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Dec 13 2005

Fuck Culture

Kissmeimirish
Proceeds from Kiss Me I’m Irish wristbands go to The Awareness Survivor Fund

Culture. Culture culture culture. I am sick and tired of culture. I am sick and tired of the chumpass motherfuckers who are trying to preserve culture because they think it’s sacred or something and they worship it. Culture’s not sacred. It’s guk growing in a petrie dish. A set of behaviors upon the successful assimilation of which a given individual is ruthlessly judged by her prejudiced and parochial peers.

Why would anybody want to get involved with that? Keep your culture offa me, freak!

Check out this dipshit assistant minister of culture and heritage from Fiji, who has been bitten by the popular culture-worship bug, and who recently announced to her constituents that “human, women’s, children’s, and individual rights are eroding the indigenous national identity.” She wants women to “accept only what is in accordance with traditional culture and values, with particular stress on hairstyles and dress codes.”

As you know, I am the world’s foremost authority on the status of women in Fiji, so you can believe me when I say that if chumps in their own government are advocating pickling women in the good old pre-feminist brine so that they’ll conform to some kind of quaint “national identity” dictated by crowd-pleasin’ hair-dos, it can’t be good. In fact, it looks to me like they’re wanting to put the kibosh on women’s rights because they fuck with Fiji’s brand.

Culture, despite the hallucinations of those who yearn for a simpler, gentler time, isn’t static and cannot be sustained unchanged. People like Fiji’s assistant minister for culture and heritage who wish to mummify it for its own sake, presumably against the ravages of feminism or the homo agenda or the swarthy Muslims or global homogeneity, are suffering from nostalgia and delusion and xenophobia. We should look the other way when those quaint Saudi dudes stone their women to death. It’s their culture!

It’s tough toenails, but the day is almost upon us when culture will no longer be practiced by isolated pockets of diverse and colorful indigenous natives. I’d say good riddance, too, since culture is just another word for patriarchy. Sadly, what we’re getting instead is no great improvement over the quaint crap it replaces. Today’s culture is an homogeneous, pulsating gray fungus oozing out of TVs and internet porn sites and McDonaldses and Wal-Marts. It reeks of polyester and grease. And male honky domination. If it’s eaten away all the naive and picturesque social constructs that everyone loves to imagine are alive and well in other, less complicated parts of the world like Fiji, well, that’s too bad, but odds are those dear old traditions were oppressin’ somebody. So fuck’em.

Here are some other examples of culture-worship that really chap my hide.

– Christmas culture! Ay yi yi! It abominates! Red and green! The merriness mandate! Incessant sleigh bells echoing through the streets! Awful representations of quaint Victorian English ice skaters! That crummy grandma/reindeer song!

– And what’s with these honkys who adopt trendy Chinese babies and suddenly they have to be all about the kid’s “cultural heritage”? Whence cometh the bizarre and frankly racist notion that a Chinese baby is genetically hardwired to appreciate — nay, to require — exposure to a necessarily arbitrary and incomplete set of non-Western customs? Will it develop crippling personality disorders if it is not given enough moo goo gai pan?

– Or what about when you’re in a bar and you hear some dumb white American dude declaim in a Chicago accent, by way of revealing something deeply significant about himself, “well, you know, I’m one-sixteenth Cherokee.” What the fuck difference does that make? You’re still an asshole! Or, “well, you know I’m Irish.” Hello, dumb American dude! You’re not Irish! The closest you’ve ever gotten to Ireland is a box of Lucky Charms! And big whoop about Ireland anyway! You can get a Guinness in South Austin! The erstwhile geographical location of your remote ancestors is not a measure of your character!

64 comments

39 pings

  1. Tapetum

    May I submit Valentine’s Day? Red, pink, and lace coming out of our ears. Mandatory chocolates that my hips definitely don’t need. Traumatized kids at school because nobody gave them Valentines. Couplehood is already the sacred cow of the patriarchy, we don’t need to be rubbing it in everyone’s face.

  2. Anonymous

    I can’t disagree with a single thing you’re saying, except to say that some cultural stuff is fun, so I wouldn’t necessarily advocate the elimination of all of it, but would say that I’m basically cautious in its presence.

    I would add that I get disturbed by the concept of a shared cultural experience. Some friends, for example, had recently ganged up on me (and I think you know where) to suggest that EVERYONE had the same basic response to the Beatles in 1964.

    Not true, I said, but they were unrelenting. Seems that once you believe in a mass shared cultural experience, you can’t be talked out of it.

  3. Anonymous

    whoops forgot to sign my comment… shared cultural experience mini rant by finn.

