Friday, April 27, 2007

Plus No Doubt Sucks

Despite the fact that Gwen Stefani is one of the stardom's more creative dressers, I've never really liked her. She's just too calculated and trendy and careful in her camp outfits, and a lot of what she wears is just plain ugly. Besides that, she's really into appropriating other cultures in this totally clueless way, whether it's "rasta" or you know, using actual people as fun accessories. Plus she's one of those "I'm not a feminist, but..." type of people who doesn't really know anything about feminism but is clearly scared of appearing too powerful, even though she's obviously a good businesswoman who has a lot of influence in various arenas.
And her Harajuku lovers line is soooo ugly. Ugly hoodies splashed with stupid logos that look like why should come from Forever21 but are kind of expensive. And here we have a really, really terrible t-shirt with a funky little Asian girl with an afro screened on it, cause, like Asians are fun the way naming your son after a Jamaican city and having a bunch of Japanese girls trailing after you is like, really creative and fun too. It's like forty dollars and stuff, which is a great price for piece of mass-produced crap. Don't buy it.


Gaby + Simone said...

gwen stefani is a neo-colonialist racist bitch who grew up in white trash anaheim. she has a track record of appropriating other cultures: she used to wear bindis. remember that? GOD I HATE HER. Anyway, you should have put up that photo we took in macy's. that was a hellscape, if there ever was one.

Anonymous said...

She's not so bad. She doesn't know better. I like to see the pretty colors.

Koko the educated monkey said...

Question: What do you mean appropiate from other culters? Everything has influence from another culter we live on a multi cultered planet. Look at where your clothes, furniture,food,computers,cars,home materiels etc come from. Look at the languages we speak. English itself is a language whose words came from various culteral back grounds. Look at where all the different films,actors,authors,muscians etc came from? What do you do only shop at your neighbours house who is the exact same as you for food, clothes, films, music, et cetera.
We are all of us heavily influenced by each other for good and not so good. Look at the past, look at the world today. It is just not one 'type' of people and all deserve to be recognized for the good and bad they bring in to the world. So how exactly do you appropiate that influence?

Koko the still learning monkey said...

And yes I meant Appropriate.Monkey still learning to type.@#%*

Mary said...

Our American culture is by nature a mix of many cultures that came before us, and of course that is one of the things that makes the USA so great. And the idea of appropriation is tricky, because, as you point out, in many ways you could call almost anything an appropriation.

But we also don't live in a vaccum, where all cultures are celebrated and borrowed from equally. Instead, there is generally a dominant, white, Euro-centric culture. Whether we like it or not, America's history is also one of colonialism and oppression. Even today, pop culture totally fails to represent a real cross-section of the American public, and in many cases, when we see what is supposed to be "diversity", it's as watered down as this stupid t-shirt. And many Americans do live in a world where their true contact with others cultures is slim to nil, and they believe this watered-down stuff is real.

Also part of our history, especially in entertainment, is people in power taking advantage of minority cultures and using them to their profit. This goes back to the very dawn of pop culture.

When Gwen Stefani names her son Kingston and describes him as a "Rasta" baby, and puts the colors of the Jamaican flag all over her clothes, to me she's using these Jamaican influences that obviously mean very superficial things to her, and ignoring stuff like: Jamaica being a desperately poor country that she probs knows nothing about. Or even Rastafarianisms's notorious homophobia. Or, when she wears Bindis, everyone can think it's cute even though there are absolutely zero Indian-Americans in the public eye. She can make money off these watered-down images, but I personally believe as someone with power and cultural influence, you should ideally be able to recognize the difference between that, and say, some kind of more natural cultural fusion.

If you are aware of the world today, you must also be aware that we don't all just trade cultures back and forth and everybody gets to participate equally and gets their own fair share. We must tread lightly because there is still a serious imbalance of power in our world, and many people making a lot of money are making it off the backs of others.

Koko the educated monkey said...

