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Appropiating Culture in SL If you're a tattoo maker with ethnic products for sale, please read.

Song Indigo

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On 10/24/2020 at 5:02 PM, LilNosferatu said:

I believe at the root of the issue, it's about respect -- and respect should be given when using/borrowing from other cultures.

That is the root, and here is the historical reality.  Humans have always borrowed from other cultures and for differing reasons.  Like gathering relics of war among your enemies whom you feared, for the pride and esteem among your compatriots -- this goes back to ancient times, and too, human cultures will tend to learn and mimic from other cultures for their differing uses of medicines, diets, habits and clothing, and even spiritual beliefs and methods of upliftment.  This is the reality, and is not in itself a negative. 

Normal people have always loved borrowing from other cultures out of admiration, and too, it can seen very cool among your friends when you appear more educated and worldly and they more blandly provencial and ignorant loafs. Hah. This explains the American hippy culture of constant appropriation, and it explains our current times, and every other generation before us and those to come.  

You can't stop it, but you can hopefully learn not to take umbrage at this kernel of it.  No, the face of a foreign cultural god should not be blindly converted into a dinner plate, nor tattoos for sale, without expecting some cultural blowback. But that can't deny nor halt the inbred, broad appeal of interest in other cultures among human beings.  I like to think that respect lies at the core of that, even when it is clumsy or seeming blindly commercial.  The fact that there is a market (mostly among the young and naive) means it has a long, abiding appeal among homo sapiens.  Yes, education and patience are the key here.


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Thank you for your thoughtful and heartfelt reflection.  There is much opportunity to mourn as culture meets commerce.  This is an experience that every thoughtful person recognizes.  And, while I think the call for self-restraint is understandable, it also seems futile in a way.  As long as something is legal, and can generate profits, you are going to see that activity.  Self-restraint has, it seems, almost completely disappeared.  

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I get that the conversation this... of all things and advertisement... is making... is what people want to be addressing when they talk about appropriation:

But it's not where they go.

The accusation of Appropriation seems to be a distraction from getting to the real issue - which I think the video above goes directly to.

And it's a dangerous distraction - because accusations of appropriation instead of trying to get us to actually love each other, try to put us into different spaces / corners. That's not just dangerous to mixed people like me - it's dangerous to everyone when we split apart instead of come together.


But watch the video - it's one of the best examples I've seen of what I feel is the real conversation that should be had.


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I think it might help to better understand why some people get passionate about appropriation by using analogies.

First off,  There's "this thing is apart of a relgious/spiritual practice or other significant marker that has to be earned,  and not a costume." as a type of appropriation.

For this type,  You (General you.) would squint if someone  claimed to be a  priest, a doctor or active army officer without the proper qualification being earned correct?  It's much the same with those tattoos. It's something that has to be earned first.  Likewise  with the feathered headdresses/war bonnets of many Native American tribes and so on and so forth. It's not that they can't be appreciated.  It's that they have a set way of being earned and to not  earn is to spit in the face of the culture and people  who did earn it.

Pretty reasonable right? in Sl there's the murkiness of Roleplay but that's a different kettle of fish.


The second type's when something isn't a part of a closed/scared thing. But there's stigma attached for those from the culture. For these types it's not that nobody but X can wear/use it. It's that there's a genuine and understandable anger and frustration that when they practise or wear them.   They're mocked, barred from opportunities/employment because it's deemed "unprofessional" or  face harassment,  even violence for it.  But when someone outside of that culture wears/does it. Suddenly everything is hunky-dory and they're praised for their trendsetting style or  quietness.

It's  like when you get bullied for a hobby or fashion style until it suddenly becomes popular and the same people that mocked you are now "isn't this the coolest"?  but  up to  eleven in the obnoxiousness. We can agree that sucks right?

The crux of it isn't  that people want  all things to remain in boxes and cultures can never mix ever.

It's that people should learn to respect boundaries and not give people ***** for their appearance and then turn around and copy it (But often worse.)

That said, I do have ...some issues with how some folks. (usually  outside of those cultures) Use cultural apportion not for it's attended use as a  "Can you please just x" and instead warp it into a bludgeoning weapon to silence nuanced discussion and  wind up causing more harm then good.