  4. Twisty

    Finn, were you even born by 1964?

  5. wordgirl

    I remember the Beatles. Yes, Finn, everyone WAS really that excited. I’m just saying.

  6. Anonymous

    There was an article in the NY Times magazine a few months ago about the “discovering one’s Native American roots” movement, and how people contact professional genealogists to say “Find me a Native American ancestor.” Odd.

  7. Anonymous

    No, I wasn’t born in 1964, but I have rural living parents that were. To them, the Beatles were a cultural event to react to but not necessarily participate in.

    I would guess it’s not all that dissimilar to the Prom. Everyone knows about it, but not everyone has the same experience. In retrospect, some folks romanticize it better than it was while others demonize it worse than it was. History has a tendency to dramatize things due to its requirement for summary.

    -finn

  8. Jodie

    Wordgirl, there were plenty of people in my part of the country who idolized Elvis, and the Beatles simply didn’t cut it with them. Even in ’64. :)

  9. Sylvanite

    Heh. I remember my pasty, red-haired grandmother tried to insist we had some Native American blood in our background. I didn’t buy it. She got sorta pissed off at me, but couldn’t exactly produce any documentation. I guess having some Native American blood is supposed to validate European occupation of the New World or some such. Oh, well.

  10. Penny

    Day-um, Twisty, that’s some mighty fine ranting. I sweep off my hat and bow in your general direction.

  11. Anonymous

    >I remember the Beatles. Yes, Finn, everyone WAS really that excited. I’m just saying.<

    Everyone you knew.

    What about the people you didn’t know?

    A frat boy will tell you that ALL girls want the same things…

    -finn

  12. Dim Undercellar

    Comments
    May I submit Valentine’s Day? Red, pink, and lace coming out of our ears. Mandatory chocolates that my hips definitely don’t need. Traumatized kids at school because nobody gave them Valentines. Couplehood is already the sacred cow of the patriarchy, we don’t need to be rubbing it in everyone’s face.

    Posted by: Tapetum | December 13, 2005 at 07:50 AM

    I can’t disagree with a single thing you’re saying, except to say that some cultural stuff is fun, so I wouldn’t necessarily advocate the elimination of all of it, but would say that I’m basically cautious in its presence.

    I would add that I get disturbed by the concept of a shared cultural experience. Some friends, for example, had recently ganged up on me (and I think you know where) to suggest that EVERYONE had the same basic response to the Beatles in 1964.

    Not true, I said, but they were unrelenting. Seems that once you believe in a mass shared cultural experience, you can’t be talked out of it.

    Posted by: | December 13, 2005 at 08:05 AM

    whoops forgot to sign my comment… shared cultural experience mini rant by finn.

    Posted by: | December 13, 2005 at 08:06 AM

    Finn, were you even born by 1964?

    Posted by: Twisty | December 13, 2005 at 08:12 AM

    I remember the Beatles. Yes, Finn, everyone WAS really that excited. I’m just saying.

    Posted by: wordgirl | December 13, 2005 at 08:16 AM

    There was an article in the NY Times magazine a few months ago about the “discovering one’s Native American roots” movement, and how people contact professional genealogists to say “Find me a Native American ancestor.” Odd.

    Posted by: | December 13, 2005 at 08:29 AM

    No, I wasn’t born in 1964, but I have rural living parents that were. To them, the Beatles were a cultural event to react to but not necessarily participate in.

    I would guess it’s not all that dissimilar to the Prom. Everyone knows about it, but not everyone has the same experience. In retrospect, some folks romanticize it better than it was while others demonize it worse than it was. History has a tendency to dramatize things due to its requirement for summary.

    -finn

    Posted by: | December 13, 2005 at 09:07 AM

    Wordgirl, there were plenty of people in my part of the country who idolized Elvis, and the Beatles simply didn’t cut it with them. Even in ’64. :)

    Posted by: Jodie | December 13, 2005 at 09:25 AM

    Heh. I remember my pasty, red-haired grandmother tried to insist we had some Native American blood in our background. I didn’t buy it. She got sorta pissed off at me, but couldn’t exactly produce any documentation. I guess having some Native American blood is supposed to validate European occupation of the New World or some such. Oh, well.

    Posted by: Sylvanite | December 13, 2005 at 09:26 AM

    Day-um, Twisty, that’s some mighty fine ranting. I sweep off my hat and bow in your general direction.

    Posted by: Penny | December 13, 2005 at 09:34 AM

    >I remember the Beatles. Yes, Finn, everyone WAS really that excited. I’m just saying.

