Open Thread: Clothing Culture

Specifically: Kilts! Why aren't they more socially acceptable in America? I mean, I hate wearing skirts, but I know a guy who thinks kilts are super comfortable.

But there's lots of things like that. I always think saris look comfy, but I'd not have any idea how to wrap one. And I recall there was a whole wrapping class that we sat through for fun when we went to Hawaii, so that shows just how hopeless I am in the wrapping department. 



Naomi said...

I've worn a sari. It was more beautiful than comfy. Now, salwar-kameez/kurta-surwal are super comfy; the only downside there was a lack of pockets.

(I spent a semester studying in Nepal. I wore kurta surwal almost every day, and a sari on special occasions. My host mother helped me wrap it. I learned how to do it, but I could never make it look crisp and perfect like she could.)

Smilodon said...

I've seen a fair number of people in kilts, but only on special occasions. Everyone I know who has one reserves it for formal wear.

Personally, I love skirts. Once I accepted an occasional loss of modesty, a knee-length flowy skirt gives me more freedom of movement than shorts, and a full length skirt + tights is just as warm for the winter as pants. And they make me feel pretty. Unfortunately, the powers that be have declared skirts "not lab appropraite". I've considered asking the powers-that-be what would happen if I had a religious objection to pants (it's a real thing!) but I think the answer would be "We know that you don't, get back to work."

kbeth said...

Yeah, saris are not comfy. You've got this underskirt with a bunch of heavy cloth tucked into it, so it's always falling down, and the other end of the cloth lies over your shoulder and really just wants to fall down on your arm, so you have to kind of keep your arm up at your side the whole time. Not at all relaxing.

jill heather said...

Kilts for women? I assume it's because those are associated with school uniforms. Kilts for men? I don't know, because they're probably comfortable in the summer (as skirts tend to be) and look really awesome.

I am pretty much a skirt/dresses only person, lately.

Lonespark said...

I also love long skirts. Which are not what this post is really about, oops. The are nice looking and easier to find for very short persons than pants, and I found they are really warm in the winter. I was really surprised to not even need tights in atrocious driving-sleet weather. I really don't know why they wouldn't be ok in a lab. If you're wearing closed-toe shoes and a labcoat, and the skirt isn't made of something really flimsy, why not?

Salwar kameez also awesome, especially in places like Phoenix.

Rowen said...

Are we talking kilts on men? I've seen a few around. Most of the time they've either been on hipsters with ironic mustaches and come with lots of pockets and straps and I can't break the mental associations I have with insufferable Brooklyn hipsters.
The other type tends to be Irish/Scottish Americans who can tell you all about the name of the clan they come from and what their tartan is, but have never heard of Brian Boru or Thomas the Rhymer.

I am fully aware of the fact that my negative emotions are written ALL OVER this, so a lot of my feelings are based on my own personal biases, rather then a sense of what is attractive or not.

That being said, I have a friend who does costume design and is a boylesque performer and he has a few kilts that he's slapped together (they aren't fully pleated. He wants to do a fully pleated kilt, but it's a lot of pinning) that he looks pretty good in.

Arresi said...

I've had a couple of male classmates wear kilts in college. The women were . . . appreciative. (Not sure why - they don't reveal any more than shorts do, but people are weird.) Based on those experiences, I can think of four possibilities:

1) kilts look kinda like skirts, which are feminine, so men have to be pretty confident in their masculinity to wear them (point in favor, the men I saw wearing them were decidedly well-built);

2) they're considered special occasion wear (I only saw them worn by more than one man on holidays, really) or possibly restricted to Scots;

3) there's an idea that you have to have 'good legs' to wear a kilt (again, why kilts and not shorts, I don't know, but a couple of women said as much, and the men I saw wearing them definitely had nice legs), and men are at least as self-conscious as women; and

4) men don't like being sexually harassed any more than women do, so they avoid clothes that are likely to bring out the catcalls.

Will Wildman said...

I've seen a couple of people in my area who wear kilts. There's one older guy I often see at a major bus stop in a kilt, complete with sporran (the independently-hanging pouch dealy).

I have considered getting kilts in the past, but haven't done so yet. Not sure how it'd look on me. I'm a fan of the way my legs look from the knees down, at least.

(Not sure why - they don't reveal any more than shorts do, but people are weird.)

