kerravonsen: fobwatch: "Windmills of your mind" (fobwatch)
[personal profile] kerravonsen
Saw this on twitter this morning:

Cultural appropriation of rainbow

Of course, everyone is mocking the original tweet, but it did get me thinking. Because, as a Christian, it has annoyed me for a long time that I can no longer use a rainbow as a symbol of God's love. Because the symbol is more commonly recognised in these times, as belonging to another group, symbolising something completely different. And that makes it feel like it has been stolen. Is that cultural appropriation? I'm not sure that it is; after all, the rainbow is up there in the sky, and people have used it before the LGBTQ movement to symbolise other things, such as ending racial discrimination. So why do I feel as if it has been stolen? Partly, I expect, because the LGBTQ symbol represents something completely anathema to God's teachings. Other uses of the rainbow haven't been for something hostile to Christianity. Does that hostility make it cultural appropriation? I don't know. It is something, but I'm not sure whether "cultural appropriation" is the right term for it.

Hey, thoughtful people, what do you think?

Date: 2017-04-03 03:37 am (UTC)
beatrice_otter: Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross (St. John of the Cross)
From: [personal profile] beatrice_otter
Here from the network!

Cultural appropriation usually requires two things that are not present in this case.

First, it requires that you take something that belongs specifically to a particular culture. Like, that is where you got it from. Like a Native American war bonnet, or something like that. The rainbow is rather more universal; it has never belonged specifically to any one group, religion, etc., etc. And from my understanding, when the rainbow flag was developed, it was not a case of "hey, let's take a Christian symbol and make it mean something different!" it was "hey, here is a universal thing that everyone recognizes that has special meaning to us because Judy Garland is a favorite among many queer people, and "Over the Rainbow" was her signature song, so let us use that!" Do you see the difference?

Second, cultural appropriation generally requires an abuse of power. Like, the group with the most power smashes a group with less power, then picks through the ruins and goes "hey, this is cool, I like this!" It's the power differential that makes it skeevy, not the cross-cultural bit. When a person from a marginalized or fringe group picks up something from the majority culture, it's not appropriation, it's assimilation. In this case, Christians are the group with (even today) more power in American society than the queer community, and this was certainly true in the 1970s when the queer flag was developed.

So, no, I would not count this as assimilation. I don't know what I'd call it, but it isn't that. I would say that while the rainbow as a flag is pretty firmly associated with the queer movement, the rainbow as a rainbow is still universal enough to not fall into any one group or meaning, which means you could still use it as a symbol for the universality of God's love without it looking like you were taking a specific sociopolitical stance which obviously, you do not share.

[side note: I am, in real life, a Christian minister, and I would disagree that the "LGBTQ symbol represents something completely anathema to God's teachings." But that's a whole different Bible study ;) ]

Date: 2017-04-03 08:58 am (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
I came here to say pretty much exactly this.

Date: 2017-04-03 08:59 am (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
I also agree that the rainbow, as a rainbow, gets used pretty frequently in churches where I am, and it' s not generally read as a LGBT+ symbol. Unless, of course, the church is also displaying the pride flag...

Date: 2017-04-04 11:47 am (UTC)
delphipsmith: (queenie)
From: [personal profile] delphipsmith
It's the power differential that makes it skeevy, not the cross-cultural bit.

Yes!

I really like your two-point definition. It's possibly the clearest explanation of "cultural appropriation" that I've seen anywhere. Thanks :)

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Kathryn A.

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