Controversy swirling over a red cheongsam

CATE

2018-05-15

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Keziah Daum, an 18-year-old student and artist from Utah in the United States, was accused of “culture appropriation” after she posted photos of her wearing cheongsam, a traditional Chinese dress also called Qipao, for a school prom on twitter. As of Thursday (May 10), the post has been shared 7,795 times and received 113,886 likes.

Cheongsam is considered an adaption from a one-piece dress of Manchu women in Qing Dynasty (AD1644-1912) and the original cheongsam was wide and loose, which covered most of the woman's body. With time, the cheongsam was tailored to become more revealing and shape fitting. Today's stylish and tight-fitting cheongsam was created in Shanghai in the 1920s and made popular later by socialites.

A Twitter user called Jeremy Lam accused Daum of culture appropriation, he wrote: "My culture is not your ... prom dress." More than 40,000 people regenerated the tweet, so far it has got nearly 180,000 likes and thousands of comments. 

In response, Keziah Daum said when she found the dress at a vintage shop in Salt Lake City, she thought it was a beautiful and modest gown to wear in the prom. It was not out of culture appropriation, but to demonstrate her appreciation and love for Chinese culture. She said she won't delete the post since she has done nothing wrong, her only intention was just to show love.

Many twitter users flocked to Daum's page to show support for her. One user named Jerris wrote, "You look gorgeous and the dress is stunning! What a wonderful world we live in where we can share culture and dress in special design and style from across the world representing the culture of earth and the art of humanity."

 A guy named David Lupo wrote, "The dress looks great. I’m white and my girlfriend is Chinese, there is nothing wrong with you wearing the dress, just a lot of haters in the world who want to start crap…keep going girl, the haters know nothing but hate…"

Another user named GleamF wrote, "I'm Chinese, forget about those negative comments. On the first day when Qipao was created, it was born for women who wish to showcase their youth and personalities, be who you are, this is the culture of Qipao."

Some users agree with Jeremy Lam's stance. One user named Jeannie wrote, "This isn't OK. I wouldn't wear traditional Korean, Japanese or any other traditional dress and I'm Asian."

Another user named Carolyn wrote, "This is unacceptable! I don't care if you weren't trying to be racist. You are not Asian especially not Chinese and should not be wearing the Qipao when you've been calling it a dress this entire time! Also you should not be verified for this reason."

Some netizens are suspicious of the whole debate, one netizen wrote, "Lam is not even a Chinese surname, it's Vietnamese." One user commented, "he probably was employed to do so for some purpose, either to discredit Chinese community or to make fame." Another netizen wrote "A random guy got so much attention on Twitter, how did he make it? At least she got famous."

With the trend, Keziah Daum is getting fame as an artist by posting videos of her painting and singing. After getting interviewed by several medias including Fox News, South China Morning Post, Keziah Daum has become a rising star both in America and China.

Many Chinese netizens showed their support for her. One guy wrote, "I'm Chinese, and I thought you look awesome and appreciate you wearing it on an important event." Another one wrote, "I'm Chinese, and I'm glad you love our culture. You look beautiful in this dress. That is all that matters." One Weibo user wrote, "Culture has no borders."

The dispute related to culture appropriation is not rare. At the top of the list is wearing native American's headdresses. Since headdresses are usually reserved for respected elders in the tribe, it's indisputably culture appropriation for people to wear them for parties. Likewise, it's also a culture appropriation for non-Muslims to put a prayer-rug on the floor just for decoration.

Different from culture appropriation, culture appreciation is when you use some elements of a culture to give it respect and value. It's like culture exchange by which both sides benefit and better understand each other.

In Keziah Daum case, it's just a cheongsam, a dress that everyone can wear!