I think it's one of those things where the actual revelation is less important than the imminence of revelation. Yank on a dude's shorts and it just stings a bit where the fabric is pulled tight; yank on a kilt and there are No Secrets Left. (As the old joke goes: "What is worn under the kilt?" "Socks.")

Fluffy_goddess said...

(Or, "Nothing, it's all in perfect working order.)

I think kilts are often considered formalwear because a) they're expensive to make, and b) the upkeep can be expensive. That much good wool (and if it's a fully pleated, traditional scottish kilt, it's a hell of a lot of fabric) is expensive, usually dry-clean only, and though they're comfortable and look nice for men who are used to them, you run a bit into the "but I can't wave my arms like I'm a pinwheel in a suitjacket!" problem, as you get with teenaged boys crammed into suits for formal occasions.

I used to think I'd buy a kilt some day when my proportions settle down, but I wouldn't dream of doing it if I wasn't pretty sure I could maintain my current figure consistently for at least a decade or two -- it would cost about $300-$400 dollars to do the full traditional, at least at the nearest shop to me, and I usually spend between $20 and $30 on a skirt.

I do still like kilts, though, both on men and women. I just don't think the traditional ones are very practical for anyone who isn't going to a lot of formalwear-appropriate occasions in cold climates/heavy air conditioning. And the more modern ones are... I don't know, but they somehow look bulky to me.

redsixwing said...

I think kilts are lovely, but mostly only the local pipe-and-drum corp actually wears them. I wouldn't personally, as that is not my culture and I'd feel weird about it, but I've known (and currently know) people who do wear them on formal occasions.

I think the difficulty of cleaning that much heavy wool fabric may have something to do with why we don't see more of them, though wouldn't it be possible to make one in a nice cotton canvas that could just be thrown in the wash and pressed?

Off topic, I've been admiring the Elegant Gothic Lolita subculture for a while now, and finally started lurking some online communities. It's been great for my knowledge of sewing, and I am really admiring the way a lot of people are putting their aesthetics as a guiding force in their life. That, and the skirts that are the most common EGL garment are just adorable...

Not something I could wear or be comfortable in myself, but I'll be entirely happy to applaud those who do.

Andrew said...

I find pants very uncomfortable. I don't know why women wear them; if I were a woman I'd wear a skirt or dress.

texting_and_scones said...

I've seen a few men locally wearing Utilikilts, usually members of the indie-vegan social stratum. Not all of them are stereotypically good-looking. I occasionally see "real" kilts on men on formal occasions, and always, always on performing bagpipers.

Andrew: I love dresses, but I don't always have the time or patience for removing leg hair and finding a pair of run-less pantyhose to wear to the office. Pants are far more annoying in the maintenance department (why are creases the mark of a put-together person?), but can be prepared well in advance of hurried mornings.

Speaking of the office, is anyone else irked by clothes as a class marker? Business and business casual wear is just so useless. It does nothing more than say "hi, I have a job that doesn't require physical effort and can afford to purchase purely decorative, fragile garments." Also, no damn pockets.

Having recently needed to acquire a business casual wardrobe from scratch (and for a non-normative body type, no less), I am ever-so-keenly aware of the cost that goes into looking the part of a professional. It's disgustingly wasteful.

Smilodon said...

Pantyhose is such a useless expense. I have never met a pair of pantyhose that lasts more than one day, and a nice pair is a few bucks. I have a few pairs for emergencies, but normally I opt for tights or "everyone already assumes I'm a hippy because of my mildly left-wing viewpoint, seeing a stray leg hair won't surprise them".

texting_and_scones said...

I can usually get them to last for three, but yeah. Expensive stupidity. Can't be a hippy in my current workplace, though, so whatchagonna do? I lump hose in with other unavoidable expenses, like bus fare. Or wear pants.

muscipula said...

I (part Scottish, married to a 100% Scot) have a kilt which I wear on formal occasions, and so the way I think about it tends to be in the context of all the (many) bits and bobs that go with it. I don't have much of a sense for how to wear it more casually. Above the waist isn't too bad; I see people wearing rugby shirts, t-shirts, etc. Everyday sporrans are easy to get. No, it's really the socks and shoes that I don't know what to do with. For formal purposes I have long thick white woolen socks, ghillie brogues, and tartan flashes. The laces of the shoes tie around the ankles/lower calves in a complicated way. The whole get-up is a bit much for everyday wear. So I'm thinking: good boots, short socks. Perhaps I'm overthinking the sock length issue but I really can't decide whether I like either size.

