Sensitivity Writers. AKA: avoiding cultural appropriate in writing

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Hussar

Legend
Mercurious said:
Sometimes--often, even--the most offended parties are not even those who are being appropriated or refered to
There's another way to understand this sentence? There's some hidden meaning here that I'm missing? That "often" the most offended parties aren't even those who are being appropriated?

Yeah, I don't think so. This is pretty much the standard party line when talking about any social issue.

Like I said, don't you get tired of being on the wrong side of every social issue for the past century?
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Or, punch up, which really did work out well for punk rock while punk was still punk.
Was going against disco really punching up?

I think people have to be free to critique and ridicule the ridiculous, wherever it comes from (and artists especially need to preserve this right). I think generally there is going to be more of a need to 'punch up' (really don't like that phrase myself), but 'punching down' is also going to be necessary from time to time.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
So what it all boils down to is this: if you're going to offend people - which in many forms of creativity can be and sometimes is an intentional goal - make sure you spread the offensiveness around fairly, such that everyone gets an equal share.
I don't think that is the point of criticisms of the cultural appropriation concept. I am not interested in offending people. I am just interested in continuing to allow for a free exchange of culture and increased empathy and traffic between culture. My impression of what CA has achieved in the past three or so years, is it has hardened lines and created a 'stay in your lane' mentality. I think what positive effect it has is minimal compared to the damage it is doing. And I think there are much more tangible ways to help the groups that proponents of CA say they want to help. And often time it treats very powerful and influential cultures, like China and Japan for example, as somehow being weak cultures who need protecting (if you talk to people from these places you usually hear a very different response to cultural appropriation concerns than you would hear from people in the states). Heck, Japan was a colonialist power itself.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
There's another way to understand this sentence? There's some hidden meaning here that I'm missing? That "often" the most offended parties aren't even those who are being appropriated?

Yeah, I don't think so. This is pretty much the standard party line when talking about any social issue.

Like I said, don't you get tired of being on the wrong side of every social issue for the past century?
I don't see how this is the same as being on the wrong side of history. Who and what people actually feel about the idea of cultural appropriation is an important question in this. It would matter if say 90% of Native Americans cared about it, versus if only 10% cared about it. I don't know the answer to that. I've looked up polls and haven't been able to find much that is useful. I have seen a lot of anecdotal reporting. But that isn't as reliable as a poll (maybe there are polls out there and I just don't know what they are). But I think Mercurius is reporting something a lot of people experience: they see a lot more handwringing about cultural appropriation from educated people who live in suburban communities and are often white, but don't experience nearly as much when they go into the communities in question. This is an experience I've had. I don't have as much direct experience with native americans because of where I live, but I have experience with other groups and live in a neighborhood that is quite diverse with a lot of people from other countries who speak different languages. Again, I don't know what the actual numbers are going to be if we poll everyone on the topics in this thread and break it down by different demographic groups, but I suspect what you would see is a lot more concern about CA among: the highly educated, the young, and the upper middle class. My experience has also been a lot of this is generational. I find people my age do tend to roll their eyes at the notion of cultural appropriation (whether they are white, black, asian, etc). But people in the generation or so below me, tend to take the concept a lot more seriously. Again, this is just my experience. I won't pretend to know the answers. But I do think the answers to these questions would shed a lot of light on the topic.

Keep in mind, just because someone cares about the history of things like slavery, Jim Crow and other forms of oppression that minorities have been subjected to, that doesn't automatically mean they will also consider cultural appropriation a valid concern. I think you are drawing a straight line between the two, assuming that someone being skeptical of CA and being skeptical of where it is really coming from, is also going to bee dismissive of these other concerns. Which just isn't the case. I think people are also assuming if you don't buy into CA, you are a conservative, which is also not true (I am definitely not a conservative). I have watched over the past years as the extremes have become more extreme. But I haven't changed my position on any political issue. I still vote for democrats, still believe in social programs, still believe in racial equality, and want to see more economic equality in the country. I just don't think fretting over cultural appropriation gets us to any of that. If anything I think it makes it harder because it hardens the lines between different groups of people. It is going to be very hard to get everyday people to empathize more with people outside their own culture, if they are afraid of crossing the boundary because they might get labeled an appropriator (and being labeled that can have a very negative impact on a person's life and even their livelihood).
 

