Protesters upset at non-Japanese trying on kimono at the MFA

Don't wear that kimono

A roving UHub photographer reports the MFA had this "try on a kimono" event this evening - that got crashed by a man and a woman who tried to convince participants they were being racists by trying on kimonos or even just looking at paintings of people in kimonos - by participating in "yellowface." He was not impressed:

I got the feeling they were trying to upset people, get arrested and then sue the place. The kimono is a symbol of Japanese culture but this one was made by Japanese people for the purpose of sharing culture.

While he was there, at least, they were failing at getting arrested.

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Comments

The kimono is a traditionalist

The kimono is a traditionalist form of clothing going back about 900 years in Japan. It deserves respect and understanding. To wear it if you are not Japanese, as far as I know, is no great insult, but they do reserve it for formal occasions, generally.

Having said that, guys, click on the link. Just do it. Trust me.

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The link is indeed worth clicking

A bunch of protesters standing around with signs and not really disrupting anything isn't a Big Deal. If anything else people are going to look up the history of the clothing and learn more about it then they would have from just the MFA presentation. In turn, the MFA is going to do a better job explaining the art and craft aspects then a wiki page.

This isn't rioting on the street or fetal pig photo harassment.

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Um, ok.

At least they're not going to the Mayor's house led by Daunasia Yancey protesting the Olympics at 4:00 AM because #blacklivesmatter.

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Why is that a problem?

I mean, it isn't as if anyone was committing the capital crime of (gasp) delaying traffic!

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Useless

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except to annoy the neighbors: Marty wasn't even home at the time.

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that twitter person is being offensive

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That manner of dress and makeup is traditionally of prostitutes. Co-opting it for tweeting is very disrespectful of ancient prostitute culture.

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Yeah I am friends with the

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Yeah I am friends with the woman they linked, and for her the issue was with the cultural appropriate and the orientalism going on, for this guy it seems to be ant-japanese?

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That could all just as well apply to here.

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I like the Japanese.. really like them,... more than my lout fellow Americans. (if anything, Lout Americans are at the bottom of my planetary "like" list.)

Ishmael Reed had a funny element in his "Last Days of Louisiana Red" where places like MFA were called "Art Detention Centers" as they are often showcases of things looted.

The Nihon did take a few nuke snootfuls for their transgressions, the only population on earth to experience that. So they did their time and are a lot more contrite than anyone here is about our savagery, including those two nukes.

Hell, wasn't this place all abuzz with the Confederacy horrors.. (consistency, people.), like a few days ago.

The aging crones doing the Kimono walk at MFA were hardly flattered by the things. They are something like a Lilly Pulitzer print on LSD.

And the MFA is probably one of the most visible relics of the nations first imperialist era.

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If you dislike 'lout' Americans so much,

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WHY are you still living in America (U.S.)? You're free to leave anytime. Just don't try immigrating to Japan, the Japanese are a VERY insular, homogeneous nation and people, and they like it that way. They really don't like foreigners, but tolerate a tiny few. And this includes other Asians.

If you or anyone else wants to experience real, hardcore racism, go to Japan or Asia in general. It's almost like a fetish. They are also quite sexist, I mean really sexist, not in the way that word is grossly overused here in 'America'.

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That's some nice lout flouting you got there.

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It has a nice thick spread of indignation over bubbly huff puffing between two fat slabs of entitlement.

I'm from here and I'm staying, sorry. I'm fine with the land and have special delouting techniques to identify my fellow citizens who fail to suck wind. Americans are not people you take at face value and cutting em too much slack is a fools errand.

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Okay

Lout Americans are at the bottom of my planetary "like" list.

Head to Europe, and I'll bet that Lout Britons travelling the Continent will bottom us.

But, hey, one of the signature moves of the Lout American is to make sexist and ageist slams at people based on their physical appearance.

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There are 'louts' EVERYWHERE in

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especially the 'liberal' western world, where 'tradition' is generally mocked as being fill-in-the-blank-ist. But they exist even in non-western countries, even in 2nd and 3rd world countries. IMHO Americans are not the worse, there are, as a generalization (we're talking about generalizations here) much worse, including some of those super sophisticated Europeans. Anecdotally, last week I was around a group of teenagers here in Boston visiting from Quebec. They were uniformly obnoxious, 'loutish'. Spend time around Eurotrash (European and non-European) and you'll see no better examples of 'loutishness'.

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It's a lout world, after all.

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That should surprise no one. And both genders have some pretty capable louts. Everyone gets to get a lout on.

It's probably driven by a drama urge with histrionics enjoying a triumph over conveyed information. Loutishness may even be a default setting while graciousness is a thing that wants effort.

Maybe it's a modality one drifts in and out of. This has been a fine lout fest with loutish pokes at the elderly, loutish scoldings and a complete lout Nihon trashing extravaganza where several vie for the status of loutiest.

We see the lout and it is us.

Here... have some thing from Yoko https://youtu.be/6azY0LCN18w

And from Yuko https://youtu.be/XL7nlgbdkU4

when you get a sec from the slobbering clobber of another 'other'.

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FYI

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It's "emigrate to" or "immigrate from".

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''The Nihon did take a few

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''The Nihon did take a few nuke snootfuls for their transgressions, the only population on earth to experience that. So they did their time and are a lot more contrite than anyone here is about our savagery, including those two nukes.''
IMAGE(https://virginiaplantation.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/we_will_never_forget.jpg?w=474&h=319)

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Japanese contrite about WW2 atrocities

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and savage imperialism? Um...not really...and just ask their neighbors.

Now the Germans...they are contrite and have shown it many times in words and actions.

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Why'd you stop short of

Why'd you stop short of listing your anime collection from GLORIOUS NIPPON to us baka gaijin? Did your pocky get stuck in your neckbeard?

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None of them are Japanese. If

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None of them are Japanese. If you look up, all of them have CHINESE names. I mean tha protesters. Guess what this means.

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Not a good argument against

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Not a good argument against the protesters. Just because another society is formerly imperialist and still tends towards racism doesn't mean we should go willy-nilly offending others.

