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Post Info TOPIC: Angel's does not feel able to answer these questions. Can you help?


Mookish Deity Most High

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Angel's does not feel able to answer these questions. Can you help?


Some of you might remember that Tudor basically introduced himself to me by criticising the working class and benefit 'scroungers', and has since made occasional sexist remarks: all purely from a point of ignorance.

So, tonight we started talking about privilege in its various forms and I've been trying to explain how privilege in one area (i.e. being male) is not negated by being disadvantaged in another (i.e. being black). However, there are some areas that I don't feel confident explaining, and some of you lovely mooks may be able to help me word it and educate both of us.

1) can privileged people (in this instance, not-currently disabled people) be OFFENDED by things that are not strictly offensive towards them (like Amanda Palmer's portrayal of Evelyn Evelyn, conjoined twins) or can they only be outraged by the offense potentially taken by people who are affected by it?

2) Would it be fair to say that things that are an integral part of a given culture (I'll use the example of cherry blossoms in Japanese culture) are still free to use in cultures that have the object but not the symbolism? I've seen instances of people screaming 'cultural appropriation' at cherry blossom patterns on non-Japanese people, but cherry trees (and their flowers) are common in many other countries and so does that make them available for use by any culture that wants to? Could I, who had a cherry tree in my back garden, wear cherry blossoms? And, likewise, what makes universally available object seem inherently the possession of one culture? For example, I know that a Native American war bonnet IS cultural appropriation when worn by a white woman to be cute. But is it fair for a white woman to wear the feathers available to her as accessories (as I've also seen people claim that, too, is appropriation of Native American culture, when I can only assume that European ancestors likely adorned themselves with feathers as we also had birds).

3) Why is it that white people adopting religions that are not considered conventional in Western society (anything other than a variant of Christianity, or Judaism if you are born into it) is seem as appropriation or as a fad? Would it be possible for a white person to truly believe in, say, Hinduism and everything it stands for, and therefore to take part in festivals and rituals, wear symbols and generally act as if they were a person born in a country where Hindus are a majority? This is something I struggle with, because I've seen a lot of people be called up for taking religious symbols when they don't 'belong' to them, but if you believe in a faith then don't its symbols belong to all believers? Obviously this is not me trying to excuse someone who thinks a symbol is pretty or a person claiming that the culture is mystical without really understanding it: just the people who DO understand it but don't look like they belong to that culture.

4) Should we do anything to 'celebrate' St George's Day in England? St Patrick's day in particular has become an expression of Irish pride, and then an excuse to get drunk and wear silly hats because you're 'probably Irish, somewhere'. My suggestion to Tudor was that those who wanted to celebrate St George's Day should go to church and observe the saint's day in the way they recommend as he is, first and foremost, part of the Christian religion and not of English culture. He is not even an English figure, nor did he do any of his saintly deeds in England itself, so I don't think it would be right to 'celebrate' St George's Day BECAUSE I was born in England if I was not a Christian. This isn't me saying that I don't think the English should have a day to celebrate national pride (which is another headache entirely), just me saying that since we don't have a tradition of celebrating it (outside of the Church and possibly the Guide's and Scout's parades) it's not a part of English culture in my opinion.

5) Can the British people (of whatever background) who have lost touch with their actual ancestral roots claim specific symbolism (such as Celtic)? Using myself as an example, I can only say that all my ancestors back as far as I can trace were born in Manchester. I could assume, from my red hair, that I've got some sort of Gaelic blood, as red hair is a stereotypical feature of the Scottish. I could assume that my entire family had been born in this geographical location for thousands of years and then claim they were Brigantes or Setantii and adopt their symbolism. Or should I just accept that I have no traditional history and keep my grubby mitts off something I may have no right to?



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Honoured Mook

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1. I think that compared to many I am pretty privileged and therefore mostly not directly affected by things that are offensive to particular groups, but when I am confronted with instances of prejudice/discrimination etc I am outraged, purely from a humanist point of view; as in "How can a person do that to another person?!"but I would not like to think that in doing so, I was somehow trivialising the suffering of those actually being discriminated.

I don't know enough about it to answer 2/3 - I will lurk quietly til a cleverer Mook answers and learn more about these things.

