Cultural Appropriation, Social Justice Warriors and Other Crap… Enough is Enough

Hold on to your asses, things are about to get offensive and my give a shit… is so far gone if you want to make a dolly of me and burn it in some fucked up version of effigy… go for it. Have at it. You go on with your bad self because I am so many levels of done with this Social Justice Warrior bullshit I kind of wish thunderbolts would shoot down from the sky and strike dead every asshole guilty of this shit, or strike me dead so I don’t have to put up with it anymore. Also, if you have a low tolerance for cussing… this is probably not the best thing to continue reading because I’m going to cuss… a lot.

Yep, folks, holy hell is there an epic Dawn rant ahead and there is definitely going to be some pagan stuff in here. Yep, yep, yep. Not a ton, but some. It doesn’t start there, though. Oh no. No, let me walk you through what happened this morning at about 6:30 am central time as I sipped my coffee and ate my yogurt… scanning some of my Facebook groups. And, this is going to have some gifs in it all Tumblr-style since that is the sort of troll-hole these people hide in the most.

Let me start by saying that I go to DragonCon in Atlanta. It’s a great convention. I have about zero desire to ever go to San Diego Comicon and DragonCon has been my large convention of choice for several years now. I’ve come to love cosplaying and I’m starting to really get into it. It’s great, it’s fun. I’ve met some wonderful people. Prop making has become something of a special art I’m loving learning and I already enjoy sewing, so it seemed a natural progression for me. This morning someone posted this photo from Disney’s Mulan in one of the DragonCon groups asking why she’d not seen anyone cosplay it yet.

mulancross

First there were a stream of wonderful comments. Which was great. One person said she’d love to do it as a woman dressing as a man dressing as a woman. I thought a Victor/Victoria Chinese-Mulan thing was a hilarious idea. I’ve only seen the movie once, I can’t remember the details of the characters or if they have names -the movie doesn’t resonate with me at all. Which was when the Social Justice Warrior bullshit started and idiots (usually women, strangely) started equating this to white people wearing blackface.

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Let me rewind that a bit. This cosplay… this make-up, if worn by a Caucasian male… is the same thing as a white man wearing blackface. So… before I assumed she was just being an asshat with this ignorant comment of hers, I pointed out that this makeup is not a race thing at all, it’s a subculture in Chinese history and myth and encouraged her to look into it… Not the same at all, because Blackface evolved out of a very specific time and reason… which she should probably also research. Really, a simple Google or lazy Wikipedia search could have told her that. Or hell, I could Google That For You and take care of it… if I was feeling generous.

At which point I was told I was ignorant and how no one should ever be appropriating another culture because it is insensitive and offensive, so no white woman should ever be cosplaying as Mulan or Pochanatas either. White people should only costume white characters (Though no one tells professional cosplayer, Yaya Han, that she can only cosplay Asian characters, do they? This never goes in reverse, does it?) And all these white belly dancers were just an affront and…

Excuse me while I channel Madeline Khan for a moment…

flamesontheside

Now, I belly dance. I’m a “white” woman. I am of half German, half Polish/Russian ancestry… that last part gets hard to say for certain because of borders shifting so much through the years, but.. my maiden name… my father’s surname and family… traces to Moscow… so… okay, I’m white. Got it. But, I still belly dance. So, what they are saying is… I should quit my hobby, something that brings me joy because some people have issues with someone doing something that they don’t find “right.” Excuse me one goddamn minute while I get up on my little soapbox -I’m short as fuck, and grab this mic at the podium here:

stufandlisten

It is not my fucking job to not hurt the feelings of every fucking person on the planet. If you are reading this and you have issues with something that is not blatantly offensive, that’s on you. If someone is not clearly making a mockery of a culture by doing a caricature of it… like someone dressed in that China-Doll makeup, as a man from that particular picture above from that particular Disney film, forced the Asian eyes and then did a VERY bastardized Chinese language, “bing bao bang” or whatever… if they aren’t doing THAT… and are instead expressing their love of the media product they found… Then the offense is on YOU. You are being oversensitive. If someone is trying to honor something they enjoy… your offense is your own problem.

