That time I participated in cultural appropriation…

Last week I was looking back over some photos from my time at college when I noticed a picture that made me stop in my tracks.  The picture was taken at a costume party in my second year at university.  For this particular occasion I was dressed as a geisha.  I’d swept my hair up into a smooth top-knot, I was wearing a satiny kimono-style robe and I’d applied white powder and overdrawn red lipstick.  The picture made me want to hang my head with shame.  Because in that moment I realised that I’d taken part in cultural appropriation when I chose to dress that way.

 

Cultural appropriation is an important topic, and something that I think about on a regular basis.  In case you’re unsure what I mean when I use the phrase “cultural appropriation”, here is a great article that explains it pretty well. But essentially cultural appropriation is “when somebody adopts aspects of a culture that is not their own”.  It is particularly prudent when the cultural aspects have religious or deep cultural significance, and/or when the person taking the cultural aspect is from a racial group which has a history of oppressing the group the culture is being taken from.

 

I mentioned that I think about cultural appropriation on a regular basis, and this is most often in context of the things I wear.  I love to express myself through fashion and there are a number of items in my closet which have been inspired by other cultures.  I even have items which have been given as gifts from friends overseas which have come from other countries, and which I now wear.  Whether or not me wearing these items counts as cultural appropriation is a muddy debate (and one which I’ve grappled with many times in my own mind).  But I am certain that my geisha costume was a definite example of cultural appropriation.

 

Now, when I first saw the photo, I tried to rationalize my behaviour.  I thought about my interest in geisha culture and how much reading and research I’ve done about the history of geisha and their practices.  I thought “well, perhaps the fact that I’m interested in geisha and that I know a lot about them makes it OK to dress as a geisha.  Maybe my costume was more of an homage to a culture I respect rather than an appropriation”.

 

But I still consider it to be an appropriation.  The clothing, hairstyle and makeup worn by a geisha is special.  It’s not something that just anyone gets to wear.  A woman has to go through years of difficult training before she is worthy to wear the geisha makeup or hairstyles.  Different geisha hairstyles have different meanings, and in some cases a geisha has to satisfy certain criteria before she is permitted to wear her hair a particular way.  I have undergone no such training, and although I am interested in this culture it is not MY culture.  I have not earned the right to dress like a geisha, and it was wrong of me to do so.

 

In contrast, I think about a time when I wore a kimono that I do not consider to be an appropriation.  Many years ago I visited the Immigration Museum in Melbourne and was treated to an exhibit led by two women from Japan.  At the end of the tour they showed us a number of traditional Japanese garments including kimono, and I was invited to come and try one on.  I don’t think of this experience as an appropriation for a number of reasons.  Firstly, I was invited by a member of the culture to wear the item.  Secondly, kimono are not generally an item that carries a certain status in that you don’t have to be of a particular class or hold a certain job or title to wear one. In this instance, I was not taking an item of special cultural significance, I was experiencing an aspect of a culture by invitation of two members of that culture.

 

I believe that cultural appropriation is something that’s important to think about, particularly in the context of fashion. There are a number of items that I have stopped wearing altogether because I am aware that they have particular cultural significance.  For example, I used to wear bindis on a regular basis and now I will not wear them at all.  While I don’t think that there is a need to completely cut out the wearing of anything that has come from another culture, I think it’s extremely important to consider the significance and history of those items and truly consider whether it’s appropriate to wear them.

 

So although I still wear items that have been inspired by other cultures, or even some clothes which have come directly from other cultures, I am much savvier about what I choose to wear.  I will not make the mistake of using another culture as a costume, and although I’m ashamed that i have done so in the past, I think it’s important to talk about it.  Because I believe that you have to own up to your mistakes in order to learn and move forward.  And I think I’ve come a long way since that night I donned a geisha costume, and I’d like to move even further towards being a person who is more compassionate and open, particularly when it comes to culture.

 

Have you participated in cultural appropriation?  Is it something that you think about when choosing what you wear?

Things I Love Thursday 6/8/2015

It’s Thursday and I’m ready to throw myself headlong into this week’s Things I Love Thursday list.  So let’s jump right in, shall we?