  13. Dim Undercellar

    ACK!!

    That is so NOT what I did! I swear! Gremlins infested my work computer!

    *mortified*

  14. Sylvanite

    Wow, what did you do, Dim Undercellar? Dang!

  15. taco

    It’s not you, Dim. It’s gotta be something I messed up with the comments template.
    Twisty

  16. Hogan

    I’m happy to add the Survivor Awareness Fund to my list, but they can keep the “Fuck Me–I’m Irish!” wristband. I’m just a USian who talks and drinks too much.

    I would like to know what was up with all those Cherokee women four generations ago. Short-lived white fetish? (Once you’ve had white, you’ll totally go back.)

  17. Charles

    As a honky parent of two adopted children (not from China), I feel I should defend my urge to introduce my kids to things that one might find in the country of their birth. After all, my children bear absolutely no physical resemblance to their parents (a VERY good thing for them, given all the benefits of actually having pigment), so they will always be aware of having come from somewhere else. Curiosity being what it is, they will have questions about that somewhere else and so we want to be able to answer those questions in a positive way. Assuming the children are hardwired to understand the customs in the country of their birth is racist. (My sister, who also is an adoptive parent, once had an ignoramus ask her what language her 8 month old understands, and the idiot was very confused when she replied “Hungarian”.) But, for most people there is no racism at all in wanting to acquaint their children with the country whence they came.

  18. Dim Undercellar

    Telling people I have just the smallest traceable smidge of Choctaw in my bloodline on my dad’s side, or that my Domestic Partner has a rather prominent showing of Oneida in her family tree, just gets us blank stares.

    No, dipwads, they’re NOT “like Cherokee”.

  19. Pinko Punko

    T.F. I am glad all that special something something did not dull your wit. Nice new digs, when does it get filled with Ikea crap?

  20. robin

    Please say you’ll bring the odd lady with the tall hair to your new site!
    She is simply too odd and too cool to be left behind.

    missing the oddly quizzical lady with the tall hair,

    Robin

  21. Hattie

    Yes, love that lady! But I believe she is there, tho yet small.

  22. Twisty

    The odd lady will be back, never fear. So far I’ve got just the rudimentaries, but the terrific new enhancement techniques I have in mind will be unstoppable! Which is incredible considering I can’t write no code.

  23. Pinko Punko

    Seriously, I’ve never met a tag I didn’t accedently leave open. Tags are like the toilet seat with me.

    [Up and covered with piss??/- Geenie C.]

    Self-nailed. I suck.

  24. Pinko Punko

    Or spell words wrong in odd ways. Stupid typing.

  25. metamanda

    I’m reposting my comment from the old site, since I’m conceited enough to want it preserved for posterity. :)

    culture sacred, no… but, the threat to southeast asian cultures is not from internal feminists, but from a tourism-based neo-colonialism. Most of my family is Thai and the net effect of western culture on women there is… not great. There is, I think, more economic opportunity for upper-middle class women, but there’s also a lot more sex-trade and a lot more AIDS. To take pacifica’s example, maybe homosexuality *is* part of polynesian culture, but what about the part where australians come visit and buy sex with the locals?

    I’m not saying traditional culture is fabulous and should be preserve unchanged, but for many SE Asians the alternative isn’t appealing, and for really good reasons.

    I had a friend who was refreshingly honest about his trace native american background. He’d say “well, it pretty much means someone got raped.”

  26. Ms Kate

    Posted by: wordgirl | December 13, 2005 at 08:16 AM

    There was an article in the NY Times magazine a few months ago about the “discovering one’s Native American roots” movement, and how people contact professional genealogists to say “Find me a Native American ancestor.” Odd.

    Funny, some seek out Native American ancestors, others of us have them thrust upon them. Those of us with more than a smidgeon (as Dim put it) of Native American or other ancestry of color often are suprised one day, then astounded by how hard culture worked to supress and obscure those then-shamful or disadvantageous lineages.

    I had the most confusing time of my life trying to sort these things out, personally. None of it made sense until I read Guns, Germs, and Steel, yet it all made sense when I looked in the mirror and finally understood why I didn’t look like all the scandanavian/anglo kids I grew up with. Seems my mother’s family had supressed a whole lot of stuff – like substantial Cherokee ancestry, like the people in the photos with the obviously straightened hair and wide lips and noses who migrated to all-white Oregon from Tennessee at the end of Reconstruction (melungeons) … that and an Mayflower ancestor too (another culture to which my white trash ass has no ties). My own blood on my own hands! Nobody used to celebrate this stuff, the elders just called the swarthy ones like myself “black irish” or “black scots” and warned us not to let our hair get too nappy …

    No, finding some genes ain’t horseshit to culture. It may explain why my grandmother feared taking her babies to the doctor and it may explain why my teeth are curved or my eyes a peculiar shade of slate blue, or my bone density is so goddamn high or why my half-Albanian son’s facial features are so very off-white, but we are what we are raised and what we have sought out and a couple of chromosomes doesn’t change that.

