Cultural appropriation is defined by Wikipedia as "a concept in sociology dealing with the adoption of the elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture."
You've probably heard the term thrown around a lot. Like when these two white woman shut down their burrito cart after they were accused of stealing recipes from a Mexican community and not attributing them to the original chefs.
Usually there's an element of profiting off of a marginalized cultural group you "don't belong to" that grinds people's gears. Like when the Kardashian sisters begin rocking popular Black hairstyles and fashions, or when white pop stars embrace influences from hip hop and R&B culture, then turn country all of a sudden, like Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus have been accused of doing.
People's views on what can be considered cultural appropriation or not differs greatly, or even if cultural appropriation is harmful in the first place. There are lots of opinions about the subject and it usually results in heated arguments, which is exactly what happened when this teen, Twitter user Keziah, showed off her prom look online.
The 18-year-old donned a cheongsam, which is a traditional Chinese dress made of silk with a high collar, to her high school prom.
But some people weren't happy with the fact that the teenager was wearing it.
Twitter user Jeremy Lam had a problem with Keziah wearing the dress and explained why.
Unrelated Fun Fact (a thread):— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
The qipao was originally a loose dress/garment without shape, made for Chinese women to clean the house and do other domestic chores with.
It had a lot to do with the cultural significance behind the garment.
It was then altered and embroidered as a beautiful form-fitting outfit to wear publically, which Chinese women were not allowed to do at during the times of extreme patriarchal oppression.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
In a time where Asian women were silenced they were able to create, not only a piece of art but a symbol of activism. This piece of clothing embraced femininity, confidence, and gender equality through its beautiful, eye-catching appearance.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
And how the dress helped to break down the divide between different financial classes.
It even broke the division of financial classes! It could be made with high-quality materials that only the upper class could afford such as special silks and linens, but a dress just as beautiful could have been made with just cotton and low-quality linen.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
Femme factory workers wore this dress!!! And the style was then spread throughout Asian as a beautiful garment and sign of women's liberation.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
In short:— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
I'm proud of my culture, including the extreme barriers marginalized people within that culture have had to overcome those obstacles. For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience, is parallel to colonial ideology.
Jeremy wasn't the only one who took issue with Keziah's dress, saying that she didn't "appreciate" Chinese culture while wearing it.
If you “appreciate” and “love” our culture, you’d know it’s a traditional gown. Yet you claim, “it’s just a dress”. It has cultural meaning and significance to us. What you said shows no appreciation but shows plenty of appropriation.— megs (@Megan_Phung) April 28, 2018
While some people just had a problem with the fact that Keziah wore a "$20 Chinatown dress."
Honey that dress is not vintage. I have paid $20 for that exact same dress in Chinatown.— sabrina ✨👸🏻🍯 (@syeh98) April 28, 2018
There were a lot of people who weren't insulted or offended by Keziah's dress at all, and didn't think there was anything wrong with her wearing it.
I’m asian and I’m not insulted in any way. You look beautiful.— Gina 🍓 (@MissGinaDarling) April 28, 2018
And some suggested that the real reason people had a problem with her wearing it is because she's white.
I wonder what the backlash would be if a non white girl wore this dress since other girls have also been ridiculed for the attire of their own cultures. Would they be believed for appreciating the culture or be told they're appropriating it?— Sabah ~ (@Sabzz_2442) April 28, 2018
Because blaming all “white people” is totally not racist. Please stop wearing anything invented and initially worn by white people before telling others they can’t do it too.— Authorize (@theDylanGallop) April 29, 2018
Keziah wrote that she meant no disrespect to Chinese culture and mentioned that she won't be taking down the pictures because she thinks the dress is "beautiful."
To everyone causing so much negativity: I mean no disrespect to the Chinese culture. I’m simply showing my appreciation to their culture. I’m not deleting my post because I’ve done nothing but show my love for the culture. It’s a fucking dress. And it’s beautiful.— Keziah (@daumkeziah) April 28, 2018
What do you think? Was Keziah wrong for wearing the dress to her prom? Or are people overreacting?