indian culture?
Because the pracitioners of rage yoga aren't mocking or belittling the traditional pracitioners of yoga. They are just yelling and stretching and drinking.

Can I suggest a thought experiment? Imagine that a group of white people dressed up in blackface and started a Gospel choir which consisted of them - badly - mimicking the traditional music and practices of an African-American church in the US. Let's say they call this thing a Gospel choir and they state that they are in the tradition of African-American gospel music. None of them are Christians, or Protestants, or have the faintest knowledge of the tradition they are using. Would you really say this was unproblematic because African-American people can still have their own churches, no problem, and no one is stopping them

If blackface were not originally invented by white people explicitly as a means to mock and belittle African-Americans, there would be a pretty strong argument (I say as a black person living in America) to make that it wasn't really problematic. Just like non-Christians singing covers of Gospel songs, or white dudes makings ukelele covers of hip-hop songs aren't really a big deal. Your thought experiment seems compelling, because you wrap it up with something actually hateful (blackface). Pull out that out, and you've got Mr. B.

If Western yoga was originally invented explicitly as a way of subjugating, mocking and belittling, traditional practitioners, I'd definitely be more willing to line up to say that it shouldn't exist. But from my understanding of it, Western yoga developed out of the modern yoga practices developed at least in part by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya who taught explicitly that yoga should "Teach what is appropriate for an individual." and encouraged its spread.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:33 AM on April 13, 2016 [15 favorites]


How is Rage Yoga NOT Canadians belittling and mocking what yoga means to Indian culture?

I submit that yoga's connection to Indian culture probably never even crossed the mind of those involved. They are mocking yoga in its appropriated form, as in "a group exercise program for thin white people in expensive pants who want to remain thin and flexible while tacking on some New Age Woo so they can feel that they had a Spiritual Experience while bending and twisting, and then go home and practice with a DVD they bought at Wal-Mart." So instead of a nineteen-year-old Sociology major in purple lycra om-ming her way to fitness and a clear mind, it's a bunch of people mocking her Deeply Held Sincerity about her pastime and laughing about it afterwords over beer.

Does that excuse it causing grievous offense to those who _do_ view yoga as a cultural and sacred thing? Nope. But I will leave it to others to determine whether Ms. Istace is intentionally dismissive of that or blissfully ignorant of that.
posted by delfin at 8:38 AM on April 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


Errant: The problem is the rage part, what that rage has historically meant for the people who exported the yoga now being performed, and how that specific expression of rage and anger is at conceptual and denotational odds with the point and pursuit of the practice, which has real implications for real people.

Would it make any difference for your feelings about this if the rage was all "punching up", directed at bad bosses and powerful assholes and capitalism and patriarchy? If it's still "raging being done by white people", but not, to steal your phrasing, the "white rage which generated race riots, exclusion, expulsion, rape, and murder"? Or are those two kinds of rage too intertwined by imperial practise to be separated in practise?

Or is it more like Aravis76 said - don't go on a pub crawl and call it Eucharist, don't bring rage of any kind into a practise that's about oneness, stillness and serenity and call it yoga?

Thanks for your continued patient explanations, BTW. You're under no obligation to give them, but I appreciate that you are doing so.
posted by clawsoon at 8:41 AM on April 13, 2016


Because the pracitioners of rage yoga aren't mocking or belittling the traditional pracitioners of yoga. They are just yelling and stretching and drinking.

Sorry, but when someone says "Rage has a place in yoga!", that's mocking and belittling the traditional practitioners of yoga who know that it doesn't have a place in yoga. You don't actually have to say "Rage has a place in yoga! Let's make fun of actual specific Indian people!" for it to be mocking and belittling.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:41 AM on April 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Because the pracitioners of rage yoga aren't mocking or belittling the traditional pracitioners of yoga. They are just yelling and stretching and drinking.

...while calling what they do 'yoga.' While practicing something that is emphatically not yoga. How is that not mockery?

I'm going to remember this argument for the next time Metafilter dogpiles over a grammar pendant because "language is fluid" and "refusing to accept linguistic changes is a form of privilege." But good luck telling the Democratic People's Republic of Korea how offensive they are being.

Seems like you missed the point of what was being said there. They were saying that English words, when misused, are A Matter Of Grave Concern. When Sanskrit words are being misused, the reaction from English speakers is a resounding mehhhh.

So, fine, you're doubling down on this isn't actually harmful or bad, for some reason, and just straight up invalidating people who are a) actually from the culture in question, and b) saying it's harmful and bad. Okay. And then dismissing one of those people who is inviting you to consider their point of view.

So let's try another one. How about white people going to 'sweat lodges' led by white people? How about white people hanging dreamcatchers in their windows? How about white people talking about how an iced cappucino is their spirit animal?

All of these are things that happen, and things that First Nations people--rightly, in my view--call out as bullshit, harmful cultural appropriation, and yes, mockery. Are those things unproblematic? Of course not.

Then why is this mockery of yoga any different?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


I submit that yoga's connection to Indian culture probably never even crossed the mind of those involved. They are mocking yoga in its appropriated form, as in "a group exercise program for thin white people in expensive pants who want to remain thin and flexible while tacking on some New Age Woo so they can feel that they had a Spiritual Experience while bending and twisting, and then go home and practice with a DVD they bought at Wal-Mart." So instead of a nineteen-year-old Sociology major in purple lycra om-ming her way to fitness and a clear mind, it's a bunch of people mocking her Deeply Held Sincerity about her pastime and laughing about it afterwords over beer.

> If they want to make fun of hippie-dippy white people practicing yoga, they should try mocking those white people, not perpetuating the same bullshit. Ironic racism is indistinguishible from racism perpetuates the same problematic bullshit, like a hipster wearing an "ironic" headdress.
- Existential Dread at 19:50 on April 12
posted by qcubed at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


So instead of a nineteen-year-old Sociology major in purple lycra om-ming her way to fitness and a clear mind, it's a bunch of people mocking her Deeply Held Sincerity about her pastime and laughing about it afterwords over beer.

You know how ironic racism is still racism?

Cultural appropriation (which, at its heart, is racist) is the same.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:43 AM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


..or what qcubed said
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:44 AM on April 13, 2016


I think it's moderately disingenuous to say that Hatha Yoga is fine, because it was invented as a real way to communicate Yoga principles to everyone, and therefore "Rage Yoga" is also fine. The reality is that there is no continuity because one tradition tries to engage respectfully with the original religious practice and the other is, as you point out, yelling and stretching and drinking.

Look, I don't have a problem with white people doing yoga. I have no expertise in yoga but I don't think the right to practice it can possibly be racially defined. But I would say that it becomes problematic when the so-called "yoga" is obviously and deliberately a bafflingly alien take on the original meaning of the word and the people involved don't care because racism makes it easy not to care about Indian traditions. Your examples of non-Christian white people covering Gospel music differs importantly from this stuff because the covers are not utterly disrespectful of the original intent of the music. (I assume. A cover that, for example, ironically mocked African-American religious beliefs - or adopted a perspective diametrically opposed to them - would be offensive for the same reason that a so-called "yoga" class that mocks the basics of Hinduism 101 is offensive.)
posted by Aravis76 at 8:49 AM on April 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


In other words the debate here is "how racist is this?" not "is this racist?"
posted by MoonOrb at 8:50 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


[One comment deleted. Please skip questioning whether people here actually mean it when they say this bothers them. If you actually want to be here, please just engage with what people are saying; otherwise go ahead and pass this by rather than dropping in to register your skepticism and make things worse.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:55 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]



I'd be hard pressed to find any participant in this thread who doesn't think that Rage Yoga (like the vast majority of Western yoga) is a cultural appropriation. What is still up for debate (and what rational people can disagree about) is whether or not this thing is a bad thing because of that cultural appropriation.


How can you read this discussion in good faith and assert that this is still up for debate?
posted by palegirl at 8:56 AM on April 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


[A few more comments deleted; wow it is really not going to be a good direction to tell people they're not "really" from the culture they say they're from, and that people would be allowed to be bothered by this if their families were put onto reservations. Come on.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:05 AM on April 13, 2016 [19 favorites]


I feel like the openness of the culture I walked into in 1986 still exists by virtue of the defining question of Are you doing hip-hop right? having only one real answer within the culture: Is it good? Is it ill? Does it make me want to bust open and snap my neck?

For some people, polkas are good, ill and make them want to bust open and snap their neck. For others, heavy metal is what makes them want to bust open and snap their neck. Do you really think "Roll Out the Barrel" and "Reign in Blood" are doing hip-hop right?