If you can’t tell the difference between racism and enjoying something from a fucking Disney movie… that is you! Chill out, Social Justice Warrior. Take your shit down a notch.

I’m so fucking tired of this crap. Ten years ago I did not deal with this shit online or at conventions. At all. What the fuck happened? Where did this ‘Social Justice Warrior Special Snowflake Rampaging Hoard With a Cause’ come from with their torches and pitchforks? … and can they go back there? Seriously.

Here’s where it kills me. If I try to have a legitimate conversation with these individuals I get that whole “check your privilege” shit shoved in my face. Because, as people love to point out, I am a: white-cis-woman ‘straight’-married-American and have no idea of the suffering and repression they endure every day. I should just bow down and feel sorry for them as they list off every fucking thing they have that makes them special and they feel they are owed some degree of accommodation or reparation for.

First of all, these individuals don’t know shit about me. I don’t feel the need to list on my public social media profiles a long string of attributes about myself like I’m looking for a sympathy adoption at the humane society. “Take pity on me. No one wants me because I’m so utterly fucked up I need a pity adoption.” No. No. I might talk about my issues online in hopes of getting people to understand them -the issues, more, but that baggage mine to carry, not everyone else’s. A long list of shit behind my name on Tumblr, Twitter, whatever… is a cry for attention. I don’t give a shit if you think otherwise. I’m 34 fucking years old, kids; I have enough chronic medical shit going on that I could apply for disability and get it, but I won’t because sitting still too long makes me a bit batty. The idea of living off the government when I think I’m perfectly capable of working a full time job… would make me batty. My health problems… are MY problem. Not yours. I don’t need to brag about them. They suck. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s not a competition or about whose problems are worse. Mine suck, I hate them, I don’t wish them on anyone and they aren’t a crutch for me to lean on either to excuse bad behavior.

My, mostly unusued, Twitter does not say: Dawn – female, bisexual, married, Caucasian, bipolar with with psychosis, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, chronic migraine, cervical spinal stenosis with one cervical fusion done already, multiple joint bursa inflammation and tendonitis because of years of ballet… Greek polytheist, childless….

Doesn’t that look ridiculous and like a cry for attention? It does, doesn’t it? And that’s all in your face now, all of it. None of it was ever hidden. I wasn’t in the closet about any of it, it just didn’t need to be in everyone’s face all the time because.. my business, is my business. I find the term cis– as a forced necessary prefix on my gender to be RIDICULOUSLY offensive. I think the exclusion of trans– as more than enough to say I accept my birth gender as my gender identity, thanks, and to force a prefix on me I don’t want… will piss me off.

So will telling me that because I married a man, or telling my husband because he married a woman, we’re both straight because we “chose” a “gender.” Which, by the way, is not how that works. We met each other at an LGBT party and are both bisexual. We both explain it as, “we fell in love with a person,  not a gender,” and we both got ostracized from some members of the gay community when we got married for “choosing” het-marriage. He was crudely called a ‘breeder.’ Don’t you DARE tell me to “check my privilege.”

My health… is not a competition. Which is why I don’t get into those conversations. Because then we start the whole, “you can’t understand. You’re an ‘able-bodied’ person,” bullshit. Ok, my illnesses are mostly invisible, I get that. But, when I get a migraine -for example, which is not just a headache for those of you who have never had one or had a loved one whose had one… it’s fucking awful. My senses.. I can’t even. Light hurts. Sound hurts. Scents make me want to vomit, parts of my body get so sensitive to touch I want to cry, not to mention the throbbing in my head… and nothing over-the-counter can touch it. In fact, if it’s bad enough, my normal abortive medications can’t kill it. I either end up going to the ER or I have to give myself a shot with this plastic EPI-pen looking device. Which means, if I’m in a hotel, trying to get to the elevator to get to my room on the 8th floor and I’m pretty pale, trying not to vomit, not talking loud because my entire focus to get to my room to give myself the injection I need and lay down…, my eyes are partially closed.. murmuring about needing to take my meds… and people shove passed me to get to the elevator faster because I’m moving slowly and in a fuck-ton of pain… I’m unhappy. I might be ready to scream, or cry, or vomit. And while I understand that the woman in the wheelchair has a lot of trouble getting an elevator, I honestly didn’t see her behind me. Migraines give my vision the equivalent to horse blinders. The Social Justice Warrior bitch really didn’t need to forcibly shove me out of the way and say, “Able-bodied bitches can take the stairs,” so that she could let the wheelchair bound woman who was laughing happily get on the elevator and leave me trying very hard not to pass out in pain.