4. St. Georges day, in my experience, has become an excuse for ruddy faced louts to don red crosses and drink cheap lager and sing football chants. I have a certain animosity towards "patriotism" as it always seems to be a flimsy veil for xenophobia/racism. I think you're correct about the church part of it being fine - dude's a saint, so do saintly stuff in his remembrance - I feel Patron Saints Days are doomed to become another commercialised cringe-fest.

5. Again, this is territory I am unfamiliar with, but I think if you KNOW (beyond more than a hunch) that you have roots in a certain culture, even if it has never been part of your upbringing, you shouldn't be judged for trying to get in touch with it - providing that your intentions are not malicious. I know that my fathers mother is Irish, as was all her family, and my maternal Nanas family were Romani, and came to the UK in the late 1800s. I like to think that if I wanted to explore/get in touch with any aspect of my rather varied heritage, I would not be begrudged that.

Sorry these are tough questions, and my answers kinda suck.

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Mookish Deity Most High

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Okay, I'm going to do my best but I'm not an expert on this and I'm also really tired so I'm sorry if what I'm saying doesn't make sense. I also realise that a lot of my answers do relate to very specific cases, so I'm sorry if that's not helpful.

1. I'm not entirely sure on this one. When I see an instance of, say, cultural appropriation, I wouldn't say I'm offended as a white person, but I am outraged. So, I guess my answer would be no, the offence isn't mine to take.

2. I've been trying for a good while now to answer this and I'm struggling, so I'll come back and edit later if I think of anything.

3. Okay, this one. Please bear in mind I'm not Hindu, but Hinduism is a very tricky subject, because there is nothing in Hinduism itself relating to conversion, presumably because they never really tried to convert anyone in the same way Christianity has. This has been interpreted as meaning it's impossible to convert to Hinduism at all, but not everyone agrees with this view. Another reason it's tricky is because Hinduism is as much a part of South Asian culture as it is a religion, so converting to Hinduism can be seen as cultural appropriation.

Concerning other religions, I've never really seen any controversy relating to converts, so I couldn't say there.

4. I am highly critical of patriotism so I don't want to say too much about this one.

5. I was born in England, but the Celts are my "thing" so I do know a wee bit about them. English people do have a right to claim some Celtic heritage, more so in certain parts of the country than others, but certainly not as much as those from an area where a Celtic language is spoken, so Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Brittany, Ireland and Scotland. On the other hand, Galicia in northern Spain, where they speak Galego and Spanish, is immensely proud of its Celtic heritage. But I digress, I was meant to be talking about Britain. I'm not entirely sure where I stand on the Celts specifically, because ultimately I was born in England, and whilst most people from Britain can probably say they do have Celtic ancestors I also know that many people from Celtic countries would probably mind if a bunch of English people suddenly started claiming parts of Celtic culture for their own.

I think in many cases it simply isn't appropriate to adopt parts of a culture that you may well have roots in, and it would be far better to educate yourself in that culture than try to active participate in it. Respect is very important, and whilst your intentions may not be malicious that doesn't mean you won't cause offence.



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1. Can I get back on that to you?

2. I'd consider it cultural appropriation. Whether it's for a racist costume or it was done unintentionally (if the person really was into that culture but was ignorant of the importance of the background for the purpose of cultural dresswear) it's still considered offensive. It's like when white people try to wear afro wigs because they wanna look fierce, when that was not the original intent of having an afro.

3. There was a girl I used to be very good friends with who had a tendency to be a tad extreme with her liberal opinions; a perfect example being she got upset over when white people try to take on non-European religions, and yet somehow she thought it was okay to proclaim herself as a Hinduist just because she studied it in World Religions and wore a scarf with fabric print of Ganesh. she HAS been called out on her hypocrisy MANY time

4. I truly haven't educated myself on this subject, so I'm not entirely sure.

5. I myself was born in the States, being of African-American and Inuit. While I'm familiar with both Black and Native American history and my ancestral roots, I honestly don't claim fully of the other half of my Native American heritage completely, because I'm not full blooded Inuit. There's tons and TONS of people here, being mostly of non-color claiming of indigenous heritage just because their grandparents were affliated with the Native people here.

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Runic Mook of the North (mod)

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I do not have time to participate in all of these questions, but I feel very strongly about questions related to number five, since that kind of thing is part of what I'm doing my masters about.

