On cultural appropriation

15 May

 

I spent a considerable amount of time today arguing that cultural appropriation is not necessarily the same thing as fiction writers creating characters, and that it’s a disservice to everyone for the two to be conflated. Good arguments on this topic are explored here and here:

It is no longer enough to say that you merely disagree with something. Rather, the author must be stigmatized as a sort of dangerous thought criminal.

That being said, there are writers who use stereotypes. This is offensive, hurtful and likely harmful. It is also bad writing.

However, all fiction writing cannot be dismissed or forbidden because of bad writing. The task of the fiction writer is to walk a mile in another’s shoes. Indeed, fully realised fiction is an act of humanity: it demonstrates the all-too-often forgotten human capacity to empathically inhabit, and then convey difference. There is nothing, in my view, that can possibly save us as a species other than the ability to walk a mile in another’s shoes and then share the experience.

Cultural appropriation is the antithesis of this act of humanity. It is dehumanising. I’m pretty angry when defending the writer’s empathic imagination is framed as enabling cultural appropriation. In fact, I call bullshit.

I don’t care that I’m a white woman making these statements. I don’t care if they are interpreted as racist. If that’s the best argument you’ve got against the right of fiction writers to empathically explore other subjectivities, knock yourself out.

You can always fuck off, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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54 Responses to “On cultural appropriation”

  1. 8 Degrees of Latitude May 15, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

    Amen to that, sister!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sue W May 15, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

    Love the last line!

    Liked by 1 person

    • townsvilleblog May 16, 2017 at 8:32 am #

      I don’t approve of vulgarity but I do agree with the general thrust of the piece, well said Jennifer.
      Regards,
      Shaun.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sue W May 17, 2017 at 2:07 am #

        It’s not a phrase I use either but the sentiment behind it has to be applauded and in this instance the phrase has been put to good use!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. townsvilleblog May 16, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    Reblogged this on Townsville Blog..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. doug quixote May 16, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

    The Thought Police are out in force. Censorship is disguised as cultural sensitivity, religious blasphemy and political offence.

    The BACWA (Banning and Censoring Wowser Agenda) is out there, just waiting for its chance to step on free speech wherever it can. It lurks in think tanks, in churches and in government committees. The empire fights back, and is fighting back – abortion rights, voting rights and freedom of speech are under attack all over the world.

    On the artistic front, it is the case that everyone writes best when we write about things we know, from our own experience. By way of contemporary example, JK Rowling was a teacher and her experience in schools not unlike Hogwarts informed her fiction. Stephen King doesn’t get out much these days and he writes from the viewpoint of a writer as a major character. Herman Melville was a whale hunter, many years before he wrote Moby Dick. Tolkien (a professor of history and linguistics) created his own languages, and only then went on to create “people” to use those languages and a faux history for them to figure in.

    I may be forgiven for mentioning that Shakespeare wrote about noblemen, kings, the military and the Court – and that stands as a major reason that the Shakespeare identity is in question. He wrote brilliantly about the upper echelons of society and where commoners were the protagonists they were buffoons, clowns, cardboard cut-outs.

    But empathy and second hand experience allow writers to create believable characters – even if they are based on cursory observation. Are we to say that no writer is to be allowed to write outside his own culture, that those who do are to be censored, persecuted and punished? The step is small to censoring past works, and even smaller to burning books. As has been observed before, a society that burns books may move on to burn people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson May 17, 2017 at 9:47 am #

      DQ, in the matter of Shakespeare, is it possible he worked like, say, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, with apprentices and assistants, while being in charge of the overall product?
      For some reason I woke in the middle of the night wondering that.

      Like

      • doug quixote May 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

        That may have been possible; if so it was an even better kept secret than his real identity. (“Two people can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.”)

        No, I think he worked alone. Some of his plays were unfinished at his death in 1604 (Oops, did I reveal a secret?) and other playwrights were then drafted in by his heirs to make them playable on stage.

        De Vere (oops another secret!) had three daughters, one of whom married Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke who with his brother Wiliam was the sponsor and dedicatee of the First Folio in 1623.

        Philip and William bankrolled the First Folio; it beggars belief that De Vere’s son in law did this out of a love of a nonentity from Stratford.