Hussar

Legend
Keep in mind, just because someone cares about the history of things like slavery, Jim Crow and other forms of oppression that minorities have been subjected to, that doesn't automatically mean they will also consider cultural appropriation a valid concern. I think you are drawing a straight line between the two, assuming that someone being skeptical of CA and being skeptical of where it is really coming from, is also going to bee dismissive of these other concerns. Which just isn't the case. I think people are also assuming if you don't buy into CA, you are a conservative, which is also not true (I am definitely not a conservative). I have watched over the past years as the extremes have become more extreme. But I haven't changed my position on any political issue. I still vote for democrats, still believe in social programs, still believe in racial equality, and want to see more economic equality in the country. I just don't think fretting over cultural appropriation gets us to any of that. If anything I think it makes it harder because it hardens the lines between different groups of people. It is going to be very hard to get everyday people to empathize more with people outside their own culture, if they are afraid of crossing the boundary because they might get labeled an appropriator (and being labeled that can have a very negative impact on a person's life and even their livelihood).
No, the straight line is not quite what you are looking at.

The straight line is that there are folks who were on the wrong side of history in virtually every single social issue for the past 100 years or so. Might be different folks on different issues, true, but, there was always someone on the wrong side of every single one of those issues. And, well, cultural appropriation is no different. Years from now, when people look back on this, and other social issues, they will see the same thing that we see when we look back at Jim Crow or women's rights or whatever - a segment of the population who was very much on the wrong side of history.

Me, I'm fairly confident that those who deny cultural appropriation exists or that it's limited to ivory tower academics are going to be on the wrong side of history.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
That's one opinion. For many, culture and "tribe" are sources of healing, inspiration, strength. This tends to be much more common in marginalized and oppressed groups. Culture can provide a useful refuge from such marginalization and oppression.
My grandfather was Italian and he and his brothers all bought a cluster of four house next to each other after the war. I currently still live in what is left of it surrounded by relatives (one of the houses has been sold). So I totally understand what you are saying here. There is definitely comfort in having a tribe (and where I live in Boston, things can be pretty tribal sometimes). But there is also a dark side to the tribe, and I've seen it here as well in that people don't venture out as much and develop limited views of groups beyond their own at times (and in the worse cases you see it in the form of racial violence). We also have gangs here. And the gangs are usually drawn on racial/ethnic/linguistic lines. That latter one is particularly scary for everyone I think. So I think there is value in having a group that makes you feel more protected. But at a certain point, it can start tilting towards myopathy and even dehumanizing people outside that group. This is why I keep saying CA reminds me a bit of ethnonationalism, because I think it can lead to that kind of thinking. I think a much more free and open line of communication and cultural exchange is important for preventing that. And I think if we start to put too many rules on how that needs to be handled, people freeze up and stop exchanging. My background was more mixed so I crossed those lines a lot. And I think I benefited from it, and I think it made me a more compassionate and empathetic person (even though I am sure many people here, because I've been so adamant in my position, would think otherwise).
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't think that is the point of criticisms of the cultural appropriation concept. I am not interested in offending people. I am just interested in continuing to allow for a free exchange of culture and increased empathy and traffic between culture. My impression of what CA has achieved in the past three or so years, is it has hardened lines and created a 'stay in your lane' mentality. I think what positive effect it has is minimal compared to the damage it is doing. And I think there are much more tangible ways to help the groups that proponents of CA say they want to help. And often time it treats very powerful and influential cultures, like China and Japan for example, as somehow being weak cultures who need protecting (if you talk to people from these places you usually hear a very different response to cultural appropriation concerns than you would hear from people in the states). Heck, Japan was a colonialist power itself.
And, Japan is LOATHED by its neighbours who are currently in the middle of trade wars because of Japan's lack of acknowledgement of it's colonialist past.

I don't think I'd hold up Japan as a particularly good example of social awareness. Japan's obliviousness has certainly done very, very little to endear itself to its neighbours.
But, you're also missing the point. China in particular has been on the short end of the colonial stick for centuries. I can see why they'd be a bit prickly about it. Japan, OTOH, appropriates white, western culture for the most part. They certainly wouldn't be caught dead appropriating southern Asian or African culture due to the incredibly deeply ingrained racism and bigotry in this country. White, European culture is seen as valuable. Anything else is not.