  27. Christopher

    I agree with Charles about teaching adopted children about customs that are foreign to you.

    But I want to take it farther: We live in a race-concious society, that tends to consider non-WASPs as “the other”. A common response to this has been for the other to say “Yes, I’m not a WASP, and I’m proud of it!”. You see this embrace of the status of other play out in all kinds of different subcultures, from nerds to black people and even, to some extent, feminists.

    I suspect that if you look “non-white” you are inevitably going to be considered to be foreign and othery no matter how you act.

    And since you’ll be lumped in with another group, you’ll tend to turn towards other members of that group for support.

    And if you’re doing that, it’s going to be useful to have some kind of idea of what those others are like, including the culture and shared experiences.

    I think feminism is a direct correlation; You teach girls about feminism from an early age not because of some innate characteristic women have, but because the outside society is bound to screw with them in largely the same ways.

    And when society does fuck with you because you’re a woman, you’ll have an easier time interacting with feminist support groups if you understand that, say, feminism isn’t the same as man-hating.

  28. Christopher

    Oh, and there are three seperate parts of any culture; the good parts, the stupid parts, and the indifferent parts.

    Indifferant parts being things like how you wear your hair, and what language you speak.

    It’s amazing to me that people don’t understand that you don’t have to throw all of your culture out because some is thrown out.

    Just because you can’t be sexist anymore doesn’t mean you have to stop speaking fijian or cooking traditional fijian meals.

    Hell, in some ways you might make it worse for traditionalists if you conflate all culture like that. If Fijian=sexist, then you make women not want to be Fijian. Delicious soup recipes and quiant holidays just aren’t worth taking a bunch of shit from patriarchal assholes.

  29. holymotherfucker

    what you say has a certain appeal – however, culture also contains unwritten rules and standards of behavior that are not (and usually should not be) legislated. while i agree that culture is used to excuse or explain all sorts of preposterous and often repulsive behavior, i can also understand, and sometimes agree, with people who argue for some sort of ‘cultural’ standards of conduct.

    i take as my example bestiality. there are many positions on this topic (pun intended). one might argue that dog-fucking is a heinous abomination, and all practitioners should be burned with their dogs. someone else might argue that dog-fucking is jolly good, and everyone should try – it at least once.

    these are abstract and silly positions. do you, and i mean you personally, not you in the abstract, want you child fucking a dog? how about allowing them to watch someone else do it (legally, and with culture’s approval) on a street corner? in the school yard? in the classroom? what if someone fucks your dog? does it matter if the dog likes it? should you be able to stop them? or are you violating the dog’s rights?

    something to ponder. and while stonings, whale-hunting, wife-beating, and genitial mutilation are all ‘culural’ elements that should be allowed to die – what about the ones that do make sense? must everything legal also be branded good? the sword cuts both ways when slicing out cultural/subjective values, and either way, the arch-conservative-dog-fuckers are in trouble:)

  30. Christopher

    “I guess having some Native American blood is supposed to validate European occupation of the New World or some such.”

    I think it’s supposed to validate your personal occupation of lands that were, in all likelyhood, stolen. It’s an attempt to give you validation as an actual member of your home country, and not a foreign invader.

    Me, my race is “white American”. We don’t know where the Hazell’s came from before America. Benjamin Hazell might have sprung fully formed from the earth for all we know. Other familial lines also get lost and tangled before arrival in America, but lead mostly back to Brittain and France.

  31. Christopher

    One more culture thing.

    Have you ever noticed how much conservative pundits hate France’s culture preserving laws, even as they say we need more of those laws here in the USA?

  32. Ms Kate

    Hogan Says:
    I would like to know what was up with all those Cherokee women four generations ago. Short-lived white fetish? (Once you’ve had white, you’ll totally go back.)

    I didn’t get it either, until I read Guns, Germs, and Steel. It goes like this: intermarriage and supression of the native heritage are part and parcel of invasion and occupation. Women find that they have the “option” to improve their status in occupied lands by marrying the invaders. They and, most notably, their children become “white” in the process. Historically, if we are to believe Jared Diamond, conquest proceeds much more completely through sex than violence.