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Holy Moley! Now I'm all confused!

By heating up and devouring this delicious leftover pizette from the Galleria Umberto, am I overtly endorsing the Fascist government of Mussolini?

Just wondering.

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Let me ponder that

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while I drive my VW (Nazis) to pick up some sushi (rape of Nanking) in Amherst (germ warfare genocide).

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Holding that sign

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While wearing western clothing, hypocrite!

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Your joke is not funny. It's

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Your joke is not funny. It's not fair to mock Asian Americans who are against cultural appropriation of traditional clothing for wearing "regular" American clothing.

Western culture has dominated the world, and it's now a global thing that people wear t-shirts, Western shirts, shorts, and jeans. And watch movies made in LA and talk about Hollywood stars. That's just a sign the US and the West has won the world culturally, and long ago.

Asians Americans are bothered by people trying on traditional dress like the kimono without the knowledge of the culture and history behind it. Without such knowledge, we worry that the clothing will be worn without respect. Just a costume, rather than a respected cultural element. Which is pretty much what the MFA is inviting people to do.

The only knowledge that the MFA gave out is that the Parisians of the period loved everything Japanese. Why is this related to imperialism? France was actively colonizing Asia at this time. China, India, Japan, AND French Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos). Their love of Japanese things certainly extended to their initially forced trade concessions done by all the Western powers, as well as to the Japanese land conceded to them as sovereign territory.

When my boyfriend and I heard about the MFA planning the event, we both thought, this is a bad idea. We didn't think we would be offended though. Now seeing it, it does offend me a bit. I think the MFA's approach to this has been a bit ham-handed. They provide almost no information of the kimono's Japanese history, and they focus on the literally imperializing and colonizing French of the period.

I'm glad these protesters have shined a little light on the issues at hand here for people. Ineffective as some think it might be.

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Not a thing

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The ONE most defining element of humanity is culture and the transmission of such. "Cultural Appropriation" as meant here just doesn't exist. Appropriating culture is what humans do, period.

Now, you can complain about belittling a culture or negatively stereotyping members of that culture. For example if the MFA had a couple "Geisha" making kissy-faces at passing men while wearing the Kimonos in question, I'd have a real problem with it. But showing examples of a particular clothing type and inviting patrons to try it on is a perfectly legitimate activity for a museum to undertake.

You could also complain about cultural hegemony. But given that Westerners were being offered a chance to step out of their culture and sample another, that would also be nonsensical given the context here.

Also, the French did a pretty poor job of colonizing Japan, so I'm not really sure I understand that part of your complaint either... (Had this been a Vietnamese exhibit, for example, you might have been on to something.)

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Okay so we disagree a bit. I

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Okay so we disagree a bit. I consider people donning another culture's traditional clothing without knowledge and respect to be annoying. I'm not saying that is what every museum goer who tries on the kimono is doing. But because the MFA isn't really educating people on kimonos, it's a possibility.

I agree with you that cultural appropriation is highly subjective. And that that is what human cultures do. I have no issue with design elements that originated in the East and were incorporated in the West. I have no problem with cultural diffusion either way. But that's what we are talking about, diffusion.

Appropriation is a loaded term, and it means different things to different people. To me, it is wearing something that is not from your culture, and not understanding it and not wearing it in the way intended.

And yes, the French failed to colonize Japan. They lost out to the UK and the US. Who in turn, also failed, due to Japan's ability to rapidly modernize itself along Western models. But that did not stop the Western powers from continuing to colonize the rest of Asia until after WW2. But at the time of this painting, they were still successfully making inroads in Japan.

Asian culture is appropriated everywhere. It bothers me a little because I just see it so much, and what can I say?

"Your Buddha belly liquor glasses bother me a bit, since I was raised Buddhist and that a Buddhist precept was that drinking to excess was not acceptable? So your glass is weird."

How can I explain this to a restaurateur succinctly? It's minor, but it's grating over time to see this sort of thing again and again. I think they call it racial microaggressions.

I don't expect to convince anyone here of my arguments. If people aren't offended, they're not offended. And if they don't want to understand why some are, that's fine also. I just want to help explain why some people are offended, and why they would protest. And that the protesters aren't outliers in the Asian American community.

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How do you personally know

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How do you personally know that the elderly man and woman who tried on the kimono have no knowledge of the kimono, Japanese tradition, culture, art and history? How do you personally know that they have never visited Japan or lived in Japan? Do you assume that because the couple is elderly and white that they are ignorant and racist? Were you appointed spokesperson for the Asian-American community? How ignorant to think that all Asian-Americans share YOUR opinion in this matter! How ignorant to lump Asian-Americans into a single group. Bigot.

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No, sir. I don't know

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No, sir, I don't know anything about the particular couple in general. And I cast no aspersions on them. Yet there could be people who try the kimono on in ignorance, since there is little to no education on it. As I have already said. Which probably makes you a troll.

I can only tell you that this kimono-wearing event at the MFA made me feel uncomfortable. And I doubt I'm alone.

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If I am (mostly) of white European descent...

... with ancestors from places like Croatia and Ireland (mostly), do I have some special authority to talk about the appropriation of cute windmills and wooden shoes from the Netherlands (especially if it is actively promoting these items)?

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Michael, forgive the pun, but

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Michael, forgive the pun, but you're tilting at windmills here. I don't claim any special authority and I don't expect many people here to agree with me.

That's what it means to be in the/a minority.

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We are all in a minority....

... in this country, it just depends on your perspective (and your current location).

I grew up in a place (Tulsa, OK) that (until a few years before) had almost no Catholics -- and then got a big influx of Northeastern Catholics in a very short period of time (when aviation and petroleum businesses relocated from the East in the early 50s). I got picked on by a kindergarten teacher who had never had a Catholic student before. I got spit on at a park because I was Catholic.