Edited by Robin Kiyori
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  • 1 month later...
1 hour ago, Song Indigo said:

"Let's have a conversation."

Then they don't even take the chance to educate the reader about what the tattoo means and simply call it appropriation (period) despite the character creator being deep enough to make a Māori character.

"Don’t just rely on the one word, the one person."

Then they give an example of a game that seemingly had one consultant.

*confused frown*

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  • 2 weeks later...

There IS NO MINISTRY of "purity"

Mixed race people have a history, they have their place in the world just like everyone else.

Nobody is erasing anyone in this thread (except for the select few who keep arguing that this thread is pointless without giving good decent reasons) 

As for the historical tattoos of cultures in the pacific, whether it's Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji - or anywhere else (Maori included) 

The idea of the historical TATTOO is not to say that you can't learn or respect the things from it - but let's just be real..
Would you wear box braids, a moko and samoan plus tahitian tattoos as well as an indian sari in real life?

If you are mixed race, then sure YOU PROBABLY WILL - and nobody's saying anything about mixed race being an issue - the WHOLE THREAD WAS ABOUT MOKO in specific lol - 

IF you ARENT mixed race, or any of the races in question -  Then are you just mocking the rest of the world? 
I mean in combination here, let's just be real - Indian Sari's are something used in a lot of the world and there's culture respect where you're given permission to wear these items ... (and then there's white people in tattoo shops banking off historical culture without permission)

So yea, the trashfire thread is partially my fault i admit because i'm not clear enough in what i'm intending, i'm not clear enough in what i'm saying - and i'm not trying to start a WHITE PURITY THREAD.

If one is Scottish, do you not find some sort of minor offense at the Kilt being used in strange and different ways without respect to it's origin?  If one is German, does one not find offense in how i make pretzels the american way (I'm german.irish in heritage, i find offense at my crappy baking, ignore my stupid humor lol.)  - If one is german, and say for example you saw some huge Nazi halloween party and they were all wearing LEDERHOSEN (Specifically bavarian) - and nobody was german at the party and they were all from another non european country?  I mean nobody complains when Visual Kei bands wear Nazi outfits (Malice Mizer is a big one from the 90s - just look up the NPS NGS photoshoot.) - so i guess we shouldn't complain when someone wants to tattoo their body with cultural history? 

I mean the fact that some people are just sitting heres saying "Education sux" "You're the nazi" (in so many words, nobody's getting called out specifically, nor are the words EXACT lol) - Nobody's asking for a puritan council either.  I'm aware that my words are not perfect, i'm white - i got it, it's not my voice that should be the loudest.  I'm white, i'm an american ex-pat, and most of my study in university was design and japanese culture - so it's not like i'm super versed on pacific culture - I know what i've learned from NZ media, and others around me - including my social work classes i took once. 

It's the knowledge from one's background that makes something more authentic, so if it becomes a thing where it's suddenly OK still to have these things in SL - we need to be more aware of the background, the heritage, and the history.

Moko? No.  As an expat, and someone living in the south island of NZ - i have no right to wear one of those in SL.  If i were doing it for the sake of ART and creating a MAORI avatar for the sake of art in NZ - that would be different, but then like we've learned in univeristy, we learn and we research, and we ask questions -

I got in trouble on twitter calling the "Americas Cup" a rich white people's sport, because despite it largely being a RICH WHITE PEOPLE'S SPORT - everyone is allowed to enjoy it. (Not me, i can't stand it LOL - i'm extremely against it as a sport, because i don't see what it does for NZ's economy besides annoy me every summer here) - Cricket isn't just for the rich, the Super Smash series was free today LIVE and in person in Mt. Maunganui - (Btw, we have no community transmission in NZ, we have live sport shut up lol) 

.... So for the sake of this argument, it's not about A PURITAN COUNCIL - it's about asking the right questions, it's about learning the history behind things.  Nobody's taking your inspired Maori avatars away, and nobody's taking that tattoo off MP - but i'm pretty sure if you asked a bunch of education providers, plus tribes in NZ - they'd be asking why 1. it exists and 2. they're not getting a cut of it : D

Now, xD hopefully my trashfire argument has been laid to rest and i can stop trying to track my words on here - I am happy to write a blog post that is more thought out on this topic - because it's a big deal with many people and i'm VERY BORED of typical euro-centric (White european that is) and american-centric (white again lol) - attitudes on "SOMEONE MADE IT SO I CAN WEAR IT" - 

It's not like Japan where they're OK with you wearing their tattoos, their kimonos etc. 

