Saturday 25 May 2019

From my Facebook page

This is a brilliant piece, Pearl. I really appreciate your conclusion. I’ve been struggling a great deal with a couple of acquaintances who seem to be on a perpetual high alert for cultural appropriation (I’m in the US) and it’s been difficult to analyze my own personal response. One friend in particular is on a rampage about people who appropriate items from the Native American culture, though she herself has not a drop of NA blood - while I do, but you’d never know to look at me. Do I have to carry my family tree with me to justify using NA symbols? I have become so concerned about the people who are screeching about individual cultures and appropriation, I didn’t think to take the broader world view that you have presented here; the big picture about cultural change. This helps me a great deal. Incidentally, when you first started writing on this, I was shocked that the word kimono was an issue because IF this is an appropriation, it happened so long ago, I don’t know how one could expect a shift now. This is not a current issue, my mother was wearing robes that she called kimonos back in the 50s!
  • Pearl Moon thank you for sharing this xxxx and I'm humbled to have helped you develop a more nuanced position. The word kimono has actually been adopted into the english language for about 200 years. I don't think anyone but the most ignorant could confuse what is the traditional Japanese version of the garment with modern western iterations. As I tried to clarify in what I wrote I think people of Japanese heritage who are up in arms about this are conflating the respectful appropriation of the word as a personal attack on their identity. I hope they can move beyond that and come to accept that all forms must keep reinventing themselves to keep relevant or they will lapse into becoming a historical artefact. It is positive energy that keeps designers wanting to pay tribute to the "kimono" styling aesthetic.

Friday 24 May 2019

This day 60 years ago....

When you are Aspergers there are all sorts of curious negotiations to be held with the world, sometimes every day! I’ve been having a fight with my beloved husband this morning because it’s my birthday and I’m simply indifferent to it. I am baffled why NTs make these things such a big deal. I’ve never cared to celebrate my own and have never particularly noticed when these anniversaries occur for others. I’ve never sent cards, emails or texts to acknowledge the birthdays of my son or granddaughter. Until he was in his 20s I couldn’t remember for sure the birth date of my second born son. For a long time I thought it was 5 days before Christmas then his adoptive mother pointed out to me it was actually December 28th! Thanks Carolyn. Lucky Aaron that his adoptive family have probably faithfully and lavishly celebrated his every birthday since 1981 whereas his elder brother only had 3 or 4 “real” birthday parties with me. Then when he left home at 18 I have never felt there was any necessity to do so since.

Fortunately I have 10 more fingers than the friends I can count on them so few in the category “friends” have had cause to be offended by my obliviousness. The situation with being birthday blind is further complicated that I was born on my Mothers 21st birthday so we share the same date 21 years apart. Mum often reminds me of the pain that decades of non-acknowledgment have caused her. My accumulating rap sheet gets more and more charges added with every passing year as I also don’t notice Mothers Days, Easters or needless to say – Christmas.

It will be good to write this blog acknowledging my anniversary imperviousness so I can refer people to it as a blanket explanation and apology for all past and future blunders.

I’m kind of stupefied and at a loss when peeps give me birthday wishes, which I’m assured are all meant in caring and respectful recognition.

I’ve heard of some cultures where they don’t have this obsessive western need to number every day of the year and count years. People have no idea what the day or year of their birth might have been. Their sense of aging comes from being aware of the seasonal cycles of nature. When they die no one records that specific date or has a number to attach to them that equates to how “old” the person was in accumulated days/years lived. I find the idea of such a society idyllic, where people live together placing no importance on the idea of being categorised as X number of years elapsed since birth. 

Is it legal to renounce having a birth day? Regrettably probably not and I love the idea how much chaos it would cause in first world society!!!

Thursday 23 May 2019

Garb for Earthlings

 I invite readers to play a soundtrack I've selected as you read this. 
This is some of my favourite music.

Shigeru Umebayashi

Tuesday night I watched Joanna Lumley on TV (a British actress born in India) in one of her series about retracing the Silk Road through Asia and the Middle East. In Khyrgyzstan she gyrates with a group of enthusiastic late teens youth in the town square of Bishkek. The group talk to Lumley about their passion for K-pop, a Korean style of pop music. They not only love the music but the attire that is part of the fandom – sweatshirts, baseball caps, high top sneakers, crop tops, full circle miniskirts cinched tight at the waist. The young women wear huge fake eyelashes on their kohl rimmed eyes, sparkly glitter on their faces and have long straightened hair, black at the roots and dyed shocking pink from about half way down. They say how happy they are that their facial features are so similar to ethnic Koreans. I find this all quite fascinating. Here are modern young people in Korea and Khyrgyzstan adopting a style of music that is virtually a parody of western popular music. The traditional music and clothing styles of Khyrgyzstan and Korea have little in common but these young people emanate ebullience for the connection they feel to the K-pop phenomenon. It is both touching and incongruous for the young people of these disparate countries to feel so connected in their enthusiasm for western pop music.

