Keziah Daum is an 18-year-old girl who recently received a lot of hate online for her dress. Many people were not happy about Keziah’s choice to wear a stunning Chinese qipao to her high school prom. Things got really bad on April 22nd when she posted a picture of herself in the dress on Twitter. People started calling her dress a form of ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘casual racism’. Others defended Keziah, saying that her dress is about people sharing their cultures and traditions, and bullying and an 18-year-old girl just because of her dress is not a form of justice.
Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” It is always a divisive subject, with elements of power, inequality and colonialism playing a part. When does appreciation of another culture’s traditions become appropriation? The line is a thin one and is heavily dependent on perspective, which is why cases like this always provoke such heated debate.
While Keziah was apparently not aware of the historical background to the dress when she bought it at a vintage store in Salt Lake City, there appears to be no disrespect on her part. “I simply found a beautiful, modest gown and chose to wear it,” she told the South China Morning Post. “I am sorry if anyone was offended. That was never my intention. I am grateful I was able to wear such a beautiful dress.”
What may have been in bad taste was, however, the photo of Keziah and her friends in a stereotypical, hands-together-bowing pose. This gesture has been used to mock Chinese people and culture over the years, and doing it, knowingly or not (they were apparently copying a pose from an H3H3 meme) may have contributed largely to perceptions of her cultural insensitivity and the negative reactions she has received.
Keziah appears to have the support of many Chinese social media users however. “Culture has no borders,” one Weibo user wrote. “There is no problem, as long as there is no malice or deliberate maligning. Chinese cultural treasures are worth spreading all over the world.”
“It is not cultural theft,” another person commented. “It is cultural appreciation and cultural respect.”
Despite receiving a massive backlash online, Keziah decided to stand up for herself by declaring that she did not disrespect Chinese culture in any shape or form. She also said that she would not delete the post or pictures. “To everyone who says I’m ignorant, I fully understand everyone’s concerns and views on my dress. I mean no harm.”
Scroll down to see how it all turned out, and comment what you think about the whole situation. Should Keziah been more sensitive and understanding about the history and cultural importance of her dress? Or was she right to believe that a beautiful dress is simply that, something beautiful for all to enjoy? Join the discussion!
More info: Twitter