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Thread: Avoiding Cultural Appropriation with your Mermaid Costume

  1. #21
    I think this is why Americans in particular started appropriating... our culture is so blended and new compared to most other countries, we don't really have a very "rich" history to go off of, so we start borrowing from other exotic cultures. A few friends have direct Mayflower or colony affiliations, but a Puritan Pilgrim hat doesn't really speak to us today. With the religious restrictions fashion was kind of bland back in those days. When you think "American" you think star spangled red white and blue, but that's been reserved for just 4th of July celebrations, or simply represents the American government (which not very many Americans feel very represented by). This is why it's important to to hold onto our roots or we end up just one big homogenous "globalized" culture.

    On the topic of Florida, at least there's some cool flamingo, dolphin, everglades and other tropical wildlife. You could get inspiration from the zebra patterned state butterfly or the orange blossom state flower. Looking to your native flora/fauna for inspiration is what mermaids are best at!

    p.s. I think I'll add some dogwood flowers to my headdress, as I was raised in NC and the state flower is one thing I really liked growing up there. And since I live in NY the state shell is the Bay Scallop, I could even go out into the bay this summer and gather some of these myself to use!
    Last edited by HamptonsMermaid; 02-08-2016 at 12:08 AM.
    Lauren Chu ~ Mermaid Soluna
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  2. #22
    That's interesting you mention that.... Huh. I wonder if it applies here..
    The SeaGlass Siren

  3. #23
    A very interesting article! My mersona draws more from where I'm located than what my culture is.
    Enora is mostly a carribbean mermaid who ventures into the rivers and lakes of Texas. (I live in Texas)


    On the other hand....I loved that Banshees got a small mention in the article!! I absolutely love banshee folklore and my ancestry has a lot of Celtic (and English, French, Scandinavian) so it fits right in!
    Love it so much I just made a banshee costume!
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BBd858syrrg/

    Banshees are a component of celtic folklore that is often overlooked as not being very popular in comparison to fairies, leprechauns and such.
    Mermaid Enora

  4. #24
    I am a blend of a few things as well but my Native American ancestry is what speaks to me the most. A tribe sent us some old photographs of some Native Americans walking the Trail of Tears, and in one photo there was a Native American girl who looked just like me. My parents started crying because it was like seeing their own daughter walking the Trail of Tears. I kept that photo and I wonder if I am related to that girl and if she survived the Trail of Tears and what she was like.
    www.youtube.com/MinxFox
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  5. #25
    Not sure if I identify with any of my backgrounds. I'm pretty white-washed :/ The French part maybe..... But I'm more Asian than white. And that seriously confuses me because of the white-washing....
    Maybe I need to take a step back and figure things out...
    The SeaGlass Siren

  6. #26
    Im seeing a bunch of really awesome stories here from mers who are so deeply connected with their roots and I'm here like "who am I? WHO AM I." It's like I'm not even connected to the family tree. That's how uprooted I am.
    The SeaGlass Siren

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by SeaGlass Siren View Post
    Im seeing a bunch of really awesome stories here from mers who are so deeply connected with their roots and I'm here like "who am I? WHO AM I." It's like I'm not even connected to the family tree. That's how uprooted I am.
    I hear that same sentiment a lot from friends who are first or second generation from migrated folks. Their extended family are still in those countries from which their parents came over from, but they feel they don't have a real connection there. Even if they wanted to talk to that family, they don't know the language. So you're not alone!

    In the end it's like what HamptonsMermaid said- go with your gut. Go with what feels right I hope you find what you're looking for!

    Wingéd Mermaid Iona

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  8. #28
    Thanks guys! I am hoping too.
    The SeaGlass Siren