This week I love:

– Body epiphanies.  A few nights ago I was looking at some old photos and feeling shitty about my body.  I was so upset when I compared how my body looks now to how it looked a few years ago.  I’ve gained a bit of weight over the past few years, not a lot but a bit.  And I’m insecure about it.  But I realised that my body looks amazing now.  I’m super strong from yoga and I’m very toned.  And I also reminded myself that mentally I’m a lot more stable now than I was then and I take much better care of myself.  Back when those photos were taken, I was abusing my body to look the way I did.  I restricted the food I’d eat and I was using exercise as a punishment.  Nowadays I eat a more balanced diet and I enjoy my food.  I’ve found that I love yoga and prefer to do a daily yoga workout than several grueling  running sessions a week.  I think that my happiness and sanity is a fair trade off for a thinner body.

-Cupping massages.  I had my first one in a year and it was amazing.  I got the most terrible bruises from the gliding cups but my back and shoulders feel looser than they have in ages.  It’s brilliant.

– Finding an amazing craft shop while on a date with my girlfriend.  Rah and I were shopping in the city last weekend and we accidentally stumbled across a store called Morris and Sons.  It was a wonderland of yarns and patterns and I went crazy buying beautiful balls of yarn.  I could have spent hundreds of dollars in there, but I restrained myself.

– Oolong tea.

– Dried apricots.  So delicious.

– Celebrating my brother’s new job.  I’m so proud of him.

– Great work weeks where everything seems to just fall into place.

– Working on some new knitting projects and being utterly chuffed with how each one has turned out.

– Sleeping with a cat tucked under each arm.

– Lazy, rainy afternoons with a blanket and a book.

– Sweet kisses from my man.

– Being able to taste and smell things again after weeks of blocked sinuses.

-Finally getting my blog reader to zero.  I haven’t cleared it out in almost six months and it was so good to get back into reading my favourite blogs again.

What do you love this week?

What I wore 4/8/2015: Happy Birthday Ms Rowling.

Last week I celebrated J.K Rowling’s birthday by dressing in a Harry Potter themed outfit.  I bought this rad Quidditch shirt from Jay Jays a couple of months back and I haven’t featured it on the blog before.

I am wearing:

– Quidditch captain tee shirt from Jay Jays

– Red satin jacket (thrifted)

– Black velvet skirt (thrifted)

– Black studded boots from Big W.

– Silver necklace (birthday gift from my sweethearts)

– Silver key earrings from Etsy

– Owl ring from Equip.

This jacket has become a wardrobe staple for me.  It’s the most gorgeous satin brocade and it’s incredibly silky against my skin.  One of the reasons I wear it so often is that it’s reversible.  It’s a rich red on one side and black on the other, which makes it extremely versatile.  It’s just a tiny bit fancier than most of my other jackets and it’s perfect for dressing up a simple outfit.

I had a lot of fun playing with textures when I put this outfit together.  When I think about the clothes worn by the witches and wizards of Hogwarts, I always imagine luxe fabrics and jewel tones.  That’s why it made perfect sense to me to include a heavy velvet skirt and a silky jacket.

I chose these ornate key earrings because they reminded me of the flying keys in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

And this owl ring was a tribute to Hedwig, one of my favourite Potter characters.

A Hogwarts-inspired outfit seemed like a great way to celebrate the birthday of the woman who created one of my favourite fictional worlds.  J. K. Rowling is something of a role model of mine because she is a great example of someone who has lived a very authentic life and follows her own heart and mind.  I was astonished to learn that she was repeatedly turned away by publishers when she was pitching the Harry Potter series.  12 times, to be precise.  But she kept on plugging away, and thank goodness she did!  Whenever I’m feeling upset or dejected or frustrated that things just don’t seem to be working out for me, I remember the tenacity and creativity of Ms Rowling and try to push forward.

P.S: This isn’t the first time I’ve done a Hogwarts-themed outfit.  I wore this one to see The Deathly Hallows Part 1 and this one for Part 2. Oh, and of course, I cosplay as Luna Lovegood on occasion.

Movie costumes I wish I owned.

A few years ago I went to a fantastic exhibition at ACMI in Melbourne called Hollywood Costume.  The exhibition featured some of the most iconic costumes in film history, including costumes from The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Valley of the Dolls and The Seven Year Itch.  As I person who adores films and fashion, it was a very moving experience for me.  I actually teared up as I stood in front of the gingham dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

Last week, while cleaning out my desk I found the program that I’d saved from the exhibition.  While I was looking at it I started thinking about movie costumes and imagining what it would be like to own some of those gorgeous outfits to wear in real life.  I set myself a creative challenge, trying to imagine which costumes I would choose to stock my wardrobe with if I could…

Scarlett O’Hara’s scarlet dress from Gone With the Wind

This dress takes my breath away every time I see it.  It’s brazen, it’s sexy and it’s the most intense shade of crimson I’ve ever laid eyes on.  I adore the figure-hugging line and the fact that it has feathers AND sequins.  This is a dress to get you noticed.