Again, using Japan as an example of social awareness is not really going to win you any points.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Me, I'm fairly confident that those who deny cultural appropriation exists or that it's limited to ivory tower academics are going to be on the wrong side of history.
Maybe you are wrong. We won't really know the answer to that for some time. But I do understand history. And I think people who say this are oversimplifying something that is a lot harder to gauge than they think. What if they look back and say something more like "the idea had a kernel of truth but became more of a moral panic"? I think that is a possibility. An even more likely possibility in my mind, is historians will observe that all this energy was put into protecting something that wasn't a finite resource, when it really could have been better spent tackling the direct issues facing the groups in question. I think another possibility is they look at the overall impact of trying to mitigate cultural appropriation and see it caused more harm than good. You can care about some of the issues that underly CA concerns, and still reject the utility of the concept.

But not every issue is on the right or wrong side of history. I really think it is doubtful that the cultural appropriation will be viewed by future historians the way we view Slavery or the Holocaust. I think instead they will see it as a curious cultural development, and probably not even feel the need to determine who was on the right side (unless blood is spilled over it, or it ends up solving a major social issue).

I mean not every laudable idea in history ends up on 'the right side of history'. The temperance movement and prohibition at one time seemed laudable. It often invoked the same kind of language being invoked by advocates of stoping CA. But it was a disaster. There are plenty of examples of well intentioned efforts in the past that either missed the real issue or backfired.

And it isn't always obvious what the right side is (and this situation is definitely not as stark as slavery or Jim Crow).
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
And, Japan is LOATHED by its neighbours who are currently in the middle of trade wars because of Japan's lack of acknowledgement of it's colonialist past.
My point wasn't to defend Japanese colonialism (I am very aware of its history). My point was simply that when people point to problematic things like someone wearing a kimono, it often doesn't make sense because a country like Japan was a colonial power and continues to be a very influential culture.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
I don't think I'd hold up Japan as a particularly good example of social awareness. Japan's obliviousness has certainly done very, very little to endear itself to its neighbours.
But, you're also missing the point. China in particular has been on the short end of the colonial stick for centuries. I can see why they'd be a bit prickly about it. Japan, OTOH, appropriates white, western culture for the most part. They certainly wouldn't be caught dead appropriating southern Asian or African culture due to the incredibly deeply ingrained racism and bigotry in this country. White, European culture is seen as valuable. Anything else is not.
Wasn't holding up Japan as an example of social awareness at all. I was holding it up as an example of how people point to something being cultural appropriation, where it doesn't make sense because the country in question is economically quite powerful.

My point about China is that it is presently very powerful. I realize it was on the receiving end of colonialism. But it doesn't make sense to treat China like a meek culture when it is growing so economically and politically powerful. And my experience with Chinese people is they don't worry about this sort of issue. In fact, when I have talked to Chinese people I get the sense that there is a lot of hostility there towards western progressives.

But doesn't your point about Japan just show how CA is misguided? That they a devalue countries they don't appropriate from. People tend to be curious about and friendly towards cultures they appropriate from (in my experience).
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
And, Japan is LOATHED by its neighbours who are currently in the middle of trade wars because of Japan's lack of acknowledgement of it's colonialist past.
I am not even going to comment on trade wars and what the root is. Way above my pay grade.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
My grandfather was Italian and he and his brothers all bought a cluster of four house next to each other after the war. I currently still live in what is left of it surrounded by relatives (one of the houses has been sold). So I totally understand what you are saying here. There is definitely comfort in having a tribe (and where I live in Boston, things can be pretty tribal sometimes). But there is also a dark side to the tribe, and I've seen it here as well in that people don't venture out as much and develop limited views of groups beyond their own at times (and in the worse cases you see it in the form of racial violence). We also have gangs here.
FYI, but you might want to avoid using terms like "my tribe" to define things that aren't. Unless you're Jewish and part of the Tribes of Israel, or Native American, that's a term that has been...culturally appropriated. Most Native Americans I know do not approve of that. (along with terms like powwoww, or tipi, or 'going off the rez")


And, Japan is LOATHED by its neighbours who are currently in the middle of trade wars because of Japan's lack of acknowledgement of it's colonialist past.