This is very insightful as an educated and learning Monkey all words are good to know regardless of the content delivered. Indian Americans in the public eye, I'm afraid I've only shared a few and only people born in the United States of America due to the vast amount. Kal Penn(New Jersey), Danny Pudi(Chicago,Illinois), Noureen De Wulf(New York City,New York) Dileep Roa(Los Angels) feel free to look them up and enjoy their work or not. If I can put forth the question agian which was not meant as a socialist comment and I'm not under the illusion it was
actually really answered clearly other then 'thats tricky'. If we could step out of America's backyard for just a moment not to draw attention or take away from that country as interesting as it is.
Question:What do you mean appropriate from other cultures? Everything has influence from another culture we live on a multi-cultured planet.So how exactly do you appropriate that influence? Not just people who are what 'Euro- centric?' influenced as the majority of the world is not. Seriously as some one from a different cultural backgrond (ok I'm only assuming your American because you wrote 'Our American')I'm interested to know? I mean I'm a Haplorhini!
*Really how capitalistically presumptuous to whittle down cultural influence to trade. There are people from around the world that don't just make gadgets cheaply so they can sit on a shelf for $1 and that was off topic.Tsk Tsk.

Koko the educated monkey said...

Pardon my English by the way.

Mary said...

When I say 'that's tricky" I mean that some have trouble telling the difference between cultural exchange and cultural appropriation. Sharing cultures is not wrong. If you go to your friend's house and her mother is making traditional food and you eat it, that's not appropriation. It's cultural exchange. If you attend a, say, a Muslim wedding and they ask female guests to wear the veil, and you wear it to pay respect to those at the wedding, that is cultural exchange.

But if you are a white college student and you have a "middle east" themed frat party and you put towels on your head and bindis on your face, that's different. It's not someone illuminating their culture to you, it's not you sharing someone's culture in a respectful way. It's appropriation.

That is why I say "it's tricky." Because not all culture sharing is appropriation, the lines are sometimes blurred. There are many ways culture can be shared.

I think Gwen stefani is not sharing cultures, I don't think she's respectful or understanding. I think she's an appropriator. And yes, she's making a lot of money off of it.

As for the "socialist" nature of my comments, there is no country on Earth that hasn't been somewhat affected by colonialism, which by nature appropriates other cultures. It is our legacy, a huge part of what might constitute cultural exchange or appropriation, and I don't think it can be ignored.

Koko the educated monkey said...

Colonialism isn’t really addressing the question. Is there a possible misguided interpretation as the response is off topic. Although colonialism is a subject matter that probably deserves more serious consideration. One could surmise that in some cases colonialists were more interested in appropriating land through the occasional evidence and rather on decimating the prior culture to the brink of extinction in some cases actual, depending in what part of the world your concentrating on and at what time. Some have controversially suggested that the colonised in certain circumstances appropriate from the colonizer.
So with consideration that certain things are addressed clearly like cultural sensitivity for example there being several different kinds of head covering worn by Muslim men and women. Depending on origin and residence so when one may refer to it as a ‘towel’? I assume you mean a Keffiyeh or Shemagh or even the more recognizable hijab head covering for women a term most English speakers use apparently. Most practising Muslims don’t ever tend to refer to the head cover as a ‘towel’, you know just cause, some find it a little degrading and all.

As well as for the sake of cultural sensitivity one could consider you are more likely to find Bindi’s are more often South Asian culture not Middle Eastern.

Or even that Rasta as in ‘Rasta baby’ is probably not considered as offensive to a Rastafari as much as say the use of the word ‘Rastafarianism’ is considering some practitioners find “ism” an offensive association. However I am not one to elect oneself as a representee for the Rastafari considering there are,
People like I don’t know let’s say:
Leonard Howell, Walter Rodney, Claudius Henry, Marcus Garvey or the universally known Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Clancy Eccles etc.
Actually speaking of Bob Marley his son Damian Jr Gong Marley has worked with her and Ziggy Marley openinly associates with her.
I’m sure some of the Jamaicans still with us I have mentioned are possibly able to communicate any outrage they feel without anyone electing themselves to do it on their behalf. Hell some of them can do it directly to the source if they wont.