First off, I am adamant that genes should NOT be confused with culture. They are not the same, and you do not inherit any culture in your genetics. Often culture and genes co-variate, but that does not mean that there is a correlation. To illustrate: One of my best friends are adopted from Korea, but she is not in any way less Norwegian than I am. At the same time, being Norwegian isn't something that makes it impossible for her to pursue the culture of her biological parents.

Recreation of prehistoric cultures are precisely that, recreation. Culture is not a static entity, it makes much more sense if you view it as an ongoing process. An a LOT of things change during a thousand years. Nobody alive today have an exclusive right to prehistoric cultures based on their genes.
And such assumptions are not just only false there is also something morally dubious about thinking that way. Personally I feel attached to norse culture, but that have nothing to do with the fact that all my grandparents were born and raised in Norway. It has to do with what I have been taught and what I have experienced. And that is someone that anyone can do if they want. The ones who says that you have to have certain genes to be a "viking" are the racists.

Even if there was a correlation between genes and ancient cultures, those genes are spread far and wide by now. Based on statistics I can be quite sure that I have celtic ancestors too, and if we go far enough back we all hail from Africa.

Being proud of your ancestors and their ways (or at least the non-fucked up parts, all cultures have had negative aspects) does not mean that people from other backgrounds are excluded from following that path and gain that pride too.

The way I see it, culture is not something you can be or buy. Culture is something that you participate in, something you inherit by doing. Culture is something you continuously acquire throughout your lifetime.

So to tie up; anyone who would begrudge you taking a journey to reconnect with ancient Celtic cultures are in my not very humble opinion at best an ignoramus.

Hijacking a culture or cultural elements, especially from people whose culture been treated as trash, is another discussion: cultural appropriation. But I'll not go into that here, it has been thoroughly discussed in another thread here somewhere.

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Mookish Deity Most High

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I've been meaning to respond to this for a few days, and I am tired, but here goes!

1. Of course you can be offended, but as Cowl said outrage is probably a better response. The problem arises because the priveleged group often starts calling out the affected group for things, rather than allowing the group to decide its own limits (e.g. Getting angry at black rappers using the N word, or angry at not being able to use it as a white person). Outrage acknowledges the problem is external, and I think this way you can both be a positive force against something hurtful whilst not taking power from people who are affected by it.

2. I'd say that things need to be taken on a case by case basis as to whether they are culturally appropriative- firstly, does something resemble the cultural icon strongly, or just appear similar? Cherry blossoms are both a flower and a cultural icon, but having a cherry blossom in your garden is different to wearing a kimono with them on. Secondly, what is the meaning of the cultural symbol and do you understand it and subscribe to it as an idea? Cherry blossoms are not religious in any way, but rather a recurrent motif in art and literature. It might be weird to not appreciate these ideas before using them as a symbol.

3. I think it's often seen as a fad because I think we all know the sort of people who do it- priveleged white people who describe themselves as "spiritual" who then go on a gap year to India or take up yoga, then all of a sudden they're saying "namaste" all the time and have converted to something or other. The change is rarely preceded by years of scholarship and attendance to religious rites, or talks with followers, they generally just sort of read an article, like an idea, then decide they subscribe to the full set of ideas to appear somehow more interesting. I'll bet there are genuine Western converts to Buddhism or Shinto, but they're kind of buried under the mountain of silly white people with bad haircuts and ankle bracelets. Hinduism is possibly not something you can convert to at all, as well as some areas of Judaism (I think?), but most things have no real barrier to conversion, just a lot of people don't genuinely convert.

4. I agree with you- St. George's day is a saint's day for religious people and that a celebration of Britishness would be very unBritish. I just don't think there's a huge amount of demand for a day like St. Patrick's, and as I've said before, I think that we are not entitled to similar celebrations to say Independence Day like that have in America, Canada, India etc. because we were the oppressors, and have no recent emancipation to celebrate.