  9. #29
    Great article, btw In mermaiding and other fantasy and "hippie" fashion circles it can be a problem sometimes. But also some people take cultural appropriation overboard. I'm sure they have good intentions, but it can be a bit much at times.
    Like when someone posted a photo of Mermaid Bonnie's newborn daughter from a mermaid photo shoot (the photo in the post was just the baby, congratulating Bonnie). Bonnie likes to wear acrylic jewels on her forehead, and in some shoots she wears them across her whole forehead in a glue-on circlet fashion. Another person posted a photo of Bonnie with that design of jewels on that post, and said since there was a larger jewel in the middle of her forehead along with the rest of them, that it was cultural appropriation and talked shit on a photo of a her baby.
    Raina and I had a back and forth with her. We said even if it was a bindi, which it's not, bindis are fashion accessories in India. Even after citing sources that bindis are now considered mostly fashion accessories BY that culture, and that even Hindus generally don't take offense, she still didn't want to listen.
    I even quoted an article about a Hindu talking about how people saying wearing bindis is cultural appropriation is nonsense- becuase when I get angry I'm not always concise and the quote said it better than I could at the time. And the girl said since she was a "white Hindu" her opinion didn't matter. Apparently she had to be a POC and Hindu for her opinion to be "legit". Even though that woman lived in India (and married an Indian Hindu, although that's not exactly relevant other than to say she's not ignorant of customs and culture for sure). I can't even with some people.


    SO, long point made short: Even if you aren't appropriating, or even have a connection with the culture you're piece is inspired by, there still may be overly zealous "social justice warriors" who will get on your case for it, as they think you're being ignorant. Just be prepared is all I'm saying! (Hope my point isn't too much of a bummer on this thread, I apologize if it's a bit of a downer in such a great conversation!)

    Wingéd Mermaid Iona

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  10. #30
    Senior Member Euro Pod Lucinda's Avatar
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    An interesting take on an important subject. I avoid buying "Indian" costumes like the plague, but not just because of the issue of cultural appropriation. The kind of things you see in costume shops are most likely mass produced, probably somewhere in Asia. And the people who own and run the business are probably not Native American/First Nation either. In other words, by making and selling these cheap (and usually inaccurate "Indian" costumes) people are cashing in on somebody else's culture. Given that many Native/First Nation communities in the US and Canada are very poor (some even lacking proper access to drinking water or proper health care), it just adds a whole new dimension to an already insulting practice.

    People from other cultures, if they have a genuine interest in Native American/First Nation culture, clothing, handcrafts etc. should instead familiarize themselves with these cultures, these communities and buy authentic stuff from them. If you want say a dreamcatcher for your house. Buy a dreamcatcher from a native person not a cheap mass-produced fake.


    Just one detail about your text, Raina: The sirens of ancient Greek mythology were part human, part bird. They hanged out by the sea, and lured people to their deaths with their song. But they were not aquatic creatures as such. But Greek mythology has a plethora of water nymphs such as nereids, limnads (lake naiads) and other naiads. And then there were mermen called tritons (after the god Triton, also a merman).

    http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Seirenes.html
    http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Nereides.html
    http://www.theoi.com/Nymphe/Naiades.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limnad
    http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Tritones.html
    Last edited by Lucinda; 02-08-2016 at 05:58 AM.
    ~~ Awaken your Inner Mermaid ~~


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  11. #31
    Senior Member Euro Pod Echidna's Avatar
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    I have roots in vastly differing cultures (chinese, romanian and scandinavian to name a few), and I feel at home in many of them.
    Partly because I lived there and am fluent in the language/scripts, partly because their mentality and folklore feels just right to me.

    If any social justice warrior comes along and tries to tell me I'm appropriating when I'm wearing a classical dress of one of these cultures, I tell them to stuff it where the sun don't shine.

    There are also cultures I don't have blood ties to, but still feel familiar with because of studies etc.
    Ancient Egypt, for example.
    Anyone trying to tell someone they are appropriating Ancient Egypt customs deserves to be shot to the moon instantly UNLESS they are directly descended from fellahs or Copts.

    In fact, the majority of nowadays population in Egypt is a perfect example for unrightful, disrespectful cultural appropriation.
    It's as if white US guys would sell native stuff for exorbitant prices while adamantly holding it's all theirs.

  12. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by SeaGlass Siren View Post
    Im seeing a bunch of really awesome stories here from mers who are so deeply connected with their roots and I'm here like "who am I? WHO AM I." It's like I'm not even connected to the family tree. That's how uprooted I am.
    I know exactly what that's like. I'm so interested in heritage but know almost nothing about my own...
    Mermaids - not so graceful on land...
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  13. #33
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod Saren's Avatar
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    I'm Puerto Rican, so my roots are not that hard to track; Spaniard, African, and Taino. Now what part of Africa or Spain I'm unsure and so is my family. As far back as we could trace all my family has always come from Puerto Rico, so thanks to Raina's article I'm looking into Taino/Boriquen lore. I already know things I want to incorporate from my island like parcha flowers. But it's sooooo interesting to read everyone heritage stories!
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  14. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucinda View Post
    An interesting take on an important subject. I avoid buying "Indian" costumes like the plague, but not just because of the issue of cultural appropriation. The kind of things you see in costume shops are most likely mass produced, probably somewhere in Asia. And the people who own and run the business are probably not Native American/First Nation either. In other words, by making and selling these cheap (and usually inaccurate "Indian" costumes) people are cashing in on somebody else's culture. Given that many Native/First Nation communities in the US and Canada are very poor (some even lacking proper access to drinking water or proper health care), it just adds a whole new dimension to an already insulting practice.