Considering also as only one example another singer called Sinead O’Connor who is an Irish singer (best known song being a cover of a Prince song). At one stage openly called herself a Rastafari and openly bi as well as confirming she is aware of the tense relations between the subject of Rastafari and homosexuality.
A paradox perhaps.

So how does one appropriate culture and who has the right to assign the appropriator and the appropriated considering we live on a multi-cultured plant?

Koko the educated monkey said...

Planet! I very much dislike this spell check!

Mary said...

Yes, when I make references to a towel and bindis I am saying that is the ignorant perception of many Americans as far as the Middle East. I personally am aware that bindis are associated with India and Middle Eastern people don't wear towels (in fact that is a typical racist thing to say!)

I was making fun of that ignorant Western perception, and referencing the ignorance of "dress up" events such as these: which are examples of both appropriation and outright racism.

You say it's not my place to be outraged since I'm not Jamaican, I'm not outraged on behalf of the Jamaican people. My perspective is that of an American, and a white American, who grew up in a racially and culturally diverse city. I could not pretend to be the voice of the Jamaican people, which I know nothing about and I'm sure is incredibly varied anyway.

No, I am outraged just as a white American re: stuff like this. In plenty of cases, things I perceive as racism or appropriation could be the last thing on the minds of the people who are the "victims", but that's not the point. The point is that the appropriation contributes to a racist, ignorant, Western society and may skew opinions of non-Western people. Sadly, many people's opinions of people different from themselves do not come from real cultural exchange, but these skewed perceptions.

But sharing cultures does not equal appropriation. In my opinion, appropriation is, by nature, linked to ignorance, cluelessness, lack of respect. That does not have to happen when cultures some together. It is not bad to share cultures. It's also not always a big deal to share cultures. It happens every day, in so many different ways.

Hate Bob Marley, though. Speaking of appropriation, too bad the only "reggae" I ever heard growing up was Bob Marley and the very watered down versions of Sting, UB40, Phil Collins, etc. As a white American, I thought that was all reggae was, because that was the version I got. Then I got older and heard Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, etc. and I found that I loved old reggae. But I was judging something negatively on a crappy Western-based version, you know?

Mary said...

And also, I do understand that many "liberal" white people can get a little to outraged on the behalf of people they think they are "protecting" from racism, which can be totally patronizing and unhelpful. That's why I want to make clear that I'm doing my best to critique appropriation/racism within my own culture, and think about how it relates to how I see people interact within that, not necessarily how it affects people in another country.

Koko the educated monkey said...

Personally I do not see the reasoning in telling someone else whether it is their place or isn’t to be outraged about some one seeing a way to express themselves by appropriating materiel things that could be in recognition of someone else’s culture they may feel has influenced them other then just their own. I merely feel I might not necessarily elect myself in that way if I could learn from someone more strategically placed through experience, location and that the object may hold more significance to them to be more informed maybe. You know someone could also suggest that racism is too serious a subject to be tackled with something so open ended really as appropriation. I’d even hazard suggesting that racism has nothing to do with the other person’s culture so much as the individual perpetrator whether alone or as a group as say utilising… HATE, just as an example.
And let’s face it you don’t need to have any awareness of other cultures even existing to carry and distribute hate you just need a channel. And hate does not necessarily need ignorance to thrive it can do it on anger or fear or stupidity etc.
I also would not say ignorance is so much a result of appropriation as ignorance being a result of, well, ignorance.
So I wonder as your interpretation of appropriation is suggesting that if I am not the same culture as you and if my traditional way to dress is not a tailored suit; if I wore it and decided I would also like to dye my hair blonde and that was not a hair colour often seen in my culture you would mock me? Are your suggesting it would be wrong for some one to express oneself in this way. Appropriate does not necessarily mean some one is trying to mock someone. At least I cannot find its definition in English to mean to mock someone by being purposely offensive or degrading.
Or are you suggesting only Americans are not allowed to express themselves by wearing something that may have originated in another part of the world or to style their hair in a way that may have originated in another part of the world, because they are some how separate from the rest of the world?