5. I'd say that if it is recent history you have some sort of claim to it, but it's more important how strongly you identify with and understand the culture, and how different the culture is from you. I am approximately 1/4 Romani by blood, but I am not a Romani person because I was not raised that way, which according to that culture means I have lost my claim to any of their culture unless I adopted that way of life. I appreciate the genetics of that part of me (I recently traced my genome for this reason), but I don't believe I have much of a claim to any part of the culture as it is simply nothing like the world I live in. I think there are definitely people who have strong claims to Celtic culture (Cornwall is full of people like this), but I'd say most British people aren't in that category, and don't immerse themselves in these cultures through any sort of rite of self-exploration or because of interest, but because they want to be more interesting, and that is never a good enough reason.

TL;DR: If you are unsure if you have privelege in an area you probably do, and you should tread with caution. If you appreciate a culture because you find it fascinating and interesting that's good, if you wish to become closer to a culture because you want to assimilate an identity with it (assuming the people of that culture think that's okay), that's good. If you do these things carelessly, temporarily, without thought, superficially or for the benefit of making yourself look ~*so cultured*~ then you are being an arse. Stop it.



-- Edited by little charlie on Wednesday 19th of March 2014 10:37:55 AM

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I don't feel qualified to answer any of these questions. I'm just adding my voice because I think that the more people answer, the more eclectic the overall viewpoints will be. You probably shouldn't use any of these answers as a basis for what to say to Tudor because they're all wrong answers. They're still answers that have been thought about, though.

1. I learned here that there's an accepted semantic difference between outrage and offence, so I'll go with the overall majority that privileged people would feel outraged rather than offended.

2. No one culture invented feathers or cherries. I'm pretty sure that wearing feathers in a beaded band taken from a tribal pattern would be cultural appropriation. Wearing feathers in your hair because you want to? Or cherries? I don't see the problem. Wearing feathers tied into your elastic band at the bottom of plaits, for instance? Native American, yes. Nordic, yes. In all sorts of places in the world including your own back garden. It strikes me as a way of wearing feathers in your hair that everyone does because it's really practical. It was a smart idea for how to get feathers in your hair, so everyone thought of it.

All cultures where feathers and cherries can be found have pretty similar notions (with variations) about birds, flight and spring. I see only benefit and no harm in people mapping out their own symbolism based on personal experiences and thoughts. I'm a Londoner, and if I want to express that on a personal level by wearing pigeon feathers in my hair (even though pigeons are found in pretty much all countries) that I collected off the street I find it hard to believe a Native American is going to take issue with it. I don't think they'd take issue with it even if I just thought it looked nice, or if I was pleased with myself for having a look that was 'individual'. Wearing pigeon feathers in my hair may in its own way brand me as a total arsehole, but it would be a shame and, I think, quite unlikely, if a Native American thought I was an *insensitive* arsehole. If someone wears cherry flowers in their hair because there's a cherry tree in their back garden, what's the more inclusive approach? To take pleasure in their springtime pleasure, or to feel outrage that they did something that another culture other than theirs could relate to?

3. Uh-oh, I don't know. One could argue that, for instance, paganism is cultural appropriation, but I'm all for faith and ritual, if desired, and personal experience and thought. Converts to a religion have become really energised and activated by something that they feel has enriched their lives. It might be temporary and it might be the work of months rather than years of research, but if something has brought joy and purpose to their lives do I want to tell someone they can't and it's wrong and they're not doing it right? I don't want to do that. Who am I to judge. Does the faith in question want to tell them they can't and it's wrong and they're not doing it right? I don't know. I haven't done the research. If it's a faith that wanted to do that it just seems like a shame really. I think of faiths as plump, generous things, there for those that want or need them. If a new convert doesn't do it by the letter or the 'real' spirit of the law? Well. I wonder if I've ever met a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Sikh, Buddhist or whatever who has always done it by the letter of the law. Every law. Who has never, ever put a foot wrong and obeyed all the behavioural and moral and spiritual guidelines for all their life. I would like to meet them. But I would be scared. They would see through all my failures and small-minded evils and find me wanting.

4. I don't think there's any great need to celebrate St. George's Day. Other people have put it well.

5. ^^^ Argh Charlie, "most British people don't immerse themselves in these cultures through any sort of rite of self-exploration or because of interest, but because they want to be more interesting" seems so sweeping and it sounds full of a very personal sense of frustration about what you've found, out there in the world, and felt let down by.

Most people I've met who take an active interest in a culture, whether or not it's their place to do so, seem to get active because they want to be more interested, not more interesting. Unless one redefines 'interesting' to be less condemnatory of a person.