I’m not disputing that there is no such a thing as genuinely offensive cultural appropriation. A week ago I made a scathing comment to an advertiser in my Instagram feed. They were promoting an art course described as having something to do with combining the power of images from ancient cultures with modern day healing art therapy. I hardly stopped to read the psycho babble because I was so arrested by the frankensteinian image of a supposed Pharaoh placing an Egyptian headdress on his own head. The incongruity was the “Pharaoh” had a Maori style moko tattoo on his chin. In Maori culture the chin or upper lip tattooing was reserved for women. Males had different styles or full facial markings. Suspended around this figures neck was another Maori artform, a hei-Tiki pendant.
Needless to say, after submitting a scathing comment calling out these idiots they deleted me from receiving their gross missives.

Yesterday I gave a link to Makiko Hastings blog, where she published a piece about how she felt about the use of the word kimono by non-Japanese.
This is the link again

I’ve copied and pasted the specific parts that I want to comment on:

I am sick and tired of seeing people mocking our Japanese culture, whilst they are innocently claimed themselves “inspired by”.

There is lots of outrage expressed in this statement but to accuse others of coming only from a place of “mocking” Japanese culture lacks evidence. My personal observation is that the copying more often arises from paying tribute or homage, coming from admiration. I’m puzzled Ms Hastings has so much indignation for people that claim to be “inspired by” Japanese culture, I don’t find this offensive at all. It seems irrational to be enraged about it.

We all get inspired by something, somewhere, someone. I acknowledge how much Westerners are attracted to Japan. For its mystery. We are often “fantasised”.

I think this comment doesn’t reflect the modern world. There may have been an era, up until perhaps WW2 when Japan was “fantasised”.  I think the forces of globalisation, international tourism, media and social media don’t leave much mystery for exotic fantasising anymore. I think the crux of this fear comes from the legacy of the colonial artists known as the “Orientalists” whose contrivance was depicting Asian women with erotic suggestiveness. This problem of the male gaze sexualising women happens everywhere and in all cultures.

Just because you are inspired by Japanese culture or aesthetic, or read some of it, I don’t believe you are entitled to use it in whatever way you want for a mere profit, like naming your products “kimono” or “wabi sabi” that has NOTHING to do with them. Unlike just translating more generic words like ‘flowers’ and ‘stone’ that everybody knows, “kimono” and “wabi sabi”are some of many examples of our cultural words, that have been existing and deeply living only within Japanese people.  

 Appropriation for “mere” profit….as the bard Bob Dylan noted (Nobel Prize winner for literature!) “we all have to serve somebody”. Japanese people make and sell kimonos for profit. Everybody in the world has to provide some sort of goods or services in exchange for “mere” profit. Even Ms Hastings who is an artist trained in the ancient tradition of Japanese ceramics and is a respected repository of high knowledge and training in that field, has to sell her wares for profit. Whether that is somehow a more virtuously earned profit than coming from what she regards as low level, disrespectful kitsch, is a moot point. We are all compelled to serve somebody to make a buck to pay for food, somewhere to live. Easy to dismiss those trying to make a living with this high handed judgement. If their knock offs are so purely dreadful they will soon be out of business.

Oh, but, those words are everywhere now. Everyone uses them, so what’s the problem? You may ask. The problem is the fact that everyone is using it so lightly. Everyone is doing it, so everyone think they can do it too. When people in the West take over the foreign cultural words and make them “culturally acceptable” in their white centred term. It’s based on their power to “make it ok” and they propagate such ideas. And it’s done so lightly and no one questions the problem. It happens without respecting the foreign culture, without clear understanding and without considering the significant impact on those on the receiving end. It is offensive. It can lead to a from of racism that was built on such blindness and fragility. And it is worse when this happens a dominant culture - the power holder - appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures. 
When I see our cultural words are used in the West time and time again, more often than not for their money sake, I get this agonising pain in my spine. That pain can be described as my feeling on the bottom line;
Our cultural words are not your trend. Our culture is not your entertainment. 