Now, I spend most Saturday mornings at Chua Viet Nam (my local Buddhist temple) and Sundays at Sacred Heart (my local Catholic Church). Our family regularly hosts students from Showa Boston, and has also had student visitors from China, Singapore and Viet Nam. One of my sons regularly plays ping pong (table tennis, he calls it) in both Chinatown and a Vietnamese community center in Dorchester.

DNA testing shows my father's family has a non-trivial percentage of Asian genes (Huns? Mongols? Turks?). From my perspective, "race" is mostly a (harmful) phantasm.

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Let's not be disingenuous

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DNA testing shows my father's family has a non-trivial percentage of Asian genes (Huns? Mongols? Turks?).

So when you walk down the street in Boston, do people look at you and say, "Hey, there's a Mongol! There's an Asian person!" Or do they say "Look, it's a white guy!"?

From my perspective, "race" is mostly a (harmful) phantasm.

"When people believe situations are real, they are real in their consequences." - Irving Goffman

...and when enough people believe that "race" is real and meaningful, and that membership ina "race" is based not on your invisible genotype but on your visible phenotype, you better believe THAT has real consequences. It is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

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May I respectfully suggest

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May I respectfully suggest you take a deep breath, walk outside and enjoy some fresh air.

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May I respectfully suggest

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May I respectfully suggest that if the conversation's too heavy for you, you take your own advice.

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Interesting. That's the

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Interesting. That's the temple I attended as a kid. Nice to know you go and that your son utilizes the community centers in Chinatown and the VCC, which I also go to. I agree with you that race is a harmful phantasm.

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The (wonderful) monk at Chua Viet Nam...

... is becoming an abbot in August. There will apparently be a very big celebration.

Did you participate as a kid in the really quite remarkable end of year party (like they have now) -- the kids and teens and 20-somethings really put on quite a performance.

Do you play table tennis? (My sons off to NH for the summer, helping run a scout camp).

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I did participate in the

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I did participate in the performances as a kid, including the one in July/August. We had to practice quite a bit. Also, it was a long time ago!

I don't really play table tennis. When I go to the VCC, it's mostly for meetings of some kind.

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Well...

Maybe we will cross paths someday -- but not at the Monet kimono painting (which has, in fact, always been my least favorite Monet painting since I first saw it in 1971 or so -- though it is VERY popular in Japan).

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I consider people donning

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I consider people donning another culture's traditional clothing without knowledge and respect to be annoying.

How can you tell that these people don't have the knowledge? How do you know that they were being disrespectful? At least in my experience, the MFA events are done with education in mind. Usually there are docents there are very knowledgeable and are more than willing to answer questions.

I'm not trying to make the argument that it isn't offensive but I do find it difficult when one assumes things about others intent. Especially when the MFA is a place of learning where people go to be exposed to other cultures and ideas.

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The MFA isn't offering any

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The MFA isn't offering any understanding of this kimono. They have no explanation of it, except that Parisians loved Japanese things back then, and that Monet's wife modeled it for him, and see how heavy it feels to wear. Not very informative.

Instead of educating, they only invite people to try it on and to be photographed. Thus the criticism.

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Well, you convinced me

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I don't expect to convince anyone here of my arguments. If people aren't offended, they're not offended. And if they don't want to understand why some are, that's fine also. I just want to help explain why some people are offended, and why they would protest. And that the protesters aren't outliers in the Asian American community.

First, kudos for your patience in explaining. I agree with your perspective on cultural appropriation. I'm particularly troubled by the appropriation of Buddhist words, phrases and images, which strikes me as very disrespectful (please don't ever say "that's so zen!" to me).

Every time a friction point like this arises, I wonder at those who insist on their right to offend. Even if you don't quite get the argument why you shouldn't wear the kimono if you don't understand its history (at a bare minimum), how much does it really cost you to not put it on? It bothers someone. How hard is it to just take that at face value, not make up a lot of stories about "oh they're just TRYING to be offended" (where does that even come from? how can anyone say that if you haven't lived that experience?), and let it go? What does it really cost you? Damn little, but people will be so stubborn and selfish about their right to offend. It arises from a lack of compassion. Who would want to upset someone else for no gain, except a person lacking compassion?

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You're welcome.

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You're welcome. You've been treated very rudely by some people here.

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Just on the Buddhism bit -

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Just on the Buddhism bit - how does that become racist? Last I checked, Buddhism was open to all. Should Buddhists in India look down upon Buddhists in China for changing the religion (and even deifying the Buddha when he specifically asked not to be) and think of it as a racial slight? That said, I do think a shot glass in the form for the Buddha is in pretty bad taste, but then again so would a Jesus shot glass , I guess.

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I don't think

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I don't think this was described as racism, but as cultural appropriation -- which it is.

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Sorry, I must have misread

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Sorry, I must have misread/misinterpreted "racial microaggressions".

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It's true, I don't think that

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It's true, I don't think that term fits exactly there. The feeling to me is the same though. Hence, I'm not sure exactly what to call it. It just makes me feel the same way racial microaggressions do. Cultural microagression?

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Meh

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Wow. Your self-centred rant actually made me care less about "imperialism" and "cultural appropriation". Good job.

Now I'll go and eat some sushi with avocado in it. I bet that pisses you off as well.

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No, that wouldn't bother me

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No, that wouldn't bother me at all. I'm sorry I was unable to help you understand why some people might be offended, and that you see my attempts to do so as a rant. If you don't get it, you don't get it.

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How is wearing clothing from

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How is wearing clothing from a different culture offensive? Should only Scots be allowed to wear kilts ? Does this extend to food from other places, too? AFIAK, the Kimono was originally an import to Japan (like so many things) based on clothing from the Han dynasty that were then adapted and evolved over the centuries to the current item known as a Kimono. Same thing with the suit and western clothing. Why would you get offended for people trying to broaden their life perspective and try things from other cultures in a safe environment made for that? I mean, hey, I have been to Japan, and pretty much spent a good chunk of my life in high school (after after) in Chinatown, so maybe it just seems more natural to me to share culturally and encourage people to understand other customs. I will admit, though, it is kind of weird if they didn't have at least a bit of history on the kimono, and the whole event seems kind of odd - but is it really something to get angry about? Do you own all Asian culture (which makes almost no sense to lump together, btw, just like European/Western), and can dictate what any non-Asian person can and cannot do in relation to it? I can only really see this as offensive IF they were dressing up in Kimonos to some how mock and/or make fun of Japan and Japanese culture, which it doesn't seem like they were doing.