Of course not, because those aren't hip-hop songs. Before you get to "Are you doing hip-hop right?" you have you be knowledgeable enough about hip-hop to be able to understand exactly what kinds of things are important to making a hip-hop song. If you ask "Am I doing hip-hop right?" before you ask yourself "What IS hip-hop? What things are important to hip-hop?", then you might end up with something that isn't even hip-hop. You might end up with bluegrass or heavy metal.

Now juxtapose that idea with Rage Yoga. Should people really ask the question "Am I doing yoga right?" before they ask "What IS yoga? What things are important to yoga?"
posted by 23skidoo at 9:14 AM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


In other words the debate here is "how racist is this?" not "is this racist?"

I feel like the only appropriate answer to the question is the shit milkshake metaphor.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:14 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


So, fine, you're doubling down on this isn't actually harmful or bad, for some reason, and just straight up invalidating people who are a) actually from the culture in question, and b) saying it's harmful and bad. Okay. And then dismissing one of those people who is inviting you to consider their point of view.

I'm not saying that it's not harmful. I'm saying that it's not bad. All actions have the potential to cause harm. I think that rage yoga has the potential to do good for some people, just as western yoga has done good for me (as a PoC), and I think that that potential outweighs the harm, even considering the point of view of others.

So let's try another one. How about white people going to 'sweat lodges' led by white people? How about white people hanging dreamcatchers in their windows? How about white people talking about how an iced cappucino is their spirit animal?

The same logic applies, with the caveat that north americans are still very much complicit in the active and ongoing subjugation of the people whom native american culture represents (to an extent that I don't believe is true in post-colonial India, in that while India still suffers from the ongoing effects of colonization, it is a free, sovereign nation now, has control of its borders (Kashmir aside), and has the right and power to, for example, prosecute foreigners who commit crimes on its soil, etc.), and thus any harm would be magnified.

Non-native dreamcatchers, and sweat lodges, and spirit animals are, like rage yoga, silly. And while I can see sweat lodges having legit benefits for anybody, dreamcatchers and spirit animals (divorced from their spiritual traditions) don't really do much good. So, weighed with the harm, it's not worth it and shouldn't be done.

Maintaining the name of a sports team even after it becomes a racial slur? All harm, no good, don't do it.

To switch back to the realm of Hindu traditions, you'll never find me arguing that non-Hindus should go around wearing bindis. The bindi, divorced from the spiritual practice that it is a part of, is just a decoration that might look really good with the earrings that someone wants to wear that day. Looking pretty is not a good enough (in my opinion, as a non-Hindu) reason to appropriate this element of the culture.

You can argue that as a non-Hindu, I'm not qualified to perform the harm-benefit calculus, and that's fine. But absent polling the affected population every time I consider using a cultural practice that isn't my own I feel comfortable trying to do that weighing based on my understanding of what the harms and benefits are (while being open to various viewpoints about who and what is harmed and who and what benefits).
posted by sparklemotion at 9:22 AM on April 13, 2016


(while being open to various viewpoints about who and what is harmed and who and what benefits).

Except when those viewpoints conflict with what you have already decided is okay?

I'm not saying that it's not harmful. I'm saying that it's not bad.

This is nonsense and self-contradictory.

Like seriously what you're saying here is "well yeah it's harmful cultural appropriation but some people get some benefit out of it maybe so that makes it okay."

It doesn't. There are multiple people right here in this thread from the culture in question who have explained exactly how and why you are wrong and you seem to be seriously invested in disregarding everything they have to say to you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:27 AM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


absent polling the affected population every time I consider using a cultural practice that isn't my own

. . . what's so terrible about that? Especially now that with the Internet, you don't actually have to go bug actual people about it. Google "________________ cultural appropriation", and y'know, see.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:29 AM on April 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think that rage yoga has the potential to do good for some people, just as western yoga has done good for me (as a PoC), and I think that that potential outweighs the harm, even considering the point of view of others.

If it were called "Rage Stretching" or something else that's less culturally appropriative, and the proprietor were willing to admit that she's teaching a sort of cafeteria yoga/calisthenics/crossfit with beer, wouldn't it do the exact same amount of good for those people?
posted by Etrigan at 9:31 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry, sparklemotion, but I frankly doubt your expertise on the ongoing effects of colonisation on Indians (particularly given the geographically-specific definition of "Indian" you want to adopt and the idea that the cultural effects of colonisation matter less than the material effects). So I'm not sure why you are so confident in the validity of your cost/benefit analysis. Personally, for most Hindus that I know, a bindi is a much less significant thing than yoga and other meditation practices. I'm not saying anyone else should do the cost/benefit analysis for you - feel free to decide, for yourself, that bindis are a bigger deal than yoga - but I can only say I don't find your analysis persuasive and I hope most people will take the views of Indians and Hindus to be particularly relevant in determining what the costs are here.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:32 AM on April 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


You can argue that as a non-Hindu, I'm not qualified to perform the harm-benefit calculus, and that's fine. But absent polling the affected population every time I consider using a cultural practice that isn't my own I feel comfortable trying to do that weighing based on my understanding of what the harms and benefits are (while being open to various viewpoints about who and what is harmed and who and what benefits).

I think a further point to be considered is the context of appropriation. There's a difference between someone of a dominant culture purchasing e.g. a dreamcatcher from a Native American vendor versus that same person from the dominant culture manufacturing those dreamcatchers and selling them to profit from a culture that is not their own, and of which their understanding is perhaps minimal. In this case, performing yoga as a person from the dominant culture is potentially defensible, particularly if done in a manner respectful of the culture from which yoga comes. Offering some sort of bizarre-ass affectation of 'yoga' divorced from its culture and context as a way of turning a profit? Much much less defensible.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:33 AM on April 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Students at the class warm up to the dulcet tones of the "Jurassic Park" soundtrack — peppered with a few "Star Trek" jokes from Istace — before launching into what Istace calls a "bastardization" of Vinyasa Yoga, complete with a heavy metal soundtrack and the mantra of "fuck yeah."

The proprietor is apparently quite willing to admit that.
posted by delfin at 9:34 AM on April 13, 2016


This thread has been an education for me. And while I understand it's not anyone's job to educate me about cultural appropriation, I truly appreciate the thoughtful comments about why Rage Yoga sucks. Thank you Errant, in particular, as well as the many other thoughtful voices on this topic.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:37 AM on April 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm tagging out for a while. I'm not here for this, and I didn't put my life out here in public for people to weaponize it against my person. Y'all do what you're going to do, ain't no one can stop you anyhow.
posted by Errant at 9:38 AM on April 13, 2016 [36 favorites]


.
posted by qcubed at 9:39 AM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]




If it were called "Rage Stretching" or something else that's less culturally appropriative...

But it would still be appropriative, but now with an extra note of erasure. Even though it removes the harm of having a word repurposed by the dominant culture, I'm not sure how, if one believes that the practice is a bad thing, renaming it to divorce it completely from its roots makes it a good thing.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:40 AM on April 13, 2016


Errant, you've done amazing yeoman's work in this thread. Thanks for articulating the problems so clearly.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:42 AM on April 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


The harm of having a word - and all it represents - repurposed by the dominant culture is the harm of cultural appropriation. Yelling and stretching and drinking is not inherently harmful. In fact, I'd quite like to try it myself now.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:43 AM on April 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


But it would still be appropriative, but now with an extra note of erasure.

The erasure already happened when someone decided to put rage into yoga.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:43 AM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Heh. Ironic phrasing since I kept typing and deleting comments along the lines of "shoutout to my brothers and sisters in appropriatedness, y'all can tag me in next time there's a kimono thread." Thank you, Errant.

Something I just realized (like, fifteen minutes ago): I actually never use the phrase "cultural appropriation" myself. You need only look at this thread to see why. Plus, if I boil it down, usually what is actually bothering me is more about orientalism and less about appropriation. But the idea of appropriation is very bound up in how I see myself as a person of color in the US, and sometimes I want to talk about that, incorporating some degree of nuance. (Surprise: POC have a nuanced understanding of cultural influence and change, just like you do!) Yet it is always taken as me saying "STOP THIS RIGHT NOW BY ORDER OF THE PC POLICE." If anything it is the people trying to shut down the conversation who don't understand nuance, because that's all they hear.

It's just, I take it very personally, and it's hard not to become enraged when people are taking your honest contemplation of your identity and your culture and your place in the world and using it as fodder for stupid "gotcha!" comments or implying that you somehow don't exist because only white people care about appropriation. (That actually pissed me off more than almost anything else in this thread. White people HATE it when you don't want them to righteously defend you, but once too many of them are on your side, it becomes a reason to dismiss your opinion. WTF?) I appreciate the people who have engaged somewhat more thoughtfully, but there comes a point when saying "But I don't think this is a problem" is no longer helpful.