        Liked by 1 person

    • rhyllmcmaster May 18, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

      “I may be forgiven for mentioning that Shakespeare wrote about noblemen, kings, the military and the Court – and that stands as a major reason that the Shakespeare identity is in question.” – I don’t think the Shakespeare identity is in question, doug quixote. And surely Shakespeare could write about kings without having first-hand knowledge of them, for the simple reason that Shakespeare understood the essential nature of kingship which is power.

      Liked by 1 person

      • doug quixote May 21, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

        Surely he could write about kings. But the point is that everything Shakespeare wrote is from the knowledge and perspective of a nobleman, informed by an education and breadth of experience far beyond the norm for Elizabethan times.

        It is as if a chimneysweep had supposedly written Einstein’s theory of relativity.

        Like

  5. Wilbur May 16, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

    The issue you target reminds me a lot that’s going on in this film clip. It’s all going crazy.
    As long as it’s not enshrined in law yet, this idea of cultural appropriation is just a lot of hot air and another way for the ruling classes to divide us and steal the spoils that this new market will probably generate. Imagine
    publishers who are culturally sensitive vs publishers non-culturally sensitive.

    Like

    • Nick May 16, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

      I merely disagree with this video.

      Liked by 1 person

      • doug quixote May 16, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

        Look a little further for a clip of Samantha Bee.

        Trump is the gift for comedians that keeps on giving.

        Impeachment by the end of this year?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Jennifer Wilson May 17, 2017 at 9:48 am #

          Melissa McCarthy is my favourite. Driving her motorised podium down the streets of New York.
          Love Bee as well.

          Like

  6. Moz of Yarramulla May 17, 2017 at 9:23 am #

    The catch-22 is that if your white, female author responds by saying “I shall be extremely careful to not commit cultural appropriation or the parallel gender mis-projection” and writes only about worlds made up of white women, she will of course be guilty of racist elimination of other cultures and genders. Is she fantasising about genocide or merely incapable of writing about people not exactly like herself?

    I read a lot of science fiction, and that makes the problem extremely obvious: how can anyone write about intelligent beings from another planet from a position of actually having been one, or even having intimate knowledge of and informed review by, such a being? There’s the obvious counter that the same can be said of writing about intelligent beings from this planet 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson May 17, 2017 at 9:52 am #

      Yes, agree Moz.
      I understand cultural appropriation as the Chanel boomerang, claiming aboriginal stories as one’s own without acknowledgement and permission, silencing those telling their own stories by hijacking them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter May 18, 2017 at 6:47 pm #

        Worse than that. The (mutual?) reinforcement of values antithetical to the needs of underdog groups like colonised peoples.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Nick May 17, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    This was by one of my uni lecturers in the 90s:

    Funny Accents: The Sound of Racism

    Like

  8. paul walter May 17, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    Warm, gently persuasive piece at first glance, but yet another toothache precludes analysis of any depth from this writer at his stage.

    It is true, I do not understand how a questioning individual can both knock themselves out and fuck off at the same time, but will likewise reserve the task of consideration of the point in its relation to the concept of paradox to a later date.

    Two more things.

    I had a quick scan of Nick’s posting and found it fairly incomprehensible, which is clear evidence of the veracity of this persons claim to be an academic of some kind.

    I did latch on to the segment dealing with Godzilla located wthin a frame work that identifies him (her?) as a kind of thoughtful and considerate didactic commentator on consumerism defined within a prospective mono culture, epiphanies surely to abound.

    it is impossible to comment without knowing the nature and direction of the Woodyistic overdubbings and therefore if these are somehow racist or witty is it a Hitler-rant type of thing?): Just mockery would reduce it to the same single dimensionality some could have accused the original movie of representing, although I suspect that Nick’s approach is ethnological in a constructive sense and his writing is way differentiating between unconscious chauvinism and its employ as a vehicle for wit or something darker, a la Bill Leak say.

    Perhaps the thread starter is intended as an attempt to explain what a Helen Darville, say, was about as to the Hand that Signed the Paper, something I never got a chance to read and thus be able to separate from the tizz whizz that followed the unmasking of Helen Demidenko.