Elle Driver’s trench coat from Kill Bill

The comic book fan in me adores this trench coat.  It’s so simple and yet so eye-catching.  The hand-drawn details give it a cartoonish look but it is such a classic line and style.

Penny Lane’s boots from Almost Famous

Those incredible lace-up boots are the stuff this hippy-chick’s dreams are made of.  I can just see myself gliding down the street with those boots peeking out from under a denim skirt topped off with a whisper-thin sheer blouse with my hair flowing free.

Elvira’s dagger brooch from Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

There is something delightfully tacky about wearing an enormous, bejewelled dagger pinned to your dress.  But I still desperately want to do it anyway.  I can imagine wearing that spectacular brooch on a luscious velvet blazer, or on the waist of a skin-tight dress to play homage to the Mistress of the dark.

Enid Coleslaw’s glasses from Ghost World

As a Gal with Glasses, I was super excited by Enid’s wardrobe of frames.  She wears a different pair in practically every scene, from Buddy Holly spectacles to sexy cat’s-eye frames.

Mrs Flax’s polka dot dress from Mermaids

I would have such fun shimmying into that hip-hugging wiggle dress and sashaying down the street in a pair of mules and thick-rimmed sunglasses.  Although this dress is very 1960’s, there is a timelessness to the cut that I adore. Also, note the fact that it has pockets.  POCKETS!  How fantastic.

I could go on and on, but those are my top picks.  If you could, which movie costumes would you fill your wardrobe with?

5 Fandom Friday: Fictional pets I’d love to adopt.

There can be no doubt that I’m an animal lover at heart.  I adore my pets and every animal under my roof is utterly spoiled with love and affection.  While I’m perfectly happy with Miss Jellylorum and Mr Ringo for the time being, there are several fictional pets that I’d be happy to add to my personal menagerie….

1. Binky from The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.

Now, I’m not normally a horse person, but I’d make an exception for Binky.  Binky is a pure white horse owned by Death.  He has a sweet nature and loves galloping around the black fields surrounding Death’s castle.  Oh, and he can transport his rider to other dimensions and worlds, so he is basically a spaceship. I’d be happy to let this awesome horse take up residence in my backyard.

2. Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

I’ve often thought it would be awesome if my cats could talk, simple because I’d love to find out what’s going on inside their heads sometimes.  So a talking cat rates high on my list of imaginary dream pets.  And a wise-cracking sarcasm machine like Salem would be a great companion.

 

3. Thing from The Addams Family

There are a couple of reasons why I’d like to have Thing in my household.  Firstly, he’d be darn useful, helping with chores and bringing in the mail. Secondly, you could play some seriously awesome practical jokes with a living, disembodied hand.  Finally, I’d love a pet that can give me a lovely foot rub at the end of a long day at work.

4. Marcel from Friends

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve wanted a pet monkey.  They are just so adorable and I imagine that we’d have loads of fun together.  Marcel was a bit of a handful, and wasn’t particularly well toilet trained, but he was super sweet and had awesome juggling skills.

5. Seymour from Futurama

Even though Seymour only appeared in one episode of Futurama, he made a deep impression on me.  Jurassic Bark is one of the saddest pieces of televisual entertainment I’ve ever seen and I cry every time I watch the final scene where Seymour waits endlessly for his master to return.  I would like to adopt Seymour so that he wouldn’t have to have such a sad ending to his life.  Although Fry didn’t intentionally abandon Seymour, my heart goes out to pets that have been left behind by their owners, and I like the idea of being able to give one a second chance at happiness.

 

If you could adopt a fictional pet, which one would you take home with you?

What I wore 29/7/2015

I had an epiphany when I was typing the title of today’s post.  Since the very beginning of my blog, I’ve called my outfit posts “Daily Outfit”.  And when I started blogging that was definitely true.  Once upon a time I used to post an outfit shot every day.  Now I’m lucky to do a couple of outfit posts in a month.  So I made the decision to rename this post series “What I wore”, because it feels more real than “Daily Outfit” now.

So anyway, this is the outfit I wore to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday.  We went out for a lunch of seafood and soft drinks and it was fantastic.

I am wearing:

– Black and white floral dress from Target

– Leopard-trimmed cardigan (a gift from my parents)

– Seamed stockings from Dangerfield.

– Black patent leather heels from Nine West

– Black cat earrings from Sisunyak on Etsy.