MaryKaye said...

Utilikilts are pretty common here in Seattle. A friend tried to do aikido in his--he looked great, but then he knelt down on one of the little metal grommets and that was the end of that experiment.

Our aikido school doesn't wear the hakama (huge tied-on black pants) until you earn your black belt. Then you are handed one and told to put it on while everyone waits for you. I have seen people come back out with both legs in one leg-hole.... They are tricky for beginners!

I own a very odd piece of clothing, perhaps related to the hakama but made in a bright Hawaiian fabric. When not worn it looks something like a large, puckered letter H with string ties. The person I bought it from (in Hawaii) handed it to me and said "Bet you can't figure out how to wear this." After some ludicrous attempts (it makes a poor diaper and worse loincloth) he tied both sets of strings around my waist in a way I can't really describe, and the garment suddenly became very loose pants with slits all the way up the outside of each leg. Very breezy and fun. But I bought it mainly so that I could ask other people to try to wear it....

Aidan Bird said...

The only time pantyhose has ever seemed remotely useful to me, is for a makeshift binder, especially if you can't afford those super expensive ones. They're safer than Ace bandages, and easy to create since they tend to come in packs of more than one at the stores my friend and I have frequented. A friend of mine utilizes them for that a lot.

Otherwise, what is the use of them? For I've tried them, and they're so insanely uncomfortable that I end up destroying them by the end of the evening. I'm also the type of person that abhors most skirts and dresses, and prefer pants with numerous pockets, so I suppose that probably plays a role as well with how I view them.

Aidan Bird said...

Kimonos from Japanese culture are highly, highly stylish right now for people who go to Anime conventions, watch Anime, or read any sort of Japanese Manga. I've worn them a few times, and there's slightly different types. The more formal ones are way too tight in the legs, and I hate not having enough movement for my legs - which is why I abhor tight dresses and skirts. There's another version that is for casual/work wear, and allows for a lot more movement in the legs, those I kinda like actually. They're always so pretty, and the fabric is pretty solid. I've seen them outside of the Anime/Manga subculture as well, so maybe it's spreading?

Saris are really pretty too, but never tried one on nor have I really wanted to - it's just pretty on others.

Kilts on men are actually pretty cool in my opinion.

Laiima said...

Several years ago, I saw a young guy at the zoo in Ohio in (what was likely) a Utilikit. Ever since, I've been encouraging Spouse (who does not like shorts) to try a skirt or kilt instead - he has great legs, and I'd like to see them more often.

While visiting DC one weekend, I saw a guy older than me (50 or so) wearing another Utilikit-thing. With the fashion for men's shorts to be longish these days, I would really prefer to see more of them wearing skirts/kilts. I miss the tight shorts (for men) that were common when I was younger.

I like the *idea* of dresses. But generally I can only wear 2-piece dresses, as I am smaller on top than on the bottom, so one size for both doesn't work. Also, many dress styles emphasize the bust, and I'm essentially flat-chested, so those sorts of dresses just make me feel ugly.

Oh, and I stopped shaving my legs a few years ago. I like the hair, but I'm working on my self-consciousness when I'm wearing a skirt or dress. Because around here, women's legs are always completely hairless. I can't figure out how they do it. Even pre-teen girls here have hairless legs. (And it's WAY TOO HOT to wear pantyhose in the summer. Tomorrow, it's supposed to be 102 degrees. Ugh.)

Rakka said...

Kilts are indeed made of awesome and win. I have two - one's thicker wool and slightly longer than the other, for winter wear - that I've made myself. Didn't use whole nine yards of cloth though, the winter one has some 4.5 meters of hem and the summer one slightly less than that. And the fabrics are from the local chain store, so not so good... Planning to buy some good stuff when we go to Scotland next spring. And as my footwear for temperatures when it's viable to wear 4 meters of thick wool folded on your ass is typically combat boots, it also solves the footwear problem. Maintainance wasn't that hard either. I'd typically just give them a good airing after use, store them hanging or folded, and if I need to then wash them normally as other wool clothes and re-iron the pleats back into place. I used to wear the thicker one more often, autumn to spring, but as I currently work at philately shop... yeaah. Not practical.