    People from other cultures, if they have a genuine interest in Native American/First Nation culture, clothing, handcrafts etc. should instead familiarize themselves with these cultures, these communities and buy authentic stuff from them. If you want say a dreamcatcher for your house. Buy a dreamcatcher from a native person not a cheap mass-produced fake.


    Just one detail about your text, Raina: The sirens of ancient Greek mythology were part human, part bird. They hanged out by the sea, and lured people to their deaths with their song. But they were not aquatic creatures as such. But Greek mythology has a plethora of water nymphs such as nereids, limnads (lake naiads) and other naiads. And then there were mermen called tritons (after the god Triton, also a merman).

    http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Seirenes.html
    http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Nereides.html
    http://www.theoi.com/Nymphe/Naiades.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limnad
    http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Tritones.html
    Agree with this. If you choose to buy dream catches and other native/First Nations/aboriginal items, definitely support them by going to buy from them.

    there is a really great museum in Ontario here called the mcmicheal art gallery (showcases a lot of traditional and modern aboriginal artwork and works by the group of 7) and they sell a lot of items made by natives.
    The SeaGlass Siren

  15. #35
    Also I stayed up a bit late last night and discovered through my mom that we have extended family that lives in the countryside (imagine a vast field of tall green grass, a pond by an old straw hut and a coconut tree, and water buffalo. ) apparently we have our own family farm.
    Also we have native Vietnamese people who live up in the mountains (Da Lat) and they coexist with a city on top of the mountains (they call it the city above the clouds). They're benefitting a lot because it's a tourist destination. and its super cold that it's comparible to Canadian winter :0 but for some reason it's spring all year around because flowers. Flowers everywhere.

    edit: apparently on my dad's side even though in english we call ourselves chiu chow, we're actually called teochow... (which suddenly explains why in vietnamese my mom calls my dad "teo"....) a quick google search tells me that Teochow people also refer to themselves as "Deung nang (唐人; Mandarin: Tangren), literally Tang Dynasty people"... which now suddenly explains my last maiden name because it's "Duong"... Literally pronounced "Yuan"... and now i have to look up the tang dynasty...
    Last edited by SeaGlass Siren; 02-08-2016 at 10:21 AM.
    The SeaGlass Siren

  16. #36
    RAINA I LOVE YOU THANKYOU FOR DOING THIS. I'M ON A MASSIVE HUNT FOR MY ROOTS.
    The SeaGlass Siren

  17. #37
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod PearlieMae's Avatar
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    On another note...I like to think that merfolk don't concern themselves with the cultures of the split-tailed rock swimmers. We use and incorporate the curious things we find that get dropped into the sea, like magpies who collect shiny things.


  18. #38
    Senior Member Pod of the Great Lakes Sabrina the Selkie's Avatar
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    That's so exciting, SeaGlass! I'm so happy for you!!!! ♥

    And I get what your saying, Pearlie! But who knows, cross cultural exchange happens, even if just from what found objects will be tossed in the water by various cultures.

  19. #39
    WELL MY SEARCH ENDS HERE. only after researching the Tang dynasty ive discovered interesting things about how badass, rebellious, and liberal the women were... but then i remember how asian people changed their last names to suit the ruling emperors of that dynasty. (which is probably what my family did.)

    Like im pretty sure im not related to Wu Zetian (the only female emporer of china and who i keep idolizing) and Princess pinyang who commanded her own all female army and help her dad seized power over but ANYWAY. like i HIGHLY DOUBT i am related to the badassery that are these women ;_;

    but suddenly inspired. oh so very inspired.
    The SeaGlass Siren

  20. #40
    like there's no way. no flipping way. yet i am internally flipping out that there might even be a slim possibility.
    The SeaGlass Siren

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