I'm just tired of re-litigating cultural appropriation in every thread.
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:59 AM on April 13, 2016 [34 favorites]


[Couple more comments deleted; clawsoon, I know it's intended well but probably better to avoid the half-baked theory stuff in this context. The well is pretty poisoned at this point in the thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:08 AM on April 13, 2016


Ok, how about the voices of self identified Indians discussing colonialization and cultural appropriation in yoga? Do their voices matter to you or they equally irrelevant to you?

Yoga teacher describes colonialism in Yoga

How about real voices who should be heard and they ARE speaking in the conversation of yoga and cultural appropriation? "We are not exotic, we are exhausted." "It is not my job to teach you, I think I have enough of a burden"

Hindu voices on yoga

A white woman who has practiced yoga stop teaching:

"Also many European traditions of witch-craft, herbalism, magic and other land based skills persisted and are still practiced today by European folks. That said, for the majority of us settler folks, we’ve lost touch with the spiritual practices which ground us to place and the natural world. Those spiritual practices were intentionally and often violently stolen from us through the imposition of capitalism, the division of communally held lands, witch hunts and the forced introduction of Christianity. As a result we land where are today: living on lands we don’t have historical or ancestral connections to, with very limited access to spiritual practices that are culturally derived – and this, I feel, is part of what leads so many of us to practice yoga. Not only are we able to heal our bodies physically, we are able to nourish ourselves spiritually. What I would like us to consider though, is that what we are doing to yoga is tantamount to what happened to our ancestor’s spiritual practices. The solution to being spiritually lost is not to steal from others and then claim what we steal for ourselves"
posted by xarnop at 10:23 AM on April 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


[Another few comments deleted; sparklemotion, please leave this topic alone now.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:34 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't want to speak for Errant, but I gather the problem is in pretending you are undertaking Hindu rituals of purification while doing things inconsistent with the usual meaning of those rituals. If you drop the pretended connection to Hinduism, I imagine you can do whatever you like with your body and the amount of alcohol in it. I don't think Errant was arguing that everyone should live like a devout Hindu, only that faux-Hindu practices are particularly grating when combined with the absence of any sort of Hindu commitment.
posted by Aravis76 at 10:35 AM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


You can argue that as a non-Hindu, I'm not qualified to perform the harm-benefit calculus, and that's fine. But absent polling the affected population every time I consider using a cultural practice that isn't my own I feel comfortable trying to do that weighing based on my understanding of what the harms and benefits are (while being open to various viewpoints about who and what is harmed and who and what benefits).

You started with the benefits that yoga has had on your life, have been openly dismissive of people's actual experiences and harms in this thread, and conclude that you are actively open to various viewpoints.

This kind of faux analytical perspective - where one's own experiences must be outweighed by overwhelming evidence that is also weighted by your own sense of what is important (see your dismissing of wearing the bindi by non-Hindus because "Looking pretty is not a good enough"reason - yet another of your personal opinions) - is exactly the kind of environment where cultural appropriation thrives. The default is to appropriate if it benefits you unless the evidence is overwhelming that it is harmful.

You do yoga - you go to studios, and have clearly studied poses enough to know their names, and can probably extoil the benefits of it physically and spiritually using things you've read, the others in your immediate vicinity who've also benefited from it, and your own experience.

I really doubt you've spent the same time studying Hindu appropriation such that you've heard an equal number of opinions on both sides of this issue. You probably aren't aware that this was an important enough issue that the Hindu American Association has a campaign about it starting in 2013 - an organization that represents some 2 million Hindus in America.

You are not doing calculus. You are not weighting. You are not scientifically controlling for viewpoints and are subject to the bias of being someone who benefits from yoga appropriation. You are putting your own benefits ahead of, at a minimum, the people in this thread and whoever is at the Hindu American Association who saw this as harmful to them.
posted by scrittore at 10:37 AM on April 13, 2016 [30 favorites]


I can't tell from the article...is this an actual established thing or just a one off thing? Like, does it have traction and people legit practicing it? Or is it just an ill-advised 'haha jokey' pub thing?
posted by ian1977 at 10:41 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Okay, nevermind, she has a website for it. Wow. Pretty boneheaded of her to not at least consider 'wait a minute...is this offensive?'
posted by ian1977 at 10:44 AM on April 13, 2016


The essence of privilege is not considering that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:47 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I sent her a link to this discussion on the rage yoga website. Maybe she'll chime in.
posted by ian1977 at 10:57 AM on April 13, 2016


Not at all sure her chiming in here or on her own website would add anything, tbh.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:12 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Possibly relevant: Who Owns Yoga?

(linked from within scrittore's link - looks interesting)
posted by theorique at 11:15 AM on April 13, 2016


The founder has a Kickstarter page for taking this more mainstream.

In London I have seen everything from 'dating yoga' all over the place to 'Boxing Yoga.'
posted by colie at 11:25 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


In London I have seen everything from 'dating yoga' all over the place to 'Boxing Yoga.'

The first rule about yoga club is, you do not talk about yoga club.
posted by theorique at 11:39 AM on April 13, 2016


Good lord.

Of course they do this at Dickens'. Just the worst pub.
posted by CarrotAdventure at 11:58 AM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thank you, Errant, for putting yourself out there and sharing with us.

It's funny, when I first met Errant in Seattle I didn't even think of him as either Indian or even particularly brown or even remotely ethnic. He was just Errant, fellow MeFite and as culturally "American" as anyone I'd met that day.

And I'm not bringing this up to humble-brag about how post-racial I am, because I'm certainly not.

I'm bringing it up because it was puzzling (and dismaying) to me to hear him talk about about the not at all subtle racism he encountered in his day to day life, whether it was just ordering a pint or going out for lunch, so I started trying to pay attention to how people reacted and responded if, say, we walked into a bar together or separately enough that the bartender or staff didn't think we were together, and sure enough I started noticing not so subtle differences in how people responded.

I started practicing these observation skills more purposefully with different friends, and observing how racism could be found everywhere I went, even with my Russian/slavic friend who is really just slightly less pale than I am.

And how staff of places would react much differently to my friends when they saw that the large, intense and very blue eyed white dude was with them, or how they would address me first or ask me for my order first even if my friend or friends walked in ahead of me, or even if it was really obvious they were the ones asking me out for a beer and picking up the tab.

What Errant is talking about is very real and very valid.

And the older I get and the more I learn about the world, the more I'm recognizing how utterly insane, clueless, tone-deaf and outright harmful this kind of cultural appropriation is - particularly from people who claim to be culturally sensitive new-age-ish folks who you'd think would actually know better - but they don't.

(And I'm saying this as someone who occasionally does "yoga". It's a great way to fix your back and body and stretch things. It doesn't do much for me meditation-wise, not at least as far as the West tends to practice it in groups in hot, stuffy, farty studios.)

It's not just about yoga, hatha or otherwise, but that's a good place to start exploring this issue.

Especially with regards to the weird appropriation that the new-age-ish, left-ish segment does with esoteric spiritual and health practices that - for some reason - feels is totally healthy, enlightened, positive and/or entirely guilt free to beg, borrow, steal or modify at will.

Because the unstated subtext of this is really something like "We do this better than you." or "We can steal anything we want from you, because we are the default culture and you are subculture." which is totally a known issue directly related to what we're talking about.

I'm just pointing out that the same things also happen under the flag of enlightenment and it's just as racist and possibly even more ignorantly bigoted due to the total lack of awareness.

This is very weird cultural colonial tourism. Like Tibetan singing bowls. Which aren't even really a thing in Tibet, not the way we ascribe mysticism to them here.

Or less mystical and esoteric is really overtly offensive shit like Native American headdresses as party wear for musical festivals, or racist sportsball team names, or even the names of consumer goods or companies.

Can you imagine how fucked up it would be to be a Salish Sea First Nations person and see words from your culture used to brand a truck like the Tacoma/Tahoma? To see your words used and stolen, Anglicized while the same oppressing culture is trying to eradicate your own or forget you even existed? All after taking your land and waging a nearly complete campaign of genocide against your people? (Can you translate that to why "rage yoga" might be a bit offensive? Care to try "zen nuclear blast" if I may go for, uh, overkill?)

A lot of this offense is about how the West has this really fucked up tendency to outright steal whatever it wants from other cultures. Not just without the cultural fabric or context, but while actively destroying, modifying or eradicating that culture in the same reaper's stroke of a scythe, like picking one single tree from a forest, replanting it in a museum garden and then burning down the forest it came from only to proudly pat themselves on the back for being such careful stewards of someone else's culture and history.

This is a particularly Victorian and (again) colonial sentiment, really, to collect cultural things and put them in museums. Usually carefully embalmed, safely stored in little boxes both physical and ontological.