Anyone who wants to attract the sort of people they want to know in their lives has to take a step. They have to unfurl themselves and show who they are, who they've been, and who they would like to become. They need to demonstrate in some way to prospective soul mates why that connection should be made. They need to trust themselves enough to stand out in some way, no matter how seemingly gauche or insignificant. To me, that's what the point of being 'interesting' is. I cannot condemn someone if that's their reason for taking part in any activity.

But, very often, there is choice. You can take path A to be 'more interesting', or you can take path B. You're always going to take some path or other. You're always going to be on the move, somehow. But a person will *choose* which path to "hello I am interesting I am blossoming into myself, I am always trying to do that and I would like to show you, you should talk to me because I think that maybe-please we can connect, we should be friends" they will take, and that choice of path will probably be dependent on which avenue of focus they're more interested in.

I appreciate people wanting to 'be interesting' but I truly think that people who actively explore e.g. Celtic culture do so because they're genuinely interested and feel it helps them to connect to something important to them. Whether they should do so or not is a separate matter and one I don't feel qualified right now to answer.

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Runic Mook of the North (mod)

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Ho hum, I had a quick google of St.Georges day and I now feel a strong urge to make an uninformed & bastardized version of it and celebrate that. I think it will involve wearing medieval finery, red roses in my hair and drink ale while reading some of your good poets aloud with my very best attempt at speaking like your Queen. *ducks the incoming missiles*

In return, you are all welcome to celebrate our beloved independence day. The most important part is to eat lots of icecream on a vodka hangover while carrying a small flag and NOT ruin your insanely expensive family heirloom folk costume.

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Mookish Deity Most High

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Magda, perhaps I should clarify- I have absolutely no problem with people who have no claim to a cultural heritage wanting to study the literature, history, cultural practices etc. of someone else. That is something that as you said is a very positive thing indeed! But there is a big difference between having an interest in a culture and identifying with aspects of it, and claiming that culture. Reading Siddhartha and thinking "Wow, what an intriguing novel! The concepts here really are something that pique my interest, I'm going to check some books out of the library tomorrow on Buddhism!" or "Wow, what an intriguing novel! I am now a buddhist!" are very very different things, and yes, there are people like that! I don't think it's okay to say that it's okay for someone to do something to seem more interesting and develop an identity when it intrudes on the identity of already marginalised groups. Reading Irish traveller folklore? Good! Calling yourself a gypsy because you're ~*so bohemian*~? Not good!

There is a world of information out there, and we should all absorb as much as we can hold, and assimilate a self from it. We just also have to be careful that in doing so we don't steal things from people, and it's worth stating that the Celts were and are a real group of people. They have living heirs to their culture. Learn about it, it's exciting and you might take a message from it that will change how you see the world. But what Emmi was talking about is claiming that culture as your own, taking the symbols for your use, naming yourself as a member of a group just because you can. The Celtic peoples are already in many cases very distanced from their culture due to the destruction of it by other groups, and they don't need other people trying to claim as their own what is left.

 

EDIT: Irilar I am SO UP for that St. George's day! Also, your Independence Day sounds excellent! :)



-- Edited by little charlie on Sunday 23rd of March 2014 09:08:13 PM

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Annointed Queen of Mook - Founder and Editor

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I'll come back to this as it's so interesting, but this is just a wee note to the more I think about it, the more I'm up for St. George's Day, especially Irilar's version. Also: YAY WE'RE BRITISH AND OUR SAINT'S ALMOST DEFINITELY IN FACT INDEED HE IS TURKISH! LET'S CELEBRATE LOVELY ENGLAND WITH OUR SUPER GREAT BIG TURKISH SAINT. Yippee! I think it's got legs :)

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Mookish Deity Most High

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New question. I'm guessing that most (British, certainly) have seen Come Dine With Me. (For those that haven't, cooking show in which strangers host dinner parties, score points and try win a grand/look around other people's bedrooms/ slag people off on TV apparently forgetting that they will be able to watch it all later). A post on a feminist facebook page mentioned a white woman wearing a sari for an event and it kicked off into the usual nonsense (including teenage white girl who wants to wear a sari to prom because she thinks Indian culture is beautiful). That got me thinking about another odd question.