Yeah, because invisible illnesses and disabilities don’t exist, right? I need to… “check my privilege.”

Now, the pagan part of this is the cultural appropriation part. The part where it is and isn’t, is where the line is drawn. If you actually research what you are using and incorporating, then it is not. If you are just taking something because it’s shiny and looks neat… then it might be. Like hobby Native American shamans who have zero training in the Native part of it and read one article online and decided Raven or Coyote spoke to them, or… whatever, and suddenly are experts giving workshops on it… yeah, that probably is.

However, having been told that any attempt of mine to recreate any aspect of ancient Greek religion is an affront to Greek culture, I just kind of want to scream. Because I like to think that I am doing this in the most respectful manner I can. I read everything I can find, I research, I try to stay as true to my source material as I can. I scan blogs from Hellenics if I’m unsure, even though I don’t really like to give myself the Hellenic label. But for some damn reason, because I’m American of German-Polish-Russian descent.. this is just appalling. Oh, whatever… shut the hell up. I was baptized in a Roman-Catholic Basilica, am I stuck in that religion in order to make some idiots feel better about themselves? Because, honestly.. I can’t. That whole Catholic thing stopped sitting well with me in first grade and by second grade as we were preparing for my First Holy Communion, I was already questioning it out loud enough with the Priest. Bless Father John and his patience with obstinate little me.

Here’s the thing, if you are having a good time, if you are enjoying yourself and being respectful… then who cares? I am part of a Greek Mythology costume group at DragonCon. We do the parade every year, we walk behind the Spartans from 300 in the parade every year (quite happily because those guys are cut), we do an awesome photoshoot at Hardy Ivy park in downtown Atlanta every year (which has those gorgeous marble columns), sometimes we wander around in costume and we always get a nice crowd of people to take our pictures besides our awesome photographer. On top of that, last year I got acknowledged by the commentators in the official parade video, “Oh look, someone brought the Eternal Flame to the parade. Ma’am, it’s hot enough in Atlanta, that wasn’t necessary.” I thought it was hilarious. This year… I had so many kids just shouting for me, by goddess name, and it was great. Because that meant they knew something about the myth and I used things in my props that were more myth-based… nothing from Hercules or Xena… not from movies or tv… or Percy Jackson... this, I think, is good. I’m not Greek. I’m blond with this Rogue stripe of gray hair (in my 30s, wtf) on top of it.

I put a lot of work in my Lotus-staff for Hera this year. Mostly because the damn thing had to be really collapsible because I have a compact car that was going to be full of people to drive across the country in. But the top looked, in my opinion, spectacular. I don’t give a shit if someone finds this “offensive”. I don’t care if someone found my lack of a proper chiton offensive. I don’t sweat anymore because of medication issues so my dress had a harness built in to keep cooling packs in it so I didn’t collapse from heat-stroke and the loose fit of the a chiton wasn’t going to work. Judgmental people can shut the hell up.

I’ve had pagans in the past, some Greek Recons of varying flavors but not always, make snide remarks about my Greek costuming for conventions. Partially because not everything is historically “accurate.” Except, this is a fun convention not an SCA-eque event. I’m not doing this costuming for religious reasons, I’m doing it for fun. Most of the other people in the group don’t always work as hard on the costumes as some of us do, they are just in it for fun. So shut up. Let them have fun. If you (or anyone, really) walk up to my friend in the group next year and give him guff for being a black man dressed as Zeus, I’ll probably cock (or vagina, whatever) punch you… because that is a role we haven’t had filled in years and I’m keeping Hera for a second year. This is for fun. Race is not an issue here.