It goes to the deepest levels of identity that what you learn from your culture becomes the underpinnings of how you manifest yourself in the world. Apart from the sociological learnings of your place in the family and community there are other special learnings about language, tradition, ritual, belief systems and spirituality that are the cement of national identity. Ms Hastings deep respect and reverence for her cultural traditions resonate throughout her discourse. She refers sorrowfully to the subtle semantics of the Japanese language, the nuance of which is almost impossible to translate to foreigners.

Acts of cultural expropriation have become almost indistinguishable from the fear of personal annihilation. If your culture is pillaged or dismissed by an interloper your identity will feel equally diminished. But what she is up against is like the boy with his finger in the dyke. The inexorable forces of globalisation are a torrent threatening ancient, established cultures with unwelcomed assimilation.

I can’t imagine it would be a realistic option to shrink back into nationalistic enclaves and jealously protect ones cultural treasure, as in – you cannot use that stitch, colour, word, combinations of colour, that spot or line – because that belongs to us. We will fight you to keep possession of it by declaring it an unacceptable cultural appropriation.

Trying to ring fence words or icons with outraged claims of cultural appropriation won’t be a strategy for success to stop outsiders using them. Some people of sensitivity may agree but they will probably always be a minority.

And, don’t forget – when a form stops evolving it will eventually become an artefact. Referring back to my blog about indigenous art yesterday – prior to the 1970s aboriginal art was represented by artefacts such as rock paintings and bark paintings. It was only when indigenous artists adopted modern mediums that they reinvigorated their traditions to become a contemporary living, evolving movement.

To me, being inspired is not enough. Because it does not measure the correctness. The correctness will require the level of respect toward the culture of origin and the level of understanding with all nuance and subtlety that won’t offend people from the origin. You cannot judge those levels by yourself.

To be honest this statement is difficult for me to interpret. My speculation is: in the European historical era of Guilds that controlled trade apprentices went through long technical training to become recognised as masters in trades like fine art, tailoring, goldsmithing, pottery, lacemaking and weaving. An artisan couldn’t practise their craft in the community until completing the training, being certified as proficient by his master and accepted into the guild. Apprentices who weren’t deemed adequate by the master and accepted by the guild wouldn’t be allowed to set up in business. So when Ms Hastings refers to having the “correctness” I think this could be equated to an apprentice who isn’t properly qualified. I think she is suggesting the person who appropriates producing an object (kimono) is like the unqualified artisan setting up in business when they don’t have the proper skills and knowledge.

Ms Hastings last sentence raises more problems related to the integrity of artisanship – “you cannot judge those levels by yourself”. I think this conviction could only come from her Japanese culture where in many arts the tradition of master and apprentice is largely unbroken, unlike in the west. Mid 18thC industrialisation broke down the power, monopoly and tradition of the Guilds. This resulted in the end of the way knowledge and skills were transferred between master artisans and students. The concept of who is qualified to recognise competent craftsmanship gradually collapsed in our societies. So when Ms Hastings refers to not being able to judge those levels yourself she means that competence is properly recognised by experts and not claimed by any individual who fancies themselves adequate. Regrettably I think the old systems that had the authority to endorse artisan competence is so broken in the west that people of modernity don’t much understand it. Just as clothes and shoes were once made by skilled professionals and were expected to last a long time, nowadays cheap and quickly obsolescent products are quite acceptable.  Few westerners are able to discern what are the qualities of an object created with craftsmanlike integrity. Our loss.

Change soundtrack to Carmen McRae

Change will often bring sorrow. Change always conjures the spectre of loss imminent. Dispossession is a death that throttles downwards as high culture is gradually diluted through contact with outsiders. Cultural identity is entwined indistinguishably with the personal. We don’t know anybody properly until we know that most foundational fact – what is your nationality, what is the culture that fostered you. There is no human being that was raised outside of culture, no true Earth person that is without a tribe.

Heres a list of some of my many identities, just the ones that come to mind at the moment – I am white, I am bisexual, I am married, I am an atheist, I am Aspergers, I am a survivor of both incest and child sexual abuse, I was a rape victim, I was an unmarried, single mother, I am a relinquishing birth mother, I am an artist, I am a feminist, I am the owner of two maltese terriers, 5 bantam hens and a rooster, I am legally a citizen of Australia, I love listening to blues, roots, folk and world music, my politics are far left, I am a grandmother, I am medicated to control extreme anxiety….