Also, as a point of colonization, yeah, no one actually colonized Japan. In fact, after (admittedly rather forcefully, but non violently) being opened to the West, Japan kind of went on to be the imperial colonizer of all of Asia, and they weren't exactly the nicest of people to have take over your country. Anyways, sorry, rambled a bit there, but if it helps at all, just think of the old proverb that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" - if they were not out to mock anyone, why not go to the event to educate people (who are obviously interested if they came out to the event) rather than a half assed protest that seems divided on what was even being protested by the two people?

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Do you own all Asian culture

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Do you own all Asian culture (which makes almost no sense to lump together, btw, just like European/Western), and can dictate what any non-Asian person can and cannot do in relation to it?

Interesting. Why do people keep coming back to this? Obviously, the aggrieved Asian Americans cannot dictate anything to the MFA and its patrons, hence two young people went out and protested. Why do you and lot of others think our feelings are diktats?

If you don't like how we feel, you can just ignore it, as has been done for most of history. If it bothers you that we feel as we do, maybe you should consider addressing our feelings. Whatevs, either way. You can't stop people from feeling.

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I meant it as Asia is a very

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I meant it as Asia is a very broad place with many different cultures and peoples. I would think it the same as a an Italian getting bothered by people wearing Dirndls during an Oktoberfest celebration here. Should this make people of Western/European decent angry? What about St. Patrick's Day where everyone of every race and creed dons green to go out drinking and make asses of themselves? Would traveling to Japan and seeing people dressed up as Minutemen or Pilgrims elicit the same response from you? I guess I am just saying this sort of stuff happens with every culture in America, since America is melding of all cultures for better or worse. I am simply trying to understand why this makes you upset, and the only thing I can think of is that you feel some sort of ownership in the wearing of traditional Japanese dress that others who wear it in a non mocking fashion would upset you ?

As to the protesters - so, one seemed to be against orientalism, which is fine (although the same exists in the East about things in the West). The other one is harder to figure out, he seems to be there, at least with what is on his sign, protesting the Japanese and their past Imperial ambitions (read: atrocities). I still say - if this bothered the one protester (and by your admissions many others) so much, why not, instead of protesting, go there and actually educate and teach people instead of being standoffish protestors holding signs.

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My interpretation of the

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My interpretation of the young man's sign: he's saying that by trying on the kimono, the way the Parisians did, is to act like them. Which again, in his interpretation, is that the Parisians were racist and imperialistic. Which I have argued, is somewhat true. France was a colonial power in Asia at this time. Japanese things were liked, but respecting actual "Orientals" and their nations, maybe not so much.

On the other point, again, I have to emphasize I don't "own" anything. When I see elements of Asian culture that could be used in ignorance, it concerns me. It concerned the protesters even more. I have already stated that most Asians in America have a shared experience, of living in this country and often being seen as outsiders, even after several generations in this country.

See Takaki's Strangers from a Different Shore if you want to understand more about the shared Asian American experience: http://www.amazon.com/Strangers-Different-Shore-History-Americans/dp/031.... It's the seminal work in Asian American Studies. Shared experience leads to shared concerns.

You don't like the protesters' methods, okay. But it got your attention, which was their first goal. If you read their Facebook, they want to have dialogue with the curators and museum goers. And to educate them on why this invitation to try on the kimono without any knowledge is problematic. But it should be the MFA that is educating people on the kimono directly, as they do in their East Asian collection. https://www.facebook.com/events/104178279926312/

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It must be exhausting to be one of these people.

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That is all. Seriously...with all that's going on in the wide world, if you're this outraged about some ladies trying on kimonos...it you think passing out flyers at an art museum and then tweeting about it is your own personal Rosa Parks moment...God help us. Really.

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See above. They're shedding

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See above. They're shedding light on an issue that bothers a lot of Asian Americans. I think they don't care about your mild disapproval.

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So what's YOUR "personal Rosa Parks moment"?

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So, Sally, you've got plenty to say about how other people are wasting their time doing something that matters to them. So tell us: how do you spend YOUR time? What's the issue that matters to you? Tell us so we can trivialize it and tell you what a stupid waste of time it is, how exhausting it must be to spend your time on such a stupid matter, with all that's going on in the wide world, how can you be so outraged about such a stupid trivial matter. God help us, Sally. Really.

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I don't think Sally's

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I don't think Sally's outraged. Just disappointed and pitying. Sally may not be rallying for any political movements, but that doesn't mean she can't identify one that seems trivial / misrepresenting the feelings of many other Japanese people.

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There isn't any good reason

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There isn't any good reason to use the dress of another culture for entertainment. It isn't respectful. What if these people wore a Native American headdress... what would be the reaction. The protestor is right. Maybe next event everyone can come in black face.

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We have Japanese friends (

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We have Japanese friends ( who live in Japan). One gave us kimonos as a gift. This guy is not the norm.

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Being given a kimono as a

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Being given a kimono as a gift by someone Japanese is different from randomly trying it on at a museum, possibly without any cultural knowledge of the garment in question. See my post above.

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Are you Japanese?

If not, I respectfully suggest that you have no standing to determine whether or not westerners trying on kimonos is inappropriate.

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I'm an Asian American and it

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I'm an Asian American and it bothered me a little to see people randomly trying on a kimono without learning anything about it. Except that Parisians loved it and other Japanese things.

The reason it bothers Asian Americans in general is that many Asian cultural elements are appropriated without any knowledge or dissemination of the cultural significance behind them, and are merely used because they look "cool". It's grating, over time.

