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Yoga class cancelled due to cultural appropriation


Katy
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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/23/university-yoga-class-canceled-because-of-oppression-cultural-genocide/?tid=sm_fb

 

After all, misappropriating another culture's religious practice is no different than a construction paper feather costume at Thanksgiving...  or is it?  Is this the logical end of political correctness run wild?

 

In other opinions, isn't ALL culture due to cultural appropriation?

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There is an element of cultural appropriation in the way that yoga is practiced and packaged by many in the West. There are times when it's worth a parody and does begin to become offensive in some ways.

 

But there are whole Hindu organizations and ashrams whose main goal is to spread yoga, often in a secular context because it's a sort of greater mission to spread the practice as being positive for people and communities, the same way that a church might have a mission to feed people or to allow certain community groups to meet in their building. As such, I think it's pretty different. I mean, are people in Africa or southeast Asia or somewhere who have been recently converted by missionaries appropriating Christianity? Can you appropriate something that's being generally evangelized? Maybe, but it's not the same as appropriating something and making a mockery of it.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/23/university-yoga-class-canceled-because-of-oppression-cultural-genocide/?tid=sm_fb

 

After all, misappropriating another culture's religious practice is no different than a construction paper feather costume at Thanksgiving...  or is it?  Is this the logical end of political correctness run wild?

 

In other opinions, isn't ALL culture due to cultural appropriation?

 

someone made what i thought was a great comment.  the next place these whackjobs will go is that you can't have thai or indian restaurants because that is approprpiating another cutlure's food.

 

I want my phad thai (and our favorite thai place has the best orange chicken I've ever had), and indian buffet!

 

though I do consider it the same as those people on the hive who were having fits because my aunt - who lived and worked (and ate indian food) among Indians in india for 45 years, still wears a sari.  that's what is normal to her.

 

english has stolen words from many other languages . . . . .

Edited by gardenmom5
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That is a poorly covered story.  It is not at all clear to me why it was cancelled.  I wonder if there isn't some back story or over riding policy change that prompted the cancellation. 

 

That said I consider this different.  This is in a University setting where adults can pick and chose what they want to get involved in.  I have taken yoga for years and miss it.  No yoga class I've ever taken ever claimed to be spiritual in nature or claimed to be one right or true way.  It has always been a stretching/relaxation/mediation/focused breathing class.  I've taken classes with people who've studied in India and they've been happy to share yoga in a secular way for the masses.  And students aren't being forced to participate.   Cultures are meshing and evolving all the time.

 

That is vastly different than white washing history and over simplifying for young kids in a public school setting IMO.  The thanksgiving story is just one aspect of that. I didn't participate in the other thread FTR.   I'm not up and arms over it, but it's certainly not something I did with my own kids at home.  My oldest went to K and 1st and his school didn't do this kind of thing.  We are in a very diverse district.

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I think the world has gone mad. 

 

Last week the instructor asked the class which shows they were missing (by being in the class).  So they blurted out various shows.  I said The Big Bang Theory.  A few people said they didn't like the show because they think it makes fun of people who are on the spectrum.  What on earth!?  Geesh, I don't see that in the show at all.  I have watched every episode an embarrassing number of times.  Of course they are free to not watch it and not like it, but what in heck.  It is a fictional show about fictional people doing fictional things.  If anything I think it has a pretty wide appeal and roots for the underdogs in many ways. 

 

Of course these may also be the same students who will run you over leaving the parking lot. 

 

 

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I can't seem to find a good summary article, but I think it's worth knowing that yoga was introduced to the West by Swami Vivekananda, who brought it to a religious conference in the late 1800's and ended up becoming a sort of guru to many of the religious leaders there. In the 1960's yoga came to the US through several swamis who set up ashrams - the one that I'm most familiar with is Swami Satchidananda, the guy who did yoga at Woodstook and went on to found Yogaville. Basically what I'm saying is... these guys were the equivalent of missionaries of yoga. They brought the practice to the West in various ways on purpose and basically said, hey, Westerners, Americans, give this a try and see what you think.

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someone made what i thought was a great comment.  the next place these whackjobs will go is that you can't have thai or indian restaurants because that is approprpiating another cutlure's food.

 

I want my phad thai (and our favorite thai place has the best orange chicken I've ever had), and indian buffet!

 

though I do consider it the same as those people on the hive who were having fits because my aunt - who lived and worked (and ate indian food) among Indians in india for 45 years, still wears a sari.  that's what is normal to her.

 

english has stolen words from many other languages . . . . .

 

Ds was criticized for making carne asada as it was cultural appropriation.  He pointed out that the Philippines was occupied by the Spanish so he had more right to make it than some.  ;)  So some whackadoodles have already gone there.  (Not that he thinks that anyone else should be barred from making good food!)

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someone made what i thought was a great comment.  the next place these whackjobs will go is that you can't have thai or indian restaurants because that is approprpiating another cutlure's food.

 

I want my phad thai (and our favorite thai place has the best orange chicken I've ever had), and indian buffet!

 

though I do consider it the same as those people on the hive who were having fits because my aunt - who lived and worked (and ate indian food) among Indians in india for 45 years, still wears a sari.  that's what is normal to her.

 

english has stolen words from many other languages . . . . .

 

Haven't read the whole thread, so sorry if this has already been said.  Yes, that's already a thing.  Seriously. :huh:

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Ds was criticized for making carne asada as it was cultural appropriation.  He pointed out that the Philippines was occupied by the Spanish so he had more right to make it than some. 

 

If people start getting carried away with being offended about everyday things (as compared to something truly obnoxious like blackface), then how will they apply it to multi-cultural or multi-racial people? For example, will your grandkids be "allowed" to make carne asada if they are "only" 1/4 Filipino? How do we keep it from devolving into something like purity tests because some people are paranoid that someone, somewhere might be offended.

