Cultural appropriation. Discuss.

delayedaxel

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A couple of years ago we were riding the metro here in Hamburg and we overheard some woke students have a conversation about sign language.
Girl: "I actually know sign language, but I always hesitate to do it in public because that would be cultural appropriation."
Dude...what?!

If this were true, if the learning of a different language were "cultural appropriation", then why learnig a different language at all? As soon as I learn a different language I risk to offend a native speaker by misprounoncing a world or lacking historical context.

Back in the day, when I was travelling the world, people would laugh at me when I made a funny mistake and I would laugh with them, when I understood why my mistake was so funny. They would ignore the mistake, if the context was clear and they would explain things to me that were important to them. So I learned that "espanol" is a national adjective, but when it comes to the language, the term "castellano" is preferred, at least by the Spaniards I know. ("Soy espanol pero hablo castellano").

To say, a person that's not deaf should not learn or use sign language in public is as absurd as saying a person that doest't have a Spanish or Latin background should not learn Spanish.

If you think this through. you are segregating the world, by claiming each person better stick to the place where he or she was born. Every cultural exchange is too risky, because somebody might be offended. Let's better have Black areas with Black schools, Black music labels, Black busses and so own. "They" can stick together within their community and need not risk beeing insulted by somebody from outside.

"We" better have areas reserved for white people only, because that's easier, too. If something happens in the "Black World" say, an athlete kneels during the national anthem to protest racism and police violence, we better stay silent. I would like to express my solidarity and sympathy for the protest, but I am not a victim of racism, so I better be silent as not to offend somebody. If I was an athlete, I would consider not to stand up for the anthem either, but this move came up in the "Black world" ("they) not in my world ("we") so it is probably cultural approriation to just take it and make it mine. So I do nothing.

Cultural appropriation is so playing into the hands of the "Identitären" which are a strong (and young) right-wing movement, originated in France but also present in Austria and Germany.
 
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Ananas Astra

The Queen of Mean
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If this were true, if the learning of a different language were "cultural appropriation", then why learnig a different language at all? As soon as I learn a different language I risk to offend a native speaker by misprounoncing a world or lacking historical context.

Back in the day, when I was travelling the world, people would laugh at me when I made a funny mistake and I would laugh with them, when I understood why my mistake was so funny. They would ignore the mistake, if the context was clear and they would explain things to me that were important to them. So I learned that "espanol" is a national adjective, but when it comes to the language, the term "castellano" is preferred, at least by the Spaniards I know. ("Soy espanol pero hablo castellano").

To say, a person that's not deaf should not learn or use sign language in public is as absurd as saying a person that doest't have a Spanish or Latin background should not learn Spanish.

If you think this through. you are segregating the world, by claiming each person better stick to the place where he or she was born. Every cultural exchange is too risky, because somebody might be offended. Let's better have Black areas with Black schools, Black music labels, Black busses and so own. "They" can stick together within their community and need not risk beeing insulted by somebody from outside.

"We" better have areas reserved for white people only, because that's easier, too. If something happens in the "Black World" say, an athlete kneels during the national anthem to protest racism and police violence, we better stay silent. I would like to express my solidarity and sympathy for the protest, but I am not a victim of racism, so I better be silent as not to offend somebody. If I was an athlete, I would consider not to stand up for the anthem either, but this move came up in the "black world" ("they) not in my word ("we") so it is probably cultural approriation to just take it and make it mine. So I do nothing.

Cultural appropriation is so playing into the hands of the "Identitären" which are a strong (and young) right-wing movement, originated in France but also present in Austria and Germany.
Exactly.

And yes, this girl was absolutely serious about "cultural appropriation" while using sign language. Since when is being deaf a culture?
If I were deaf and a random person on the metro or the bus could communicate with me that way I'd be ****ing happy.
I was actually close to ruining the conversation by saying that I speak five languages and whether that is "cultural appropriation" as well.
 

Ananas Astra

The Queen of Mean
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delayedaxel

Active Member
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Deaf culture is a thing and has been around for generations. For example, the community has ongoing debates about cochlear implants to aid in hearing, with some rejecting the need to change their deafness. Sign language very much belongs to deaf culture: https://www.handsandvoices.org/comcon/articles/deafculture.htm

If we learn a human language, we learn a language spoken (or signed or written...) by humans.
Humans live in different contexts (family, peer group, colleagues at work...), one of them their culture(s).
Since language is learned in contexts, it is inevitable that we also learn something about the culture or tradition of the target language group. That's a good thing! We broaden our horizon and, in the given example, become more aware of things, e.g. that electric cars make almost no noise and therefore are really dangerous to deaf people - somethig somebody not belonging to the group (like me) normally would not have to think about.

