Stop me before I steal another culture

Trader Joe's was recently arm-twisted into changing the names of some of its products.  It seems that calling Trader Joe's frozen ziti Trader Giotto's might traumatize people of the Italian persuasion.  As for Trader José's salsa, well, that was a slap in the faces of brown people everywhere.

Trader Giotto.  I remember smiling when I saw that.  (Thank God I was wearing a mask and no one saw me.)  I quickly reminded myself that supermarkets are not there for my enjoyment.  They're there for me to make the correct decisions regarding my health and the health of the planet.  And they are certainly not there to demean anyone's culture.

As I contemplated the thoughtlessness perpetrated by some (probably) old, white, male packaging designer, I was forced to address my own cultural callousness.

There's no point beating around the bush — I am a serial cultural appropriator.  A kultur-klept.  And I don't think I can stop.

It started when I was three.  I wore a cowboy outfit for Halloween when not only was I not a cowboy, but I wasn't even a boy.  I suppose I could have switched, but who knew?

The next year was even worse.  My mother dressed me up as an angel knowing that I wasn't an actual angel.  I don't think she gave a moment's thought to the feelings of the angel community.  She certainly never suggested that I should care whether my costume offended them.

With this kind of upbringing, it was inevitable that I'd develop into the kind of creature who comes back from China with little Chinese dresses so her granddaughters can insult Chinese people on Halloween.  The unutterable wickedness of this — grooming my grandchildren to become cultural marauders!  It's well known that when a six-year-old thinks the clothing of a foreign culture is pretty, he/she/they/zie/ve/ey diminishes that culture, effectively stealing a little bit of it, and that if enough people do this, the culture disappears.  Poof!  Gone!  Forgotten!  

As the years went by, my character devolved.  I wrote stories in which I imagined myself into the minds of males, although I had never declared myself a man.  I am ashamed to admit that I even wrote a story from the point of view of a Labrador retriever without ever wondering whether my dog would be offended.  Sadly, it's too late to apologize to her now.

That trip to Trader Joe's opened my eyes.  Listening to the radio on the way home made me realize that it was time to open my ears, too.  All those arias with their high Cs — whatever possessed men like Rossini and Bellini to force other human beings to spend hours warbling in the stratosphere when they themselves couldn't do it?  Frankly, as a woman, I ought to be insulted that they thought it was okay to hang us up there like tree ornaments. 

I ought to be insulted, but I'm not.  I don't even mind the dopey stories they use to show us off. 

The handwriting is on the wall, though.  ToscaMadame ButterflyIsolde — it's time to reconceive these figments of the male mind before any more cultures bite the dust.  Operas should be presented in their own languages, Butterfly in Japanese, sung by a geisha, Aida in ancient Egyptian, sung by ancient Egyptians.  After all, what could be more culturally arrogant than speaking someone else's language?  Think about it — you're actually taking the words out of his mouth.  And since we need words to think, you're stealing his/her/their very thoughts. 

So I guess it won't be ethical for me to learn Hawaiian without producing a certificate of Hawaiian ancestry along with proof of vaccination.  (While I'm taking my study break, will I dare to eat some poi?)

Speaking of food, doctors who prescribe the Mediterranean diet for their non-Mediterranean patients should start rethinking their recommendations.  Apart from making Russians and Germans feel inferior, that diet will cause a worldwide shortage of olive oil if everybody takes his doctor's advice.

Before you ask, yes, the Paleo diet is offensive: most people of European background have about 2% Neanderthal DNA, so all people of European descent should be pre-emptively offended. 

It's getting late.  I'm going to order Ethiopian.  While I'm doing that, you can call the people with the butterfly nets to come and get me.

Image: Snappygoat.

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