It was supposed to be a fun night for Keziah Daum—and maybe that was still the case—but it soon turned into Outrage Theater. Daum, a student at Woods Cross High School in Utah, became the target of the progressive social media mob when she wore a qipao, a dress whose roots are grounded in China, which set off the snowflake brigade. Daum found herself being accused of cultural appropriation. Yeah, we’re back to this crowd again. She was looking for something unique to wear, she wasn’t mocking Chinese culture, and to her credit, she would do it again knowing the consequences of her fashion choice.
Jeremy Lam was the person who appears to have set off the firestorm.
“I'm proud of my culture, including the extreme barriers marginalized people within that culture have had to overcome those obstacles. For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience, is parallel to colonial ideology,” he explained in a Twitter thread.
My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress. https://t.co/vhkNOPevKD— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 27, 2018
Unrelated Fun Fact (a thread):— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
The qipao was originally a loose dress/garment without shape, made for Chinese women to clean the house and do other domestic chores with.
It was then altered and embroidered as a beautiful form-fitting outfit to wear publically, which Chinese women were not allowed to do at during the times of extreme patriarchal oppression.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
In a time where Asian women were silenced they were able to create, not only a piece of art but a symbol of activism. This piece of clothing embraced femininity, confidence, and gender equality through its beautiful, eye-catching appearance.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
It even broke the division of financial classes! It could be made with high-quality materials that only the upper class could afford such as special silks and linens, but a dress just as beautiful could have been made with just cotton and low-quality linen.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
Femme factory workers wore this dress!!! And the style was then spread throughout Asian as a beautiful garment and sign of women's liberation.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
In short:— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 28, 2018
I'm proud of my culture, including the extreme barriers marginalized people within that culture have had to overcome those obstacles. For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience, is parallel to colonial ideology.
He then gave himself a pat on the back for starting this discussion on race:
1. I’ve been incredibly blessed for the opportunity to have sparked such an interesting and polarizing conversation on race relations in the status quo.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 29, 2018
2. I apologize if any of the interactions you’ve had on here have been negative and insensitive. I apologize if I have hurt you’re feelings. I will not apologize, however, for voicing my concerns and beliefs. I owe it to myself, family and friends to express my opinions.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 29, 2018
3. In this period of time, I have experienced the most blatant and outward forms of racial backlash in my life. That if I hate America, and its values of being a mixing pot of culture, that I should just leave. This is not specific to me or my experience either, it’s common.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 29, 2018
4. Having an immigrant background, I can say Im blessed to live in the US. But this doesn’t mean that it’s without its issues. If those who try to make the US better thru a critical lense are told to just go back to their countries, how do we progress as an inclusive society?— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 29, 2018
5. I realize that what was conveyed could’ve been interpreted as speaking for others, and I’m sorry if I made you feel that way. When I say “My culture” that is exactly what I mean. My racial experience isn’t definitive of other experiences. But I’m tired of hiding mine.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 29, 2018
6. Whether or not people agree with me I will stand for what I believe, because I feel in my heart that it’s right. I won’t be boxed in with the confines of the model minority stereotype. If I feel disrespected, I will tell you. I will stay angry, I will stay resilient.— Jeremy Lam (@jere_bare) April 29, 2018
Yeah, here’s the thing. This whole argument about cultural appropriation is crap. It’s just a way for the most left wing of left-wingers to keep themselves trapped in a glass case of emotion. As a Korean-American, I’m a member of the larger Asian community and I couldn’t care less what Daum wore at prom. I do hope she had a great time besides the total losers who try to find white, neo-colonialism in every aspect of life. You weren’t there. You don’t know this girl. What the hell is this? David French had more on this insanity:
If you’re a normal human being, like the majority of Americans who saw their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds fill up with prom pictures last weekend, you thought that was a pretty girl in a pretty dress. Nothing more.
But if you’re a toxic social-justice warrior, you saw something else. You saw oppression. You saw exploitation. You saw bigotry. You saw — gasp — “cultural appropriation.” The dress, you see, had obvious Asian influences, and Daum isn’t Asian:
Daum, to her immense credit, has weathered the shamestorm without backing down. She says simply that she bought the dress because she thought it was “beautiful” and she “admired the beauty of the culture.”
So, that’s the story. Here’s why it matters: It’s indicative of how the people who care the most about identity and oppression are seized by rage and unreason. And because cultures are shaped and defined by those who care the most, Daum’s story is not just a Twitter story; it’s increasingly the American story.
Let’s take the concept of “cultural appropriation.” It’s absurd down to its very definition. Susan Scafidi, author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, defines it like this:
Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.
In a multi-ethnic, multi-racial culture like America’s, the potential for offense is unlimited.
(Moreover, who, exactly, is empowered to grant “permission” to wear clothing, cook food, or use language? Is there a central registry?
We pride ourselves in being a melting pot of culture. Anyone can be an American. Anyone can become an American. It’s a rich blend of cultures, whereas Asians are mostly homogenous societies. That’s not to say anything is wrong with that; it’s just how they are. But our nation’s strength is grounded in the diversity of our people. I agree with French; we need permission to eat at a Mexican restaurant? Do I need to send a request to the Italian embassy to eat at Filomena in Georgetown?
A designer friend made this #qipao for me.— Melissa Chen (@MsMelChen) April 30, 2018
He appropriated silk from Thailand, crystals from Austria & made an asymmetrical mesh cutout for the neckline, inspired by Italian designers.
Art emerges when you appropriate ideas from different cultures. #CulturalAppropriation pic.twitter.com/jsWMb3jvQB
Someone should've advised me that appropriating the hairstyle of a male Korean J-pop singer wasn't a good idea though.— Melissa Chen (@MsMelChen) April 30, 2018
Well you live and you learn. Haha.
[Warning: some strong language]
Here was my thoughts on the whole Jeremy Lam situation. The kid is straight up racist as well and needs to step off his damn high horse. You can preach about racism and culture when you're the Fkn racist lmao pic.twitter.com/o5HjOnwoWZ— Esaaaaaaaa (@EsaFung) April 30, 2018
The rules are so loose and subjective that any wackjob on the Left to throw a tantrum and blabber pseudo-intellectual drivel about oppression and cultural insensitivity. It was a prom dress. She wasn’t in yellow face. She wasn’t mocking Asian culture. This blow up was absolutely absurd and the fact that some, not all, in this country take cultural appropriation as a serious concept makes me weep for the future. Take a chill pill and grow up. That’s all. It was a high school prom. Everyone get it the hell together.
Yes, there are times where one's culture is mocked through a vicious and racist lens. Yes, that happens. It didn't happen here.