    Anyway, I am whacked out with the tooth and probably would have lacked the wit to add that much of an elucidatory nature for the wider readership, so I will leave things now for a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nick May 17, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

      I don’t think he was accusing Allen of a hanging crime for telling a bunch of lame-arse Two Wongs Don’t Make a White jokes (over the top of a Japanese film!) I think he was saying the film was symptomatic of an era when that kind of ‘unconscious chauvinism’ was very dominant. And to a large extent, it still was in the late 90s.

      Unless something can be rendered into ‘plain English’ that we all know ‘everyone’ can understand, it’s seen as foreign/suspect/academic, and ripe to be treated with irony/sarcasm/ridicule. At the very least, it’s less marketable and not good business sense, which is a point the Salon article makes.

      I hope your tooth gets better soon, Paul.

      Like

      • paul walter May 18, 2017 at 1:25 am #

        Ta. Life wasn’t meant to be easy. Nor do I do processive stuff well.

        Tribalism is a powerful thing to breach, when it pertains so elementally to identity, through what seems a verificationary effectivity. People dont see the manipulation to drive the construction of a peculiar idea of hierarchical culture involving a specific aesthetic hence structural as wrong as ideol0gy verfies and justifies behaviour.regardless of hidden resulting psychhic conflicts.

        The tragedy is that an immature mindset has control over cultural production, if that is the term to use- compare the mindset that drives this sort of site, to knowing perversion of knowledge and wisdom that goes with tabloid msm fake and fantasy news.

        While techniques of persuasion rest with the dominant culture dedicated to the assemblage of a commodification loop mechanism we must wonder how powerful it is we are up against and accept that sometimes even a site like this, let alone the majority of sites, carries with it psychic”fleas”, that have been heuristic and themselves evolving by the historical process to capable of functioning in this world against a myriad of choices also discarded (why some, not others?) and where flaws of perception are themselves part of the process.

        I do not know how we become more pacific,less aggressive culture given the state of unfolding life and history today. Po mo suggests choices are value loaded and must be seen as within concepts of contingency, context and a too elusive gap between the known and unknown (As Rumsfeldt might say) with a fitful pursuit of objectivity that avoids damaging a particular metatext. which, from this trajectory, an observer recognises only a fitful movement toward toward an eventually obscured abstract ideal , from some thing hopelessly contaminated. Who indeed can say who/ what is “wrong” or “right”?

        Personally, I think sexism ,racism, classism etc are better off jettisoned at this stage in history, but others will attack that idea to the death for fear of seeing virtues they themselves subscribe to (:”manliness”, chivalrous behaviour, etc) that are part of their mechanism for self esteem eliminated forcefully from the apparatus.
        of cultural production.

        So it remains a battle, because resistance can be legitimate and pleasingly effective dependent on the underlying outlook that challenges fundamentals taken for granted, as with flat earth ideas centuries ago, feeding into ideology and social reproduction not easily detected and challenged, within a sort of Cosmic cultural noise or hum.

        Even if I could change things, which I would if I could, It is still inevitable, I’d be a sort of fascist regardless of how pure my motives were concerned, I wonder, if that is the way things work.

        I

        Like

  9. paul walter May 18, 2017 at 1:26 am #

    Shit on toothaches and ageing,

    Liked by 1 person

  10. paul walter May 18, 2017 at 9:17 am #

    In the end glad to read this, in light of Marcia Langton’s tweet on Chanel’s ad for perfume in a boomerang… sophisticated stuff to do with the conditioning of a demographic and a reciprocal self-conditioning within advertising itself for a mindset capable of such an ad, given the transgression against aboriginal culture and oppression of aboriginals expressed through the reinforcement of a middle class, fascistic and isolationist weltanschauung.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. doug quixote May 18, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

    Meanwhile, back in the Kremlin –

    Putin: Well, my children how well this destabilisation of America is going!

    Adviser Shirtliftov: Yes, Great Leader you are brilliant and clever and devious and resourceful and . . .

    Putin: Enough! I am not narcissist like Trump! Though we may have succeeded too well, if the fool gets himself impeached too soon. It is not supposed to happen until next year.

