Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thoughts on cultural things...

This morning I ran across a blog post that railed against the idea of people wearing cultural stereotypes as halloween costumes... ok, implying that because you're wearing a turban your a terrorist is generally a bad idea - I agree - but they seemed to go further, implying that mimicking another culture (in largely any way) makes you racist. "Dressing up as 'another culture,' is racist, and an act of privilege."

wow. If that's the case then I have one messed up hobby, researching and mimicking historical cultures regardless of my own ancestral background. eesh...

I consider myself a fairly respectful person, so the idea that I am behaving in such a disrespectful manner worried me. I find myself practicing some shower philosophy... mulling this whole thing around in my head while I wash my hair.

I've run into it before, primarily in college during women's studies - the idea that some one who is from a historically priveledged background can not possibly engage with other cultures without being imperialistic and racist or sexist. I really have to take issue with this stance, it feels overly simple and just not right. I am a blonde haired blue eyed WASP, this is entirely undeniably true - I can not escape my white bread mayonaise background or the connotations that it brings with it. I get that. It doesn't change the fact that I have a terrible sense of curiosity when it comes to how people live, how they experience their lives and what gives them a sense of meaning. Sometimes in my explorations I find a tradition that really speaks to me, I enjoy it for whatever it is - a particular flavor of dance, mode of dress, hair treatment/covering, artistic practice etc - and I don't see a problem with that. I don't *think* many other people do either, but maybe I'm wrong, maybe they do.

I certainly agree that taking a holier than thou attitude in 'researching' various 'heathen rituals' is entirely awful - it's a horrible thing and it happens, a lot. It happens way more often than it should and it's a problem that desperately needs to be addressed more often than it is. But I don't believe reacting by keeping cultural practices insular and exclusive is the answer - what does it mean if we don't share it with others?

What are your thoughts? I'm curious to hear, it's something that I feel is important to think about, tell me... If you'd like to read the blog post that I found it is here.

Myself, displaying some fresh henna wearing a sari drapped in a traditional Bengali style