plaid and cultural appropriation
September 27, 2012
Can ask what your opinion is on plaid being worn by people who aren’t ethnic Scots? I belong to the Clan Moffat, and we have a really kickass black/grey/red tartan that I’ve seen copied in various clothing patterns all over the US. Tartans were originally used to identify other clan members or if someone belonged to a rival clan. Is it appropriative for someone without Scottish heritage to wear tartan plaids?
No opinion on this because 1) not scottish and 2) I don’t care what white people do to each other. Not because white people can never been oppressive to each other, but because all of my caring goes to PoC. shrug
Anyway, what I am going to talk about is the misuse of ‘appropriation’ in this ask. ‘Cause, appropriation is something, like racism, that requires institutional power. Often we tend to treat appropriation as equivalent to theft, just something that happens to culture vs. concrete objects.
If we are using only this rubric then what you describe above counts as appropriation (that is, if cultural theft = appropriation).
However, this simplifies the situation too much and makes appropriation so broad a term as to be entirely meaningless (like, why use ‘appropriation’ and not ‘theft’ if they are the same thing? And I’m not just talking about trying to pepper our speech with synonyms so that we aren’t repetitive and boring).
More is going on with appropriation than just theft (of which, the non-scottish use of clan tartans would definitely be theft as far as I’m concerned).
Appropriation is about the privileged taking from those they oppress. It is about them stealing from the oppressed and often using what they stole in dehumanizing ways. By being racist. By invoking stereotypes. By casually using something sacred. It fetishizes what is being stolen.
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