    Shirtliftov: But Your Magnificence, isn’t Trump able to stifle the investigations? In Russia they’d never get a chance to challenge your illegalities [black look from Putin] er, I mean your just dismissal of fake news . . .

    Putin: Hmm. Siberia isn’t getting any warmer, Shirtliftov. What of your report, Buggeroff?

    Adviser Buggeroff: Syria will soon be reconquered, Iraq is in turmoil, and Erdogan is trying to be a mini-me to Your Incomparableness. That fool in North Korea is running interference to distract the US military and split their forces. Meanwhile Eurovision has distracted the Ukrainians from the loss of half their country. All in all, very splendid Your Omnipotence.

    Putin: Better and better. “Make America great again” is excellent slogan, yes? Worked well for Hitler, for a while. Western cunts have no clue what they are doing. Is like the Frog and the Scorpion, is it not?

    Advisers: Indeed great one!! (which are we, frog or scorpion??)

    Liked by 1 person

    • rhyllmcmaster May 18, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

      “Knock yourself out” indeed. That goes for the thought-bullies in Facebook discussions, too. As Camille Paglia said recently when she was vilified for disagreeing with another group of feminists, “Go take a hike!”

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter May 18, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

        I still don’t see that you can knock yourself out and take a walk at the same time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • doug quixote May 19, 2017 at 11:36 am #

        Please ensure that a ‘reply’ is relevant, or I may think that you are Trump with a new hashtag. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. paul walter May 19, 2017 at 1:25 am #

    Ho-hum.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. paul walter May 19, 2017 at 2:15 am #

    Well, well…look what has turned up here:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/17/chanel-needs-to-understand-indigenous-anger-theres-nothing-luxury-about-it

    I was not quite right on the details of Chanel, but far more right than wrong on the whole.

    The comments section there is interesting at times also.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. paul walter May 19, 2017 at 4:06 am #

    Re rhyllmacmaster and Paglia, this Dr Jordan B Petersen, is he to be taken seriously? His stuff about leftists and Marxism reads like something from the mid west bible-belt. Can we be sure of the objectivity of someone seemingly so closed minded about political theory?

    I won’t think of him as an attention seeking self promoting Alan Jones type narcissist type, of course.

    That’s not to say I am unaware of the unpopularity of politically correct speech, I have been jumped on too many times for things totally out of context in relation to whatever I was trying to talk about, for some pretty miniscule “offences”, including being condemned as “ableist” for calling politicians “imbeciles” (what was I supposed to call them, given their behaviours and what these indicated?).

    Like

  15. Nick May 19, 2017 at 11:30 am #

    The is the link from the Salon article. The NCAC believes that’s an appropriate story for children. Who have enough trouble working out what is fact or fiction. That good black people are servile black people who do as they’re told.

    The article then claims that a publisher *choosing* to recall a book following public pressure against it is “censorship”. Censorship means it’s a criminal act to publish it. It means you can be fined or go to prison.

    By contrast, any other publisher was free to publish this book subsequently. Anyone can choose to publish it on the internet. Anyone can download it to their iPad and read it to their children. Anyone is free to advocate for it. All perfectly legal.

    Nobody was compelled to do or not do anything. Nobody was threatened with violence. ie. change happened, a small evolution, and there wasn’t anything fascist about it.

    The NCAC appear to be promoting free speech absolutism. I don’t support that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • doug quixote May 19, 2017 at 11:57 am #

      Self-censorship ensures that we will live in a bland world, protected by the nannies from every dissonant voice. Far from absolutism, such a book as far as I am aware does not advocate genocide nor even violence. Your local bookshop (if there are any left) has copies of Mein Kampf. It may even have The Bible and the Koran, books eminently deserving of a ban if any are.

      But you may disagree.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson May 21, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

      Doesn’t anyone know what censorship is anymore? Withdrawing a book isn’t censorship, imo. The publisher is quite free to continue to print copies, if nobody buys it he/she sustains a loss of revenue. I don’t see that as censorship, which would prevent material being published at all, with legal ramifications for those who ignore the edict.

      Like

      • paul walter May 21, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

        Wouldn’t that depend on the reason a book was withdrawn?