Again, using Japan as an example of social awareness is not really going to win you any points.
I lived in Korea for 4 years. Yeah, they aren't exactly thrilled with Japan's history of colonialism.


My point wasn't to defend Japanese colonialism (I am very aware of its history). My point was simply that when people point to problematic things like someone wearing a kimono, it often doesn't make sense because a country like Japan was a colonial power and continues to be a very influential culture.
Yes, Japan is a big culture (and so is China). But they aren't the majority culture here, so when someone like Katie Perry dresses up in a kimono and traditional Japanese makeup to sell records, that's still very much cultural appropriation.



Also, re: terms. There was a survey done in the mid 90s. Half of Native Americans preferred the term "Native American" or "American Indian". Half preferred "Indian", and smaller percentages preferred something else. We generally use the term "Native American" or "American Indian" because "Indian" can cause confusion because you may be talking about people from India.

So no, you're not going to get every member of the community to agree with what they want to be called. They aren't a hive mind just like white people aren't a hive mind. That doesn't mean that as a community, that's what they don't want to be called. Those arguments need to die in fire. I'm not speaking for myself, I'm speaking for what they said they want.

Additionally, this hostility towards academia needs to end as well. Education is a good thing. It's where experts and people who have studied the actual topic get together to have discussion. It may not be perfect, but it's exponentially better than a small group of people from rural town X with no college education acting like they know better than people who actually studied the topic. (I'm from rural town X surrounded by family who didn't go to college, so I know full well). It's also a common tactic used by people like Rick Santorum to attack higher education as bad, because in order to keep having people vote for him, they need to be kept ignorant of factual information and only spoon fed propaganda.
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
FYI, but you might want to avoid using terms like "my tribe" to define things that aren't. Unless you're Jewish and part of the Tribes of Israel, or Native American, that's a term that has been...culturally appropriated. Most Native Americans I know do not approve of that. (along with terms like powwoww, or tipi, or 'going off the rez")
This term was used by a number of other posters before me, and I was responding to its use to refer to people being tribal. I think it was fair. I really don't think using it caused anyone harm.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
This term was used by a number of other posters before me, and I was responding to its use to refer to people being tribal. I think it was fair. I really don't think using it caused anyone harm.
Well, that's the crux of the whole issue isn't it? You (general you) not thinking there was any harm in using an aspect of someone else's culture against their wishes and/or even offending them. And it does cause harm, as I've explained several times upthread as to how and why, and cited articles that also explain why.
 

Derren

Adventurer
Well, that's the crux of the whole issue isn't it? You (general you) not thinking there was any harm in using an aspect of someone else's culture against their wishes and/or even offending them. And it does cause harm, as I've explained several times upthread as to how and why, and cited articles that also explain why.
Rather you claiming that there is harm without any proof of it while pretending that you speak for a culture while ignoring with your limited horizon that the term tribe is a lot more universal and not owned by native americans (african tribes, slavic tribes, etc.)
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Rather you claiming that there is harm without any proof of it while pretending that you speak for a culture while ignoring with your limited horizon that the term tribe is a lot more universal and not owned by native americans (african tribes, slavic tribes, etc.)
How many times do I have to say I'm not speaking for an entire culture, but I'm referencing what they are saying themselves before you stop accusing me of the same lie? I haven't used my words. I've been citing their words. I've given proof. I've cited the direct sources. More than once.

So why do you keep repeating the same lie? Serious question? Do you just not read what I've posted? Do you have some other end goal? Are you just intentionally lying?

Once again, these are the word from the actual cultures impacted (articles like these are all over the place, and super easy to find; they are not just one off opinions or anecdotal experiences):

"Native imagery is everywhere in the United States. Our images, symbols, and cultures are used as commodities and novelties. Natives are used as logos, from butter packaging to cigarettes to baking soda to clothing. Natives are used as Halloween costumes. Native tribe names are used by the U.S. military as names for weapons. Native tribe names are used as names for vehicles. Natives are used as mascots for sports teams.

Racism toward Native people is normalized, so much so that many people do not see it as racism at all. Racist stereotypes of Native people are seemingly ingrained into the psyche of people starting in childhood, some subliminal, some direct.

