Claddagh rings as wedding rings? - Page 3 - Mothering Forums

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#61 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 07:58 PM
 
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I think both sides of the issue need to be acknowledged and worked through. Unfortunately, awareness of how an object, symbol, or belief was appropriated or integrated from another culture doesn't cancel out that appropriating culture's feeling of ownership of that object, symbol, or belief. So knowing about fede rings and so on is immaterial to the feeling of ownership and identity which Irishmommy is connecting to claddagh rings.
Thank you. This is a very well organized post and you make excellent points about all of this.

It made me think however, that, if I hurt someone else's feelings, unintentionally through wearing a sari, or a claddagh ring, is it my fault? OMG, what if I do those things simultaneously while wearing my DD in a kanga? Whose problem are those hurt feelings? Everyone has a right to their feelings. But I think everyone also has the right to wear whatever they want, regardless of their ethnic/cultural background. If it offends some of those in the originating culture, is it the problem of the offender or the problem of the person(s) who are offended? Putting ownership on something as intangible as culture is asking for trouble and a type of racism. You aren't <fill in the blank> enough to do/wear/say this, so please don't freely express yourself in that way. I'm not saying anyone here is being racist, just that the feeling of owning something like that is a slippery slope. I think it is a reaction of fear. And while those in the originating culture in many cases feel the fear is justified, it doesn't really matter because there is no way to police such things. I think a better tactic would be to be sure that the adopter is able to clearly understand the origins and meaning behind cultural objects so that they can in their own way give them the proper reverence.
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#62 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:04 PM
 
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I am Irish and NA. (thought not really Irish, my family came from there a couple hundred years ago so that is kind of a long time to still count)

I think there is a difference between sacred religious things and just cultural things. To me there is a line, but maybe that is just how I feel about it.

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#63 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:08 PM
 
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I've been thinking a lot about this thread, simply because it never occurred to me that wearing a claddagh could be considered offensive. Until fairly recently I wasn't even aware of the concept of cultural appropriation (heck, I used to go to the thrift store and buy Indian clothes... as the whitest girl in town. I just thought they were neat). I mentioned this thread to a friend last night who wears a claddagh, and she was furious and said "But I bought this in Ireland!". And I've gotta say, I find the thought of people wearing Irish stuff somehow less "wrong" than people wearing bindi or Native American headdresses. So I'm trying to unpack why I feel that way.

I think it could be partly because the Irish seem less "othered" and "exotic" than a lot of other cultures. In NZ, heaps of us can claim a significant percentage of Irish blood, including me (Murphys on one side, a branch of the McKenzies - McWhinneys? - on the other). So we feel a certain relation to or even ownership of that culture. And the Irish pubs in town (which may or may not be owned by actual Irish people!) encourage the celebration of St Patrick's Day, the singing of Irish pub songs and so on. There are also Celtic shops that sell Irish and Scottish tartans, knotwork, barrettes and other patriotic-type items. So it seems as if the culture is happy to commercialise or exploit itself to some extent, more than, say, Native American culture. But as I say, these shops aren't necessarily owned by Irish people (although I know one or two of them are). But on the face of it, at least, buying a Celtic hairpin seems more like buying an I Heart NY T-shirt than co-opting sari chic. KWIM? There are plenty of cultures - usually fairly secure ones that are in positions of power - that are happy to sell bits of culture to the world. Heck, New Zealand does it - I don't know about the Maori attitude to selling tiki and such, but Kiwiana based around kiwis, kiwifruit, thermal mud and native woods etc are a booming trade. And I doubt most Kiwis would bat an eye at seeing someone wear a New Zealand-themed T-shirt. But then, Kiwi (non-Maori) culture is pretty young and heavily based on other cultures, so we don't have any particular secrets to keep, KWIM? It's not like the average Aucklander's family has been oppressed by non-NZers for centuries ho have been trying to steal our food and fashion and architecture.

OK, rambling now. I'm just interested by this whole discussion. And I did consider getting a Celtic knotwork wedding ring, partly because of my Irish heritage and also because I just think they're pretty. Only it turned out my fingers are ridiculously small, and big chunky knotwork looks silly on them: so I toned it down to a small ring with just a tiny bit of... complication... on it that could pass as knotwork, kind of. It isn't specifically Irish, though.

