Hello my dears,
here goes first THING in 2019.
As announced – this is a highly controversial topic. And I sincerely hope you all will stick to me and discuss this peacefully (or agitated if you prefer).
So. This is, as you might guess from the title, about appropriation, cultural or otherwise. It is about being offended. About claiming the sole right to something just because it´s a „birthright“.
I guess you all know me well enough to know what I think about it.
I think: There is no such thing as a birthright.
I think: There is NO right way to end this sentence correct:
„YOU CAN NOT DO THIS BECAUSE YOU ARE…“.
I think (and here´s where most people start „but…“): Racism is racism, no matter who says the above and to whom.
I already discussed this on facebook in a few groups during the last days, and I said more than once: I totally understand when people feel HURT when someone aggressively mocks something they have grown up with, or they can´t change about themselves. I even get when people want REVENGE for centuries or millenia where they could not be what they are, or worse, were „punished“ for being so.
I just think: let´s call it that. Let´s call people who hurt: people who hurt. Aggressors. Cunts. And let´s call revenge revenge. So we know: this is no better than what happened before. It´s just the other way around.
It´s much easier to reserve specific things to a colour of skin, to a set of genes, to a condition, to a country. Is it?
So what happened?
I got involved last autumn in a debate on fuckbook which left me disturbed for weeks.
Basically, it was started (as far as I know) by a burlesque dancer from a Maori family who complained about a burlesque act by another person, I think American with European roots, who performed with a costume and to music that was New Zealandian aboriginal or at least inspired by this. The absurd thing was that she herself said she never learned or saw this ritual, her grandma told her about it, it wasn´t done anymore. But that dancer had researched and tried to do a historical version.
Several others chimed in about people wearing feather headdresses (as American natives), palm leaf skirts (as, allegedly, Hawaiians) and other stuff. I couldn´t keep my mouth shut as always and simply asked: where does this start, and where does it stop? Who can wear what, and who can´t? What can a person use who happens to hate their „own“ culture? What is NOT appropriation, as in, sharing experience, imitating, monkey see monkey do, mixing ideas, and simply choosing what´s beautiful? Especially in art, where appreciation usually is a lot more present than mockery? What about all the wonderful things that only became true through appropriation? Like, Tango, like Rap music, hell, like JAZZ itself?
So many people, of whom I personally knew quite a lot, shitstormed me for this –
– of course without giving an answer. I tried to get one for days, getting more and more concrete. There´s this youtube video of a black guy explaining why dreadlocks are NOT an African invention (they just happen to everyone who doesn´t comb). And the debate about a black girl born in Bavaria who wore a traditional dirndl dress to Oktoberfest.
In the end I asked the Hawaiian girl: I play the ukulele, can I do that? She said technically no. I answered: ok how did the ukulele get to Hawaii? Wasn´t it derived from the guitar – a European invention? And while we´re at it, what about all the black people rocking the piano – which is, besides the bandoneon, probably the only instrument that´s definitely of German origin?
Well the discussion ended for me with logging out, deleting most of my parts in this thread plus a lot of my other political postings, and hiding at home for weeks, I skipped several parties because I knew there would be peeps from that discussion. Which left me with a lot of time to think.
Have I got the right to write about this? I will never know how it feels to be a person of colour
(I merely got a glimpse of that while in Japan, and it´s NOTHING comparable being a tourist),
(plus, in Germany PoC are usually exchange students, skilled workers, or tourists, so as a country that never held slaves a non-European look in Northern Europe instinctively radiates money and power and education and not, like in the US and other colonial countries, less of each).
Hopefully neither to be handicapped. Nor born in the wrong body. I won´t even know what it is like to have an „own“ folklore because all the Germans ever had was occupied (appropriated, if you want, but mostly perverted,) by the Nazis. We don´t even sing folk songs without feeling awkward. Hey, I prefer writing in English. See where this leads?
Am I offended by nothing? Hell no. I´m offended by quite a lot! And yes sometimes I am hurt, and sometimes I even feel the desire for revenge. I am a female! I have millenia of revenge in my two x chromosomes. And I´m a nerd, I love learning and asking and have been harassed quite often for being one. I am German so I have no culture at all I could be offended about, if all that literature and science doesn´t count.