There are some friends who wear those Utilikilts, and they're pretty comfortable-looking, but I dunno. Might buy one if I got to try one out first.

I would not wear a kilt in Scotland, though. It would feel a tourist-y thing to do, like going to Lappland and parading in Same clothes. But over here almost everyone just goes "boobs. so that's a skirt" which is annoying but well, their problem. I don't expect people to recognize that no, it's a kilt, with men's "cut" (folding? closure? Left side on top, anyway) to boot.

Lonespark said...

I have known quite a few fellas who went around in utilikilts, including at work. I've also known a not-inconsiderable number of guys who wore skirts/dresses, too. Not at work, so much. I heartily approve of all these things.

Emma said...

Sorry to barge into the thread like this. About saris, some south Asian people/people with south Asian heritige have expressed dislike of non-south Asians who aren't actually living in south Asia wearing them, especially white people. According to them, not only is it appropriative but it's unfair because often in the west a south Asian wearing a sari or salwaar kameez will be treated with suspicion or talked down to but a white person wearing one will just be treated as someone with slightly eccentric taste. I just thought I should tell you.

depizan said...

Probably ot what you intended, but that middle part makes it sound as if you think everyone's experience is the same as yours. Not everyone finds pants uncomfortable. I, for one, find them very comfortable.

I do, however, feel that skirts and dresses are horribly uncomfortable, since I don't like feeling both naked and in drag. I'm positive that people who wear skirts and dresses (and kilts) don't feel that way.

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Appropriation, Prejudice Against Trans* People

Thank you for pointing that out. Interestingly enough, this question came up earlier in the month with regards to hair styles and white people wearing hair styles traditionally seen on black hair.

My two cents -- coming from a white-privileged background, just so everyone remembers that I'm not representing any non-white groups -- is that there is a big difference between wearing cultural hair/clothing with respect and cultural awareness of privilege and prejudice versus wearing cultural hair/clothing in a deliberate attempt to appropriate something "cool".

For example, I have a lot of disabilities that are affected by the type of clothing I wear. Overalls and dress and anything that hangs from the shoulders cause me pain; waistbands can cause me no pain at all or tons of pain depending on the type of material used. If it got to the point where the only thing I could comfortably wear was, to pick an example, wrapped saris, I think I could do so with respect and awareness, and without appropriation. Of course, that's my opinion only and my opinion is not sacrosanct.

The difficult thing about appropriation questions is that minority groups are not hiveminds. We can't come up with a definitive list of Dos and Don'ts because (a) there would never be 100% buy-in across the group and (b) the list would end up catering to the lowest common denominator. (B) is essential because minority groups can contain their own privileges and prejudices: women -- who are certainly marginalized in the USA -- can have white privilege, for example, or able privilege, or straight privilege. If ONE woman says that a transwoman is appriopriating her experiences because she didn't have to experience the tribulation of Growing Up Female in USA, that doesn't make the one woman a spokesperson for all women. (Certainly, such a woman is not a spokesperson for me.)

I think it's valuable to have these conversations because I think it's crucial to act with awareness and respect of people around you. But I also think it's important to remember that minority groups are composed of extremely varied people and that for every person who objects to white people wearing saris, there's another member of the same group who wants to spread the wonderful news about saris to every corner of the globe, regardless of race. I think it's important to be culturally conscious of one's actions, but I don't think that means automatically catering to the Don'ts group because I think that can cause harm to other members of the same group with different opinions.

My two cents.

Ana Mardoll said...

Shorter version and then I'm off to an appointment:

I'm disabled. I use the wheelchairs at Walmart. There's a difference in my mind between someone using one (assuming there are plenty to go around) because they want to learn what it's like to be be and someone using one because they want to play Bumper Cars. (Intent can matter when it's reflected in one's behavior.)

I heartily encourage able people using a wheelchair to get around Walmart at least once so they can see what life is like for me. Other disabled people strongly disagree with this opinion. It's not enough to simply invisible me in favor of their opinion; life is more complicated than that. Alas.

Ana Mardoll said...

This post couldn't have had more typos if I'd tried.

That should have been "like to be ME" and "encourage able people TO USE a wheelchair". My words, they are salad.

JonathanPelikan said...

I know that feel all too well. Usually I'm fairly good about noticing when I frak something up, but sometimes I just have days where my hands move like mcunhand evewgy word ias completely erong.

JonathanPelikan said...