If anything the West's museums of world culture and history are mausoleums of bloody conquest and theft. They are the trophies of both physical wars and subtle cultural wars that are no less bloody than "real" war over time.

Sure, you may have been sincerely educated and edified in a good museum, but at what true cost, and to whom?

And was what you learned actually culturally valid? Was it actually accurate? Or was it entirely, irrevocably framed, colored and written by the victors of a war, cultural or otherwise, from the outside looking in? Was it safely framed in an ontological box, sanitized and easily digested?

Do these questions irritate you, even if you crave cultural understanding? Because they should. They should make you really challenge you to re-think your cultural position and framing.

Because if you're a white/Western North American or European you really have had much of the world's culture filtered to you through a lot of heavy framing and mediation and removal from the actual cultures and histories and the deep, bloody fog of thousands of oppressive wars of aggression, cultural destruction and outright enslavement.

I'm not trying to promote guilt, here, but to point out how heavily entrenched this cultural framing is in our lives even right here and now, and how it is so systemic that very few people are even vaguely aware of it and how it profoundly shapes what we think is correct or true or even moral or ethical - and how really, fantastically difficult it is to even try to think outside of this framing either individually or collectively.

Even if you've traveled the world and lived with and properly in any given other non-Western culture for years, you'll be bringing much if not all of that framing and baggage with you and it won't ever be possible to know the entire story for yourself.

And the fact that so many people in this thread are feeling defensive about this, not getting it or even attacking Errant for expressing very clearly why this appropriation can be actively hurtful or harmful...

...well, that's a bit fucked up and depressing.
posted by loquacious at 12:46 PM on April 13, 2016 [50 favorites]


When you see a white woman pose in the lotus position with raised middle fingers for mudras, over and over again, raising more money every time that image is plastered on another site or propagated down the line, you should ask yourself: who is she saying "fuck you" to, exactly?
posted by Errant at 12:51 PM on April 13, 2016 [22 favorites]


One more comment if anyone is still paying attention. I am a non-Indian who practices yoga, so despite experience with having my own culture appropriated, I may not be the right person to speak about this. But the way I see it, the horse is largely out of the barn with regards to yoga in Western culture in general. I find value in my yoga practice and I do plan to continue it. What I don't do is make snarky self-justifying comments about how all culture is appropriation, or ask people of Indian descent to justify their feelings about Westernized yoga or to grant me special permission to practice it because my reasons are pure pleeeeease please please pretty please. (People seem to think that those who bring up cultural appropriation do want them to ask permission, but in my experience being asked is more of a burden than anything.)

Likewise, as a Japanese American, I think it's great that a lot of non-Japanese people are practicing and adapting Zen Buddhism and finding meaning in it. I do get twitchy at the use of the word "Zen" to sell tea or software or dodgy yoga practices (even though I've largely accepted its colloquial meaning of "chill" and have been known myself to say "Duuude I am so zen right now"). If I mention that, and all those practitioners of Zen Buddhism suddenly rush in to make fun of me and make demands of me and chide me for how I do or don't practice my own culture, I am going to have some serious bad feelings. I cannot speak for others, I personally do not ask people to give up their earnest cultural pursuits for reasons having to do with appropriation, but I think to treat the topic seriously and be willing to listen and learn about the experiences of POC is not too much to ask.

(There are some things that I don't put in that category of "earnest cultural pursuits." Rage Yoga is one of them. The Boston MFA kimono exhibit is another. Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Girls are another.)
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2016 [20 favorites]


As a person of Romani descent, I don't get mad when someone says "He gypped me!" What enrages me is when I patiently explain to that person that it's a slur and I would rather they not use it around me at least, and they get defensive and tell me why it really isn't and how they didn't mean anything by it and how dare I tell them they can't use a word.

I'm way less mad at Lindsey-Marie Istace than I am at some of the people in this thread.
posted by Etrigan at 1:39 PM on April 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Girls are another.

It's probably easier to try to name a culture Gwen _hasn't_ appropriated at some point.
posted by delfin at 2:05 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Let me just state for the record that I am not into rage yoga; I am into champagne.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:30 PM on April 13, 2016


This thread was horrifying and a bit traumatic to read. Huge respect to Errant for standing his ground and doing very difficult emotional labor to attempt to explain the many things that are wrong here...
I can't quite believe people are still asking why cultural appropriation is wrong. I thought MeFi would be smarter, wiser, etc.. than that. Like qcubed, I'd recommend reading Conspire's thread if you are still wondering why cultural appropriation is wrong, and why people of color seeming to "appropriate" white culture is not the same as white people appropriating non-white culture (hint: pre-existing asymmetries of power and subjugation). Metafilter has seemed (of late) to understand the issue of rape culture and why it is wrong and should be taken seriously - I believe there are some parallels that can be drawn, so I'm not sure why some people here don't seem to understand somewhat similar principles related to cultural appropriation.

Felt so tired reading this thread - some of the comments were very overwhelming, especially in the way they addressed/treated Errant (and by extension people of color).
posted by aielen at 3:29 PM on April 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


I coincidentally just found Conspire's thread via Errant's comment there. Looks like I can tick off a bunch of the bullet points - yep, I did that, and that, and probably that, and I thought that and that even if I didn't post them. I will read.
posted by clawsoon at 3:36 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


aielen: "I can't quite believe people are still asking why cultural appropriation is wrong...I'd recommend reading Conspire's thread if you are still wondering why cultural appropriation is wrong, and why people of color seeming to "appropriate" white culture is not the same as white people appropriating non-white culture (hint: pre-existing asymmetries of power and subjugation)."

I wonder if part of the issue is the conflation of "cultural appropriation" and "cultural appropriation in the West by whites of groups with less power."

(Also, not a gotcha question, a real honest question here: do folks generally think rock and roll music is inherently bad/offensive because of its cultural appropriation of African-American musical genres? I don't mean 'Do you think Elvis Presley is bad/offensive', but more like 'Do you think rock and roll bands in the 21st century in general are bad/offensive?')
posted by Bugbread at 3:53 PM on April 13, 2016


This is an honest answer as well as a kind of extension of my last comment: I don't personally think that, inasmuch as I have thought about it (which is not much). But if an African American wanted to advance that viewpoint here I hope I would listen respectfully and openly.

I am thinking of starting to link to Conspire's thread preemptively in discussions of cultural appropriation. I wonder if it's a little... high-level for the sort of person who comes in and immediately starts being shitty, but if anything it would serve as a reminder that POC are here, and that this conversation has been had before.
posted by sunset in snow country at 4:29 PM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


* Finishes reading the thread, is swallowed into the abyss never to be seen again *

Phew. Another person of Indian heritage chiming in here, I suppose. Though what's the point really. I think there's room for nuance, and it's a pity that we mostly don't seem capable of it. Too many predictably defensive people propping up things that have a nice ring to them ("all culture is appropriation!" Put it on a bumper sticker!) but just end up steamrolling over any attempt at thoughtful conversation.

I believe people, including Westerners, can shape non-Western traditions - like yoga, or Zen - into things that speak to them. But if you're going to start a practice that way, you should study the tradition, understand it inside and out, and you should above all be respectful of where it came from and what the purposes are. By way of example that might be relevant to Rage Yoga - there's this punk/post-punk guy, Brad Warner, who became a Zen master. He writes about it, and how he shaped the practice into something that fit within his and others' not-quite-traditional lifestyles. The other guy in that link, Noah Levine, says:
"I came to meditation practice, to Buddhism, strung out on drugs, filled with rage," he says. Now 20 years sober, Levine's group teaches meditation to convicts, the homeless and other groups of people.
I only know about Brad Warner really, but to me it's not appropriation as he's doing it, because he studied extensively with people in the Zen tradition, was entirely respectful, was humble and receptive. And he didn't subvert the old teachings or mock them. He's devoted his life to doing the opposite. Reasonable minds can disagree, of course, but that's squarely in the 'OK' box from where I'm sitting.

Rage Yoga, on the other hand, is the equivalent of this or this - cheap 'subversive' laffs that just trample on an entire culture and metaphorically blackface Indians. This is like Exhibit A when we say "ironic racism is still racism". If you want to drink beer and listen to black metal and still be someone who gets something out of yoga, great! You're probably not that unique, you can certainly find a way to do it, and find others who you fit in with. But that starts with understanding what yoga is, being humble and honest about it, and not treating it like one big joke at other white people but really at the expense of PoC.
posted by naju at 4:58 PM on April 13, 2016 [22 favorites]


I am thinking of starting to link to Conspire's thread preemptively in discussions of cultural appropriation.