    This is pretty much what happened to my ancestors. Why is everybody Cherokee? Because the Cherokee Nation was a VERY large tribe and because they were occupying lands adjacent to whites for some time and before they were forcibly relocated.

    People passed into whiteness through any number of mechanisms. Some moved or “passed”. Part of my mother’s family bailed out of the south when they understood what they would lose if they stayed – there was simply no way in hell they were going to pass that one drop test and they knew it, yet they were white enough to make a new life in a place where few people knew what they were looking at.

    In this way, race in the US is far less a matter of actual genetic heritage than it is of culture. The distinctions are largely artificial, and defined only by identification at the extremes. The reality is far more interesting and confusing and common.

  33. NancyMc

    Another superbly written rant. You are the reigning genius of the medium IMO.

    And I TOTALLY agree with you. There IS nothing sacred about culture, I’ve been saying that for a couple of years, and I am gratified that someone else is saying it – and saying it in your inimitable Twisty rant style that fucking tears the cover off. You have my absolute admiration.

  34. Ron Sullivan

    When it happens to men, it’s politics. When it happens to women, it’s culture. Women get to be the repositories (must be that “vessel” thing) of culture the same way we get to be the repositories of virtue. Human Tupperware, that’s women. Back of the bus, back of the fridge, what’s the difference?

    Years ago, I asked my mother if she’d ever considered a trip to Ireland. “Ronnie,” she tsk’ed to me, eyed rolling and nose wrinkled, “It’s full of Irishmen!”

  35. Becker

    Well then you might want to wait a week or two before digging into the book I sent ya!

    I’m glad I’m not the only person with umbrage at the “I’m 1/64 Full Blood CHEROKEE!” gambit. It’s like an excuse for not being all you can be, or a pin-on victim badge. Then again, I did pencil in HILLBILLY on the last census as my ethnic heritage, and I’ll damn well do it again in another five years.

  36. TimT

    I love it. It’s like an American version of Thatcher’s famous words – ‘There is no such thing as culture’!

    Last year I did some volunteer work for a Newcastle organisation – mostly involving me writing for a monthly publication. I remember I started talking with a friend there about government money for the arts.
    “Look,” I said, “In the end, what’s more important – that artists get a couple of thousand dollars a year from the government, or that that government goes into public hospitals and schools, and saves lives?”
    She couldn’t give me an answer to that – what she did say was something to the effect of, ‘well, you can’t talk. You’re writing for this ‘zine, aren’t you?’

    It struck me later that this was an example of the Australian ‘arts community’ in action – if you know about the arts, if you like the arts, and are active within the arts community, then you are in the best position to offer valid criticism of it. But because of the pervasive nature of arts funding in Australia, if you DO criticise the system, you’re likely to be attacked yourself.

    Look, I do realise that my friend made a good point there – the irony of me saying this does not go unrecognised – but it doesn’t change the fact that she wasn’t able to come up with an actual counterargument.

  37. TimT

    Correction:

    “Look,” I said, “In the end, what’s more important – that artists get a couple of thousand dollars a year from the government, or that that government goes into public hospitals and schools, and saves lives?”

    This should read

    “Look,” I said, “In the end, what’s more important – that artists get a couple of thousand dollars a year from the government, or that that government money goes into public hospitals and schools, and saves lives?”

  38. Twisty

    What irks me about culture generally is the associated mandate of conformity. Deviation is always punished. I suppose it is possible that some cultural taboos may benefit me (although I can’t really think of any at the moment; it is 6 in the morning), but the way I see it culture is just a way to preserve patriarchy, which means that even if I am benefitting in some way, somebody else is most certainly getting the shaft. As the world’s foremost authority, I postulate some sort of direct relationship between the degree of honky benefit and the degree of “othery” (as someone put it) oppression.

  39. Dim Undercellar

    Ms. Kate:
    “Historically, if we are to believe Jared Diamond, conquest proceeds much more completely through sex than violence.”

    I would personally simply call that violence of a sexual nature, maybe genetic violence. Sex is the act, sure, but violence is the intention behind an act.

    I do believe that history is accurate though, primarily because the British did it to the Irish, which is one big reason why Northern Ireland still has all the problems it has. Of course half the people want to stay with Britan and are Protestants – half the people had British protestant grandfathers perpetrating genetic violence and sexual exploitation of native Irish women!

    “But we are what we are raised and what we have sought out and a couple of chromosomes doesn’t change that. ”

    I could not agree more. Our culture is the culture we’ve internalized through the process of growing and developing; any other culture simply won’t stick without spending a similar amount of time intensively immersed in it.