Not really related to the topic but hey, it's the nearest open thread. Holy crap! I found this randomly browsing on the Youtubes and it's music and it's amazing. I'll probably tack up a thread on AMP sometime with like 'if you listen to music while writing, what do you listen to?' I've got some hour-long album-length Youtube vids for this, for sure.

Cupcakedoll said...

In the winter I tend to wear a fleece blanket wrapped around my legs (the way you might wrap a stylish whatsitcalled over a bathing suit) over pants. I got into this habit from living in woefully underheated houses for ten years and now it's just normal winter wear for everything except work. The effect of a wrapped blanket over a jacket is sort of like a Jedi Knight's brown robe.

Sherry Hintze said...

I got exposed to men in kilts (hm, not that way, but interesting turn of phrase) in the Society for Creative Anachronism. My ex used to wear one there sometimes, and on rare occasions, in the real world. (He wore his kilt for our wedding, but that was just a quick ceremony with the Justice of the Peace on the courthouse lawn.) He was real excited when we learned about utilikilts, but we never did end up getting one.

I think the drawback to kilts is that they're kind of fussy to get on and adjusted (though not horribly so), and they certainly do draw attention. Maybe they're perceived as a bit garish for everyday wear? And, as with any skirt, there can be a problem of chafing. Mostly, though, I think they're not more common because they're different, maybe even foreign, and guys don't see a lot of examples of how to wear and accessorize them and don't want to get it wrong.

I have seen YouTube videos of Scots in Scotland wearing kilts with workboots, combat boots, and maybe even solid black sneakers. So there's one answer to the "what to wear under it" question.

In answer to the other half of your question, I've never worn a sari, so I have no idea how to wrap or wear one. I haven't decided whether I'd be comfortable in one, or whether I'd feel appropriative. I guess it depends on when, where and with whom I was likely to be wearing it.

Andrew said...

Apparently we have Ghengis Khan to thank for making pants popular. I wonder how people felt about cultural appropriation back in the 12th century...

Ursula L said...

In my experience, saris aren't too comfortable. First, you have the slip, which has to have a drawstring tied firmly around your waist, to tuck the sari into and hold everything up. I find that quite uncomfortable. And the blouse is sewn to be tightly fitted, usually with hook-and-eye closure up the back, which can be tricky to put on.

Second, there is the weight of the fabric draped over one shoulder. Depending on the sari's style, this can be quite heavy. It can also feel off-balance, to have the weight on just one side.

Third, there is the problem that if you step on the hem, you can untuck everything quite unexpectedly. It requires a level of grace and coordination, or at least practical experience, to have it work.

Now a salwar kamise is comfortable, and quite practical to wear. And if you want a more formal/dressy look in Indian women's fashions, there are lengha choli, which have a similar look to saris, but without as much of a problem of keeping everything tucked and in order.

esmerelda_ogg said...

(I'm one of the friendly lurkers - but this thread called me into speaking up.)

I think skirts are much more comfortable than pants, and yet I wear pants all the time. Why? I'm embarrassed to go around with bare legs - I'm very white and my legs are the color of half and half - but to keep my legs covered I would have to wear panty hose, which are unspeakably uncomfortable. Too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and they bind worse than pants all the time.


Silver Adept said...

Speaking from the male perspective, although, as with anything, YMMV:

1. There's definitely the social stigma possibility of wearing what looks to be a feminine garment to work or out socially. The assumption that one is, to put it Gaiman-ly, Anansi Boy, often follows, with the hostile catcalls and homophobia that goes along with. (Oddly enough. One would think the assumption would be something transphobic, but no, apparently, trans* didn't exist or register - it's assumed that one is a crossdresser, gay, and a feminine bottom, from what I've observed.)

2. For me, the lack of pockets makes some kilts unworkable. I realize there are Utilikilts, and have looked into them some as well to see if they would have the requisite functionality. (I also realize there are other things to carry that will suffice for storage.)

3. Perhaps mitigateable with tights, thermals, or other such things, but it's cold and windy up here a lot of the time, and my legs do not hold heat well, so exposing a large part of skin like that, no matter how pretty, precludes the use of such things outside in the cold season. Plus, I think I might be slightly embarrassed if a gust of wind accidentally flipped my kilt up, even if I were wearing shorts underneath.