If you don't, I will. Clippy-style.

do folks generally think rock and roll music is inherently bad/offensive because of its cultural appropriation of African-American musical genres? I don't mean 'Do you think Elvis Presley is bad/offensive', but more like 'Do you think rock and roll bands in the 21st century in general are bad/offensive

Not just rock, but also hip-hop. There's quite a history of black musicians' efforts being sidelined because the power structures wanted a more... marketable... white face in front of it. So, yeah. I look at it in the same way I look at yoga.

It's just another thing in a long line of things that whitey took by guns, trickery, theft, or envy, and it's become so embedded in white people's views of what is theirs that, well.

*shrugs*
posted by qcubed at 5:00 PM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


So, by my faulty memory, I'm counting at least four South Asians/Indians/Desis who are pointing out how appropriative and problematic this whole thing is. And then there's that post with all the links.

And yet still so much push back against their comments.

Like, what will it take for some of you to get this shit?
posted by qcubed at 5:03 PM on April 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


I mean, going back to rock, this isn't to say that I don't enjoy/like some examples and artists, but it's hard not to see these patterns continuing to recur and not feel a little something about it.

What can you do? I was born into a dominant white culture, which, by its very nature, is one of thievery, bigotry, and self-rationalization. I'm complicit in its sins just as much as anyone else, but I'm willing to at least recognize it.
posted by qcubed at 5:08 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


This may be meta (and I'll be glad to move it there if it is), but - it's interesting to compare the recent toxic masculinity thread to the cultural appropriation threads. The cultural appropriation threads I've seen so far start with an FPP that says "whut a laff" (this one) or "it's not a thing" (the one Conspire's thread is about). The toxic masculinity thread, in contrast, started with an FPP that was filled with "men should share their emotional stories" links, all supportive of men telling their stories.

The toxic masculinity thread featured men sharing their stories and women mostly praising them for being honest and open. There was relatively little for the mods to do. When we intellectualized our lived experiences, it was mostly okay, because it was by us about us.

Does Metafilter have better cultural appropriation threads if the FPP framing is completely supportive, or do they always end up like this anyway?
posted by clawsoon at 5:21 PM on April 13, 2016


In my experience they always end up like this because a) toxic masculinity is something that everyone has lived experience in, even white dudes, and b) cultural appropriation threads smash right into fragile white egos who don't want to consider the thing they really, really, really like might be really, really, really... unfortunate.

And really, who wants to think they're a bigot, or complicit in it? Not your sensitive, liberal white person. Definitely not them, because they like kimchi and have brown friends and totally understand the plight of the poor people in Africa and...

And before anyone says anything, I have lots of sensitive, liberal white friends.
posted by qcubed at 5:25 PM on April 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


way the hell back...my comment's probably irrelevant but:
To bring it back to the article, things like Rage Yoga make it all the more difficult for people to believe that I have a legitimate spiritual practice.

I still think this sounds like a drinking game, a kitschy drinking game that mocks a spiritual tradition. It's cathartic to get drunk and laugh, but in this instance, it's a racist joke even if it doesn't seem like it (as a white person, I had to think about it after reading Errant's comments; because yoga is so common in the Bay Area where I live, I didn't think of the racial angle at first).

Also, I'll find that Coldplay thread about appropriating Indian culture and the issue of good intentions vs. bad intentions and some links on second-generation people having a very different attitude about appropriation than their Indian parents who thought it was a great thing. It was very illuminating...be back in a sec.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 5:26 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Coldplay thread on appropriation of Indian culture.

Even more on point, this is from XO Jane, on the generation gap in attitudes on cultural appropriation.

I found that last link especially illuminating as a fiftysomething white person to get a different perspective of younger people's reactions. I really recommend it for people who find it hard to grasp in terms of what is offensive to whom and why is it not just cultural exchange... etc etc..and feel the need for more explanation.I think people of my generation might see it more as cultural exchange, a show of respect or admiration, and that's where that line of 'intention is everything' comes in for people like me. But as the article above shows, many younger people just don't see it that way because their experience is so different. I say this as someone who has no doubt done tons of cluelessly offensive things (offensive to some, not others) because I loved world music and went to festivals like WOMAD and so on. I still intention as important but I can respect what younger people say about any kind of appropriation, mocking or respectful or whatever.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 5:37 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


They always end up like this.
posted by Errant at 5:38 PM on April 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh and I didn't see the question above, so no, the Coldplay thread was *not* an example of a supportive thread! Kind of what Errant said, essentially. The same as this.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 5:40 PM on April 13, 2016


cultural appropriation threads smash right into fragile white egos who don't want to consider the thing they really, really, really like might be really, really, really... unfortunate.

Referring specifically to this thread, I haven't seen anyone defending "Rage Yoga" here as something they "really, really like".

The spectrum seems to have ranged from "it's exploitative and kinda dumb and unfortunate, but whatever, it's a free country" on the most supportive end, to "it's horrible and racist and I wish bad things on the woman who invented it", on the more critical end.

We're all pretty much agreed that as cultural appropriations go, this is a pretty bad and indefensible one.
posted by theorique at 5:44 PM on April 13, 2016


And yet there were plenty of defenses and dismissals...
posted by qcubed at 5:46 PM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


We're all pretty much agreed that as cultural appropriations go, this is a pretty bad and indefensible one.

Um no. "We" did not all pretty much agree. I think we read different threads.
posted by futz at 5:49 PM on April 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


"it's horrible and racist and I wish bad things on the woman who invented it", on the more critical end.

This did not happen. The horrible and racist part, sure. But no one in this thread has wished for any harm to befall the woman in question that I can recall, and it is not a meaningless distinction.
posted by Errant at 5:49 PM on April 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


I mean, that's the thing. If it really were so indefensible, I don't think the thread would have turned into the garbage fire it was, with all the guns trained on Errant, and the "But why?" canon repeating so. many. times.
posted by qcubed at 5:50 PM on April 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


We're all pretty much agreed that as cultural appropriations go, this is a pretty bad and indefensible one.

This is untrue. So many people left comments saying how they see nothing wrong with this at all. I'm not going to waste time linking them here, because they are IN THIS VERY THREAD YOU DIDN'T BOTHER READING. Scroll up and find them.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:51 PM on April 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


no one in this thread has wished for any harm to befall the woman in question that I can recall

You're right - I was mistaken. An extrapolation and mind-read on my part which I retract: while people were highly critical of the RY woman, no one wished her harm.
posted by theorique at 5:52 PM on April 13, 2016


The toxic masculinity thread featured men sharing their stories and women mostly praising them for being honest and open. There was relatively little for the mods to do. When we intellectualized our lived experiences, it was mostly okay, because it was by us about us.

Does Metafilter have better cultural appropriation threads if the FPP framing is completely supportive, or do they always end up like this anyway?


The reason for this isn't the framing, it's privilege--which you pretty much say when you acknowledge "it was mostly okay, because it was by us about us."

I'd have been interested in reading a thread on this topic where the only commenters were people of color (even this thread was pretty fascinating in that there was some very sharp disagreement among PoC, so it's not as if removing all the white voices from the conversation would have eliminated disagreement from the conversation, though).
posted by MoonOrb at 6:24 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


GospelofWesleyWillis: "Also, I'll find that Coldplay thread about appropriating Indian culture and the issue of good intentions vs. bad intentions and some links on second-generation people having a very different attitude about appropriation than their Indian parents who thought it was a great thing. It was very illuminating"

I think that's a key part of this. My mind shifts all around when I think about cultural appropriation, so I might contradict myself (I'm not sure), but I think the acceptability of cultural appropriation is purely a cultural thing. That is, in certain cultures, burping in front of someone is bad, in certain cultures it's okay. There is no correct answer to whether burping is good or bad, it entirely depends on that culture.

The feeling I've gotten is that cultural appropriation is considered bad in certain cultures (the ones that come to mind first are generally minority cultures in English-speaking countries, but that's because it's mainly stuff I read about on MeFi, where the majority of comments are by people from English-speaking countries), but not in others. This, for example, is reflected in the kimono thread, where Japanese folks in Japan and first-generation Japanese folks in America were generally (not universally) cool with it, while second-and-later generation Japanese folks in America were generally (not universally) uncool with it. It's kind of a fools' errand to argue that Japanese people are wrong about whether it's okay to appropriate their culture, or whether second generation folks are wrong about whether it's okay to appropriate their culture. In one culture it's okay, and in another culture it's not.

I think that's what makes cultural appropriation threads frustrating to me (in a different way than, I sense, they frustrate a lot of other people in these threads). I see people saying "Cultural appropriation is a bad thing!" and getting frustrated with those that support it, and other people saying "No, cultural appropriation is not a bad thing!" and getting frustrated with those that oppose it. Both groups tend to act as if there were some actual definitive answer to whether or not it's good or bad. The reality, I think, is that it's all situationally dependent, and it's largely shades of gray.
posted by Bugbread at 6:28 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


(Also, not a gotcha question, a real honest question here: do folks generally think rock and roll music is inherently bad/offensive because of its cultural appropriation of African-American musical genres? I don't mean 'Do you think Elvis Presley is bad/offensive', but more like 'Do you think rock and roll bands in the 21st century in general are bad/offensive?')