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"Asian-American" is generic

You do not claim to Japanese, but otherwise I have no idea what your background might be. But let's say you are Chinese -- or Thai -- or Vietnamese. You do not own Japanese culture. You are not a member of that culture. You do not get to decide what is and isn't acceptable. I know for a fact that Japan (and Japanese artisans) are working to _promote_ awareness (and even sales) of the kimono to the world beyond Japan. What gives you the right to say that they should not be doing this. And that an American museum closely tied to Japan cannot, in effect, support this campaign?

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Are you white?

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So you white people get to decide instead of Asian Americans?
Got to admire how you enjoy your supremacy resulted from Imperialism.

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I make no decisions, Michael.

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I make no decisions, Michael. I can only tell you how I feel. Which is not dissimilar from how the protesters feel. Also, my parents are from Vietnam.

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Quibbling over "decision"

As an American you have the "right" to feel offended at whatever you want. But not every feeling is justified. Absent any showing that this was offensive to Japanese (and/or Japanese Americans), you really have no horse in this horserace.

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nonsense

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It is like saying step aside, China, we are bombing Japan. You are not Japanese? Then it is none of your business.

Or some other Asian country could be doing something offensive to white Europeans, but specifically towards French. Then is it not okay for Germans and Britons to say anything?

Of course this is hypothetical, but you get the point.

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Michael, I disagree with you.

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Michael, I disagree with you.

I think a Japanese person's response will be very different from a Japanese American's. All I can say that Asian Americans that may look alike to many (Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Mongolians, etc) are often given the same treatment in America. We have a shared and similar experience of non-whiteness and living in America. Which is different from a Japanese person from Japan.

Most Japanese have no problem with term abbreviated term 'Jap'. But Japanese American do. So do most Asian Americans I know. It is a shared experience and history, of knowing this was the word spat from many other Americans' mouths in derision during WW2; during the internment and other disgraceful events. Being ethnically Vietnamese has not shielded me from being referred to as a Jap.

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Sorry calling Asians "Japs"...

... and being invited to try on a kimono (and accepting the invitation) are two very different things. I see no basis for equating them.

I would note that Mme Monet and HER kimono have long been part of _Western_ culture.

Is wearing flip-flops, modeled on Japanese sandals (zori), transmitted (probably) through Hawaiian Japanese, also insensitive?

Is Hiromi Asai's Kickstarter campaign to promote kimonos in the US an affront?

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/530372888/authentic-kimono-on-stage...

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I'm not comparing being asked

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I'm not comparing being asked to try on a kimono and using the term Jap. I'm comparing something that Japanese in Japan have no problem with, and that people of Japanese descent in America definitely do have a problem with. The difference is perspective.

I like this kickstarter. It was created by Japanese to promote their kimonos, and their page gives ample history on the garment, and its cultural significance. The MFA has no information like this in regards to the kimono in front of the La Japonaise exhibit.

Promoting your own culture and wares is quite different from what the MFA is doing. They haven't provided any background on the kimono except that Parisians of the era loved it. Which leaves them open to this criticism.

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I read what was posted on by

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I read what was posted on by the activists on twitter and their Facebook group. And the museum's response was not very illuminating on the kimono and its cultural meaning at all, except to the Parisians.

So yes, I feel I do have some idea, unless the activists are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of their potential allies. Some of my friends are attending the same protest next week. I'll let you know what the MFA's presentation on the kimono is then, if you like.

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No cultural development then?

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Imagine just how dull life would be if cultures didn't exchange information. Borrowing happens all the time, and is healthy. Yes, transmission often lacks fidelity, but as with biological evolution, that is actually an important feature of the process. If one culture were never allow to adopt and adapt a feature from another culture, we'd be living in little culture islands, utterly unable to empathize with one another. Celebrate and educate, don't judge and discourage such exchanges, no matter how imperfect. You and your intended audience will be richer for the experience.

And of course all of this has gotten away from the fact that the individual in the picture is clearly protesting Japanese behavior, not Western interest in a particular clothing tradition....

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And how about the reverse

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If Asians wear certain western clothes, especially those with roman letters that make no sense - should I be offended? How about an Asian person rapping - should that offend me? Should I cut the ties off of any Asian person who dares to wear one? Or douse little Japanese girls in paint if their school uniforms are imitation sailor suits like those in European private schools? And God forbid we get into things like Nike shoes, iPhones and God knows how many other consumer goods that are American cultural elements.

I spent a huge amount of my younger days in Asia. I would have been awfully insulted - and tired - if I had wasted much time or thought on the amount of American cultural elements that are appropriated by Asians without any knowledge or dissemination of the cultural significance behind them, and are merely used because they look "cool".

It's a damned dress - worn now only on special occasions and by a certain very old profession in Kyoto. I see this as Japan for beginners. If anyone is inspired to take their level of knowledge further - good for them. Fascinating culture and history. Proud people for good reason. But if you are offended because someone wants to experience their clothes - get another gripe. Every Japanese person I ever met was happy to allow their Western friends to try on their kimonos. They were flattered by their interest and fascination with these spectacular artworks - which is what they truly are. One of my most treasured gifts from my days in Japan is a gentleman's kimono that was given to me by close friends.

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I understand what you are

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I understand what you are saying. But the MFA is not a Japanese friend who is flattered to allow others to try on "its" kimono. The MFA is not even a Japanese institution.

I must admit, seeing clothes in Asia with non-sense English or roman letters is funny. But it's a issue of perspective. Maybe people don't want to hear it, but you are looking at things from the view of the culture that has dominated. By diffusion, Western culture, its various forms and aspects, have been adopted by other cultures. Rap is a good example, as you mentioned.

When the "loser" sees their culture being used by others in ignorance, it's more galling. It only bothers me a little. I wouldn't go so far as to protest. But I can't say it doesn't bother me, either.

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The cultural impact of Japan....

... on the West (including the USA) has been immense. Not even remotely a one way street. Several years back, there was an exhibit that did deal with this -- not sure if this was at the MFA or at the Peabody Essex Museum.

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Are you familiar with this concept?