*photo by Lionel Lum

You know what made me just tear up with joy? Three years ago, the last time we had someone costume as Ares, we had a young black boy (I cannot assume he was American since the convention brings people from other countries as well) come up to our group with a guardian of his and his face was just so alight with joy. And the woman with him explained that he had hated reading before he found the Rick Riordan books, and then after he read through those… he went to the library and started reading other books on Greek mythology. She was so glad he was reading on his terms because he wanted to! It was like a gateway to primary source material. For this kid who was… maybe ten years old. He was so excited to see our group standing at the columns at Hardy Ivy Park at the end of our photo shoot and was going around and saying who everyone was and rattling off the myths and… the woman asked if he could have pictures with us -which of course we agreed to because he was so tickled… and the guy who was dressed as Ares that year pretended to have to fix his armor and told the kid to hold his shield for a second and the kid just beamed. Beamed! Like the sun! So, he’s holding the shield and we’re all smiling and just before she takes the picture… he puts his helm on this kid who just about burst with joy.

That.. to me, is what this about. Was the fact that the guy dressed as Ares wasn’t Greek offensive? No, it wasn’t. He did a damn good job costuming and the level of joy he brought to that kid, who knew it was a costume, but was still so delighted to have this bit of … something in his life for even a moment.. is worth more than anything else. What about that is cultural appropriation? Not a damn thing. What is offensive about that? Not a damn thing.

And to be really selfish about this for a moment: I’ve been going through years of therapy for my own illnesses to get to the point where I can try to stop and think before I freak out with offense over something someone said or did. I try to. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but I try. I have coping things I do and such, but I try. Because my therapist has worked with me for years to get it into my head that it is MY choice to be offended. No one else has control over how I feel about something. So I find it really fucked up that if only I am in control of how I’m feeling about something… that all these uppity people then expect me to take control over their feelings too. NO. I have a heavy-ass mental burden of my own which I am not unloading on every stranger, everywhere, every damn second I can. I am not carrying all their baggage, too, because they feel the need to be victims and special. These are the same assholes that try to compete in how sick they are with each other. “Look at how bipolar I am.” “Look at how Autistic I am… a quiz online decided I was Autistic or on the Spectrum so that is my excuse for all my bad behavior ever.”  Fuck you. This isn’t fun. I don’t brag about it. I don’t want it. It’s not a competition. If you want a blue ribbon for being special, go buy one off Etsy and leave me the hell alone. I don’t want to be dragged into your psycho pit of specialness where you have this very base need to be a victim on a crusade to feel all warm and fuzzy and special inside. I didn’t grow up with mommy and daddy telling me that I was perfect and special. I grew up having to bust my ass, and earn good grades on my own. My parents didn’t fight my battles for me. I dealt with my own bullies. I learned to survive… on my own.

I’m not going to be pulled further into this tar-pit of Social Justice Bullshit by people that have generally not lived long enough to have any idea what the real world is like. Spoilers, kids: it’s not fair, it’s never been fair, and it’s never going to be fair. Suck it up. I did. My parents did. My parents’ parents did… and on and on before them. There is a difference between looking for equal rights and looking to put everyone down that you can because you feel the need to be superior or a victim.

Go fuck yourself.

I don’t owe any of you anything. The color my skin does not dictate my owing anyone anything. Ever. E.V.E.R. I never owned slaves. My parents didn’t. My grandparents didn’t. Before them… I don’t even think were in this country for most of their lives, so… nope. Don’t owe reparations for that. Which means… we probably weren’t on any Native American killing sprees either… so.. no reparations for that either. Don’t owe you anything other than respect. Don’t owe you anything based on the color of my skin. Nor does my vagina, my breasts, my height, my voice, my age, my hair color… nothing. The only thing I ever owe anyone is respect, which I give everyone I meet until they do something that pretty much requires me to revoke said respect because I respect myself too much to let people treat me like garbage anymore.