Even if it's not a gotcha question, I think there are better questions* to ask, like: Why is it that modern rock n roll is oftentimes seen as "white guys playing loud guitars"? How did the cultural appropriation of Elvis (and others) contribute to the notion that modern rock n roll is mostly for white people to make? Why are the Sex Pistols considered (some form of) rock n roll, but NWA aren't? Why is James Taylor in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, but Nile Rogers isn't? How come 1950s rock-n-roll was 1) fun 2)upbeat 3)sexy 4)dance music created by black artists, but when later genres emerged that were all 4 of those things (like funk, or disco, or rap), people scoffed at including those genres within the broad vague term "rock n roll"?

*(NOTE: I don't really need the answers to any of these questions, so answering them here is really a total derail. These questions are supposed to illuminate how the concept of cultural appropriation shouldn't be boiled down to a single yes/no question.)

"Do you think rock n roll bands in the 21st century are bad/offensive?" sounds to me a lot like "Do you think white people who do yoga in 2016 are bad?" I mean, there are better questions to ask to get to the heart of how cultural appropriation has negatively affected both American rock-n-roll and Canadian yoga.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:40 PM on April 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


I think that's what makes cultural appropriation threads frustrating to me (in a different way than, I sense, they frustrate a lot of other people in these threads). I see people saying "Cultural appropriation is a bad thing!" and getting frustrated with those that support it, and other people saying "No, cultural appropriation is not a bad thing!" and getting frustrated with those that oppose it. Both groups tend to act as if there were some actual definitive answer to whether or not it's good or bad.

Weird, I don't see that at all. So many times that there's a thread that deals in some way with cultural appropriation, it's more "This is an example of cultural appropriation, and here's specific ways in which it's harmful" vs "Cultural appropriation isn't something to take seriously: I don't care that this thing harms YOU, because it doesn't harm ME".
posted by 23skidoo at 6:47 PM on April 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


23skidoo: ""Do you think rock n roll bands in the 21st century are bad/offensive?" sounds to me a lot like "Do you think white people who do yoga in 2016 are bad?" I mean, there are better questions to ask to get to the heart of how cultural appropriation has negatively affected both American rock-n-roll and Canadian yoga."

Well, yes, it sounds like "Do you think white people who do yoga in 2016 are bad" (or, rather, it was meant to sound like "Do you think the appropriation of yoga by white people in 2016 is bad") because I'm trying to get an overall view of how people think about these things. Your questions are all interesting questions, but they don't really answer what I wanted answered, so they're not "better" questions (nor are they worse questions), they're just different questions.

23skidoo: "Weird, I don't see that at all. So many times that there's a thread that deals in some way with cultural appropriation, it's more "This is an example of cultural appropriation, and here's specific ways in which it's harmful" vs "Cultural appropriation isn't something to take seriously: I don't care that this thing harms YOU, because it doesn't harm ME"."

I agree that that's what we see in these threads, but I'm not sure that I see how that's different from what I was saying. For example, I see "This is an example of cultural appropriation, and here's specific ways in which it's harmful" but I don't see "This is an example of cultural appropriation, which is fine sometimes, but in this case it's not, and here's specific ways in which it's harmful". And I see "Cultural appropriation isn't something to take seriously: I don't care that this thing harms YOU, because it doesn't harm ME" but I don't see "I agree that cultural appropriation is often harmful, but I disagree that this is one of those cases." Most people who have a problem with a specific instance of cultural appropriation seem to argue that all cultural appropriation is bad. Most people who don't have a problem with a specific instance of cultural appropriation seem to argue that all cultural appropriation is okay.

(Note: I'm purely talking about cultural appropriation threads. When it comes to sexism/racism/-ism threads, there is a fuck-ton of "I agree -ism is bad but this isn't an example of -ism" etc. comments.)

I mean, I'm not trying to convince you here. If you see more people in the grey zone and less people with black-and-white views, maybe it's just an issue of confirmation bias in me.
posted by Bugbread at 7:09 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I agree that that's what we see in these threads, but I'm not sure that I see how that's different from what I was saying. For example, I see "This is an example of cultural appropriation, and here's specific ways in which it's harmful" but I don't see "This is an example of cultural appropriation, which is fine sometimes, but in this case it's not, and here's specific ways in which it's harmful".

I agree, we don't see a lot of people who are explaining why something is cultural appropriation including phrases like "which is fine sometimes". When someone calls out a specific case of cultural appropriation and takes time to explain the reasons why to you, they shouldn't have to hold your hand and say things coddling things like "but cultural appropriation is fine sometimes" in order for their reasons to be considered valid.

And I see "Cultural appropriation isn't something to take seriously: I don't care that this thing harms YOU, because it doesn't harm ME" but I don't see "I agree that cultural appropriation is often harmful, but I disagree that this is one of those cases."

You're right, I don't see (enough) people acknowledging that cultural appropriation is often harmful in threads like these.

Most people who have a problem with a specific instance of cultural appropriation seem to argue that all cultural appropriation is bad.

Nope. They're just focusing on the specifics of one instance of harmful cultural appropriation. Just because someone chooses to focus on the specific ways that a specific instance of cultural appropriation has harmful effects doesn't imply that they think that all instances of cultural appropriation have harmful effects.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:33 PM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


I mean, this is why this shit is so tiring. This post was about Rage Yoga. It's very specific. Why does it have to devolve into "Can we just talk about whether cultural appropriation is bad or not?"
posted by 23skidoo at 7:34 PM on April 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


I mean, this is in part why MeFi has a reputation in some PoC circles as being "very, very white."

And MeFi kinda is very, very white...

At least it's not reddit.
posted by qcubed at 7:42 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Rage Yoga" is a Portlandia sketch made flesh, and thus, an abomination. If it were simply comedy, we could all chuckle and nod and agree that there are people in the world that have so little self-awareness that they would come up with the concept as anything BUT comedy.

But the fact that people are actually doing this thing in a basement somewhere makes us look at it. And it looks gross.

You don't have to be the person whose culture is being appropriated to know when it is being appropriated in the worst possible way. You simply have to be self-aware. And my experience is that self-awareness is like 10x as hard as anything else.
posted by valkane at 7:49 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


23skidoo: "When someone calls out a specific case of cultural appropriation and takes time to explain the reasons why to you, they shouldn't have to hold your hand and say things coddling things like "but cultural appropriation is fine sometimes" in order for their reasons to be considered valid."

If you're saying that there are a lot of people who think the issue is grey but don't say so because they would consider it handholding or coddling, I just can't really understand that conversational approach. If you think an issue is grey, why would you pretend otherwise?
If you're saying that there aren't very many people who think the issue is grey, then we're in agreement. That's what I'm saying.

Maybe this is why I find myself occasionally drawn into contentious threads but usually avoiding them. When you think an issue has some grey in it, you end up with everyone thinking you're on the wrong side, and half of the counterarguments are things where you think, "Wait, that's not an argument against my position, that is my position". So I think this is another thread I'm going to be bailing from.

23skidoo: " mean, this is why this shit is so tiring. This post was about Rage Yoga. It's very specific. Why does it have to devolve into "Can we just talk about whether cultural appropriation is bad or not?""

Man, MeFi never stays on topic. Never has. It may suck, but after almost two decades it can't be that surprising.
posted by Bugbread at 7:58 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I DIDN'T SAY IT WAS SURPRISING I SAID IT WAS TIRING
posted by 23skidoo at 8:00 PM on April 13, 2016 [17 favorites]


There is a thing about the kind of generational distinction between acceptability and appropriation to which Bugbread refers, and that thing is that they are not oppositional. Older generations, concerned with propagating their culture and gaining recognition, are more lenient in their definitions of harmful appropriation. Younger generations may have stricter definitions of the same, but they are not so strict as to preclude all interchange, contrary to the concern troll fears of the obsequious left. The kimono issue never reduced to "gaijin stay away". This issue doesn't reduce to "never stretch again". Requesting greater consideration is not the same as demanding exclusion, unless the effort of genuine syncretism creates in you an instinctual repulsion. If you are culturally lazy, then sure, asking you to do more work is the same as raising an insurmountable barrier. But if you are willing to do that work, you find yourself more than welcomed in cultures built predominantly on hospitality, as virtually all human cultures are. No one is asking you to go away. We're asking you to show that you come in peace.
posted by Errant at 8:00 PM on April 13, 2016 [37 favorites]


I have gotten into some mindfulness practices which include elements of yoga, in an effort to better myself. I'm sure I am not practicing yoga according to doctrine.