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Patronizing.

I know some of you love to speak for the oppressed peoples, but the Japanese are not exactly oppressed, and I'm betting that you aren't exactly Asian, either.

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Kimono as Gifts

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This kimono is gift. If you look closely at the MFA handout, it explains that these kimono are gifts from Japan to the museum explicitly for use for people to touch and try on. The Japanese expert fiber artists want other cultures to understand, experience and appreciate their work.
For anyone further interested in Japanese clothing, the book "Kimono" by Liza Dalby is a wonderful piece of scholarship and I highly recommend it.

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Yes, this is true, the kimono

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Yes, this is true, the kimono is a gift from extraordinarily skilled Japanese crafters. Yet the MFA isn't offering any understanding of the kimono. They have no explanation of it, except that Parisians loved Japanese things back then, and that Monet's wife modeled it for him, and see how heavy it feels to wear. Very informative!

Instead of educating, they only invite people to try it on and to be photographed. Thus the criticism.

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Your single data point

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A friend gave you a kimono as a gift, and all of a sudden you're an authority on what the "norm" is?

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I consider learning about

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I consider learning about other cultures to be a form of education and something that is enriching, not entertainment. It's sad that you think trying on the traditional attire of other cultures to be a form of racism. Were the elderly couple in the photo behaving disrespectfully while wearing the kimono? You assume they are white, but how do you know their ethnic background? Did you ask? Did they submit at dna test to you? Do you eat traditional dishes from cultures different than your own? Does that make you a racist?

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You should go to New Orleans sometime.

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http://houseofdanceandfeathers.org/mardigrasindians/

There is zero tie of colonialism, imperialism, cultural domination or the like between the U.S. and Japan. As others have pointed out, the exchange of culture between the Japanese and the U.S. and Europe has been going on for hundreds of years. Wearing a kimono--whether admiringly at a museum or when you get out of the bathtub is no different than a Japanese kid wearing Jordan's or Levi's. To try to make this some kind of grievance (especially in some kind of inclusive pan-Asian context--these folks have their own complex history to work out) is patently absurd.

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Sally, I think you're a very

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Sally, I think you're a very forthright and honest poster, but what you said about zero ties of colonialism, imperialism, and cultural domination between the US and Japan is incorrect.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakumatsu#Commodore_Perry_.281853.E2.80.93...

Open Western trade to Japan was opened at the point of a naval battery by US Navy Commodore Perry. This was followed by other aggressions from the West, leading to concessions of ports to Western powers, with extraterritorial rights. Meaning US, British, and French citizens and military lived under their own laws and military protection and that the Japanese government had no rule over the American section of the port city, or any other section ceded to Western powers.

Also, the US occupied Japan after WW2. While this was necessary, the US military government (MacArthur) wrote the Japanese constitution, and reformed the Japanese industry in a way he saw fit. I think this fits as cultural domination, if you asked Japanese of that era. It was necessary perhaps, since we saw Japanese culture as having become dangerously militarized and imperialist.

If you bought a kimono, I would assume you accept and respect the garment as the cultural element it is. Trying it on at the MFA which is not providing info on it, and instead provides info on the colonizing and imperialist French of the period...well, that's a dice roll, isn't it? That's what bothers Asian Americans.

See my above post on why Japanese wearing jeans is no way the same thing.

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I appreciate

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that you can discuss this in a civilized way and I take your point re Perry, French colonies, etc. but I just disagree with the basic premise that this is inherently offensive. There's a difference between recognizing that Japanese Americans were shamefully treated during WW2 (which the American government has done, btw) and taking or conjuring offense at a relatively very innocent examination of a fact of art history--ie the fascination with Japanese culture in nineteenth century Europe and America. I mean...is the Monet offensive? When you look at a Mary Cassatt print and realize how heavily influenced it was by Japanese art, do you condemn it for being a trickle-down effect of Perry et al? We can't mind-read--we can't know whether people are knowledgable or respectful of culture X or Y and it's very subjective. I would submit that most people at the MFA have a respectful and interested attitude towards the artwork there, whether it's Assyrian statuary or Samurai swords. And see my post re horrible Asian stereotyping in pop culture in recent years. I just think this is low-hanging fruit and not a worthy thing to tackle.

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You might be right that the

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You might be right that the exhibit at the MFA is not worth protesting. I myself, wouldn't protest it. But I do see the point of the protesters, even if I wonder if it was worth having.

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Again, thank you.

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And I really do hear you. Respect and knowledge are crucial. I guess I just find the leap to #whitesupremacy counter-productive to examining issues that I consider far more important and more damaging.

There is a book called The Hare with the Amber Eyes, written by an English ceramicist about the collection of Japanese netsuke he inherited, collected by his Austrian-French-Jewish great-great-uncle during this time period and later saved from the Nazis by a devoted housekeeper and preserved by his gentle, gay uncle Iggy who moved to Japan after the war and lived out his life there. It is one of the best things I've read about art, family, place and details the Parisian fascination at the time with "Japonisme"...anyway, I digress but it's worth a read.

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See, the info about that book

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See, the info about that book, that is very interesting! I had no idea. Thanks for the tip.

If the MFA had posted info about this book, along with La Japonaise and the kimono trying, I think that would have gone a long way in helping educating people on the culture behind the painting AND the culture behind the kimono.

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Tell that to Showa Boston

A branch of a Tokyo women's university located in Boston. They have several events each year where they encourage people to try on summer kimonos (yukatas) -- especially kids. I have never met a Japanese person who objects to "foreigners" wearing Japanese clothing. In fact, the Japanese want to encourage foreign interest in kimonos -- in order to make it possible for traditional kimono makers to continue to be able to make a living. Next you will tell us we shouldn't drink sake -- but should stick to Coors? Sheesh! (or as another erstwhile poster might say "Cripes!")