None of those are listed in any sort of priority. These are a tiny round up of the multiple identities I personally juggle every day, any of which can be called on as the one best for dealing with the particular issues of the day or moment I’m living. Some of these identities are more important than others and some I live in more often than others. Within the physical manifestation I present to the world all these have been created as my imagining of myself, existing within me at all times, like the layers of an onion. Occasionally some identities have been lived through and shed and others have been adopted as my life evolves.

Homo sapiens are hurtling towards the 22ndC. And, huMANs, do we have problems! In the insignificant blink of the planetary moment that our species has come to dominate this planet uncounted of our civilisations have risen and fallen. This is the moment, May 23, 2019, and human beings as a species have arrived at a truly existential crisis. Our actions in the next 50 years will cause not just the collapse of a single civilisation but the devastation of our shared planetary ecosystem. Homo sapiens will perish. Our planet will survive and regenerate along with the other animals and plants. Perhaps the hairless walking ape will also regroup in one way or another and potentially have another go at becoming the dominant species of Earth.

Today I’m feeling pessimistic and having the view we are going to fuck it up. We are already perhaps 30-40 years down a path that could have been averted if the nations of the world could get beyond nationalism, consumerism, racism, patriarchal power, fear of globalisation, political ideologies, etc…My hope that we as Earthlings can be led out of the crisis by politicians is zero, nada. To date they have only made things worse and empowered to continue on the trajectory they have already created it looks like full on Armageddon by the middle of this century. Kiss your ass goodbye, humankind, and become another statistic along with all the other species we have made extinct.

Make globalisation the solution and not the problem. Racism is a major hurdle to overcome in our need to move on to identify as Earthlings. Attachment to cultural heritage should be admirable, but when it’s experienced as something to be possessed by individuals, an identity that is held so tightly that to share it with outsiders is felt as a wound, a loss? What use is that? It causes the threatened identity to shrink back into their racial or nationalistic enclave because they feel under attack. Observe the backlash now, the world is currently in the throes of a resurgence of right wing politics. Nationalism is being promoted, fear of others is rampant as we rush to secure the borders of the territory we have the delusion belongs to us. This lock down appears to be happening both physically and metaphorically.

As a young woman of 20 I sought out and joined a Buddhist community in New Zealand. Though at 60 I now identify as an atheist I still comfortably incorporate a great deal of Buddhist philosophy into my world view. When I see people resisting change or I feel panic within myself that something familiar is becoming different I reflect on the Buddhas Four Noble Truths. The only constant in the world is change. If individuals become attached to things as they are or fall into the delusion that they have the power to stop change, the result of this will lead to suffering.

Another of the principles taught by the Buddha is to try to become aware of the things that cause you to feel fearful. What do you react to that makes you want to contract, withdraw, become smaller, instigate boundaries, implode, go inwards? These are things that should be contemplated. He suggests that holding them close will cause suffering.  He counselled that whatever brings a feeling of expansion and outward growth are the principles we would benefit to bring into our lives.

If you believe you own the word kimono and try to stop other people from using it I predict you will fail. To many Japanese the traditional garment kimono is something precious to them. At present they are experiencing the word being expropriated from them by interlopers from outside their culture. If you are becoming depressed and angry over this cultural appropriation it may be because this is the experience of powerlessness at losing something you are attached to. Human beings create suffering for themselves in this way, according to Buddhist thinking.

Wowsa, so here is humanity in a barrel going over Niagara Falls and some peeps are fretting over the colour of their lifejackets?

Change soundtrack to Passenger

If you like my taste in music and want to hear more this is a link to my MUSIC board on my Pinterest page

Oh, can't anybody see
We've got a war to fight
Never found our way
Regardless of what they say
How can it feel, this wrong
From this moment
How can it feel, this wrong
Storm, in the morning light
I feel
No more can I say
Frozen to myself
I got nobody on my side
And surely that ain't right
And surely that ain't right
Oh, can't anybody see
We've got a war to fight
Never found our way
Regardless of what they say
How can it feel, this wrong
From this moment
How can it feel, this wrong
How can it feel, this wrong
This moment
How can it feel, this wrong
Oh, can't anybody see
We've got a war to fight
Never found our way
Regardless of what they say
How can it feel, this wrong
From this moment
How can it feel, this wrong

Wednesday 22 May 2019

evolve or become relic

Not everybody will agree with me but I think clothes can be art. Most of the time what we wear in everyday life is simply a utilitarian necessity. We put on clothes every day because we are expected to be modest, to keep warm or a uniform is mandatory in our workplace. In the final analysis clothes must be worn everyday simply because our society doesn’t allow public nudity.