Thank you for the cultural influence and knowledge.

Not sarcastic.
posted by raider at 9:10 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


For example, I see "This is an example of cultural appropriation, and here's specific ways in which it's harmful" but I don't see "This is an example of cultural appropriation, which is fine sometimes, but in this case it's not, and here's specific ways in which it's harmful".

FWIW, my comment very deliberately focused on multiple examples where "it's fine sometimes! Really!" and also "but in this case it's not, and here is why it's different" so maybe this is a situation where you're simply not seeing us do that work?
posted by naju at 10:03 PM on April 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


Brought up this thread at a gig I was playing at tonight, which consisted of an all-white band playing East-coast Canadian folk music (incidentally, during the gig an Irish-Catholic visitor took offense to one of the songs we played, identifying it as "an anthem of the rebellion", but I digress).

The only response I received from the rest of the band re: rage yoga was this:
"Some people are offended too easily."

Full stop. Apparently.

Just to give but one everyday example of how pervasive this attitude is, even amongst artists/musicians & other performers of culture who you'd hope would have to engage with these sorts of questions in a serious way every now and again.
posted by CarrotAdventure at 1:35 AM on April 14, 2016


The only response I received from the rest of the band re: rage yoga was this:
"Some people are offended too easily."


Whenever I speak with people on issues like cultural appropriation AFK, that tends to be one of the most typical initial, knee-jerk responses to the very concept of CA. (Variants include "what's the big deal?" or "they should be honored and flattered that the mainstream culture likes their stuff!")

This tends to be why minorities get so tired of educating members of the majority culture about why this kind of thing can upset them. It's not that any given incident is such a big issue; however, attempting to educate people (often indifferent or even unwilling) from zero to non-zero about these issues, over and over again, adds up to a big investment of time and effort. (Time and effort that might be invested elsewhere in more fruitful activities.)

Hence, "go read a book" and "it's not my job to educate you" and other mantras of people in activist circles. (It's not "I don't want you to be educated", it's "I don't want to invest the time educating a 'student' who feels entitled to my time and may or may not even want the education in the first place")
posted by theorique at 2:56 AM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am one of those clueless people who was completely blind to Cultural appropriation. It's simply not something I was really aware of. I have really learned a lot from reading this thread. While I appreciate that people are offended I find Metafilter to be one of the few places where these discussions can happen in a comparatively civilized manner.
posted by night_train at 2:57 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


The only response I received from the rest of the band re: rage yoga was this:
"Some people are offended too easily."


It's funny, because I spent much of my night asking specifically white people, "A woman in Calgary has invented a thing she calls Rage Yoga. What do you think about that?" (Because I was trying not to poison the well with my solidified opinions.) Uniformly, the white people's responses could be paraphrased or explicitly phrased as, "Well, that seems counter-intuitive. Yoga's about peace, isn't it?"

I await with bated breath the machine-gun interrogation about whether I really did the thing I said I did or whether I'm telling the truth about what they said or so on.

I also talked to some of my friends of color about it, but their responses were somewhat more pointed, and while reproducing those responses would be personally satisfying, I don't think they would prove especially edifying to the community at large.
posted by Errant at 3:23 AM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


It's funny, because I spent much of my night asking specifically white people, "A woman in Calgary has invented a thing she calls Rage Yoga. What do you think about that?" (Because I was trying not to poison the well with my solidified opinions.) Uniformly, the white people's responses could be paraphrased or explicitly phrased as, "Well, that seems counter-intuitive. Yoga's about peace, isn't it?"

I think this just proves what I said earlier... rage yoga is dumb and people only feel moved to defend it if it's associated with something (i.e. cultural appropriation) that kindles in them the desire to whitesplain and defend their territory. It's like waving a flag in front of a bull. (Also hahahaha. That Coldplay halftime show. Is there an example of something that's cultural appropriation and DOESN'T suck? Maybe I can just set that whole debate aside and attack things on purely aesthetic grounds.)

Clawsoon perhaps it's true that white people think racism is the ultimate sin and calls for social shunning and the loss of one's . But the problem with that worldview is that you have to, like, set a bunch of POC on fire while screaming "death to [slurs]" to be considered racist. The last part is very important because if you don't, and someone calls you out on setting fire to POC, the response to that person is "But maybe YOU are the racist for noticing that they were all black!!!!!" Like, it's ridiculous how high the bar is for "real racism."

I actually really liked what Errant said about "showing you come in peace" because if your experience of us came solely from cultural appropriation discussions on the internet, you'd think Japanese Americans were the meanest jerks ever! But I'm very active in the Japanese American community in San Francisco and probably close to half of the people I see at events (volunteering at festivals, cooking classes, cultural events, happy hours) are not Japanese American. We're very welcoming!

FInal thought: If this is your first cultural appropriation rodeo, comments like this and this and this and this might seem like no big deal. But if you've jumped in to a discussion like this before, and posted a thoughtful comment about your experiences, and stuff like that has been the response... and then you see that at the beginning of a new thread... Yup, bad feelings.
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:35 AM on April 14, 2016 [20 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted. Guys, we've asked you to dial it back and I don't want to have to keep repeating myself. I recognize that this is a tricky debate, that it's informed by strong feelings. It needs to be treated with the softest of kid gloves then if it's going to have a chance of not devolving into general mayhem, here.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:35 AM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


While I appreciate that people are offended I find Metafilter to be one of the few places where these discussions can happen in a comparatively civilized manner.


One additional valuable takeaway I've had over the years is that although the conversation could be described as relatively civilized, what's not as apparent is the emotional toll exacted on the members who are constantly defending their identities. The "relatively civilized" nature of the conversation, in combination with privilege, can blind us to that.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:37 AM on April 14, 2016 [29 favorites]


While I appreciate that people are offended I find Metafilter to be one of the few places where these discussions can happen in a comparatively civilized manner.

Uh - if you read the threads carefully, you might find these conversations are better for privileged people who are learning things/creating complex what if scenarios they can play through philosophically, and generally horrible for those affected by the actual real-life goings on.

I'm not proud of Metafilter in these threads and that's not my definition of civilized.
posted by scrittore at 7:01 AM on April 14, 2016 [26 favorites]


Plus, add in the fact that if you're paying super close attention to these threads, you get to see most of the comments-that-will-get-deleted before they get deleted. Some of them are just clueless, others are weirdly deraily, but some of them are really aggressively insulting to people. At any given moment, the thread you see and consider to be "comparatively civilized" is a very curated version of the sum total of all the comments in a thread that other Mefites have seen.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:25 AM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


I'd like to highlight sunset in snow country's comment:
If this is your first cultural appropriation rodeo, comments like this and this and this and this might seem like no big deal. But if you've jumped in to a discussion like this before, and posted a thoughtful comment about your experiences, and stuff like that has been the response... and then you see that at the beginning of a new thread... Yup, bad feelings.

and MoonOrb's:
One additional valuable takeaway I've had over the years is that although the conversation could be described as relatively civilized, what's not as apparent is the emotional toll exacted on the members who are constantly defending their identities. The "relatively civilized" nature of the conversation, in combination with privilege, can blind us to that.

That's the thing, isn't it? PoC have buttoned over this stuff. And every time it happens, PoC keep swearing, "I'm done with this sort of thing," and the ones involved regret getting involved, usually with some variant of the feeling, "All the other PoC were wise to this trainwreck coming and got out of the way."

I mean, in Conspire's MeTalk thread it was clear by the end of it at least three Japanese-Americans saw how the Kimono thread was going and didn't even bother. In here, the four (?) Desi-Americans kept chiming in, but at a relatively heavy cost to their well-being, given that their comments were consistently either intentionally or ignorantly misread and distorted.

I mean, yeah, it looks civilized now, after some moderation, I guess, compared to reddit, Stormfront, or the Free Republic message boards, but when the PoC's very identities are questioned by sensitive, liberal, white people with good intentions in an effort to discount their very real lives, when their arguments are dismissed because sensitive, liberal, white people with good intentions are incredulous and don't want to feel bad? When PoC have to handhold every single notion because incredulous sensitive, liberal, white people with good intentions keep asking, "But what about this? Does it hurt? And what about this? How about now?", poking and prodding like a first-year medical resident seeing a human for the first time.

It's toxic. It's Sisyphean. Every time there's a thread like this, it gets re-litigated. Every time. Every time it becomes a tire fire. Every time.

