Is my Eurovision party cultural appropriation?

(30 Posts)
RhodaBull Mon 14-Mar-16 10:38:40

Every year we have a Eurovision party. We dress up in costumes of host nation (or famous people from there) and try to cook a typical dish of that country.

In the light of balls being banned at Oxford and Cambridge for "cultural appropriation" eg Around the World in 80 Days theme, am I too guilty of this crime? confused

What is the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation ? Also, as I am part-European nation, am I allowed to dress as someone from this country as it's my heritage?

It's a minefield.

centigrade451 Mon 14-Mar-16 10:42:42

The world has gone politically-correct-insane.

Have the party and enjoy it.

Homeriliad Mon 14-Mar-16 10:45:22

Is eating a curry or pizza cultural appropriation? Enjoy the party.

VertigoNun Mon 14-Mar-16 10:46:09

People are getting very upset about this.

I decided to not wear a french plait or pleat out on public anymore, incase I cause offence. wink

Rudeabaga Mon 14-Mar-16 10:46:53

You're dressing up in national costumes which likely have little social or religious significance in this day and age. Barring a sexy nun or the Pope or something I don't see the problem.

Can you really not see the difference between this and some Old Etonian blacking up?

Suspicious.

VertigoNun Mon 14-Mar-16 10:49:58

shock I didn't know there was blackface involved. Forgive my ignorance I thought this was about Kim kardashian and her plaits.

morningtoncrescent62 Mon 14-Mar-16 10:50:09

Meh. Break out those sparkly jackets and platform heels and have an Abba-tastical night. May I join you? [looks up recipe for Swedish meatballs]

StepAwayFromTheThesaurus Mon 14-Mar-16 10:56:21

I'm not convinced that cultural appropriation is a useful or sensible concept. The fact is that cultures change over time and they borrow from each other in various ways. It's also impossible to draw clear boundaries around a culture to say where one stops and another starts.

Racism is clearly to be avoided, but the idea of cultural appropriation doesn't help to do that in any meaningful way. It's just something for the guardian to write hand wringing articles about.

RhodaBull Mon 14-Mar-16 11:38:52

My Eurovision party will go full steam ahead as usual! I was just musing on the matter of cultural appropriation and how far it can logically or even illogically extend.

There are so many examples it is impossible to find a starting point let alone an end one. What is national heritage and what is a stereotype?

Of course I understand blackface etc but apparently a Japanese party has been banned at Oxford or Cambridge. How on earth can wearing a kimono etc be offensive? Any more than wearing a striped t-shirt and carrying a string of onions for a French party? What about themed restaurants such as Mexican or Italian ones when there is no involvement of a genuine native of the country?

VertigoNun Mon 14-Mar-16 11:40:55

This sounds like a messy subject matter that requires debate. Like transabilism.

thecitydoc Mon 14-Mar-16 11:51:11

you should not allow a few nutters at Oxbridge to spoil your annual event.

IJustLostTheGame Mon 14-Mar-16 12:27:13

Have your party and love it.
Last year I wore a ball gown and a beard at mine.
It's all gotten silly.
I wore a kimono to a Japanese friend's wedding. Her granny was adamant I was to wear it properly and spent ages helping me and telling me how to walk, sit etc.
And I wore a sari to another mates, at their request.
It's not as though you're taking the piss.

EduCated Mon 14-Mar-16 12:36:35

Partly about the way you go/talk about it - you're dressing up in national costumes/cooking national dishes, rather than dressing up as a Swedish person, or whatever, and making that outfit based on often negative stereotypes.

Things like these posters

There was a long thread a while back about a child who had been told to go to school dressed as a 'Chinese person' - was split between people pointing out that most Chinese people would be in jeans and tshirts etc on any given day, and half saying just stick him in some silk pyjamas. Im not explaining it well, but it's the difference between dressing 'as a Chinese person' (when most probably never dress like that) and dressing in Chinese clothing/theme.

Zampa Mon 14-Mar-16 12:42:32

Adam Gopnik did an interesting programme on cultural appropriation on Radio 4 last week ... Worth a listen.

RhiWrites Mon 14-Mar-16 12:50:00

The problem comes when you have people with different levels of respectfulness to other cultures so:
Anna - I am part Swedish and have a traditional peasant's dress I will wear
Brian - I am not French but I have a stripy jumper and a string of onions will that do?
Carly - I've got Poland, I'm coming as Polish builder I have some hilarious ideas about how to make myself look Polish.
Derek - I've got Romania, I'm coming as a vampire

What you get is a range of some clever and funny and not offensive ideas and some not-so-clever, not funny and actually offensive ideas.