I believe, learning is a good thing, understanding different cultures is a good thing. And I cannot understand, why, if you are fascinated by something that derives from a different culture, you should not use it - like wearing dreadlocks as a white person.
 

skatingguy

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Then why teach it to hearing persons at all if that's so "exclusive"?
Sorry, but I'm outta here.
It's not. I've never had a deaf person express a concern that hearing people were using sign language, and the person you heard express concern about using sign language in public was being ridiculous. The concern for some in the deaf community is that they had to fight so hard to create, and be allowed to learn, and teach sign language in the first place, and there is a concern about losing all of that if deafness is simply a medical problem to be solved. They fear the loss of community, and identity that comes with the loss of the language. It's not about cultural appropriation.
 
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sadya

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Deaf culture is a thing and has been around for generations. For example, the community has ongoing debates about cochlear implants to aid in hearing, with some rejecting the need to change their deafness. Sign language very much belongs to deaf culture: https://www.handsandvoices.org/comcon/articles/deafculture.htm

I had no idea they viewed it this way, but I understand it better after visiting your link. Thanks for sharing.

I only know very few deaf people. We had a deaf class fellow once and she enjoyed teaching us some sign language. In more recent times, a deaf acquaintance let us know that the covid-19 masks were challenging since they made lip-reading impossible. They weren't against the masks, but simply asking for understanding.
 

Areski

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Possibly. I know she responded to questions about it at the time. She had the standing and popularity to take a risk. I’m just reporting that the reaction in the American Jewish community, and specifically at the Holocaust museum where I worked at the time, was pretty uneasy.

Did they all watch that program of Witt?! :eek:
 

MsZem

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Yesterday evening, I watched Witt skating to Schindler's List. I watched the entire routine from start to finish for the first time. It was respectful imho. There was a real story, told with care and respect. She wasn't portraying the little girl. In an interview she explained that she wanted to give the little girl a happy ending: this time the little girl does grow up to become a woman. Watching Witt skate, I forgot I saw a German skating. Instead I saw the little girl survive and grow up.
But the little girl, like many others in the Holocaust, didn't get a happy ending. That's the whole point. The survivors who were on Schindler's List are not representative of the Jewish experience in the Holocaust, and this is very clear when watching the movie. Witt, well-intentioned as she may have been, can't give children like the girl in the red coat a different story.

All we can do is grieve those who were lost and acknowledge the few who stepped in to help; imagine what could have been in a different reality; and learn from the past.
 

sadya

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So from what I understand, you don't view that program as Witt acknowleding that horrible past of her country. In your opinion it was an offensive program? I'm not Jewish myself, and can only speak about this as an outsider.
 

PRlady

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It was only offensive if one feels that 'skating the Holocaust' is innately disrespectful. A woman I know, a professor of Jewish studies at a big uni, said as much publicly after seeing Jason Brown's program last year. The notion here is that skating programs are inherently frivolous and not appropriate for big tragic stories from real life: Anna Karenina and Romeo & Juliet and other fictional tragedies are fine.

I've posted this before; when working at the Holocaust Museum running communications in the early '90s, I was the designated recipient of dozens if not hundreds of poems, plays, art, you-name-it sent by ordinary people moved to create something because they visited the museum. The intention was so good, and almost all of what we got was so, so bad from the aesthetic viewpoint (and some was laughably disrespectful or inaccurate, especially the "love stories" between individual Jews and Nazis.) Given that the Holocaust has already inspired all of that, plus some horrendously bad architecture at some memorials around the world, what's one respectful skating program in the mix?
 

MsZem

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So from what I understand, you don't view that program as Witt acknowleding that horrible past of her country. In your opinion it was an offensive program? I'm not Jewish myself, and can only speak about this as an outsider.
I don't find it offensive - I mentioned actually offensive programs around this theme earlier in this thread. But I do feel uncomfortable with what Witt was apparently trying to convey.
 

MsZem

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Some was laughably disrespectful or inaccurate, especially the "love stories" between individual Jews and Nazis.
Witt's program is vastly preferable to this Christian inspirational romance along these lines. Note the cover art.
(I did not read it)
 

Wyliefan

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I remember the uproar over that one. Such an awful idea. (I didn't read it either.)
 

Baby Yoda On Skates

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Unfortunately more nazi romances have popped up in the last few years. Gen X and Millennial romance writers seem to have been inspired by the fact that everyone read Summer of My German Soldier when they were kids and decided to take it several steps past the line.
 

VGThuy

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Yeah...turning Nazi soldiers into the rebel bad boy who would have otherwise dressed in black, been sorted into Slytherin, and listened to My Chemical Romance (or whatever new generation's version of that band is). I'm sure if you say as much, you'll get a lecture about how not all of them were bad or understood the gravity of what they were doing. Yeah, these fictitious Nazi soldiers aren't the only ones not understanding the gravity of the situation. Even the sweet and romanticized Sound of Music showed how the junior Nazi boy drank the Kool-Aid by the end and was beyond help.

This sort of reminds me of what I heard about soap opera fans and romanticizing rapists...yes, rapists.
 