Can´t I be offended because people just ignore what Goethe, Schiler, Schopenhauer, Kleist, Brecht and Jung found out? Can´t I be offended because the true Prussian values – freedom of mind, religion, private life, and profession – are trodden in the dust these days? Can´t I be offended when I see decades of feminism rolling backwards on instagram how-to-please-my-boyfriend-profiles?
I am offended. I am offended by so much. Want something REALLY controversial? Consider this a trigger warning! Here goes:
I am offended by drag queens. Not in general, and I am talking about stage, not life. I have seen, performed with, and thoroughly enjoyed wonderful drag artists. But still – I am offended when I read Terry Pratchett´s Fifth continent where he describes the only woman traveling with a drag troupe as „looking less female“ than the others. And to know what he means! Do men now mansplain me even how to be a better woman?
I watched Ru Paul´s Drag Race and the first thing I encountered was a drag queen introducing herself by squeezing a baby doll out of her supersexy office outfit. Which made me realize that the whole show presented exactly that what feminists had been fighting for years – all the clichés like Sexy Secretary, Stripper Girl, Fat Clown, Fuck-Me-Slut were celebrated under the objective to be „more female“ in them. I found the whole show extremely misogynist. The baby thing was not something that belonged to her role. It was pure mockery.
But hell I enjoyed the show! I watched three seasons! I had fun! And I could see that most of these people had been fighting for what they did, and what they were, and they were true artists and craftspeople. Not wanting to offend women the least. (Not sure about Ru though.)
Did I worry young girls could be spoilt by these lopsided images of femininity?
Oh yes. I watched with a teenager and she took notes on how to do certain make up styles, moves, etcetera.
Would I consider that a problem?
NO. It is a problem when there is NOTHING ELSE.
Variety is never a problem. Appreciation is never a problem.
The problem starts when somebody decides for you what to censor. If you can´t LEARN how to make that decision by yourself. How would you learn to look left and right on a street when your parent tells you to always trust the traffic lights alone?
Lately, a drag queen performed in a menstruation dress, sporting a huge sanitary towel sewn to the dress claiming to support young girls who had their first period. I thought: do you know what you´re talking about? Did you ever bleed for a week? Did you ever throw away your favourite dress because it was bloodstained? Did you ever leave class last because your period came unexpectedly and you couldn´t stand up in front of others? Did you ever had cramps, and did you ever know that, once over, they would return in three weeks, and after that, and, again, and again?
Of course she didn´t. But she has other problems, and can relate them to those of girls. And I can totally appreciate her trying to make people TALK about periods. It doesn´t matter here whether you have a vagina, it just matters that you normalize it.
As long as there´s still WOMEN oppressing women, locking menstruating girls away, castrating them with blunt glass shards – why should I fight a man who wants to show compassion?
Sorry for all that period thing. I still try to illustrate what I mean (failing a bit) by the only thing I can be totally sure that I have a „birthright“ to talk about – being a woman. I´m pretty sure I´ve been born a woman.
So finally I mustered up the courage to write about this. It has a burlseque feeling as this is where it all started, It´s not 100% where I want it to be so this is, as usually, a work in progress. And we will make a band version with all of us drumming the taiko break live, as this is the first thing I wrote since Rah is in the band! There´s an acoustic version and an electronic. And a German version! I put periods in that one 😀
I´ll still work on the lyrics too. I already toned them down a lot. And I might make an indifferent version for the public record, if you think it should go on there.
Here´s the lyrics:
It’s a feather in my hat – It’s the pearl around my neck – That makes me bad
It’s the colour of my hair – Or the language in which I swear – That drives you mad
I’m not correct in what I do – I’m offending them and you
I’m in your line of sight And yes, my dear, you’re right:
It is the vixen dress I wear – and the stuff about which I care – That makes me bad
It is the nipple of my tit – It is the place on which I sit – That drives you mad
You’ve lost control over your eyeballs and over your typing hand as well
Looking away is not your forte and what you see you have to tell
You’ve got the right to be offended as I have got that to offend
Your mind is set in a concrete block and you don’t want that state to end
You can’t do this because you’re female
You can’t do that because you’re old
You can’t do this because you’re black or white or green
You can’t do that because you’re poor
You can’t do this because you’re blind or dumb or lame
You can’t do that because you suck
You can’t do this because you’re stupid
You know what? I give a fuck! I’m inappropriate…
Please don´t hate me. I´m just an Alien from outer space and appropriate your weird human ways.