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Btw

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There are plenty of legit examples of "yellowface" that should be rightfully called out and condemned--"Sixteen Candles" for example, as charming a movie as it is, and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" which has literally the most horrifying comic portrayal of an Asian I've ever seen--Mickey Rooney with giant fake buck teeth. Personally I think Pitch Perfect was a little obnoxious in that realm. But to take things to this level of faux sensitivity and historical cluelessness makes most people just dismiss real concerns about real stereotyping.

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You're not a mind-reader, Sally

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Just because (you think) you would react a way in a certain situation, does not mean that your way is the one true universal correct way. It is not for you to say that it's "faux sensitivity"; play that card and it can be played on you, anytime, anywhere. If you want your sensitivity respected, you must respect that of others. And don't even try saying, "But I'd never..." because I guarantee you, there's something that bothers you more than it bothers the average person. Does that make your reaction "faux sensitivity"? Think about it.

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context is everything

Wearing a Native American headdress to a ball game is not appropriate, but trying one one at a museum or a powwow? While in the context of learning about the culture from people from that culture? Different.

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Yes, but in the context of

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Yes, but in the context of people trying the kimono on at the MFA...there is no learning about Japanese culture there. Except that Parisians loved Japanese stuff back then. Hence the MFA has left itself open to this criticism.

Not surprising, since the whole thing is curated by the Art of Europe section of the MFA. Without any known contribution from their East Asian Art colleagues. I guess collaboration across fields hasn't hit the MFA yet?

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By his expression

it looks like he found out about the peepee in his Coke.

/Yeah, yeah, different country, I'm going to Hell, flying coach, with an unbaptized baby screaming in the seat behind me, etc.

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I have to agree...

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Considering what the Japanese Imperial Forces did to Korean women during the Second World War a kimono represents racism and imperialism quite well ... just not in the way these dipshits in need of hobbies seem to think.

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Taiwan

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Some Taiwanese people wears kimono sometimes. Although it is not wrong, but it is also a result of Japanese imperialism and colonization...

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Executive Order 9066

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The fashion protest against "yellowface" raises some eyebrows and chuckles but the interment of Japanese American citizens who were relocated and incarcerated in prison camps is an example of another executive order that stripped citizens of their basic rights and should be remembered by all Americans as a day of infamy.

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They have a point. I had not

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They have a point. I had not considered this before. So in this sense the protest has been successful.

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Just goes to show you

No matter what you do, there is someone in this world you're going to piss off.

As we've learned here, you can't even put up a street sign without someone complaining about the font.

Have a great Fourth! (or is that too imperialistic for some people??)

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And remember to use your Jazz

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And remember to use your Jazz Hands instead of applause this Fourth, folks!

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That face

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It looks like he's trying so hard to look as angry as possible.

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Doesn't make sense

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I am of Japanese ancestry (unlike the protester in that twitter link), and I don't think this "protest" makes any sense. The MFA has one of the largest collections of Japanese art (check out the wonderful Hokusai special exhibit). Historically, the MFA played an early and pivotal role in promoting Japanese art in the United States. This is about appreciating Japanese culture and learning about times in Western history when Japanese art and culture have been romanticized. I do not see anything negative.

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Indeed

The MFA has one of the most important collections of Japanese art in the world -- and recently loaned a large part of that collection (including things long unseen here in Boston) for exhibition in Japan. Moreover, Boston and Kyoto have one of the oldest "sister city" relationships in existence.

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Unfortunately these types of

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Unfortunately these types of protesters would rather bury and ignore history they don't agree with politically than observe and learn from it as a bygone era. In my opinion this is a very dangerous way of thinking that can lead to history repeating itself.

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Amateur Hour

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They come off as overeager students who cut class from Sociology 101 to put their newfound learning to work......

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Yes, like forgetting that

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Yes, like forgetting that Western imperialism and colonialism based on racism occurred. Continents and people were subjugated. Literally countless people died, since many colonial authorities didn't bother to count. They were toiling away for colonial governments in forced labor or killed in their wars.

And reducing that to a painting and explanation that Parisians loved Japanese things, and try on this kimono! The milieu of the painting and colonialism are linked, even if you don't acknowledge the scholarship behind it. See Edward Said.

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What's wrong with you?

You're Japanese! Don't you know you're supposed to agree with these clowns or you're betraying your race and its heritage?

What's wrong with you? I really don't think you've fully appreciated the power of the hashtag and the culture warriors who wield it like a katana!

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Cultural appropriation is always in those names

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But of course not everyone will be offended. But that doesn't mean it is not offensive to some.

When you say you disagree with gay marriage, not every gay person will be offended either, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have legalized it.

We know MFA means well. We know why they run this event. But I am sure to many it is a form of entertainment. For those who feel this is completely ok, what about, say, imagine there is a museum in China showing some American art and invite people to try on some Puritan, colonial clothing and take selfies? How about putting on some Just imaging that vividly. I presume that some Chinese people, hypothetically, do this to learn and experience American culture. But as an evening event, I am pretty sure some go just for entertainment. Now, mind you that US culture is far more intertwined with entertainment thanks to Hollywood. Other cultures not so much. Now you may not get offended, but I am pretty sure some Americans might be.

These activities are cultural appropriation, or not, we do not have to decide. But it does remind Asian and Asian Americans of many other forms of culture appropriation. And there is a difference between cultural exchange and culture appropriation. This difference is difficult to grasp especially if you are from a monoculture background, or dominate culture.

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Think of the FireFighter-Americans!

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All those kids going to the firehouse and trying on firefighting gear should be ashamed of themselves.

Oh wait, they do it to make the kids more comfortable with firefighters in case they encounter one in a more scary situation.

Around here we learn more about other cultures by imaging if we were part of that culture, sometimes by trying on the costumes. You start with the fun stuff to get a little comfort with the idea and then you dig into the history and more mature themes when you're ready.

As a society, we're better off when we stop trying to find reasons to identify people as "Other" and focus on "People, like us".

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No one object

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No one object that you try other culture's clothing. It just has to be done in a proper way, in private, or in public with more appropriate settings, and try not to offend others.

MFA event borderline as pure entertainment for some people, that's why it's insensitive and inappropriate.