Most of us buy readymade clothes from the retail shops that supply them. Some of what is available is described as “fashion” and reflects the current fads that some people are wearing in their competition with each other to look more outstandingly sartorial than all others wearing similar outfits.

Fashion is an industry that has to literally reinvent itself every day to keep making money. The people who consume it want it to keep changing constantly. To be a successful fashionista you have to be a trendsetter and a trendsetter cannot be wearing what everybody else wears, they have to be ahead of the game.

The fashion industry is a dynamic culture of ideas where the concept of appropriation has virtually no deference.  od thing.

This Ted talk by Johanna Blakley from 2010 sums up succinctly so much of what I want to say

(their might be a problem with the youtube link, but you can select to read the transcript)
But clothes can also express themselves as a high art form.

When a form stops evolving it will eventually become an artefact.

In Australia in the 1970s the indigenous people started reviving their traditional iconography. In the beginning some of them used customary materials like bark, clays and organic colouring to depict their images. This was quickly superseded by the wholesale adoption of western mediums – paintbrushes, canvas, paints. Traditionally aboriginal people painted ceremonial objects like the didgeridoo and their bodies. Some tribal groups did have a tradition of 2 dimensional illustration on rocks and rock faces but the evolution into painting on canvas to create an object for displaying in a home/gallery, with the purpose to sell, was an entirely radical move away from tens of thousands of years of custom and tradition.

There was an aboriginal artist who was famous before the 1970s revival called Albert Namatjira. Namatjira was trained in the western style of landscape and his medium was water colour. Pablo Picasso remarked that Namatjiras work was some of the most impressive he had ever seen. Some people have argued that Namatjira isn’t really representative of aboriginal art.

As a counterpoint another contemporary indigenous artist is Adam Hill  
Some of his exhibtions have been titled “Not a Proppa Aborigine” and Storm in a teacup
Adam Hill identifies himself as a contemporary Australian visual artist. He describes himself as a “visual activist” and dislikes being described as an aboriginal artist. 
He is one of the 7 artists who formed the group ProppaNOW

"Proppa" is a corruption of the english word "proper" that has been adopted as a pidgin term by many indigenous people to describe fitting in and acting according to expectations in white society. 
Another well known member of the group is artist Richard Bell, notorious for his winning artwork in the 2003 Telstra Aboriginal and Torres Islander Art Awards with a painting emblazoned with the text - Aboriginal Art/It’s A White Thing.

One of the missions of the ProppaNOW collective is to question the understanding of what is and who does authentic aboriginal art in Australia.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

hags last stir of the pot

This will be my last post in regard to the cultural appropriation issue. I’m 60 years old and tired with a great deal of work to do. I have really bad arthritis in my hands which has made all the keyboard clacking of last 5 days literally painful on another level.

I wish someone who reads this to convey to Emily Ito that the strategy of not acknowledging, delete and block will be a real winner for her future as an advocate for feminism and BIPOC rights.


But because I’m old senior feminist hag who has practiced resistance for so long that its hard to stop the knee from jerking….I just can’t resist giving Emily several last pieces of advice….

I am genuinely hurt she has refused to engage with me. Perhaps if I hadn’t taken the approach of challenging her we could have been friends.  I admire her, I wholly expect we have way more in common than our differences. But Emily has this theory about how you need to set limits and boundaries on who you interact with. She wouldn’t view that as only making herself available on her own terms, so she won’t talk to me and has actively blocked all social media routes through which I’ve tried to contact her….

I followed Emily Itos Instagram feed this morning. The first (and only) post I read was a long and heartfelt rationale why she chooses to block communications with particular people. It was a beautiful piece of several paragraphs, well thought out, emotional and compelling.

She had 24 replies from friends commending her for her courage and leadership.

Bigmouth that we all know I am, this was my comment….

“While setting “boundaries” may seem an act of valor, it should be applied with intelligent discretion, least it become limiting, censoring and walling yourself off from the vast experience of others. All the best Emily, as I expect you will soon block me as a person not worthy to talk to”

Just like a witch sitting at the pot chanting “hubble, bubble, toil and trouble, eye of newt, tongue of toad” and predicting the future my forecast came true in a half hour and Emily Ito despatched my annoying person and voice to outside her safe boundaries.