        Like

  16. paul walter May 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    I find Nick’s comment most instructive. dq manages a reply for balance without actually addressing Nicks comment. but there seems no easy answer, given the way human nature seems to operate.

    Yet truth must out. Are we hard wired for truth as part of our evolved coping skills?

    What do you think, Jennifer?

    Liked by 1 person

    • allthumbs May 19, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

      “Are we hard wired for truth as part of our evolved coping skills?”

      I certainly hope not Paul, progress would have been stymied to a stop in the long grasses of the African wilderness if it wasn’t for some uppity hominid going beyond their own sense of truth.

      It is not for lack of truth we stumble and fall about, it is more likely for lack of the imaginative lie.

      I always liked that observation “he’s away with the pixies”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter May 19, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

        yes, a bit of a break from the tiresome business of survivng, all thumbs. Daydreaming as a coping mechanism.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson May 21, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

      I think I wish I had time to address these excellent comments with the attention they deserve, and I don’t just now.
      But are we hard wired for truth? I don’t believe so, PW. I think maybe hard wired for survival and self-interest, and evolving is learning to consider others.
      Anyway, PW, what is truth?

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter May 21, 2017 at 3:13 pm #

        No I just wondered, can a species evolve in denial of the realities of everyday life. Our brighter ancestors knew if some thing was right or not, say the grass moving, a rustling and a tawny tail..it seemed to some, that could be dangerous.

        Others maybe ended in the belly of a predator, maybe the smartest survived by knocking that gazelle on the head for a good feed.

        Like

  17. franklongshank May 20, 2017 at 9:02 pm #

    You’re not a racist in my book Jennifer. Your just a little old leftie horn-bag.
    Speaking of Cultural Appropriation – did any of you fat maggots see Melania touch-down in Riyadh with the Donald? No fucking cultural appropriation of head scarves or Islamic shit bags to dress his gorgeous trophy wife.
    Melania looked stunning as she walked down the red carpet straight out of the front of the plane. Not the back of the plane like Obama had to exit in China like a grovelling monkey-boy. Nope. Style is back in vogue.
    I even admire the way Donald put an extra large gold belt around Melania’s waist with the words “Property of D.J. Trump!” engraved on the side. That belt was an extra-wide precaution to keep those head-lopping bastards from fondling her personage with their brown fingers.
    Can’t be too careful of Arabs misappropriating one’s personal property.
    That’s art for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • helvityni May 20, 2017 at 9:53 pm #

      Frank, I saw that picture earlier on and I’m still laughing; I thought that Melania is wearing her morning coat, and as the belt was missing, a kind fellow traveller, a Sumai wrestler, let Mrs Trump have his spare one…
      I only know of two stylish Americans: Jackie Kennedy and Barack Obama….

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson May 21, 2017 at 2:46 pm #

        I think Melania’s outfit looks kind of Star Trek or something. Her controls are on that gold belt.

        Like

    • Jennifer Wilson May 21, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

      Leftie horn bag? WTAF is that?

      Like

  18. paul walter May 21, 2017 at 7:51 am #

    I actually liked it. Apparently there is some criticism of her for not wearing veil or scarf.

    What this is all about apart from arming the USA’s crazy main proxy, is drawing attention away from the events of last week.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. paul walter May 23, 2017 at 12:39 am #

    You know, “cultural (mis)appropriation can actually be an offensive thing,

    Think of the Eureka Flag, symbol of working class resistance to authoritarianism,.a symbol inherited by the likes of Jack Mundy, the Green BLF leader of the 1970’s, later pilfered by National Front/Hansonist types who’s politics were anti working class.

    Like

  20. paul walter May 24, 2017 at 7:28 am #

    IsTwitter cultural appropriation? You feed in a comment there are threads with dozens of comments, but you cant get to read them?

    Like

  21. allthumbs May 24, 2017 at 8:18 am #

    Is transvestism cultural appropriation, transsexualism….?

    Like

    • paul walter May 24, 2017 at 9:31 am #

      Fucked if I know..

      Like

  22. paul walter May 24, 2017 at 9:38 am #

    https://noplaceforsheep.com/2017/05/15/on-cultural-appropriation/#comment-183591

    The death of representation.

    Like

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