I also occasionally have to run very fast in my profession, and while a kilt might provide for excellent movement, the previous worry about accidental exposure still applies.

That said, I always enjoy seeing other men who can make kilts work, because we need more clothing diversity for men and women.

Scott said...

I saw an old man at my local co-op wearing a utilikilt just the other day. I told him "nice kilt". Normally I'm horribly shy because of my social anxiety disorder, but I'm trying to soften the edges of the fear a little, and complimenting people when they wear clothing I like and want to see more often works as enough of a motivator to speak once in a while. (Also why I usually just lurk here. Again, trying to speak up slightly more often through the fear.)

Additionally, I'm half-Scottish from my father's side, and I'm hoping to one day afford to buy a traditional kilt in one of my clan tartan variations (Davidson clan). I'll go a little cheaty on wearing it, though. I'll put it on the hard way once, then have my grandmother sew it into that shape so I can just slip it on and off, but it'll still look right. Also, I'm a transman, so no regimental for me! I'll buy extra tartan fabric and ask my grandmother to make shorts out of some to match the kilt.
(Just for the record, my grandmother isn't just "the person I know who's good at sewing", she practically raised me, and she's an awesome woman. ...who's good at sewing and usually willing to do things like this for me.)

Emma said...

I totally get what you're saying. I actually know a lot of Pakistani people who would have no problem with me wearing, say, salwaar kameeze, so I agree that it's all subjective. I just thought it was important to make it known that some people felt that way but I know* you would never appropriate someone's culture. Hope I didn't come off as rude
I will go back to lurking now.

*Well, I don't actually know because I don't know you and it would be really creepy if I thought I knew everything about you. But from what I've read you seem like the kind of person who would never do that.

Ana Mardoll said...

Not rude at all -- I was glad you brought it up as it gave me a hook to talk about something that was already on my mind. Thank you! :-)

(I lol'd at your footnote. Heh.)

Ursula L said...

Putting my brain more firmly into its Indian-American mode, and in particular to remembering reactions and impressions at gatherings and the local Indian Community Center, when non-Indian women wore Indian-style clothing.

Saris feel very specifically Indian. And not just that, but the regional and ethnic variations in how saris are worn are meaningful. So non-Indian women wearing saris seemed a bit off-balance. Plus, it takes practice to learn the technique of walking and moving in a sari, to have the effect that makes so many non-Indian people see the sari as particularly graceful of comfortable. Very few women who didn't grow up in Indian culture could manage to get it "right."

A salwar kameeze being worn by a non-Indian didn't have the same effect. Part of it, I think, is that it isn't as specifically Indian. Salwar kameeze are worn in a variety of places in central Asia, and by both men and women. There are regional variations in salwar kameeze style, as well as cultural differences - a conservative Muslim woman will wear a looser and longer style than someone who is more secular. But there is also salwar kameeze fashion changing from year to year, season to season, and varying by location, the same as with any western clothing style. Also differences between high fashion and ordinary fashion, daily wear, professional wear and styles for formal occasions such as weddings. Styles in the US are often slower-changing than in India (because you can't easily get the latest stuff) and there is a bit more leeway in wearing something older without looking out of style.

Someone who isn't really in touch with Indian culture will often look odd - out of style, or or the wrong style for the occasion, when wearing a salwar kameeze. But it doesn't have the same feeling of getting the culture wrong as with a sari. Perhaps because how a salwar kameeze is worn is less tied to cultural familiarity than a sari. You might get the cut, color and style wrong for the occasion. But it won't fall apart as you wear it.

kbeth said...

As another Indian-American, I agree with Ursula L. I've only ever seen non-Indians wearing saris if they were married to Indians and going to some sort of formal temple ceremony with their family.

Also, Ana, while I completely agree that there are ways to wear/do things heavily associated with minority cultures that don't involve cultural appropriation, saying that you want to wear saris because you think they look comfy...well, the way that could come across to some people is, I think, similar to how you might feel if I (a completely able-bodied person) told you I'd like to use a wheelchair to get around because it looks easier and would save me walking. I imagine if I told you this, the first thing you'd do is point out all the ways in which wheelchairs are not at all easy to use, and the next thing you'd do is point out that people don't use them because they're easy, but because they have to, and how it can become a part of a person's identity even if you don't really want it to be, and so on. Obviously there's a huge difference in that saris are not *physically* necessary for anyone, but in the US they're a very visual way of being different from the people around you, as well as a symbol of many other differences, and that's where the similarities of feeling would come from.