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#64 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:09 PM
 
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Oh I don't have an issue with people wearing headdresses. I find it kind of funny actually.

I do see a lot of people make dreamcatchers though, that doesn't really bother me. It isn't a religious item. I do find it weird when people put them on their rearview mirror of their car.

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#65 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow! So much food for thought, thank you all I'd quote every statement I want to respond to, but it'd take me the better part of an hour.

Like most Americans, I'm not from just one place, I'm a mutt. Therefore, I feel almost "cheated" out of having all that comes with one or two ethnicities, the language, etc. I am of Irish descent on my mom's side(a little) and my dad's side(a lot more). By falling into Irish dance, becoming involved with Irish-American local culture, doing projects on Ireland's history for school growing up...for whatever reason, that is the part of my heritage I feel most strongly connected to. I've never seen Buffy in my life, I've just gotten various pieces of celtic jewelry over the years as gifts, my claddagh being the most important. I can really understand being worried about a culture being watered down, but as an American of Irish descent who is involved in the Irish-American community, I don't view myself as an impostor, or someone who is trying to "fake it."

It's something I don't think many people can understand, living in a place completely removed from your ancestor's culture. It's important to try and maintain it, and it's upsetting to think that you're offending others, when all you want to do is maintain and respect your heritage. I also thought of adoption! The Ethiopian child who is adopted as a newborn and spends her whole life in Ireland, speaking Irish Gaelic, dancing, etc. might not be ethnically Irish, but culturally she's just as immersed as a native-born baby. Where do we draw the line on who is allowed to use what and who isn't?

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#66 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:20 PM
 
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Oh I don't have an issue with people wearing headdresses. I find it kind of funny actually.

I do see a lot of people make dreamcatchers though, that doesn't really bother me. It isn't a religious item. I do find it weird when people put them on their rearview mirror of their car.
I do find it odd that a non Native would wear a headdress though as it's a typically ceremonial piece. I wouldn't be offended per se, but I also wouldn't like it much. You don't see many people sporting them just walking down the street. I've only seen the fake ones worn at sporting events or the like.

I think dream catchers are a chia pet type of knick knack gimmicky thing that don't any sort of religious or belief undertones for me personally.
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#67 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:34 PM
 
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I think another reason people defend their "right" to wear Irish stuff is that we live in a time of appropriating everything. It's the age of the subculture, and a lot of those subcultures are created by appropriating and this changing other cultures (usually with enthusiasm, not malice). Look at the retro/vintage craze. That's appropriating the past, if you like. Steampunk appropriates Victorianism. And interestingly, some steampunks appropriate Orientalism, the Victorian perception of Asia that led to a mid-1800s Oriental decorating and design craze. So that's double appropriation... unless you're a steampunk from Asia, in which case it's what, triple appropriation?

And then there are things like the Japanese street fashion subculture Valley Girl, which is an adoration and imitation of California valley girl style including hairstyles, manners of speech and everything. It's extreme appropriation, but simply because Japan is Japan, not California, it's not a direct copy but becomes a culture in its own right.

So it seems clear that at some point, appropriation goes beyond appropriation and forges a new culture (which can then be appropriated in turn); and there's a point of no return at which people identify so strongly with the appropriating culture that it gets ridiculous to invalidate it on the grounds of its origins. I don't know where that point is, of course... but for better or for worse, "cowboys and Indians" is a part of the American tousled-haired boy psyche, and so on.

I think I lost my point somewhere there... oh yeah. If we live in an age where subcultures emerge with extreme rapidity and deconstruct, lampoon and draw from other times and places, it feels very constricting to be told "You can wear that, it's ours". People just don't think that way any more. Not saying this is good, but I think it's how it is.

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#68 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:37 PM
 
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I do find it odd that a non Native would wear a headdress though as it's a typically ceremonial piece. I wouldn't be offended per se, but I also wouldn't like it much. You don't see many people sporting them just walking down the street. I've only seen the fake ones worn at sporting events or the like.
I just can't get past the "Red Skins" to get mad about other sporting things.

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I think dream catchers are a chia pet type of knick knack gimmicky thing that don't any sort of religious or belief undertones for me personally.
Pretty much. My daughter has a very beautiful one hanging up in her room that was made by my cousin but it isn't something I see as sacred or religious.