    Unfortunately, our culture right now is a rape culture.

  40. Ms Kate

    I think that blanket descriptions of sexual relationships between natives and invaders as “rape” OR as “intermarriage” are both vast oversimplifications of a complex and repeating historic phenomenon.

    I don’t think of it as rape or violence in the sense that native women often married white “settlers” (even though my white ancestors were far from settled) of their own free will, but I do think of it as cultural violence in that they would be swayed by certain advantages in such unions, and knew their kids would also be priveleged by their ancestry. I guess it gets to motivation and definition of “free will”. They could have married natives, but knew opportunity when it came calling.

    But that is only one way this happens. Many of these unions took place at the fringe of frontier and society and were hardly endorsed by white society. Essentially, whites intermarried with local populations because there were few other options available. With the Melungeons, the racial intermarriage was far more the result of isolation more than conquest.

    I might also point out that the marriages of trappers and natives described in Lewis and Clark’s travels were much different – much more a case of vastly outnumbered and often culturally tuned-in mountain men “going native” and marrying into the tribes with whom they traded. The conquest and priveleges came with the homesteaders and the overarching cultural baggage.

    So, for native peoples innundated with invaders, there is a mixture of opportunity and coercion in “going white”. But for others, upward mobility and whiteness took a back seat to locally-determined issues, at least in the early going.

  41. Dim Undercellar

    Point well taken.

  42. Sharoni

    Having ancestors myself, of the native american, invading spanish, migrating scottish, fleeing english and who knows what other varieties (or as my mother would put it, Heinz 57), I would like to say that I do not espouse any one culture, I’m just happy to be here. The only culture I taught my daughter was how to cope with a misogynistic world and still stay sane, which I am happy to say she seems to be doing well. All we can do in this life is survive and try to live well (after all the best revenge), but it’s nice to find a place to rail against the patriarchy nonetheless. I hope you’re feeling better TF, and I like your new home spot.

  43. Amber

    The effort by adoptive parents to help their internationally and/or transracially adopted children maintain ties to their birth culture is largely in response to adult adoptees’ experiences. Because they had no say in the matter as small children, many adult adoptees have been very vocal about the hurt and pain that they experienced when they were removed from their culture of origin and told to “just be American”. Adoptive parents are trying to learn from the mistakes of those who came before us.

    Focusing on our child’s birth culture is just one way we attempt to honor her and her birth family. We value the place and the people she came from. Sure, our child will be American, but she will also be Chinese American and she has every right to claim both parts of her heritage and both cultures. Until she is old enough to decide for herself which parts she will choose, we will do our best to expose her to as many facets of Chinese culture good and bad.

  44. NancyMc

    Focusing on our child’s birth culture is just one way we attempt to honor her and her birth family. We value the place and the people she came from.

    My boyfriend came to the US from Korea when he was five – with his biological parents, not through adoption – and he wants nothing to do with Korea and he really resents it if anybody tries to talk to him about his “Korean heritage.”

  45. Hogan

    Ms. Kate: That was a better answer than I expected, or indeed deserved.

    I think Vine DeLoria Jr. once wrote about the specificity of the “Cherokee grandmother” claim (which is too recent to explain through proximity to whites before forced removal–that was about six generations ago). It seems more like a combination of the sense that the Cherokee were “good Indians” (not, or not always, in the “dead” sense), and the notion that a marriage between members of dominant and subordinate races can be minimally acceptable only if the groom is from the dominant race (it’s never a Cherokee grandfather). Which is consistent with the GG&S argument.

    holymotherfucker: “stonings, whale-hunting, wife-beating, and genitial mutilation” should NOT be allowed to die. They should be killed. The chances of their staying dead go up significantly if they’re killed by people from the area where they’re practiced.

  46. Aaron

    I think it was in Fiji (or perhaps some other Pacific island nation) where shortly after the introduction of American TV via satelitte dish, there was an upsurge in eating disorders amongst girls there, where it had previously not been much (or any) of a problem. So, perhaps before their government goes blaming feminism or human rights, they should look to US corporate monoculture.

  47. Susan/HoldingPattern

    Twisty, I love you. Was reading you back in the days where you had one comment per post.

    But I resemble that Chinese adoption remark. In the grand tradition of international adoption, it used to be that many a white family would raise their ethnically-other adopted child without ever even acknowledging the obvious… the child is NOT WHITE, NOT WESTERN, NOT of the PATRIARCHY. And when these adoptees grew up, they explained that the silence around their obvious differences made them think there was something shameful about being of a different race.

