Sunday 16 June 2019

Newspeak: the new inclusiveness means you're out


The Appendix of 1984 stands as Orwell's explanation of New-speak, the official language of Oceania. ...Newspeak contains no negative terms. For example, the only way to express the meaning of “bad” is through the word “ungood.” Something extremely bad is called “doubleplus ungood.”

I have heard back from the moderators of the Curvy Sewing Collective.

Hi Pearl, 

Once again, I'm sorry for the delay in addressing your email. As you said, we're all quite busy and the CSC remains an entirely volunteer not-for-profit organization. I shared your email with the rest of our editorial team and we've discussed the issue. As of today, we will no longer be accepting "kimono" named patterns for review, inclusion in our round-ups, or in any other formal way on the CSC's main site. We are not trying to police how you, or any other designers, name patterns, but as we're not part of the culture those terms are borrowing from, we happily bow to the expertise of people from those cultures, when they express concern over the use of those terms. This new policy (which includes "kimono," among other words) will also be added to our review guidelines and we will be re-visiting old posts with an addendum about this change. 

We fully believe that people, and therefore organizations, deserve to grow and change how they consider various issues. We therefore reserve the right to correct our own views on cultural appropriation and change the way the CSC deals with such things. Our goal, as always, is inclusion not exclusion. We are a safe virtual place for body positivity, thoughtful discussion, and community building. Any rhetoric that actively hurts people in our community goes against that mission. 

Thank you for understanding our position. 


Mary Danielson-Perry

My response:

Hi Mary, thanks to you and the CSC editors for taking the time to answer my query by outlining your thoughts and position on using the description kimono. When I publish the Sencha Kimono next week I understand that you won’t promote it or the makes of any sewists who make it and send you pictures.
I have no idea if you’ve been aware of my one woman campaign of resistance I’ve been running on my blog for the last 3 weeks where I’ve been arguing against the contention that using kimono in a pattern name is a disrespectful appropriation. In case you didn’t know and to save the many hours it would take to read all I’ve written I’ll sum up the main points here…
1)    The issue has been advocated by essentially one woman of Japanese-American heritage, Emily Ito. In Japan, where I have contacts with expatriots and Japanese textile artists going back decades it has no traction as a serious issue at all. In fact Japanese citizens are completely baffled why Americans would take this point of view. The kimono is not a sacred or special garment, in their culture kimono is an ordinary, everyday word used to describe a coat like garment.
2)    Throughout Japan in their fast fashion outlets coats and robes that have only the slightest resemblance to the traditional style kimono are advertised and sold as “kimonos”. These garments are mass manufactured in Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh and other third world countries. Japanese citizens have no concern about this and there is no confusion what is the traditional garment and what is a generic modern robe similar to a kimono.
3)    If you are arguing from the position of “cultural appropriation” then it would be equally relevant to point out the kimono was a style of robe adopted from China by Japan in the 18th C.
4)    My most significant problem with this contention about kimono is that the term “cultural appropriation” has been wrongfully applied in this case. As a 60 year old professional artist I am aware it has been borrowed from the field of Fine Art where this is an issue seriously discussed for at least 4 decades so there is a great body of understanding exactly what it means and where it applies. “Cultural appropriation” is a thing that does happen and should be called out and condemned when it happens. Mostly this applies to the hijacking of imagery and icons from tribal and indigenous groups. It hardly ever applies to the use of a wordespecially when that word has been used internationally for probably 200 years.
I have been troubled that Emily Ito has embarked on this campaign and that a number of small independent designers have been caught up in it and wrongfully criticised. Mrs Itos idea is specious, when she says giving a sewing pattern the name kimono is wrong and hurtful that is her personal opinion describing her emotional response, but simply stating her opinion and feelings does not make it a fact.
I have worked in the areas of fashion, textile art and as a patternmaker since I was trained in 1984. My open admiration and acknowledgement of Japanese design goes right back to the 80s. Today I was teaching a class at a local gallery in sashiko stitching and stenciling, the combination of which is known in the Japanese tradition as Katazome. I know a lot about art, fashion and the sociology of art. I know Emily Ito probably doesn’t or she would never have started this kimono campaign because it simply doesn’t stack up and ultimately her campaign will fail because 90% of the rest of the world will completely ignore her. But my concern is that in the meantime she is causing a great deal of unnecessary angst and strife in the sewist community.
I understand that the CSC moderators would rather stay out of any awkward debates and be friends with everybody and that you will very likely prefer to side with Emily Ito, especially as she is an acknowledged influencer with a big following, rather than my insignificant self who comes from an academic understanding.
Lastly (because I’m a pedantic pain in the arse who just can’t help herself) I want to point out contradictions in the last three sentences of your email to me:
Our goal, as always, is inclusion not exclusion. The CSC is in fact excluding me and the many people who agree with my point of view…so who in fact are you “including”?

We are a safe virtual place for body positivity, thoughtful discussion, and community building. Do you propose having a “thoughtful” discussion on CSC about the use of kimono? My own experience in the last month of trying to have just such a discussion is being deleted and blocked from following Instagram individuals and groups and FB groups. My submissions to blogs discussing this issue don’t get published, the censoring is so ridiculous they publish only comments which are flattering and in agreement. My public calls for the advocates on the kimono issue to discuss with me have been totally ignored. How can the advocates claim they have a good argument for their position when they refuse to discuss publicly, with transparency and actively shut down any of my contributions to supposedly public platforms?  Do you demand I respect the opinions of people who behave in that way?

Any rhetoric that actively hurts people in our community goes against that mission. Implicit in this statement is that calling a sewing pattern a kimono causes “hurt”. Until just a week or 2 ago CSC was apparently oblivious to this. It was only in February this year that one woman said she was hurt. I think if you take the position that you must stop using any word that “hurts” even one person you will soon find yourself severely restricting your vocabulary.

Obviously, I disagree with the position CSC will be taking in regard to using kimono. However, I do respect that that is your prerogative and I’ll continue to enjoy being a part of the CSC community (though I am effectively being condoned and silenced for the principles I’m sticking up for) I want to assure you that I won’t try to instigate any discussion on CSC forums, but if it does arise from other sources I hope I’ll be allowed to contribute.

In August I’ll be publishing another PDF pattern - that won’t be called a kimono! – so I hope you won’t bear me any ill will for my position and will allow the design to be featured in your monthly round-up.

Sincerely and all the best
Pearl Moon

 Be warned - "kimono" has been subtracted from usage by nice caring people...

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you are interested in buying an artwork or booking a commission, please email me at