Tuesday 21 May 2019

Is there anyone in that kimono?

"Harajuku" women posing in Tokyo

I was asked on my Facebook page today why I'm taking such a strong stand on this cultural appropriation issue and this was my reply

I'm taking a strong stand because - 

3 women designers were harassed and shamed into removing the description kimono from the name of a garment they had designed.

1) I'm outraged by bullying - the people who "educated" the designers had their discussions in secret with those businesses but felt OK to whip up other women on social media to support their stance. Threats were bandied around about boycotts and ongoing public shaming campaigns to pressure the designers.

2) the "educators" (I use that term because its what Papercut Patterns called them. Apart from Emily Ito - who has not responded to my call out to discuss her point of view - they refuse to publicly acknowledge who they are, so I’m in the uncomfortable situation of referring to “educators, they, them, etc…), in my view, have a very poor case for claiming using kimono is an unacceptable cultural appropriation. I’ve carefully read what could be described as Emily Itos manifesto and aren’t convinced by her argument. The weakest part of it being that contemporary “white” women should be making amends for the internment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the USA during WW2.

3) the cultural appropriation case does not have integrity in my opinion and the shadowy people who are claiming it does should be able to debate it openly and with transparency in a public forum.

4) As a feminist I’m appalled that this furtive group is using their energy and resources to target other women. This is a horribly misguided approach. Patriarchal power (in its multiple manifestations as historical colonisers of Asia, the male gaze in art - Ito refers to Orientialist art, much more I’d like to say about that…) and male privilege is what they should be targeting. Confected outrage about inherited “privilege” of white women results in driving wedges into female solidarity. I absolutely and totally acknowledge that white men from Europe and Britain were and still are the main oppressors of half the world. But white women have been no less colonised and subjected to the male gaze, just in different ways.

5) After 5 days of being ignored and stonewalled by the shadowy, unidentified people who say they have a principled stand over this issue I'm starting to take it personally. Helen of Helens Closet said she wouldn't publish any submissions that were racist, bullying or examples of discriminatory behaviour. As she hasn't published any of the comments I submitted I have to presume she has put me in that category. I do take that very personally. 

"The comments section below will be moderated. Please allow time for us to approve your comments. Please note that racism, bullying, or any other discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated in the comments section of this post."

Despite spending many hours of my time thinking through, researching and writing about my strong opinions here for the last 5 days I've set aside some time to start writing up the Sencha Kimono pattern which I hope to publish by the middle of June.

I'm presuming that as the cultural appropriation warriors have't shaken their weapons at me in regard to my intention to use the word kimono in the pattern name that they won't subsequently  target me or my business with the shameful tactics they used on other designers.

After 5 days of calling them out with absolutely no acknowledgement I have to assume they have totally no concern whatsoever for what I do and think. I have been told that American "sisterhood" often regard themselves in a superior category to the rest of the world. They are more exceptional and entitled. Their suffering and oppressions are more poignant and significant. My experience of trying to get some interaction going with that mob seems to confirm that. 
Then again, Emily Ito has an Instagram following of nearly 12,000 so perhaps she is afraid if she were to acknowledge my concerns her friends might want to savage me, so perhaps I should be grateful to be so irrelevant.

Their way or the highway, as we say in Australia.

Lastly on my Pinterest page I have had a tribute board for the last 6 years dedicated to the extraordinary Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong. (lets not segue into the ghastly racist attitudes between Chinese, Korean and Japanese women....more stuff where angels fear to tread)


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