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This is all well and good, only people are gonna people.

An entirely sensible discussion about cultural appropriation explodes into flames the moment humans are involved. Ripping each other off is pretty fundamental to who we are as a species. That means copying stuff without the slightest thought as to what it might originally signify for the most trivial of reasons (ooooh that's pretty, I like that), immediately claiming ownership of whatever it is, mashing it together with other things, plastering it on everything and hawking it for profit, or clout or whatever's important at that moment. 

The only surefire way to keep anything out of the wash is to make sure it's so ridiculous no one else would want it (pretty much limited to religious hats) or so secret no one ever finds out about it (which is great, right up till someone does, writes a best selling book about it and that's the end of that).

Doesn't matter how important, special, significant or spiritual any cultures thing is, at the end of the day someone will copy it and someone else will complain about it. It's a lost cause that most people interpret as random strangers deciding what they can and can't like.

It's also going to be the majority population doing the bulk of the appropriation, and not for weird "white people have no culture" BS reasons, simply because the majority population is bigger (and don't worry .. the Chinese are cheerfully oblivious to this entire debate and making everything for everyone). Human history has been a massive melting pot and modern times have it ramped up to 11. It's only going to get worse. The cat's out the bag. The Horse has bolted. Someone has put Hello Kitty's face on it.

The EU has tried to fix a similar problem with regionally produced produce, it's been broadly ineffective. Yes, Port has to come from Portugal .. but anyone can make "fortified wine", and once you get outside of the EU the rules don't apply. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographical_indications_and_traditional_specialities_in_the_European_Union)

The only solution is to not take it as a loss and hope that along the way people learn more than "this looks nice", keeping in mind secretive exclusive cultures tend to get lost to history.

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3 hours ago, Tokyo Enyo said:

It's not like Japan where they're OK with you wearing their tattoos, their kimonos etc. 

No. It's not that they are "OK" with it. It's that they believe their culture is superior, so why wouldn't you want to join in.

Kimonos are nothing next to Kaiju, or Anime, or video games, or everything else.

This is really the only viable approach to appropriation, stan your culture so hard the world wants a piece of it. 

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On 12/30/2020 at 10:19 PM, Coffee Pancake said:

No. It's not that they are "OK" with it. It's that they believe their culture is superior, so why wouldn't you want to join in.

Kimonos are nothing next to Kaiju, or Anime, or video games, or everything else.

This is really the only viable approach to appropriation, stan your culture so hard the world wants a piece of it. 

As i am a active FFXIV player: 
A ton of japanese culture IS that way .. xD like from a fan perspective - i'm not lying, they got the better games, they know how to be more apologetic - however they also know how to be far more arrogant about both LOL.  

Also your mentioning of the EU: They're yelling at NZ currently to stop using european names on cheese that .. well a lot of them are european style cheeses that aren't made in the EU but derive from the source.  So my question would probably defeat the WHOLE PURPOSE OF THIS THREAD and make me the bad guy (Though at this point i've already been that by not being clear or smart but oh well XD) : WHY CANT I NAME MY CHEESE CHEDDAR AND WHY CANT I HAVE MY EDAM CHEESE? 

...i mean that's the extent of the produce argument right now with the EU.


However part of the original statement that was argued is the sacredness of certain cultures, and the more we refuse to respect them the meaning gets lost.

Which is why japan needs to quit being arrogant about how flippantly "SUPERIOR" they are and be a little more mindful of their history - because they've done just as much damage as euro centric and americanized places long before europeans and americans came on board .

Look this thread became trashfire on accident because of me, and also because not a lot of people were respecting the original poster...