This is the remainder of what the witch sees in the mists of the crystal ball….
If you set yourself up as advocate for BIPOC issues it is respectful to engage with those who question you. At present you might be able to comfort yourself by dismissing me as just a troll you’ve fended off. Hugging up your woundedness and sense of victimisation like a badge of honour and walling yourself off from divergent views will mean you likely end up in an echo chamber surrounded by people who only affirm that everything you do and think is wonderful. You’ll know you’re in the process of building a padded cell for yourself when you start to contract your world by making it smaller. Limits, boundaries, censorship, blocking, imagining enemies and threats because your view is challenged. If you hope to be an effective advocate for disempowered women humility and openness to diversity are great qualities to have

I operate from the point of view that globalisation can be a wonderful thing for all humanity. As much as some people fear it, it is simply inevitable so I think the best attitude to take is work with it intelligently. Of all the nations humans have created on our planet the people of Japan have a unique culture in many ways. As an island nation they were able to police their borders to keep out people of other nationalities very effectively for thousands of years, the result being Japan hasn’t been invaded by another culture for millennia. The modern day government of Japan has practically no immigration program for people of other nationalities, so people of other cultures have virtually no opportunity to settle and become citizens. This protectiveness has led to a great insularity. Japanese people have a great fear of their culture and genetics being diluted. One of the reasons Emperor Hirohito felt comfortable with making an alliance with Nazi Germany is that he could relate very well to the concept of the superior master race and applying the theory of eugenic cleansing to keep racial bloodlines nominally “pure”. Regrettably we all know how Nazi Germany moved beyond eugenic theory to murdering people of disability and those designated of inferior race.

I have experienced the loneliness and alienation that comes from immigrating to live in another country. In fact I live a kind of double whammy in many ways because most of my ancestors arrived in New Zealand between 1880s to 1900 coming from such diverse countries such as Britain, Scotland, Germany, Wales and India. Their children and grandchildren went on to marry other New Zealanders with multi ethnic backgrounds such as Pacific Islanders and Maori. In 1986 I left New Zealand permanently with my 6 year old son and settled in Australia.

For some time I’ve been deeply reluctant to diverge into measuring and weighing what mine or any other womans racial or ethnic backgrounds are. It seems to have become more a calculation to display what your oppression credentials are. On an intellectual level I accept that the idea of “races” is a human construct. We are one species - the Homo Sapiens, who triumphed over all the other offshoots of the Homo genus. Through regional interbreeding over millenia we developed distinctive physical characteristics such as dark or lighter melanin in our skin tone, etc, etc…

I have a concern that sometimes the BIPOC community seems to segue into its own high minded version of eugenic science. There is a great deal of emphasis placed on your skin colour and ancestral culture. There is no denying that there is a large proportion of people in the world who think that is the most significant and only thing that is important; that a persons skin colour, race, culture or ethnicity is the only information they need to instantly stereotype that person. They can then regard that as sufficient knowledge to understand the most important things about that individual. I think it’s also a wilful obfuscation to think that only those designated “white” are racists. There are also many, many, many of us “white” people that work hard to make amends, that don’t judge people by those categories, and are people who want equality for all….Some of those people have the time and resources to do that work with big gestures and then others just live quietly – perhaps with unacknowledged gestures like welcoming the Indian family that moves in next door and inviting their kids over to play with yours.

What an irony when BIPOC people operate in the world making assumptions that all white people are racist and actively obstructing their desire for equality. I guess what goes around has come around….

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)

Monday 20 May 2019

is my wedding dress your couture?

Japanese women love the traditional European white wedding dress

Four days have elapsed since I publicly called out the women who attacked 3 independent designers for using the word kimono in one of their pattern designs. I have been inviting Emily Ito to engage with me publicly either here or on my FB page - Boho Banjo art to wear
The result of my attempts to contact her was that 2 days ago she blocked me submitting comments to her blog. Helen of Helens Closet continues to publish only a censored selection of comments on her blog, that being only the ones that support her decision to change her pattern name.

I considered trying to present my argument to a much wider audience by asking the Curvy Sewing Collective to publish a submission from me. But without contacting them I’m pretty sure they would back off because this is too much of a hot potato issue that they wouldn’t comfortable about getting into a discussion about. The backlash would probably be threats of boycott and personal abuse being sent to the moderators.

Ironically, the CSC published a post from me in June 2015 in which I discussed the influences on my design style. I outlined my love of contemporary Japanese clothing design and how I’ve been deeply influenced by the Asian style aesthetic since I started patternmaking and designing clothes in the 1980s.

