The Boys of Lancaster

The Boys of Lancaster Ugh. If this article was written about indigenous people in some developing country, good lefties would have (rightly) complained that it was insulting and othering, but when it’s the Amish, we have The New Republic writing about Amish kids playing baseball in a way that’s just insulting and it’s all good. Dude even makes fun of their accents and is too stupid to realize that it’s not just the Amish who talk all dutchified. And he sounds proud of himself for ignoring the tour guide (and seriously, tour buses to gawk at the Amish?) and snapping photos of Amish children even though it’s completely disrespectful of Amish beliefs and he’d just been told that (not to mention that it’s frikkin rude to take photos of people without their permission–they’re not animals at the zoo).  The only good that people like this guy serve is that it’s because of seeing people like that go to Pennsylvania Dutch country to gawk, and seeing how much my grandmother hated it, provided a great bad example for what not to do when I’m in a culture different than my own.

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Lady Gaga, Orientalism, and cultural appropriation

 Ignoring for a moment the fact that this particular outfit looks like Gaga wrapped herself in a bedspread and then got attacked by wild animals, we need to talk about how with her latest burqa-wearing shtick, she’s planted herself smack dab in the middle of a long tradition of Westerners simultaneously hyper-sexualizing, othering, and dehumanizing Middle Eastern women. Her past fashion choices could be read as edgy social commentary, but with this she’s stepping into a realm where she clearly doesn’t understand the broader context of what she’s doing or the place it fits within a long history of exoticizing women while treating them as minor supporting characters in their own life stories. It’s not my place to speak for women of Middle Eastern descent, and rather than going into an academic discussion of all the reasons why this is incredibly problematic (read Edward Said’s brilliant “Orientalism” for a broader academic discussion of where things like this fit into the relationship between East and West), I’m going to tell a story.  My family comes from Pennsylvania Dutch/Anabaptist stock, and after getting chased out of Europe sometime in the 18th century, we settled down in Pennsylvania and didn’t budge for 250 some odd years, give or take a few decades.Various branches of my family tree were part of different plain Anabaptist sects, including Mennonites and plain Brethren, which means looking through old family photo albums includes pictures of great aunts in plain cotton dresses and prayer caps. I’m not clear on the time frame, but my grandmother spent the first years of her life as plain Brethren. For those who lack a reference point, think a more modern version of the Amish. Electricity, modern conveniences, but still dressing in a way that sets them apart from mainstream Western society. I’ll[…]

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