But Pasifika and Maori culture alike are considered sacred, while your typical Yukata or Kimono aren't.  I personally still try and respect japanese culture the same way, but then again i did just unlock Samurai in FFXIV - so i'm subject to the extremist judging people think i've been dishing out (and haven't been) 

Let's just remember:  Capitalizing on a sacred historical object without sharing the history and value of it is the largest issue with SL right now -  And we have the 1990s to thank for this bull***** LOL - the amount of times you realized "TRIBAL" tattoos were ripped from the lands and people in the pacific or native cultures of the US and other places...

We just should do more careful thought- it's not about who we are as a race or anything, it's who the culture is that we're looking to share with - If you're determined it's OK to wear a maori tattoo in SL - then ask about WHAT it means and how to respect it when you're wearing it. 

If you don't care.
Then it isn't my job to legally fight you.

If you want to be a Maori warrior  - don't just dress like one.
It's like us nerds of anime and et all - like japanese culture, xD - you wear that Samurai Kimono you better know the history- it isn't required, but it's a philosophical moment of authenticity of self and those around you.

God i gotta quit engaging in a university level of things - nobody cares.

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Kia ora.  E pēhea ana koutou?  How are you all?  Meri kirihīmete me te tau hou!  Season's greetings and a happy New Year!

Thank you to all who have weighed in on this topic.  I knew that my post would attract a lot of interest and strong opinions.  Cultural appropriation is a hot topic world wide.  Thank you to all who have written in and messaged me inworld for your support and understanding!  It means so much! Allies are so important for those of us who seek to retain ownership over our cultural norms, art, symbols, language, and knowledge.  Allies are significant for us to help change, challenge and dismantle barriers towards our collective wellbeing and understanding.  Without allies, we poc wouldn't get very far in our aspirations!

To those who have a problem with poc doing anything that empowers ourselves or retaining intellectual ownership over our exclusive cultural norms, etc - I encourage and challenge you to seek understanding!  If you think that you are entitled to profit off another's culture without doing anything to support that culture, then expect to be challenged on what you do, and why you think you are entitled!  I knew that some people would feel outraged at my post!  Your outrage and avowals of privileged entitlement are not my problem.  If you continue to defend your right to appropriate - that is YOUR problem!  There are multiple ways to support poc without donning their symbol's and playing at dress-up!  If you are an ethical business owner who wishes to support poc  in business, here are some of my suggestions:

  • Learn the language of the indigenous ppl of your area.  Many native languages are under threat because of the standard policy across most colonized countries forced upon the native people to learn English, sometimes through violence or force.  Help to undo some of this damage by learning the language and helping others to learn as well!
  • Learn the history.
  • Learn the cultural norms.
  • Donate part of your profits to a cultural group, school, tribe, sub-tribe, language nest, trust, or something similar.
  • Offer apprenticeships to poc, especially if you have specialized skills that will enable poc to retain some of their traditional arts and crafts e.g leatherwork, carving, weaving, graphic making, graphic design, etc.
  • Buy native made from the source!
  • Engage with a cultural advisor or the local tribe if you want to do anything that has an element of their culture in your project and gain their permission!  This is vitally important!  I'd never think of making a Celtic inspired film, doco, jewellery, tattoos in the first place, because it's not my culture!  But even before going there, I'd be making approaches to the Celtic community so they would have active involvement and leadership and decision-making in any production - you know why?  Because THEY are the experts - not me!  THEY are the guardian's of their ancestor's knowledge - not me!  This is fundamental R E S P E C T!
  • Do you need to make a profit from another's intellectual and artistic work?  Part of being an artist is to CREATE art - so create it from your own lived experience!  If you are selling anything labelled: "Māori" but you are not Māori and you don't know much about the culture - then what are you doing???
  • Please, no black or brown face or dressing up in dimestore costumes, this is 2021, let's move forward from all of that colonialist rubbish!

There are other ways, I've just listed a few, it's entirely possible to engage respectfully with another's culture so you can continue to enjoy it without being just another colonizer!  In the first instance, the people who BELONG to that culture and who are steeped in the knowledge and skills of that culture are the experts and the owners through their genealogy!  This may just be SL, but we all know that SL mirrors the real world in many ways, and ethics and understanding shouldn't go out the window just because it's virtual.

Kia pai ōu rā.  Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.

Have a great day.  Be strong, be steadfast, be hearty!



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