It felt quite right to wear an outfit that was a mixture of ladylike sweetness and rebellious detailing to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday.  My grandma is an amazing and surprising person.  She’s has a pretty rough year, as my grandfather passed away last year and she’s been on her own for the first time since she got married. And she is absolutely thriving.  Grandma spent most of her life being a wife and mother and putting her husband’s needs first. And now she has jumped at the chance to embrace her independence and explore the things that she’s always wanted to try.  She has thrown herself into loads of new hobbies and has made plenty of friends.  She got a job at an op-shop.  And for her birthday she bought herself a house as a gift.  In the last year she’s really embraced the desire to live a life that makes her happy and has pooh-poohed anyone who doesn’t like her choices.  I really look up to her because she is one tough cookie who still manages to be sweet and kind to those who mean the most to her.

I’ve been having such fun styling my hair since i got it cut.  One of my favourite ways to wear it is to braid along the border of my shaved side.  It shows off my short hair to perfection but has a hint of feminine loveliness to it. On this day I swept the rest of my hair into a fancy backroll.

I finished my outfit with a swipe of my new favourite lipstick: Entourage by Lipstick Queen.  It’s part of the new Velvet Rope collection and it is to die for.  Not only is it very heavily pigmented and a gorgeously vampy shade, it is practically indestructible.  I think this is the longest-lasting, non-drying lipstick I’ve ever tried.  It’s gorgeous.

I was very pleased to pop on this sassy ensemble to celebrate my Grandma’s birthday.  I felt quite cute and a bit tough as well with my leopard print accents and my shaved head.  I love the duality of elements in this outfit, as I think it’s such fun to mix sweetness with sexiness and have a bit of both at once.  Don’t you agree?

Four things…

My darling mate Nina from Le Fancy Geek tagged me in her Four Things post, and I just couldn’t wait to join in.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done a tag post, and this one seemed like it would be a lot of fun.

I’m not going to tag anyone in this post, but if you want to do your own Four Things post, please leave a link in the comments, I’d love to read your answers to the questions.

Four places I’ve lived.

My parents house.  Until I was nineteen I lived with my parents in a brick house in Benalla.  It was a really great home and my parents still live there now.

College in Melbourne.  I lived in a dorm with eleven other people for three years.  It was crowded, noisy and smelly and I loved it (most of the time).  I did crazy things like riding a mechanical bull and taking off all my clothes to add them to a chain of my dorm-mates clothes to see how far we could make it reach.  It was amazing.

A share house in Heidelberg.  The house I lived in was dingy and literally falling to pieces.  No joke.  We once awoke at five in the morning when a chunk of our loungeroom ceiling collapsed.  It was in a terrible area and a year into my time there a man was murdered on the corner of my street.  But despite all that I loved living there.

A flat on my own.  I currently live by myself in a flat in my hometown.  It’s actually pretty great.  I have lots of space and a lovely garden out the back and a beautiful corner window in my bedroom.

Four jobs I’ve had.

Sales assistant at Target.  I worked at Target all through high school and then again after college ended.  Although it was pretty trying at times it was actually a pretty good job.  I worked with some awesome people and I particularly loved working in the lead-up to Christmas.

Waitress at a pub.  This was probably the worst job I ever had.  At the time I was working two jobs to save for university and I was utterly exhausted.  I would work until ten most nights and come home smelling of beer spills and chip grease.  I got burned with hot plates and grabbed by creepy customers.  The night I quit was one of the happiest of my life.

–  Avon Lady. I briefly sold Avon cosmetics in the year between high school and university.  It was a lot of fun, but I had to put in a huge amount of work for very little payoff.  The best part was visiting old ladies and doing their nails while chatting over tea. In fact, I kept doing that after I quit.

Receptionist for a legal centre.  I’ve had a few reception jobs, but the best one was when I worked at a legal centre in Melbourne.  The centre provided free legal advice for people who couldn’t afford to pay for legal council.  It was a very difficult job and I saw a lot of very upsetting things.  But I loved working there because I felt like I was doing something that really mattered.

Four things I don’t eat.

Tomato sauce.  I can’t stand it, which sucks because in Australia people seem to put it on everything, and I always feel like a total weirdo that I’m the only one eating a pie not slathered in disgusting goopy redness.

Pavlova.  Yet another traditional Aussie dish that turns my stomach.  Every woman in my family hates pav, from my Nana to my Mum.  None of us can stomach it, and I wonder if our aversion is genetic.

Oysters.  Although I love seafood, I’ve never enjoyed oysters.  I’ve tried them a few times but I just can’t stand the texture of them.