    Taking the Chinese adopted kids out for Chinese food is one (small) way to help the kid understand that being Chinese is not something to be ashamed of, before the patriarchy gets to them and really F&*#s with their heads.

  48. Jodie

    I’m 1/64th Cherokee. When I was a kid, I went to school near tribal land areas, and any of us kids who were any tiny bit of Indian ancestry were encouraged to put “Indian” every time we had to put a race…because the schools got extra money. I am a card-carrying member of the Cherokee nation AND I have a card from the Feds that says I am Native American. I take the Cherokee newspaper, vote in the tribal elections, and have been to a few powwows.

    And my ancestral intermarriage occurred between a Cherokee gentleman and an Irish lady.

  49. NancyMc

    it used to be that many a white family would raise their ethnically-other adopted child without ever even acknowledging the obvious… the child is NOT WHITE, NOT WESTERN, NOT of the PATRIARCHY.

    NOT of the PATRIARCHY? Where did the child grow up, Paradise Island with Wonder Woman?

    You can’t seriously be suggesting that Asian cultures are not steeped in 100 proof Patriarchy.

  50. cat

    i am 1/4 yaqui through grandfather and grandmother heritage, and am unable to claim “authenticity” due to bullshit signup requirements during reagan era. i am also latina and i think a lot of intermixing in the southwest between native americans/mexican americans has caused confusion for many people in my situation’s ancestry. especially since brown people aren’t exactly running to the government to put our names on lists when they tell us we should do so.

  51. Twisty

    I think what Susan/Holding Pattern means–and she will certainly correct me if I’m wrong–is that the non-white kid is not favored by the patriarchy, i.e. the dominant culture, and therefore might benefit from extra ego-boostings.

    For the record, I’m not against taking kids of any race, color, or creed out for Chinese.

  52. Shae

    I second the statements by Amber & Susan/Holding Pattern. Having grown up mixed-race (Japanese), it was impossible to find anyone who looked like my father (and me, to a lesser extent) who wasn’t typecast as the math nerd/English-impaired martial arts master. So yeah, I started learning my grandma’s recipes, reading manga, and watching Kurosawa and Ozu films. Regardless of how incomplete a kid’s exposure to non-Western customs might be (and let’s face it, there are aspects of Japanese culture that I certainly would not consider appropriating) it’s important to show them that there are places where people who look like them can be Grissom or Brass, and not just Anonymous Lab Tech Guy. And it doesn’t hurt to remind them, either, that there are places in the world besides ConsuMerica. White kids could benefit from that lesson too.

  53. Ms Kate

    Particularly when the reason so many Chinese girls end up here is that Chinese society vastly favors xy chromosome offspring over xx.

    The girls selected for US importation about ten years ago are starting to grapple with their having been “thrown away”, at least if my son’s reports of his converstations with classmates are any indication.

  54. Magdelena FG

    I’m totally with you except for the reindeer song, which is a sacred part of the holiday traditions my son and I have practiced since he was a wee grasshopper. We believe it should be sung acapella, off-key, and loudly throughout the season. We also like Merry Fucking Christmas and Blame Canada, which is not exactly a Christmas song but humor us. Every year we show the sacred movie Christmas Vacation and we faithfully bring out our one foot-high predecorated tree, although we gave up fluffing it years ago and now we just let it sit on the stereo speakers all lopsided while we go out and spend the day together. We never go into debt because the rule is all gifts have to fit in the person’s stocking. I guess I have no point here, but yes, culture is fluid and it’s what we make of it and the boy and I are on the side of spending time together mocking all of it and getting on with loving each other and whooping it up. He just graduated from high school yesterday and will soon leave my home to start his own life. I hope he remembers to come back and screech the grandma/reindeer song with me cause it might be retarded but it’s been damned good culture. So in honor of all that – I wish you all a season of laughing with every retarded moment and loving the hell out of each other.

  55. Nia

    to anyone in a Western country claiming an exotic ancestor further than one, at most two generations back, I have only one thing to say: Have you ever considered the possibility that you are the descendant of a survivor of genocide in its selective rape variety?

  56. NancyMc

    I think what Susan/Holding Pattern means–and she will certainly correct me if I’m wrong–is that the non-white kid is not favored by the patriarchy, i.e. the dominant culture, and therefore might benefit from extra ego-boostings.

    OK, assuming that’s what she meant – in that case the adopted boy is going to get more privileges than the adopted girl – in some cases, maybe even more privileges than the non-adopted girl born in the US – thanks to the miracle of Patriarchy.

    In any case, all these “show them their home culture” moves are just defensive measures against people who worship their OWN cultures as sacred and unchanging.

