Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation
August 7th, 2017 – Sometimes outrage doesn’t die after a week online, and sometimes it doesn’t even die after five years. Internet excavators unearthed a blog post from November 5th, 2012 and decided to dissect the appropriateness of having a Japanese tea themed birthday party for a young girl. The post was originally shared on The Gala Gals – a site run by two sisters who celebrate life’s moments by sharing best party practices.
This particular party was for the author’s daughter’s birthday, which turned out to include many Japanese traditions. They wore kimonos, decorated with pink paper cherry blossom centerpieces, drank tea and ate sushi, dined via Asian style seating, made origami flowers, and they ended the day by doing a Geisha photo shoot.
The birthday girl seemed to have a blast throughout the day, and the attention to detail was explained through the host’s writing.
Most of the initial feedback on the post was positive as many parents commented that they loved the idea and asked questions for throwing a similar party of their own.
When the post began popping up again on Tumblr and other sites, however, accusations of cultural appropriation, racism and sensitivity began to dominate the conversation. Many people took to the comments section rallying around the comment “Teach children that this is not ok.”
Some people weren’t calling the party outright racist but orientalist and historically insensitive as a result of media relying on tired stereotypes.
But so goes condemnation, so comes defense. After the re-energized attention drew negativity, plenty of people came to the defense of the party host. Many, in fact, were Japanese or had married into a Japanese family and wanted to let the gala gals know that what they did was show an appreciation for the culture just as many before them have done. They also applauded the educational factor that the mom was providing for young girls.
One user replied back to the last comment from a Japanese person by saying “Burn level: Hiroshima.” So after taking a look at the party pictures, we’ll have even more fodder to discuss!
What do you think of this Japanese-themed birthday party? Was this cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation? Give us your thoughts!