In the March issue of Vogue, supermodel Karlie Kloss was featured in a Japanese-themed photoshoot titled "Spirited Away," which quickly drew a wave of online criticism for cultural appropriation due to her wearing a Geisha inspired Kimono. The criticism grew such momentum that the pictures were taken off the web. However, Eat Your Kimchi duo Simon and Martina say this is only half the story.
The main issue Martina has with this debacle is how Westerners immediately jumped (perhaps too quickly) on the cultural appropriation bandwagon. Martina says that Karlie Kloss is not actually wearing a kimono in the photos, and that the model wasn't mocking Geisha culture. Simon then says that the immediate rage about these issues is detrimental, and the ability to be open-minded about different cultures is diminished.
What the duo find particularly interesting about this whole debate is the response from Japanese audiences. While Western audiences were critical of the "Spirited Away" photoshoot, Japanese people were overwhelmingly supportive of Vogue, Karlie Kloss, and the removed pictures.
Despite being a big part of Japanese culture, the Yukata and Kimono industry are slowly dying in modern Japan. Due to this problem, Yukata makers are striving to keep Kimonos and Yukatas relevant and are more than welcoming of anyone - Western or Japanese - who takes an interest in the attire for creative projects.
For Simon and Martina, the wave of criticism from Westerners online has done nothing but limit people's exposure to Japanese culture, as well as highlight the tendency for immediate online backlash to ignore the sensibilities of people and culture being appropriated in favour of highlighting their own agendas.
Hit the audio tab above ^ to listen to Simon & Martina's thoughts on cultural appropriation at the 0:17 mark.
Or listen right here at the 0:17 mark:
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