Yes, taking things like saris because they're pretty (and I'd consider bindis even worse, because at least a sari does the function of covering the body in a hot climate) is wrong. And yes, 'but my Indian friend said she didn't mind!' still isn't an excuse. But what about the many occasions in which someone from a particular culture has chosen to theme their night with said culture (happens a lot) and invites their guests to come dressed to fit the theme.

If you were invited to one such dinner party, what would you wear? I think the important bit here is that the people you will be attending the party with are strangers who you will have only met at previous Come Dine parties and the whole thing will be televised (as I'd imagine that if a person from a particular culture invited a group of close friends to a themed party in private, most people would go along with host's requests as far as they are comfortable/able).



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Mookish Deity Most High

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That's a tricky one. I would probably pick something that took style elements from that culture without using actual traditional clothes so that I wouldn't feel weird about it, but thinking about it, that's for my own comfort and not ethical reasons (it's probably worse to take elements of a culture and bastardise them for the sake of fashion). If it was an Indian wedding and I was invited and encouraged to wear traditional dress, I would, because I think it's polite to do so and is more strongly taking part in the culture rather than just wearing it for fashion, if that makes sense? I'm super interested as to what people will say!

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Mookish Deity Most High

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I think that in some cases, it might actually be more offensive not to wear traditional dress if you are explicitly invited to do so by the host. If you're going to a very specific event and have been invited to do/wear something, it's rude not to. If you're not invited to do so and you still do it, that's not cool though.
Generally speaking, I think white people who have no claim to any particular culture spend too much time discussing cultural appropriation without actually talking to the people that are part of these cultures. It's definitely good that we acknowledge this is a problem and talk about it, but in my opinion, the answers aren't really ours to come up with. I think that asking your friend what they're okay with as far as their culture is concerned is not the ultimate solution here, but it's a good start.

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Hello all, I have some questions relating to past appropriation of Native American culture and would be grateful to hear your answers.

Many seem torn about their love of Adam Ant's ethos and his appropriation of Native American culture. I've seen on Twitter how some wish they'd never liked him in the first place, because of his appropriation of the Geronimo stripe. He was given a written request by Native American representatives to stop using the symbol. In response, he arranged a meeting with the North American Community Association, where he put forward his deep interest in and identification with Native American culture and invited representatives to one of his shows. They were impressed, and the request was dropped. Does this make a difference?

Should Siouxsie Sioux change her name?

Punks, who arose as a cultural movement rather than solely a fashion statement, have long been associated with mohawks. Should mohawks no longer be worn/named as such?

Thanks so much if you can help.

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Mookish Deity Most High

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^ I think, certainly in the case of most haircuts, it's not that bad. It's just hair, and there's only so many things you can really do to it. Obviously, in the cases of haircuts worn for specific reasons, it would be impolite to just take it because it looks cool or edgy. The first example that popped into my head is the hairstyle worn by Orthodox Jewish men, mostly because it's one of the hairstyles that I don't think I've ever seen emulated (on the hand, Orthodox Jewish women are supposed to shave their hair off as it's considered seductive, but shaving you hair off is done for many other reasons and isn't really appropriative for fashion reasons). As hair goes, it either grows or you cut it (with occasional medical/side effect reasons it doesn't grow).

And with the Adam Ant thing, I guess that actual representatives reviewing something with the specific intention of analysing it's potentially offensive nature is very different to a teenage girl wanting to wear something appropriative from another culture and asking her high-school friend if it would be okay.

I'm not sure about the Mohawk/Siouxsie Sioux things because whilst they are strongly indicative of links to Native culture, they're based on names that Europeans gave groups of people when they invaded. As far as I'm understanding this, the people of Muh-Hek Heek Ing (mispronounced by the Dutch as 'Mohicans') called the people from a nearby tribe 'Maw Unk Lin' or 'Bear Place People', and the Dutch decided just to call them 'Mohawks' so both names associated with the hairstyle are Dutch words vaguely related to the names they gave themselves. The traditional hairstyle of these people isn't like the one we know as a Mohawk or Mohican, which came from another tribe altogether.

I now have, yet again, the Horrible History song British Things in my head, and trying to imagine a butler trying to explain to Punk Queen Vic how wrong she has everything...

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