Heres a link for anyone curious to read: 

After 4 blog posts since Friday 17th May where I’ve clearly outlined my reasons and argument that using the word kimono is NOT an unacceptable cultural appropriation and repeatedly invited the people who think it is to comment here, I can only think that their ongoing refusal to engage implies this:

1    1)    their preferred strategy of approaching designers to express their opinion is to do it secretly

2    2)  they don’t respect me as a person whose opinion is worth acknowledging

3    3)   they don’t want to be identified publicly or discuss publicly because they understand their contention has very shaky underpinning and would collapse under scrutiny

4    4)    they are just bullies who enjoy intimidating people and trying to present a reasoned argument in public isn't part of their agenda

I don’t know what their reasoning is because they won’t say so I’m just left shadow boxing and standing up for what I think is right. I am really uncomfortable referring to these people as - "they, them and these" but I have no option as the only person who has named herself publicly is Emily Ito.

If you’re a designer who has been tackled by these zealots I want you to know I have your back and will stand by your side to support that using kimono in your pattern name is not an unacceptable cultural appropriation. If you’re being bullied I am perfectly comfortable if you refer these people to talk to me and block any correspondence from them.

My personal email is

If you’re a troll who thinks sending me abuse and threats might be an effective thing to do, well, go your hardest and I’ll publish all correspondence publicly so people can see what an idiot you are.

As far as I can work out at this point the attacks have been coming from 2- 3 American feminists with Japanese heritage, along with a pile-on of some others who seem essentially ignorant of the full issues.

I have been to a number of websites and blogs to read the opinions of women who are of Japanese heritage who have outlined their feelings that the use of the description kimono for a clothing pattern is wrong. I’m not insensitive to their feelings, I am a person with empathy. It is just in the final analysis I don’t accept that it is a credible contention to say it is an unacceptable cultural appropriation. I know personally I have only ever had the greatest admiration and respect for the Asian clothing styling aesthetic. Sometimes I have described garments I’ve made as “kimonos” and this has came from a desire to honestly attribute my inspiration.

Sunday 19 May 2019

My kimono is on fire

The one sided censored discussion continues on Helens Closet today.
Helens Dad weighed in with this a few hours ago

As many of you know, there have been discussions happening around the use of the word ‘kimono’ in the making community this week. This is in no way the beginning, but rather, a rise in awareness and conversation that is being led by BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People/Person(s) of Color) makers who are dedicating their … Continue reading Suki Robe Name Change

I want to say publicly how proud I am of my daughter for her work on this issue. When she introduced the Suki pattern I never gave a thought to the use of the word “kimono”. We all have a great deal to learn about this issue, and much to do to change old behaviours/thoughts; and make a future where all cultures/people’s are respected and valued. And Helens Closet is an example of how an individual business can deal with theses issues up front and honestly.
Helen’s Dad

Well, thanks for the advice Hughie, but I still disagree. I find the reference to "up front and honestly" pretty ironic when not one of the "kimono defenders" has had the guts to discuss with me. Emily Ito has blocked me as spam. In my humble opinion Helen hasn't been well educated but rather more coerced with public shaming and threats that she would lose customers. I've been posting my opinions here for 3 days and not one of the "educators" has had the respect to come out and openly, publicly engage with me. I have had posts deleted, refused and been designated a spammer by some blog moderators.

This experience leaves me having to form the opinion that the educators are dirty ghosts who only attack people that they are confident of intimidating.They will claim the moral high ground to overawe and terrorise specific women and have no qualms to censor, reject publishing and refuse to discuss with any other person who calls them out to express a divergent opinion.

I call them cowards and declare shame on you.

After reading Hughies post to his daughter this is what I wrote to Helen at 1.30pm this afternoon:

Hi Helen
I have written to you a couple of times without acknowledgement. I find your stonewalling attitude and censoring of any divergent opinions to be published on your blog pretty appalling. Shame on you that you only feel comfortable presenting a one sided version of the story. I have been trying for about 3 days to get somebody to actually interact with my thoughtful and educated opinions regarding the use of the word kimono by non Japanese. It seems that the people who have taken the time and energy to coerce and shame particular "white" women designers hide under rocks as soon as somebody who is educated about the issues wants to engage.
I invite you to follow my one woman shadow boxing argument on my
I fear you have been so brainwashed and cowed by your experience with the "educators" that you don't even realise I'm sticking up for you and other women designers of "white" identity.
I hope you'll at least respect my courage and intelligence by reading my blog and learning how to have the spine to stick up for principles.

genuinely all the best

Pearl Red Moon

Please discuss....

