Stop selling "Oriental print" garments that appropriate East Asian culture

Stop selling "Oriental print" garments that appropriate East Asian culture

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T Enkhbayar started this petition to Pretty Little Thing and

Many fast fashion companies like Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo sell "Oriental" print dresses that are supposedly "inspired by Chinese culture". The specific garment that is being appropriated here is the Chinese qipao, also known as the cheongsam.

Chinese women fought for their right to wear the qipao in the early 20th century and the qipao is a symbol of women's liberation. If one searches on the Internet for what qipao are actually supposed to look like, you'll realise that the fast fashion version are cut short and revealing, which, not only is it cultural appropriation, it is contributing to the harmful sexualization and fetishization of East Asian women.

Companies like Pretty Little Thing also describe such clothing as "Oriental" - they even have a dedicated section on their site for "Oriental" prints, featuring qipao-inspired crop tops and miniskirts, and also a variety of prints with stereotypical "Oriental" motifs such as Chinese characters and dragons. The term "Oriental", while widely accepted in the UK, is banned from US Federal Law, and is a loaded term with imperialist and colonial connotations. 

We would like for fast fashion companies to stop selling clothing that culturally appropriates the qipao and also to no longer use the term "Oriental" as a fashion trend. 

Here's a list of online fast fashion companies that sell such garments: 

  • Pretty Little Thing
  • I Saw It First
  • Boohoo
  • Missguided
  • Public Desire

These brands are examples of miseducating the masses. As companies that have wide-reaching influence, it is shameful that they continue to ignore the cries of East Asian women and our allies. We've reached out to PLT but have never received a response. It was wrong when Little Mix collaborated with them and it is still wrong that they are profiting from and disrespecting another culture for their own financial gain.

Please join us in the fight against racism in all forms! We must not allow companies - no matter the size - to go unchecked. If we are to be anti-racist then we must tackle all the ways that it manifests in our daily lives.

Definition of "cultural appropriation": the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society. (Source: Oxford Dictionary)

Definition of "fetishization": make (something) the object of a sexual fetish. (Source: Oxford Dictionary)

Quoting @geesubay from his post on the topic:
'The definition of cultural appropriation is “the adoption of elements from disadvantaged minority cultures by members of a dominant culture. It’s an act of borrowing from different cultural heritages without knowing any significance related to those elements or the historical disadvantages experienced by the minority groups for practicing their culture. One of the more widely known cultural appropriation would be non-Black people emulating Black hair without understanding the historical discrimination the Black community faced for owning their natural hair.
For Asians, one of the most commonly seen acts of cultural appropriations is people using traditional Asian garbs like Qipao or Kimonos as party costumes. Now, I am personally ambivalent to people wearing Qipaos, Kimonos, or Hanboks in the name of cultural appreciation. (This is totally my personal view btw, and other people can feel differently!) What I am not ok with is when people turn these traditional garments into “sexy” costumes that play on the fetishization of Asian women.
Now, I’ve already covered this in my other post, but Asian women are subject to a staggering number of sexual harassment and violence because of the stereotypes cultivated over the history. And these costumes playing on the stereotypes of “China Doll” and “Dragon Lady” re-inforce the idea that Asian women are docile, submissive, and hypersexual in their nature. Whether people are aware of it or not, these costumes ultimately create an unsafe environment of dehumanization and sexual traumas for Asian women who are already experiencing a higher percentage of physical and sexual violence during their lifetime.

So, to all you folks thinking these culturally appropriated costumes are harmless, be aware that you are contributing to the spread of harmful stereotypes that affect Asian women as a whole. Regardless of your intention or your cultural ignorance, know that your decision to perpetuate harmful stereotypes are actively harming Asian women.'

Resources:

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