BTW, why call this a costume? Haven't you heard? http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2011/10/i_am_not_a_costume_a_cam...

PS: your firefighter story is completely different from this case. Can't you tell firefighters are not a race or ethnic group? You know a fire department is not a country right? Is firefighting gear a "costume" to you? Does firefighting gear has complex culture and history associated with it comparable to kimono or other ethnic clothing? Sure there are people wearing it for Halloween, but I can think of scenarios where it might be offensive to firefighters or others to wear firefighting gears. What if an actor who was a firefighter in a movie, who really don't know much about firefighting and have never actually done anything close, teach kids about firefighting as if he is a real hero and expert? Wouldn't you think at least some real firefighters could be offended?

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I think I'll engage in

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I think I'll engage in misappropriation of Japanese culture today by putting on blackface and giving a pseudo-Polynesian minstrel show.

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I don't understand "Polynesian misntrel show"...

... but do know that a certain segment of Japanese young people have (or recently had) an obsession with black American culture -- and have used blackface to perform music.

Longer ago, there was a fascination with hula dancing, but I don't believe there was any use of blackface when doing this. (There is a rather charming movie called Hula Girls).

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I was wondering...

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When someone was going to bring up things like oh say, Ganguro girls in blackface.

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And learning ....

... couched as entertainment. Have you been to the Kyoto town house? Alas, none of the fixtures (other than lighting) work. During the 100th anniversary of the sister-city relationship, we got to meet the lady who supervised the disassembly in Kyoto and re-assembly of the house inside the museum. We also got to go upstairs and into the Japanese toy and doll store room. We _so_ lucked out. ;-}

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i have not

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I would like to, though. It sounds like you totally lucked out.

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this is different

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This house is clearly a real culture showcase and educational piece. It is much more immersive, and most likely comes with better descriptive materials. It is very different from a piece of culture that you can "take" and "appropriate", in a modern museum setting with nothing Japanese except the kimono and an old Western painting about a Westerner wearing Japanese clothes. This actually highlights why MFA approach is problematic and offensive to some people.

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I suspect

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you did not read Eve's comment from earlier today (1:28 ish):

[This kimono is gift. If you look closely at the MFA handout, it explains that these kimono are gifts from Japan to the museum explicitly for use for people to touch and try on. The Japanese expert fiber artists want other cultures to understand, experience and appreciate their work.
For anyone further interested in Japanese clothing, the book "Kimono" by Liza Dalby is a wonderful piece of scholarship and I highly recommend it.]

Thus, if intended for trying on and checking out, I'd say the MFA is doing their job.

Besides which, fiber archivists truly wouldn't be letting joe schmoe off the street handle artifacts without good reason.

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I've tried to point this out

> The Japanese expert fiber artists want other cultures to understand,
> experience and appreciate their work.

Apparently what the Japanese want is unimportant to the critics.

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Yes, this is true, the kimono

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Yes, this is true, the kimono is a gift from extraordinarily skilled Japanese crafters. Yet the MFA isn't offering any understanding of the kimono. They have no explanation of it, except that Parisians loved Japanese things back then, and that Monet's wife modeled it for him, and see how heavy it feels to wear. Not very informative.

Instead of educating, they only invite people to try it on and to be photographed. Thus the criticism.

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With all due respect....

... if the artisans wanted people to experience this replica kimono in this way (baby steps) -- and they surely did -- I see no valid cause for complaint.

Seeing it up close, feeling the material, experiencing the weight, learning generally how it is supposed to be worn -- all of this is elementary kimono education.

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Sometimes

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Sometimes you don't need to overwhelm with information.

Looking at, touching, feeling the weight of the fabric: these are all learning tools. Just because a boatload of verbal or written information isn't being handed out doesn't mean people aren't gaining from it. I know I would be transformed to what life must have been like when such a garment was the norm. It's so different from what we demand of our clothing today in the US! We want flexibility, lightness, breathability, style. Trying such a garment on would inform me on how my daily movement would change as a result: my demeanor would change, how I hold myself, etc. All intangibles that no amount of verbage, spoken or written can portray without actual physical interaction. But this is me. I can't know if others would feel the same. You know, maybe I would also think about France's infatuation with Japonisme. And then my brain would leap to England's with the Orient. And fashion trends which change so quickly, then and now. There is much to take home from this exhibit, if you want to.

Self directed learning could be one way to take what's going on here: like art, it is what you say it is. The MFA has planted seeds, each participant is choosing to grow from those seeds (or not), and what the plant becomes is not up to you, but each participant.

ETA: I haven't even mentioned the quality of the work and the intricacies found therein! Techniques which have been in use forever. Another jumping point for learning and appreciation.

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I see your point. But I still

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I see your point. But I still see the protesters' point. I'll try not to repeat myself. I think presenting the kimono without any further context is problematic. And the invitation is to try on the kimono in the European Art gallery, as an accessory to a Monet?

I would happily concede to your point if the kimono trying were in the East Asian Arts gallery, surrounded by other kimonos and examples and explanations of the culture. But it's not.

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So, in your opinion...

... the Japanese artisans who wanted the replica kimonos to be used in just the way they were being used at the MFA (to relate to the very-popular-in-Japan Monet painting) had no right to want their work used in this way?

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No, that is not my opinion. I

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No, that is not my opinion. I don't fault the artisans at all. I fault the MFA. They are the curators.

Specifically, I fault the Art of Europe curators. The artisans doubtlessly trust the MFA in their ability to exhibit. I believe that that trust is misplaced, and that the kimono isn't being used properly as the educational piece it could be. And that the MFA should do better.

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No, just no...

So, you think the MFA should have accepted the replica kimonos -- and then not used them in the fashion the artisans expected them to be used? To be felt, to be held, to be worn?

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No, if you read my other

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No, if you read my other replies, I'd be happy to have the kimono displayed and to be tried on in the East Asian art galleries of the MFA. That would give proper context and understanding. Not as an accessory to a Monet from the era of colonialism.

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