Wyliefan

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Oh yeah, the Luke and Laura romance on "General Hospital" was HUGE when I was a kid. I didn't watch soaps and even I knew who they were, though I didn't find out about the rape part until much later. All I ever heard from fans and magazines was gooey sentimental stuff.
 

once_upon

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This sort of reminds me of what I heard about soap opera fans and romanticizing rapists...yes, rapists.
Yep the Luke and Laura wedding episode brought in 30 million viewers that day. There were a lot of us sucked into that "love story", even though some of us hated the concept.
 

overedge

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Then why teach it to hearing persons at all if that's so "exclusive"?

One person saying it's "exclusive" doesn't mean that it's exclusive.

I'm not Deaf but I understand that the Deaf community has its own culture and norms, and it's important to respect those if you're interacting with that community. A person who's not Deaf is not appropriating Deaf culture by learning sign language.
 

PRlady

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I read one of the most famous glorified rapes in literature in The Fountainhead at age 14. I thought it was romantic, god help me, but now I blame the author, not myself.

It still wasn't as as bad at The Rape Song in The Fantasticks.

As far as Nazi bad boys go, I wonder how many Gen Z adherents signing on to that ideology in the US these days think it's just cool rebellion.
 

VGThuy

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I read one of the most famous glorified rapes in literature in The Fountainhead at age 14. I thought it was romantic, god help me, but now I blame the author, not myself.

It still wasn't as as bad at The Rape Song in The Fantasticks.

As far as Nazi bad boys go, I wonder how many Gen Z adherents signing on to that ideology in the US these days think it's just cool rebellion.
Speaking of that song from The Fantasticks, the lyricist Tom Jones regretted using that word that he changed the song completely. Still the idea of faking an abduction of a daughter just so the neighbor's son can save her so they could fall in love without the knowledge of either the daughter or the son is still...sketchy...even though yes, the plan gets revealed much to the horror of the son and daughter characters.

Here's an excerpt of an interview on how that song came into being, the way people like Tom Jones thought of the word "rape" back in 1960 and how, ten years later, his attitude changed towards it as his understanding and meaning of that word evolved.

JONES: The other century, right. The Fantasticks is based upon a play by Rostand written in 1894 called Les Romanesques, and there was an English translation about 1902 by a woman writing under the pseudonym of George Fleming. She called that translation The Fantasticks. It was her notion to take the abduction, which was in the original play, and to play with the word rape as in the rape of the lock and so forth, you know. The literary sort of references. When we started the show in rehearsal, we had Jerry Orbach, who had this wonderful voice. But he didn't have a comic song. And he was very funny with a great voice, and we had this speech taken from the Rostand play and from her translation. And so we turned it into a song. And we didn't think a thing about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, THE FANTASTICKS)

Man #1: (as El Gallo) (Singing) You can get the rape emphatic, you can get the rape polite. You can get the rape with Indians, a truly charming sight. You can get the rape on horseback, they all say it's distingue. So you see the sort of rape depends on what you pay.

Unidentified Men: (In play) (Singing) So you see the sort of rape depends on what you pay.

Man #1: (as El Gallo) (Singing) It depends on what you pay.

Man #2: (In play) (Singing) So why be stingy?

JONES: For years, I didn't think. And then it gradually began to seep into my consciousness - my consciousness was raised. I really began to think, you know, rape isn't funny. It began to become distasteful to me about 10 years into the run. And so I wanted to change it, and Lore Noto, the producer, said I couldn't. This is what he bought, and he had the right to present it. So I persuaded him first of all to let me change the goesinta and goesouta. You know what they are?
As wrong as it was to use that word in the first place, this is an example of a creator acknowledging the problematic aspects of his work and adapting it for modern times. There's a reason why The Fantasticks played for 42-years straight for a total of 17,162 performances in that small theater in New York. The fact that the story itself is still pretty icky or at least very outdated otherwise is probably why the 2006 revival "only" lasted nine years, which is a great run but short of the original run.

All that in the interview probably also explains the song "Little Red Hat" that Tom Jones wrote for 110 in the Shade three years after The Fantasticks debuted.

Here's a snippet of the lyrics:

Jim
We get in the car.
I step on the gas.
I open ‘er up.
A-travellin’ Fast.
I find us a spot.
Where no one is at.
Then i reach across and grab her little red hat!

She’s startin’ To yell.
(snookie yells)
I tell her to hush.
She’s startin’ To run.
And then with a rush
I fly through the air
I’m pinnin’ Her flat’
‘Cause i won’t go home without her little red hat!

Snookie
My little red hat!

Jim & snookie
You gotta be big and strong.

Snookie
You gotta be master.

Jim
Whenever you let her take the lead,
You’re courtin’ Disaster!

And it goes on like that...but Jim is a "good guy" because he stops himself before he takes it further despite how horny he is. And him stopping is how he got her little red hat.

Yeah.....that song has never been re-written.
 
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Pink Cats

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IIRC a major issue with D/S was that they did not consult with any Indigenous people about their dance. Unlike the three Canadian teams who all did flamenco, and went to Spain to train with masters.

Then there was the hair-pulling part, which was beyond offensive.
Part of the problem with that program is that there are strong religious/spiritual connotations to Australian Aboriginal Dances so it was a little like spoofing a Chatholic Mass.
 

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