I really don't mean here to accuse you of being insensitive, or to invisible you at all, and if my words can be taken as such then I apologize. I personally am not really offended by your desire to wear a sari, I think it's perfectly valid, and obviously you're not unaware of the potential for cultural appropriation. But I do want to point out that the example you gave in your wheelchair analogy is completely different from the sentiment you expressed in your original post -- you said you wanted to wear a sari because you think it looks comfortable, not because you want to find out what it's like to be Indian. And I think that bears pointing out, if only for the sake of discussion.

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, this is one of the reasons why I encourage people to stick to "I statements" on this board because you've basically gotten me wrong in every possible way.

Here's a story that is completely true. When I was a child, I wanted to ride in wheelchairs because I thought it looked fun and interesting. My parents perpetually refused because (a) they thought the idea of an able-bodied person using a wheelchair was disrespectful/appropriation, (b) they knew that wheelchair use was harder than in looks, and (c) my Mom thought it was terribly unlucky to think like that.

As a result, now that I *do* need to use a wheelchair, I've had to learn everything about wheelchair use from scratch, under the influence of heavy narcotics, and that's been very difficult.

Plus, you know, I posted in this thread that I think able-bodied people should use a wheelchair at least once in their life. I posted that as an example of why "All Disabled People Think X" is an impossible statement to make.

you said you wanted to wear a sari because you think it looks comfortable, not because you want to find out what it's like to be Indian.

I did. For two reasons. One, I think it would be worse for me to say I wanted to wear a sari to "find out what it's like to be Indian". I think that's a far more egregious example of cultural appropriation, because it boils down "being Indian" to clothing and remvoes all consideration of culture, skin color, prejudice, etc.

Two, it's a pretty well-known fact on this board that I am extremely physically disabled. When I say things like "comfortable", I am referring to that well-known fact obliquely. If I refer to it more directly, I have to go back up to the post and slap TRIGGER WARNINGS all over the place and I like not to do that in an Open Thread.

I'm not offended, but you have technically just blown past me saying that I think all able-bodied people should use a wheelchair once to tell me what I *really* think about able-bodied people using wheelchairs. I would appreciate it if people wouldn't do that. I've noticed that when people try to "guess" my responses and feelings in a given situation, they're usually wrong and it's a little chafing. Thanks.

Smilodon said...

I saw this on the experience of trying to navigate in a wheelchair, and it reminded me of some of the things student groups at my university tried to give people a broader perspective. I couldn't try out a wheelchair, because I lived on the 15th floor in university residence and the elevators only went to even-numbered floors (that realization alone gave me some perspective on how inacessible my campus was). But I did try wearing a hajib for a few hours when the Muslim student association was lending them out during the campus "Religous Diversity Week". No one treated me differently, but I did feel different wearing something that in Canada is a marker of belief - I'm used to being an invisible minority, not a visible one, if that makes any sense.

I would have felt uneasy if I'd tried either of those on my own, though. Having the structure of an event designed for people to learn gave me permission, so I felt like I wasn't imposing.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, I don't mean to be a narking bitch today, but...

I personally am not really offended by your desire to wear a sari, I think it's perfectly valid, and obviously you're not unaware of the potential for cultural appropriation.

...then why are you writing a comment about how my desire, as expressed, is possibly going to offend SOMEONE? If it offends them, by all means, let them speak up. But I *think* I've been incredibly clear about being low on spoons these days and calling me in here to defend myself and explain how I ACTUALLY think instead of how you feel I *really* think strikes me as a really frustrating waste of my time.

You didn't post something in general to the board on cultural appropriation. You addressed it to me, and then theorized at length about how I supposedly feel about things that affect me very personally. And I *have* to respond to that -- I'm the only ME on this board, in addition to being the only moderator on this board. And all this because you weren't offended, but hell, somebody could be. Hypothetically. Somewhere.

I'm not trying to be the Super Mega Huge Bitch that I clearly am, but this kind of "I'm not offended, Ana, but you should be more careful because someone could be" comment is something I take as a bad faith accusation and something I have neither the time nor the spoons nor the energy for.

Thread closed, because I don't have the time to moderate this discussion further. Christ, I'm almost starting to think that the Shakesville "close everything after a day or two" method *is* for the best.

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