I don’t need to “check” any “privilege”. Social Justice Warriors need to “check their attitude.” Because just because you see a snippet of someone online, doesn’t mean you actually know anything about them in real life. Get over yourselves.

Oh, and I still belly dance. I’m not going to stop. If you think my wearing middle eastern inspired dance attire and doing middle eastern dance fusion to some middle eastern music is offensive in any way, kiss my shimmying hips and don’t let the door hit you too hard on the way out. Now, if you don’t mind, it’s Thursday and I have a tradition of happily dancing to my favorite Turkish singer, Tarkan, on days that start with ‘T’.

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5 Comments to “Cultural Appropriation, Social Justice Warriors and Other Crap… Enough is Enough”

  1. Golly, I needed your rant to complete mine! Thank you, thank you! (And, you are Russian/German, too, as well as Hellenic!). Can we meet at Hyde Park corner someday and share a soapbox? Again, I thank you for the fresh air.

    • You are welcome. I read this again this morning and though, “woah, this was a bit aggressive in tone, even for me,” but, honestly… this is what happens when I just get pushed a bit too far. I hate that it seems that this is becoming normal. I hate that I feel like engaging in discussion with anyone over anything online becomes a fight because unless you are exactly of the same background they are, are the exact same they are… your opinions and education, or experience… are immediately invalid and you are rudely shut down. Which is contrary to everything I was every taught in my youth about respect. And that was growing up in a neighborhood for my early youth that was more hispanic than white and I had a father that did not care for that. He still could respect our neighbors. But these people are just rude and it floors me.

      I dunno.

  2. I think they have gone too far, people are alienating potential allies *all the time*! I went to college, majored in political science, went to lots of activist trainings and things and I am still afraid of getting my head bitten off! I am in a group called Heathens United Against Racism, people who sign up for it are against the Neo-Nazism in Heathenry, but they do not necessarily understand all the more subtle forms of racism or are necessarily aware of every other ism, so we patiently try to work on educating folks. Many of them are white males from more conservative/moderate views and small town/rural areas. We are anti-bigotry in general, not just about race, but I don’t expect them to all of the sudden know about all the isms! These guys would get eaten alive in on the SJ tumblr groups, but seriously we’re dealing with Neo-Nazis here, not micro-aggressions!

    • I don’t even know what to do with that group, to be honest. I have a friend who runs a group in the middle of the state and does/did prison ministry. His focus has always been more on the Asatru side of things. That whole Neo-Nazi thing that is drawn to the Norse paganism… blows my mind. And he sees it front and center doing prison ministry because that’s how some of them find it in the first place. Sadly. I give him some serious props for patience.

      But, I know he agrees that some of this crap is just getting way out of hand.

      I just want to be able to engage in conversation with individuals, since maybe we can learn from each other, and am quite tired of being shut down immediately with hate language. I don’t respond well at all to aggression. I never have. I never will. No part of me is a pacifist. I spent a large portion of my youth bullied and had to learn to get myself out of dangerous and aggressive situations. So anything remotely threatening… tends to get a knee-jerk reaction. I know that’s my personal failing and I let this situation yesterday morning push me too far. I’m far calmer today.

      I also ended up getting a ridiculous migraine yesterday and am on a postdrome fog of doom today, which probably factored a lot into my venom. However, rather than redact my post at all, I’m leaving it up. I’m not ashamed, I do mean everything I said to some degree and perhaps my pressure valve has been released enough for a good bit of time.

  3. You had true feelings (as did I). So what if in the light of another day you “might” feel a little “guilt.” Do away with that guilt immediately, as my therapist would say. I felt like a leopard cornered by two lionesses. They should have expected my claws to come out and my fangs to show. So, my defenses were better than their offensive moves. I didn’t walk away. But they still tried to make me the villain of the piece, which was low down and dirty, and I am afraid to say may have worked in certain quarters (not all people are swift because their PC gets in the way). Oh, well.

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