Chai.  Although I adore the scent of chai, the taste triggers my gag reflex like nothing else.

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Four of my favourite foods.

Pizza.  Pizza is my go-to food for any occasion.  If I want to celebrate or treat myself, I’ll order a pizza.  Long day at work and can’t be arsed cooking?  Order a pizza!  My turn to pick the takeout?  You know it’s gonna be pizza!  I can’t get enough of it.  And a cold slice of leftover pizza for breakfast is my idea of heaven.

Jelly beans.  Specifically, the special glucose jelly beans that you buy at the chemist.  I love those chubby little bastards.

Hokey Pokey ice cream.  Caramel ice-cream with shards of butterscotch swirled through it, amazing.

Earl Grey tea.  I’m a big-time tea drinker, and Earl Grey is my favourite.  It’s sweet and comforting with a beautiful aroma.

Four films I’ve watched more than once.

– The Wizard of Oz

– Beetlejuice

– Heavyweights

– Ghost World

Four TV shows I watch.

– Bojack Horseman

-Orange is the New Black

– Game of Thrones

-Parks and Recreation

Four things I’m looking forward to this year.

Christmas!  I seriously love Christmas.  I’m always looking forward to Christmas, no matter how far away it is.

My girlfriend’s birthday.  I get mega excited for birthdays, and this will be the first time since we started dating that I’ll be able to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday with her.  I want it to be very special for her, because she’s an incredible person.

Getting an article published in one of my favourite magazines.  It’s happening in September, and I couldn’t be more pumped.

Spring.  I’m so over Winter, and I can’t wait for the weather to begin to warm up again.

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Four things I can’t live without.

Pets.  I am so much happier when I have a pet. At the moment Miss Jelly and Mr Ringo are my constant companions and they bring so much joy into my world.

Lip balm.  I hate having dry lips, and I feel so much more comfortable when my lips are slathered with balm.  My favourite brand is Lip Smackers and I usually have a few of these on the go.

– An internet connection.  So much of my life is online.  I connect with my friends over the internet, I keep up with my writing online and I don’t know what I’d do without Netflix.

– Pretty lingerie.  Boring undies are for boring people, and I like having a wardrobe of gorgeous underthings to slip on under my clothes.

Four celebrity crushes.

-Kit Harrington

– Dawn French

– Chris Pratt

– John Goodman

Four pet peeves.

– When people say “pacifically” when they mean to say “specifically”.

– When people walk in large groups in a line across the footpath so you can’t get past.

– People who are rude to waitstaff or shop assistants.

– Minions.  I just don’t get why they’re so popular.  It infuriates me that minion-based memes keep popping up on my Facebook feed.

Four things I wish I could do.

Sing.  I’m not a bad singer, but I’m not really a good singer either.  I wish I had the ability to really belt out a tune.

Play a musical instrument.  I’ve tried learning a number of instruments, including piano and guitar.  I just don’t have an ear for music.

Draw.  My drawing skills are woeful and I sometimes wish that I were able to express myself on paper with images.  But I suppose that I’m good at expressing myself with words, which is nothing to be sniffed at.

Be more assertive.  As a very introverted and anxious woman, I find it so hard to stand up for myself and speak up to get what I need.  I tend to let myself get passed over and I don’t like that.  I’m working to be more assertive, but I’ve got a long way to go.

Four subjects I studied at school.

Drama.  I loved drama in high school and I was particularly good at comedy.  I used to have a blast recreating classic sketches from Rowan Atkinson and French and Saunders to crack up my classmates.

– Literature. I’m a reader at heart and my awesome literature teacher taught me how to really delve into a book and appreciate it on a deeper level.  She introduced me to Oscar Wilde, Harper Lee and Charles Dickens and also showed me the creepiest book I’ve ever read: The Collector by John Fowles.

Neuroscience. I have a degree in psychology and I spent a good part of my time at uni studying pictures of brains and dissecting actual brains.  It was fascinating and something that I’m still very interested in.

– Human rights law.  For a long time I dreamed about working in a community legal centre and helping disadvantaged people find justice.  Sadly, I nearly had a nervous breakdown pursing that dream and decided it wasn’t feasible for me to do that kind of work for the rest of my life.  I hope that I’ll be able to go back to it one day, in some form.

Four things near me right now.

– My knitting

-An empty water bottle (I drained it while I was writing this post)

– The remote control for the television

-Darkness be my Friend by John Marsden.

 

Don’t forget to leave me a link if you do your own version of the Four Things tag. I’d love to read your answers.