    Taking defensive measures may be necessary, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the ideal situation. And countering anti-Asian stupidity by making your kid use chopsticks may make you feel righteous against the fork-wielding honkys, but it promotes the mindset that just because Europeans developed forks that’s the perfect way for white people to feed themselves for eternity – and chopsticks are the perfect way for Asians to eat for eternity.

    The important thing is that everybody, no matter what their cultural background, take a hard look at traditions and judge them on their merits, not based on how traditional they are. And then throw out stupid cultural practices like foot-binding and female infanticide and keep useful practices like cooking with woks.


    For the record, I’m not against taking kids of any race, color, or creed out for Chinese.

    Was that ever a serious question?

  57. kate.d.

    thank you, thank you, thank you. it tooke me 5 or 6 paragraphs in a ranting, largely incoherent post to say what you said in a few sentences about obnoxious “irish” people. god, i’m embarrassed for them.

    spot on about how it’s impossible for culture to be static as well.

  58. Twisty

    Although I never got around to articulating it in the post, the sort of corollary to my observation about Chinese babies not being genetically predisposed toward footbinding seems to jive with your point, too: that the non-adopting honkys might could use a look around the world themselves, and they should take their snotty brats with’em. And leave’em there.

  59. piny

    Heh. We’re sort of having this debate–okay, it’s mostly over now–at feministe re: hijab-wearing women and the various cultural pressures thereon. I’ll just synopsize my points over there: criticism of any cultural tradition is useful, even necessary; using noble motives (“They put their women in burqas! We just now noticed!”) as a cover for old-fashioned racism/sexism/xenophobia is reprehensible.

    Not that you suffer from any of that, Twisty.

    I don’t have a position on the whole interracial/international adoption thing, being a honky myself. Fetishistic potential notwithstanding, one could see it as a way of trying to secure some kind of foothold in the demographic your child will be placed in by society, regardless of their family affinity. I know that children of immigrants frequently reach back farther than their generation and immediate family to find something to ground themselves. It’d be terrible to be an exchange student in your own home, though, particularly if your parents used you as an excuse to latch on to all the cultural takeout they’d been craving since their honeymoon along the Silk Road.

  60. piny

    >>I think what Susan/Holding Pattern means–and she will certainly correct me if I’m wrong–is that the non-white kid is not favored by the patriarchy, i.e. the dominant culture, and therefore might benefit from extra ego-boostings.

    For the record, I’m not against taking kids of any race, color, or creed out for Chinese.>>

    Hm. It seems like the problem with the people who appropriate in the names of their children is an inability to treasure cultural and political context as an essential part of any grounding in their child’s heritage. Reducing “your other birthright” to a series of anonymous artifacts will not give that kid any idea of where they come from, and won’t give them any impression of themselves as part of or tied to anything.

  61. Shae

    And they would welcome our children as liberators with flowers and parades and… oh wait…

  62. Mildred

    Hoo boy! I had a fellow say to me just tonight, AT A BAR, that he was Scottish, I called bullshit on that whole NOTION, if you’ve never lived there, don’t have a UK passport, were not born there, you’re just another boring ol Euro MUTT like the rest of us.
    I’ve noticed its mainly something that Australian/Kiwi/American people do, we must have CULCHA! In England if you asked someone what their background was they’d tell you their class background.

  63. Tei Tetua

    Ah, Fiji needs “traditional culture and values, with particular stress on hairstyles and dress codes”. We know where this is leading–BARE BOOBS! Like in those good old National Geographic mags from before the damn prudes enforced political correctness! Tourist revenue would boom, for sure. How can it be wrong?

  64. pheeno

    Fuck culture. Yeah. You fucked ours so why stop there? 500 years worth of fucking isn’t enough, some people just won’t be satisfied until we’re all dead. Or just like you. Which is the same thing.

  1. Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » What Other People Are Saying

    [...] Twisty on Culture “As you know, I am the world’s foremost authority on the status of women in Fiji, so you can believe me when I say that if chumps in their own government are advocating pickling women in the good old pre-feminist brine so that they’ll conform to some kind of quaint “national identity” dictated by crowd-pleasin’ hair-dos, it can’t be good. In fact, it looks to me like they’re wanting to put the kibosh on women’s rights because they fuck with Fiji’s brand.” [...]

  2. following the brush

    All Nihon, All The Time

    I realize I’ve been on an extended Japan kick here at FTB. Ah, the idiosyncrasy-enabling luxury of having just twelve regular readers. Don’t take that for false-enjoyment masquerading as a complaint; I am so tickled that twelve people are bored

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