I mean, it's to the point where I don't actively recommend this place to any other PoC. Why would I? I don't know why I'd invite someone else to be subjected to this on the regular. And it pains me to say that, because, really? Monocultures die out.
posted by qcubed at 7:35 AM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]


I've been following along but I can't do another round of "cultural appropriation: is it even a thing?" again. People in this thread and others on this topic talk a lot about free expression of ideas good intentions blahblahblah ... apparently without ever considering that a lot of us see shit like this and go "oh, free for thee but not for me! again!" and nope out from the start. Always having to argue from first principles is, among other things, really fucking boring.

Many thanks to Errant et al. for doing the heavy lifting this time.
posted by rtha at 8:02 AM on April 14, 2016 [21 favorites]


nthing rtha. I just don't have the energy anymore to fight white people who can't take the slightest suggestion that they aren't entitled to everything on the planet without freaking out. Thanks, Errant and co.
posted by Conspire at 8:09 AM on April 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


Yep. It seems like less and less of us are expending the energy each time a thread like this happens - so willful ignorance might eventually win by attrition. "Just asking questions!" to a silent void, then, which is probably the end goal anyway.
posted by naju at 8:12 AM on April 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


Bookmarking Conspire's MeTa as a 101 for the next one of these.
posted by Etrigan at 8:42 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I mean, at this point one kinda has to laugh, but in the bitter, sad way OH Dae-su does.

When more and more PoC keep saying that they don't want to bother because sensitive, liberal, white people with good intentions just keep fucking it up...

How is this not a blindingly obvious pattern?

Maybe we just shouldn't have conversations about yoga, kimonos, or cultural appropriation anymore, because sensitive, liberal, white people with good intentions seem to consistently be proving themselves absolutely incapable of it, in a truly civilized, respectful manner?
posted by qcubed at 8:52 AM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


This has been the most stressful, exhausting thread I've participated in on Metafilter. Sorry for adding to the stress and exhaustion of other participants.
posted by clawsoon at 9:56 AM on April 14, 2016


(Also hahahaha. That Coldplay halftime show. Is there an example of something that's cultural appropriation and DOESN'T suck? Maybe I can just set that whole debate aside and attack things on purely aesthetic grounds.)

Honestly? Very rarely, probably never. Maybe some people like Clapton's version of I Shot The Sheriff better, that's about it. That's the thing -- cultural appropriation is trite and boring as shit. Because if it were interesting, if it recombined ideas in some exciting or novel way, it would contribute to the culture and not just leech off of it. I'm not kidding when I say that one of the ways you can tell that something is cultural appropriation is that it's dumb and shallow, because cool reinventions are additive by definition, and it's virtually impossible to achieve that level of invention without a basic respect for and grounding in your source material.
posted by Errant at 10:42 AM on April 14, 2016 [23 favorites]


Arriving very late to this party, but I want to invite white people to join with me and practice cultural and racial humility. You do this by listening and acknowledging the harm that someone experiences when that person says that they have been harmed by something the dominant culture has done.

You do not argue with them, try to convince them otherwise, ridicule their statement, explain that they don't understand the intentions behind the thing, nor do you try to figure it out or solve it for them.

Listen, acknowledge, maybe even learn something. If it's you that caused the harm, apologize for it. Real apologies only, not one of those pseudo apologies that are so popular, e.g., "I'm sorry if I hurt anyone." Feel free to wonder about how your whiteness has made it possible for you to be so oblivious to what's going on in the world.
posted by jasper411 at 11:32 AM on April 14, 2016 [26 favorites]


As a reminder to myself and the other non-Indian POC reading this thread -- some of the worst comments in this thread were made by somebody who identifies as POC.

It's not just white liberals who are horribly insensitive about cultural appropriation when it doesn't affect them personally.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:36 AM on April 14, 2016 [11 favorites]


You do not argue with them, try to convince them otherwise, ridicule their statement, explain that they don't understand the intentions behind the thing, nor do you try to figure it out or solve it for them.

One thing to add: You don't say, "But what about [tangential or totally unrelated example]?" or make a slippery-slope argument couched in the form of a question. It may be a philosophical debate for you, but they're not your professor.
posted by Etrigan at 11:43 AM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


Thanks to 23skidoo for MeTa-izing this.
posted by Etrigan at 12:07 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Aw man, I was all revved up to defend rock 'n roll, because I really love classic rock, and (I am told) it really was a multi-cultural phenomenon. Towns were segregated, but the airwaves weren't, and rock 'n roll grew out of the cross pollination between white and black music. Or so I am told.

Then I thought, it's awfully rare to meet a black person who likes classic rock. And in the bands that have major cultural power, there are almost no black musicians.

Even if it started as a beautiful, cooperative, mutually inventive, free exchange of ideas - which it really wasn't - the next few generations of rock performers, and listeners, managed to steadily push black musicians and listeners out of the genre. And black culture moved on to something else. And the history there looks an awful lot like colonization. So there it is, if anyone was wondering.

(and then i realized that this is exactly why i stopped listening to rock so much, because it's so white. shit.)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 7:16 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Towns were segregated, but the airwaves weren't, and rock 'n roll grew out of the cross pollination between white and black music. Or so I am told.

Man, I should probably google, but my understanding is that up to a certain point in time, radio stations would not play "race records", they would only play music recorded by white people. That makes the success of Elvis, who imitated black artists who couldn't get airplay, a lot more insulting.

Without a really long history of racial oppression, cultural appropriation would probably be a milder conversational topic, imo.
posted by puddledork at 7:40 AM on April 15, 2016


Right, so I went ahead and googled, and there were radio stations with all-black programming as early as 1949, one (white owned) in Memphis and one (black owned) in Atlanta. The airwaves were segregated, in that a given station would play only black music or white music, and getting airplay on the black stations wasn't like getting real airplay, in most eyes. But anyone could tune their radios to any station, and they did. Before radio, the performances and buildings themselves were segregated by the people running the show; on the air, the audience was only as segregated as they wanted to be.

(also ham radio amateurs would broadcast music for fun well before that, and they didn't segregate themselves. "One early experiment of this type may have involved "The Father of the Blues", W.C. Handy. There is some evidence that a white amateur named Victor H. Laughter, who admired Handy's music, sent out a concert of it from Memphis as early as November of 1914." source here)

Individual people were - or had the potential to be - a lot less racist than the system as a whole. (in this case the "system" is the music industry and the collective mob of American audiences.) I've heard people make hay of the fact that Elvis grew up on gospel music, and loved the blues, and had a lot of respect for black musicians. But that doesn't mean much stacked against the violent and racist system that placed him as a figurehead.

I'm not disagreeing with you in the slightest, just exploring the topic.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 11:21 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


A while ago, Miko linked to a really useful whitepaper on cultural appropriation. It has a nice, simple, logically-grouped suite of questions to ask of any particular act of intercultural borrowing-- and if you use them to analyze Rage Yoga, you can see exactly why it's so heinously, jaw-droppingly, multivalently offensive.

Or you can just read what Errant wrote.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:07 PM on April 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


For anyone who favourited my comments and happens to still be reading: I went off on Errant because I assumed that he wanted Istace to be punished, to be ostracized, to be shunned. He clarified that, She's doing something shitty, and it'd be cool if she would stop doing the shitty thing. That's about it. Why would I want anything more than that?

So if you're one of the people who, like me, read what he wrote with the images of torched churches and people being dragged behind cars in your mind, it's worth re-reading what he wrote with everyday racism in your mind. Once I understood what he was talking about instead of what I was thinking he was talking about, he suddenly made excellent sense.
posted by clawsoon at 7:21 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is a particularly good example of how white people reflexively propagate and perpetuate oppressive racial structures. The argument here is that it is not appropriation if I am demanding that Istace be punished for her act of cultural thievery, and that it is justifiable to "go off" on me for my temerity. But if I am not asking for anything punitive to occur, I "suddenly make excellent sense". You are arguing that the nature of the action changes based on the consequences of it.

This is a little league version of why police officers get acquitted for murdering people of color and why corporations face few consequences for polluting rivers and destroying forests in colonized countries. It's not that those things aren't bad, it's that we as a society don't think they merit punishment when people of color are the victims and white people are the perpetrators, and so in order to avoid that punishment, we're perfectly happy to call things other than they are and castigate those who insist on a coherent version of reality. If the grand jury was assured that any indictment or conviction would seek no punitive measure, how many more cops would suddenly be on trial, do you think?

It's no fun to be told you're propping up white supremacy. But if we're going to get anywhere at all, white people need to interrogate their indoctrinated and reflexive urge to defend any expression of power.
posted by Errant at 6:31 PM on April 16, 2016 [19 favorites]


It's worth googling Tirumalai Krishnamacharya for more on antinomia's comment.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:40 AM on April 17, 2016


[Several comments deleted. clawsoon, really, stop commenting in this thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:36 PM on April 18, 2016


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