Saturday 29 June 2019

Kim - Oh - Nooooo!!!!

About 4 weeks ago I got huffed up enough to start writing many pieces about my opinion on whether the use of kimono by non Japanese was a disrespectful cultural appropriation. After a month of picking up the issue, examining the top, bottom, sides and lots of hidden facets I still have the opinion that while it may offend some people, particularly those of Japanese – American heritage, and it may even qualify to a degree as an “appropriation” it just cannot be stopped, legally or morally. 

Essentially kimono has been used in the english language for around 200 years and has gradually segued into a generic descriptor word. Outside of Japan most people regard a kimono as a robe type  garment usually having wide sleeves and banded edges. 

I think the most heartening thing I can say to the Japanese who find it’s hijacking offensive is that the vast majority of people still understand what the traditional Japanese garment is and don’t confuse it with contemporary iterations of the style.

Hitting the headlines in the last few days has been the American celebrity Kim Kardashian doing her own version of cultural appropriation by suggesting she is going to trademark kimono as part of the name for her underwear collection.

Ugh, that really is awful. 

How many of you might agree with my cynical impression that she is welcoming the uproar because it makes so much free advertising for her product worldwide?

Personally I do find her appropriation in this case quite offensive because her undies don't have even the vaguest relationship to a kimono - but there is nothing that can be done to prevent her using kimono to peddle her wares. It is a generic word that can't be protected and you can bet your last buck that Ms Kardashian has access to top level legal advice and would be well aware of that. 

Perhaps she is relishing all the uproar and laughing all the way to the bank....?


During my writings I’ve become aware that examining anything to do with cultural appropriation will inevitably lead to touching on racism. Several of my blog posts did poke the beast and made me feel defensive. In honesty racism isn’t a thing that is much present in my daily life. Though I’ve lived in Australia for 34 years I’ve barely met any indigenous people and never had a friendship with an aboriginal person. 

In the tiny bush town where I’ve lived for 11 years, with a population about 900, I’m told there may be 3-4 people that identify as aboriginal but I don’t know any of them. Over the last decade a lot of Indian families have moved here and now run possibly half the local businesses – the Chemist shop, our only grocery shop (which includes agencies for the Post Office and Bank), 2 petrol stations, 2 motels and our medical doctor and hospital consultant is Pakistani. I welcome them all very much and would be totally comfortable to have more Indian people than white Australians in this town. They run their businesses professionally, have many children in the local primary school and contribute their time and resources to our local community organisations such as meals on wheels and the volunteer Fire Brigade. What more could you want of any citizen in your community?

Without question I acknowledge racism exists and is a hideous institution that needs to be dismantled. Because I’ve been a bit bewildered getting comments pointing out my white privilege lately I knew it was time to have a look into why it stung me. 

Recently I described myself as a good “listener” and a person who is trying to live in a conscious paradigm of integrity. We all think we are “good” people of course, but sometimes you must scratch off the surface to find out if any borer has got into the wood behind….

A week ago I launched a reading project. This is my reading list at the moment. Most are audiobooks so I can work in the studio and listen at the same time. Some weren’t available in that format so I bought them for Kindle.

A Haven Amongst Perdition, by Sidra Owens (this is actually a novel)

Not purchased yet but I intend to get “Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia” an anthology by Anita Heiss  and Stan Grants “Australia Day” because I need to keep in touch with how racism manifests in my own community.

White Fragility was the first book read and I found it shattering. I listened to the whole book over one day and was left feeling gutted. For me this book is one that has reset my world view. There is now a pre White Fragility world and a post White Fragility world.

I had read We Should All be Feminists a few years ago and re-read that.

At present I’m half way through listening to Ileoja Oluo’ So You Want to Talk About Race and this is great too. Its nearly 20 years since I did a year of Sociology at the University of Newcastle when I was doing my Visual Art degree so I’ve had to dust off some of my feminist theory. I’ve re-listened to Oluos chapter about “intersectionality” 3 times. This has intrigued me enough to do some additional research as I don’t feel this fits me well.

If anybody would like to recommend me some more good contemporary writing about racism I welcome your suggestions.

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