The commodification of Otherness has been so successful because it is offered as a new delight, more intense, more satisfying than normal ways of doing and feeling. Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is meainstream white culture.
It reminds me of the “bike to work” movement. That is also portrayed as white, but in my city more than half of the people on bike are not white. I was once talking to a white activist who was photographing “bike commuters” and had only pictures of white people with the occasional “black professional” I asked her why she didn’t photograph the delivery people, construction workers etc. … ie. the black and Hispanic and Asian people… and she mumbled something about trying to “improve the image of biking” then admitted that she didn’t really see them as part of the “green movement” since they “probably have no choice” –
I was so mad I wanted to quit working on the project she and I were collaborating on.
So, in the same way when people in a poor neighborhood grow food in their yards … it’s just being poor– but when white people do it they are saving the earth or something.
I can’t remember if I’ve seen it (or, g-d forbid, posted about it on here) before, but I just finished watching Chris Rock’s documentary on Black hair.
I need a little while to really, really unpack my feelings on about ‘Good Hair’ but I did make a few mental notes:
- I regularly deal with microagressions directed towards my hair (e.g. stares, cat calls, “Black power” fist salutes, and—my favorite—Can I touch it? Whyyy not?), but I’m so very happy about being nappy for so many reasons that I don’t plan on going Back any time soon. Weaves, jheri curls, and extensions? I’m good with my bitty ‘fro, thank you kindly for your concern.
- As much as I liked seeing Tracie Thoms talk about her natural hair, I wish that they had talked to more people who had full-on naturals, dreads and other natural styles. Dreads and afros are fairly common (in the US, anyway)… and there’s a whole ‘natural hair’ market that Chris Rock completely missed. I mean, the majority of the super-popular Dr. Bronner’s (am I right in thinking that the creator of that line created the festival that’s highlighted in the documentary?) hair care products are intended for use by people with natural hair.
- I’d be expecting too much if I asked Chris Rock to talk to queer Black hairstylists, as there aren’t any openly queer people in the film. I mean, there are two cis-guys who, I feel, are probably queer, but I don’t see any queer women or non-gender conforming folx, really. Still, as a queer Black feminist, I have to wonder what a movie about queer Black hair would look like.
Not unlike many Black women, I have feelings about my hair that are much deeper than being cosmetic, and I’m truly surprised that there hasn’t been more anthropological/sociological research examining contemporary attitudes towards Black hair in Western cultures.
(…or maybe I’m mistaken? If so, please let me know. I’m genuinely curious.)
[Note: some of the episodes are NSFW. in at least one episode, people are nude and/or it’s customary for women to walk around with bare chests. my reaction? intense jealousy, mostly because they don’t have to deal with under-wire, boob sweat and people gawking at your tittays.]
I’m super-fascinated by this show called ‘Tribal Wives’. It’s a reality series that introduces ordinary British women to indigenous/tribal cultures by documenting their month-long stay with a host family in a rural village.
So far, it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I thought that the women would all act incredibly spoiled/selfish/stupid, but all of the women I’ve seen (well, I’ve only seen 2-3 episodes) are genuinely interested in trying to learn and understand the culture they’re placed in. You can tell that the series is a well-crafted social experiment. I felt like the show really gives some valuable insight into cultures that are completely and utterly removed from American culture, and I’m completely and utterly fascinated.
I just watched the episode about the Mentawai in Indonesia and I thought that it was really fantastic. I couldn’t help but be reminded of someone I used to know who’s studying anthropology. They’ve actually gone and lived in rural villages in Borneo (yes, in the middle of a rainforest in the middle of SE Asia) and have had to adjust to similar types of things. I’ve heard their stories about their experiences, and I really can’t help but think of them while I’m watching that episode. It’s fascinating stuff, really.
I should point out that I am not an anthropologist and I really don’t know anything about anthropology. I’m sure that this series has its own problems and that a seasoned cultural anthropologist would probably turn their nose up at this series and dismiss this as being sensationalist and inaccurate and offensive and exploitative in its portrayals of indigenous peoples. I completely understand, and I would really like to hear an expert’s opinion about this television series.
However, as a layperson, I really, truly do find it valuable to witness the inner workings of a culture that’s completely different from mine because it jolts my deeply-ingrained ethnocentrism for just a little while. I find myself watching this series for the same reasons that I ravenously consume travel memoirs and issues of NatGeo: sometimes I’m so overwhelmed/tired of Western/American pop culture that I find myself clamoring to learn about (and immerse myself in) a culture different than my own.
Are these escapist tendencies? Yes, definitely.
Would this be considered ‘cultural appropriation’, no matter how hard I try to be respectful of others and honest with myself? Probably. (Do I get a cookie for those last two things, though?)
Do I still like this series after asking myself these questions? Yes. Yes, I do.
…will I be looking out for future episodes of Tribal Wives on Netflix and wherever I can stream BBC? You betcha.
- They have a great vegan selection (which made my roomie happy)
- Their fries are delish.
- They have a jukebox.
- They played Radiohead on that particular jukebox.
- They have delicious, pretty, huge cupcakes.
- Their menu is phenomenal (The sandwich I got was just okay, but what everyone else had looked awesome).
- They have Arnold Palmer (lemonade + iced tea + free refills = YES).
- Their decor is kitschy/funky/campy and it’s awe-inspiring.
- They’re open from 6:30am-4am.
Swingers, you just got advertising from yours truly. You should give me an effing discount.
Alvin Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the cultural heritage of the African-American - ”sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that heritage and to Ailey’s genius. Using African-American traditional spirituals, this suite fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.