An acid test is, imagine this Eurovision party happening in a public place like the city centre and groups of foreign tourists seeing you. what do you think their response would be?

grannytomine Mon 14-Mar-16 13:11:29

I usually try to hibernate for Eurovision so I don't really know.

RockUnit Mon 14-Mar-16 13:25:14

What would your opinion be of a "dress as a British person" party held overseas? Do you think stereotypical dress and food would be likely?

EssentialHummus Mon 14-Mar-16 13:31:45

As long as ABBA costumes are fine YANBU grin

StepAwayFromTheThesaurus Mon 14-Mar-16 13:35:20

If people overseas were having a Scotland themed party, I'd be offended if the place weren't awash with kilts, haggis, deep fried confectionary and those see-you-Jimmy hats.

CrazyNewDogLady Mon 14-Mar-16 13:38:03

I always thought 'cultural appropriation' meant appropriating (i.e. adopting) some aspect of another culture and integrating it into your identity without any comment or reflection on the 'home' culture.

There's a power dynamic to it as well. So, more powerful people (let's say white as the key example) adopting some part of the culture of less powerful people (let's say black) without acknowledging the 'home' culture. The assumption is that the more powerful group or person are also appropriating some aspect of a less powerful culture to actually get themselves even more power (read: money).

There's a difference between this, cultural appropriation, and blatant overt racism like black-face.

CrazyNewDogLady Mon 14-Mar-16 13:41:07

Sorry, posted too soon!

Then there's also a difference between that and just fancy dress!

Cultural appropriation: nicking a part of a culture for your own benefit without reflection.

Racism: Perpetuating problematic stereotypes about a group of people, a country or an ethnic group or just taking the piss.

Fancy dress: Using unproblematic stereotypes to clearly identify yourself as someone, something, some group.

The issue is who defines 'problematic' and 'unproblematic'. I'd say if pictures ended up on FB and you were worried your boss would see them, that's probably 'problematic'

Enjoy your party grin

RhodaBull Mon 14-Mar-16 13:41:23

I couldn't care if someone wanted to dress as a "British" person, whether that be in a Beefeater costume or as the Queen or Austin Powers. No skin off my nose.

But cultural appropriation seems to be about more than just obvious offence; whoever dreamed it up is implying it's an insult even to pay homage to a country's traditional dress or food if you have no claim on that heritage yourself.

Frika Mon 14-Mar-16 13:49:01

I wore a kimono to a Japanese friend's wedding. Her granny was adamant I was to wear it properly and spent ages helping me and telling me how to walk, sit etc.
And I wore a sari to another mates, at their request.

Yes, but the key thing here is that you did it respectfully and at your friends' request, and that it was to wear appropriate national dress at an occasion, rather than casual appropriation or lazy stereotyping. (I will pass over my own attempts to be graceful in a sari at a friend's wedding - my respect for a sari-wearing older friend who goes ballroom dancing in hers went through the roof...)

Can you really not see the difference between this and some Old Etonian blacking up?

Yes, exactly.

I'm not convinced that cultural appropriation is a useful or sensible concept. The fact is that cultures change over time and they borrow from each other in various ways. It's also impossible to draw clear boundaries around a culture to say where one stops and another starts.

I don't agree. You are assuming the cultures in question are equal. The problems are fairly clear when something that has, say, a high cultural/identitarian significance for a minority culture is used as a disposable fashion accessory by a dominant culture. Or when something that has a specifically racist history, like blackface, which was used by whites to cement racist stereotypes, is jokily used by a privileged, white public schoolboy as a way of being a bit edgy at a party.

StepAwayFromTheThesaurus Mon 14-Mar-16 16:00:08

But the issue with your examples is racism and seriously unequal power relations between races. I'm not sure the concept of cultural appropriation in any way helps to discuss or tackle this. It just muddies the waters. The problem isn't that the white people are 'appropriating' from a culture; it's that historically (and in an ongoing way) one group has been marginalising and damaging the other for centuries.

For example, dS2 has a Wild West theme in reception and they had a dressing up party. I thought it was problematic to have him dress up as a (horrible stereotype of) a Native American because that kind of stereotyping just perpetuates unequal power relations and is really quite racist. I didn't have a problem with him dressing up as a cowboy though because the power relations are completely different. In both cases there's something that might be called 'cultural appropriation' but only one is a big old racist nightmare.

I think some British people dressing up as abba and eating meatballs is more a dressing up as cowboys situation.

EduCated Mon 14-Mar-16 17:29:07

Also note that in the case of the Japanese themed ball, it was Japanese students who had complained. All but one of their 16 person committee appears to be white European.

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