I tried to post this message on Emi Itos blog this morning but my posts have been blocked as spam, so I post it here. Perhaps she read what I wrote....who knows?

Hi Emi
I sent a response to your blog "My Kimono is not your Couture" yesterday and you haven't acknowledged my communication. I feel disrespected by your refusal to acknowledge or engage. I interpret this either as a lack of respect for my point of view and a strategy to shut down unwanted discussion.

I am a 60 year old textile artist who was born in New Zealand and has been an Australian citizen for 35 years. At the outbreak of war in 1939, there were 12 Japanese people residing in New Zealand, in Australia there were approximately 1,250 interned, along with many more people from Germanic ancestry. My own 3rd generation NZ born family anglicised their name to a less German sounding one, though the single German ancestor had arrived in NZ 80 years previously. In 1939 my mother was one year old and my father 4 years old so they have few memories of WW2 and definitely no active involvement. No people in my family were soldiers fighting in WW2.

I hope you'll be able to acknowledge you may be operating from a very American-centric feminist point of view. It is pretty popular at present to point the finger at an amorphous group of "white" women who are supposed to make amends for "privilege" we supposedly inherited from European colonialism. I am saddened that you and your cohorts are pursuing and coercing "white" small business fashion designers and publicly shaming them over the use of the word kimono. I believe your argument is seriously misguided and doing a disservice to the cause of world wide feminism. You should be directing your energies at educating people about misogyny and the consequences of western colonisation of Asia throughout the 19thC. Do not ignore or make the pretence that somehow the "white" women partners/mothers/daughters of those oppressors were somehow more free and privileged.

This is an important principle to me. I am educated about the issues of art history, feminism, western imperialism and cultural appropriation. Though you and other supporters of "use of kimono is a cultural appropriation" refuse to engage and debate with me in public I am carrying a one sided discussion on my

Pearl Moon

I still welcome any engagement with the people who have been educating the white designers over the use of "kimono". Papercut Patterns say they cannot identify their educator because the person is being trolled.

I predict that if any of the shadows are brave enough to come out from where they're hiding (probably after I publish "Sencha Kimono") and engage with me over the issues one of the first things they will want to find out is how "white" I am. Identifying my degree of "whiteness" means they will be able to stereotype me and decide on certain strategies of attack. If I'm very, very, very "white" and I assume that means my ancestors were all British then I will be dismissed as woman inheriting white privilege with no understanding of BIPOC. I will be told to show my humility and shut up and listen. I'll be dismissed as the inheritor of white privilege with nothing worth listening to.

The situation will get a bit more murky and the strategies differ if I can present someone of coloured race in my about Maori, Indian (India), Malay, South African? Would they count as black, yellow or au lait enough? Perhaps they'll be calculating how many litres of coloured blood might still be in my body if the BIPOC ancestor was 1,2, or 3 generations ago. Will it matter where I've lived? Will it matter how long my ancestors were there? Does 20 years or a 100 years living in a country give me any right to identify as an indigenous person? Who decides what words I can legitimately borrow from the indigenous culture or what iconography...before it is condemned as cultural appropriation? If my ancestors came from Britain then is British culture the only one I can claim as my own? How do British feel about that if my ancestors left 150 years ago and I have never set foot in the country or have any relatives there that I know of...?

Actually my most recent ancestors were Scots and Welsh. These peoples have had their own historical problems protecting their cultures and borders from the British. Can American feminists rightfully claim that I am still the inheritor of privilege from my ancestral cultures though neither the Scots or Welsh people were the direct colonisers of any Asian countries? So if somebody in my ancestry had been a Highlander at the Battle of Culloden does that make me more or less an inheritor of white privilege than if I had a Welsh ancestor who was a soldier in the British army in 1880s India?

Has anything I've done in my life give me discounts from my "white" privilege? Like having married a BIPOC? Perhaps having a 3 year relationship with such a person could give me some brownie points off being privileged? (acknowledging the appalling pun) How about 50 points if I was married and 5 points for being in a sexual relationship?

I welcome anybody who wants to support the contention that "white" designers should not culturally appropriate the word kimono to talk here with me and discuss any of the points I've raised. There are enough of you out there to have coerced 3 pattern companies to change the name of their pattern but nobody will talk with me...?