Most of this Native imagery is constructed and controlled by non-Natives. While there is a constant omnipresence of such imagery, it is severely lacking real Native representation. People see more Native depictions created by non-Natives in media than they do of real Native people. This is how negative stereotypes and misconceptions are formed. This, whether consciously or not, embeds the notion that Native cultures are here for consumption. It suggests it is perfectly normal and acceptable to use Natives for products and profit, and to most people, it is — except to the very people being exploited.

We’re told it’s not a big deal, we’re too sensitive, and that we should worry about bigger issues. What many don’t comprehend is that all of these issues concerning Natives and Native identity actually connect, converge, and come full circle. When we are seen as fictional characters, it dehumanizes us; when we’re not seen as people, the potential for violence toward us increases. "
 

Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Well, that's the crux of the whole issue isn't it? You (general you) not thinking there was any harm in using an aspect of someone else's culture against their wishes and/or even offending them. And it does cause harm, as I've explained several times upthread as to how and why, and cited articles that also explain why.
But this wasn't using an aspect of one culture. Tribal divisions exist in all kinds of groups. Native American tribes are just one kind of tribe. It is a category. It wasn't like I invoked a specific tribe
 

Derren

Adventurer
How many times do I have to say I'm not speaking for an entire culture, but I'm referencing what they are saying themselves before you stop accusing me of the same lie? I haven't used my words. I've been citing their words. I've given proof. I've cited the direct sources. More than once.

So why do you keep repeating the same lie? Serious question? Do you just not read what I've posted? Do you have some other end goal? Are you just intentionally lying?

Once again, these are the word from the actual cultures impacted (articles like these are all over the place, and super easy to find; they are not just one off opinions or anecdotal experiences):

"Native imagery is everywhere in the United States. Our images, symbols, and cultures are used as commodities and novelties. Natives are used as logos, from butter packaging to cigarettes to baking soda to clothing. Natives are used as Halloween costumes. Native tribe names are used by the U.S. military as names for weapons. Native tribe names are used as names for vehicles. Natives are used as mascots for sports teams.

Racism toward Native people is normalized, so much so that many people do not see it as racism at all. Racist stereotypes of Native people are seemingly ingrained into the psyche of people starting in childhood, some subliminal, some direct.

Most of this Native imagery is constructed and controlled by non-Natives. While there is a constant omnipresence of such imagery, it is severely lacking real Native representation. People see more Native depictions created by non-Natives in media than they do of real Native people. This is how negative stereotypes and misconceptions are formed. This, whether consciously or not, embeds the notion that Native cultures are here for consumption. It suggests it is perfectly normal and acceptable to use Natives for products and profit, and to most people, it is — except to the very people being exploited.

We’re told it’s not a big deal, we’re too sensitive, and that we should worry about bigger issues. What many don’t comprehend is that all of these issues concerning Natives and Native identity actually connect, converge, and come full circle. When we are seen as fictional characters, it dehumanizes us; when we’re not seen as people, the potential for violence toward us increases. "
No, you have not spoken with "a culture". That is a lie you repeat over and over again because your entire "Argument" (to be generous) depends on your ability to commune with a social construct. Even worse, you claim to speak with a group of constructs as there is no "native american culture". That is just a collective for several different cultures.

You have spoken with a few people who you consider to be part of a culture (which you likely selected because they support your way of thinking, ignoring all dissenters) and now claim that they speak for everyone and you are the herald of their will. But that is not the case.
If you really want to know what "a culture" thinks you have to define who is all part of that culture and then poll them (and i am sure a large part would vote "don't care"). Unless you do that don't pretend to know what a culture wants and speak for it.
 
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Bedrockgames

Adventurer
Also, re: terms. There was a survey done in the mid 90s. Half of Native Americans preferred the term "Native American" or "American Indian". Half preferred "Indian", and smaller percentages preferred something else. We generally use the term "Native American" or "American Indian" because "Indian" can cause confusion because you may be talking about people from India.
Fair enough, and I have used Native American. I was actually thinking about cultural appropriation, not what people prefer Indian or Native American or Indian American. But if the division is half agree and half disagree with something, I think that shows these kinds of issues are maybe not as cut and dry as you are making them out to be.
 
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