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#69 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I do find it odd that a non Native would wear a headdress though as it's a typically ceremonial piece. I wouldn't be offended per se, but I also wouldn't like it much. You don't see many people sporting them just walking down the street. I've only seen the fake ones worn at sporting events or the like.

I think dream catchers are a chia pet type of knick knack gimmicky thing that don't any sort of religious or belief undertones for me personally.
I'm going off topic now, but when I was in elementary school, I frequently had bad dreams...still do actually, probably because I remember almost all my dreams. I had a Native American friend who got me a handmade, authentic dream catcher and explained to me the history and where to hang it, not to touch the threads, etc. Sure enough, my bad dreams essentially vanished! It got lost when we moved, and I frequently think that I need to get another!

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#70 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:44 PM
 
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I just can't get past the "Red Skins" to get mad about other sporting things.

Pretty much. My daughter has a very beautiful one hanging up in her room that was made by my cousin but it isn't something I see as sacred or religious.
I don't like the Red Skins either, but that and kids playing dress up are the only scenarios I can think of right now where I've seen people wear headdresses outside of pow wows.

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#71 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:48 PM
 
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I think another reason people defend their "right" to wear Irish stuff is that we live in a time of appropriating everything. It's the age of the subculture, and a lot of those subcultures are created by appropriating and this changing other cultures (usually with enthusiasm, not malice). Look at the retro/vintage craze. That's appropriating the past, if you like. Steampunk appropriates Victorianism. And interestingly, some steampunks appropriate Orientalism, the Victorian perception of Asia that led to a mid-1800s Oriental decorating and design craze. So that's double appropriation... unless you're a steampunk from Asia, in which case it's what, triple appropriation?

And then there are things like the Japanese street fashion subculture Valley Girl, which is an adoration and imitation of California valley girl style including hairstyles, manners of speech and everything. It's extreme appropriation, but simply because Japan is Japan, not California, it's not a direct copy but becomes a culture in its own right.

So it seems clear that at some point, appropriation goes beyond appropriation and forges a new culture (which can then be appropriated in turn); and there's a point of no return at which people identify so strongly with the appropriating culture that it gets ridiculous to invalidate it on the grounds of its origins. I don't know where that point is, of course... but for better or for worse, "cowboys and Indians" is a part of the American tousled-haired boy psyche, and so on.

I think I lost my point somewhere there... oh yeah. If we live in an age where subcultures emerge with extreme rapidity and deconstruct, lampoon and draw from other times and places, it feels very constricting to be told "You can wear that, it's ours". People just don't think that way any more. Not saying this is good, but I think it's how it is.
I think it is an interesting issue. So many people want a cultural stamp or identity but many people don't have that, particularly in the US.

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#72 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 08:51 PM
 
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Oh I don't have an issue with people wearing headdresses. I find it kind of funny actually.

I do see a lot of people make dreamcatchers though, that doesn't really bother me. It isn't a religious item. I do find it weird when people put them on their rearview mirror of their car.
DH has a dreamcatcher on his rearview mirror and it bothers the $hit out of me! LOL. The main thing that bothers me about the appropriation of NA culture is that there really is no single NA culture. Dreamcatchers are primarily Ojibwe (correct me if I'm wrong), blessingways are primarily Navajo. Sure, as the original culture was ripped away and stolen, NA people have tried to patch the holes and appropriated from other peoples (often as a result of being tossed together on a reservation), but there are still distinct peoples, so saying a "NA dance" or a "NA saying" or "in the NA language" or "NA headress" just annoys me to no end. Doesn't really offend me, just shows me that a person is ignorant.

(Note: I am obviously not speaking directly to you, Abimommy. That would be ridiculous LOL. Your post just sparked my response.)

And I think there is a big difference between appropriating an European culture and appropriating the culture of an assaulted people, who have had their cultures devastated only to have what remains of it appropriated by the descendants of the very people who culturally raped them before. Sure, various members of nearly every group have been persecuted somewhere in time, but no where near to the extent of the NA peoples, AA people, the Maori in Australia, European Jews, etc. I am of German descent and I wear a dirndl (not everyday LOL just appropriate occassions) and don't feel slightly weird for doing it. Although I am equally as NA as I am German, I refuse to appropriate NA culture even though I technically have sufficient blood quantum, because no matter what I am not part of the culture (thanks to NA boarding schools, but that's a whole nuther story).