With these things in consideration, Question: How do you appropriate culture? When you live on a multi-cultured planet and who is in the position to say who is or is not?

Mary said...

I never said Americans can't wear something that came from another culture. I never said that white person can't enjoy Chinese food or a Hispanic person can't listen to rap. I said cultural exchange happens every day, and it's fine.

(Personally, I think a combination of cultures and those cultures intermingling with each other is the best part of living in an American city.)

Appropriation is the term used by many in America for taking/borrowing things from another culture (usually a less dominant one) without respect, knowledge, and often exploiting them. For instance, here's Gwen Stefani again in Nov 2012 (I'm sure it's just a coincidence!)

The word "appropriation" used to describe her actions on a race discussion-based blog. The term "appropriation" is what people use for a taking parts of another culture in a certain way. This is a word many activists use, that you will find on many blogs, such as the one I've just posted. Edward Said's famous studies on "Orientalism" tie in well here.

There are many other examples of appropriation vs. cultural exchange. I don't know if you don't see the difference or don't believe there is one, but I do.

Personally I don't care if you were to dye your hair blond and wear a suit. You would not be exploiting a marginalized culture, you would be exploiting a dominant culture, at least here in the U.S. To me, it's not necessarily equivalent to a white American dressing up as say, someone "Eastern." As I said, it's not an equal, back and forth exchange we have here across the globe.

Koko the educated monkey said...

You don’t need an idiotic person with the same skin pigmentation as you being offensive about cultural issues for someone to have a skewed opinion of you. Sometimes it’s just a matter of a judgemental idiot looking at you and formulating a skewed opinion for there own egocentric purpose.
I was also under the impression said pop group pulled their video clip as a direct result of the feedback caused by it. Which may indicate some form of remorse for any offence taken?
The music clips conception and creation was not necessarily the instigation of one person was it? Each group member, the cast, the crew, the costume designer, the Native American friends they apparently consulted, the Native American studies experts? At the University of California as well as the director Melissa Matsoukas an (American who is of Greek, Jewish, Jamaican and Cuban descent apparently) also have a collective responsibility surely?
And if I died my hair blonde the Melanesians on the Solomon Islands of Papua New Guinea could be culturally influencing me for anyone knows. If I was being influenced by the more dominate European Caucasian people I would dye my hair black or brunette not blonde because it’s less common. Only about 2 per cent of the world population is naturally blonde that is determined by melanin for one thing not culture (like skin tone).
For an Anthropologist culture may be the full range of learned human behaviour. Not innately born with but taught. Which may expose the possibility that Culture is not set in stone and subject to change even without an outside cultures involvement.
Maybe I just don’t like the idea of being determined through material personally. Maybe Appropriation Art makes points that are valid enough to consider.
I am also led to believe via language and meaning (much like culture) appropriation is subject to change and can imply different things depending on context. Not all exchange is positive by the way. Appropriate is transformable given the context or circumstance and result.
Misappropriation is not however. Misappropriation means the same thing regardless of the context it is delivered in.
So who exactly is telling who what they can/ can’t or what is/isn’t appropriat/e/ion? Who has the right to do so and why considering we live on a multi-cultural planet that question doesn’t seem to be getting answered?

Anonymous said...

You are getting mixed up with the band no doubt and gwen's solo career, the whole harajuku thing is gwens solo career and has nothing to do with no doubt.

Mary said...

Thats why it says PLUS No Doubt sucks. Also, No Doubt just pulled a video off the air because people found it racist.