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#73 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 09:02 PM
 
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And I think there is a big difference between appropriating an European culture and appropriating the culture of an assaulted people, who have had their cultures devastated only to have what remains of it appropriated by the descendants of the very people who culturally raped them before.
Unfortunately, the Irish were an assaulted people, both by the British, and as emigrants to the US.

Sorry that my previous post sounded snarky, it was not meant that way.
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#74 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 09:04 PM
 
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This is such a fascinating discussion.

I will fully cop to appropriating part of my spouse's ethnic tradition and employing it in my household - he's half Swedish (MIL is 100%, her grandmother immigrated, she's been to Sweden as an adult.) I'm mutt. So we practice the Swedish Sankta Lucia tradition in our household - it's cultural and religious.

But (and I know this because I've given a couple of academic papers on it) - the Swedes appropriated Lucia from the Italians. And in the US both cultures continue to celebrate Lucia. I have no right to participate in either celebration, except that the Swedish celebrations often done in churches of my denomination. Without my interest, my kids would have no idea about this tradition, and probably not much sense of Sweden as a part of their heritage.

And Lucia's martyrdom story is at least 1500 years old, so it's also a part of the Catholic tradition. Which I'm also not.

So in this instance - I am appropriating this celebration. I do think it's totally appropriate, however.

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#75 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 09:12 PM
 
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Uh... Wow!!

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And I think there is a big difference between appropriating an European culture and appropriating the culture of an assaulted people, who have had their cultures devastated only to have what remains of it appropriated by the descendants of the very people who culturally raped them before.
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ITA!

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#76 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 09:13 PM
 
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Er..I don't really want to do the whole "who is more oppressed" thing. I don't think that is right.

Many groups have their own sorrows. It is important to recognize that.

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#77 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 09:20 PM
 
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Er..I don't really want to do the whole "who is more oppressed" thing. I don't think that is right.
I agree. I'm not sure if there is a single ethnic group or culture who hasn't experienced oppression at least once in their history. Does anybody know of one?

So if that is the case, then one way or another all of us are guilty.
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#79 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 09:50 PM
 
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Oppression is what makes the issue so very interesting when looking at Irish-American Culture. There is a whole scholarship out there about how the Irish in America made themselves "white". One way was by the spreading and celebrating of Irish culture. This is why St. Patrick's day is such a big deal here.

I guess what I am trying to say is that any cultural appropriation of Irish culture is a direct result of the oppression of the Irish in the United States. But it happened because Irish-Americans wanted it to, and indeed tried really hard to ensure that it did. Showcasing all things Irish is a huge mark of cultural pride in the US. I would hazzard a guess that most Americans have no idea that the Irish were once looked upon as second-class citizens in the United States (not to mention in Ireland). That is how well the PR campaign worked.
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#80 of 82 Old 01-21-2010, 10:09 PM
 
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Sure, as the original culture was ripped away and stolen, NA people have tried to patch the holes and appropriated from other peoples (often as a result of being tossed together on a reservation), but there are still distinct peoples, so saying a "NA dance" or a "NA saying" or "in the NA language" or "NA headress" just annoys me to no end. Doesn't really offend me, just shows me that a person is ignorant.
I hope I didn't offend with my generic use of "Native American" in my earlier post - I only did so because I was trying to be broad rather than focus in on some particular group, say the Crow or Cheyenne or etc. - because each group is very different, and I thought that if my post focused only on the tribes with which I am most familiar (Blackfoot, Crow, Cheyenne) - then the assumption could be that those groups are the ones who have issues with the appropriation of headdresses or etc., rather than the reality that *every* tribe objects to others appropriating and misinterpreting their culture/history. Some of those posting here don't even live in the USA, so the general rather than the specific seemed best.

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#81 of 82 Old 01-22-2010, 01:20 AM
 
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the Maori in Australia
Just for the record, Maori are from New Zealand. Aborigines are from Australia.

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#82 of 82 Old 02-10-2010, 02:58 AM
 
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Just for the record, Maori are from New Zealand. Aborigines are from Australia.
Ha! I just re-found this thread and I was going to post exactly the same thing!

Maybe we do have issues with 'cultural appropriation'?!

It's complicated.
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