 

I can't understand why anyone would think it's wrong to eat food from another culture. I would think that eating food and listening to music from another culture would be baby steps toward appreciating a culture in other ways.

 

Something that amuses me is that tyrannical leaders of governments or religions sometimes ban wearing clothes from other cultures, not because they are worried about cultural appropriation, but to draw a strict line between them to keep their people from prohibited ways of thinking. 

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There is a serious topic here... which is how do institutions (and individuals) who are well-meaning navigate this world where many of us how understand that "well-meaning" simply isn't actually enough. How do they distinguish between the absurd (aka, THIS) and murky and the actually offensive. I think it's legitimately a struggle, but hopefully a worthy one for us as a society. Sadly, I think most people just want to be dismissive to the whole thing or mock it (don't get me wrong, this is pretty mockable, I'm just saying...). But then it undermines when the complaint is actually more serious.

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CC

 

It's confusing to me, because some people say that there is *automatically* a religious/spiritual element to yoga, because the positions are ...oh, gosh, I can't remember exactly, but like "prayer positions" or something. So there are Christians who don't think it's right for them to do yoga, I guess because it's hard to divorce that idea from the exercise part.

 

And then there's some people who say that's just silly, and there's absolutely nothing spiritual about yoga.

 

It seems to me it's the one's who formerly said yoga isn't spiritual at all that are now saying it is spiritual, and that's not something you call your own unless you...IDK...are of that belief, maybe? Because if you do, you are doing the cultural appropriation thing.

 

Sheesh.

 

Make up your mind.

 

Y'know?

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The food thing doesn't make sense.  The tomato wasn't introduced to Italy from South America in the 1500's.  Think of all the culinary delights we'd be missing out on if that never happened or if someone poo pooed that as cultural appropriation.  Food as it exists today is a fusion of many cultures. 

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But then it undermines when the complaint is actually more serious.

 

Yes, because it's the Boy Who Cried Wolf! If some new religious group that wasn't an offshoot of Christianity decided to have some sort of imitation of communion, I'd completely understand Catholics being offended and seeing it as a mockery of something they hold dear. But if a new religious group decided that they like the look of stained glass windows and wanted make some of their religious figures then I wouldn't support churches being upset about it.

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It's confusing to me, because some people say that there is *automatically* a religious/spiritual element to yoga, because the positions are ...oh, gosh, I can't remember exactly, but like "prayer positions" or something. So there are Christians who don't think it's right for them to do yoga, I guess because it's hard to divorce that idea from the exercise part.

 

And then there's some people who say that's just silly, and there's absolutely nothing spiritual about yoga.

 

It seems to me it's the one's who formerly said yoga isn't spiritual at all that are now saying it is spiritual, and that's not something you call your own unless you...IDK...are of that belief, maybe? Because if you do, you are doing the cultural appropriation thing.

 

Sheesh.

 

Make up your mind.

 

Y'know?

 

I think whether or not yoga is inherently spiritual is dependent on how you view belief and can be legitimately seen either way. I don't think there's one right answer to that. It is a spiritual practice for many people. If you believe that you have to imbue meaning into things for them to have that meaning, then I think it can be totally secular if you choose. If you believe that things have a meaning apart from what meaning you assign them, then you may believe that yoga is spiritual and that you shouldn't practice it if it conflicts with your beliefs. I think people oversimplify this issue.

 

The Hindu spiritual leaders who have spread yoga over the years have seen it both as a spiritual evangelizing AND as a secular practice that they're spreading - the way a Christian might, say, want to share something like "the Golden Rule" with people as just a good rule to live by and not a religious prescript specifically. But it's also something that reflects well on Christianity as a religion.

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That is a poorly covered story.  It is not at all clear to me why it was cancelled.  I wonder if there isn't some back story or over riding policy change that prompted the cancellation. 

 

That said I consider this different.  This is in a University setting where adults can pick and chose what they want to get involved in.  I have taken yoga for years and miss it.  No yoga class I've ever taken ever claimed to be spiritual in nature or claimed to be one right or true way.  It has always been a stretching/relaxation/mediation/focused breathing class.  I've taken classes with people who've studied in India and they've been happy to share yoga in a secular way for the masses.  And students aren't being forced to participate.   Cultures are meshing and evolving all the time.

 

That is vastly different than white washing history and over simplifying for young kids in a public school setting IMO.  The thanksgiving story is just one aspect of that. I didn't participate in the other thread FTR.   I'm not up and arms over it, but it's certainly not something I did with my own kids at home.  My oldest went to K and 1st and his school didn't do this kind of thing.  We are in a very diverse district.

The story went viral...  there are several other articles out there about it now.

 

There is a serious topic here... which is how do institutions (and individuals) who are well-meaning navigate this world where many of us how understand that "well-meaning" simply isn't actually enough. How do they distinguish between the absurd (aka, THIS) and murky and the actually offensive. I think it's legitimately a struggle, but hopefully a worthy one for us as a society. Sadly, I think most people just want to be dismissive to the whole thing or mock it (don't get me wrong, this is pretty mockable, I'm just saying...). But then it undermines when the complaint is actually more serious.

The answer is you cannot overly bow to worrying about what is offensive and still have freedom of speech.  I realize this is Canada and the rules are different there, but if you're worried about offending and appropriating to this degree, you have lost your freedom.

 

My feeling is that people do not have a right to never be offended. Truly free people are free to do or say anything they want, even if it's offensive, as long as it doesn't take away or endanger the freedoms of others.

 

That doesn't mean there aren't social repercussions of being a complete jerk.  There always will be.  But it does mean this sort of policing of every little thing is more compatible with fascism than with freedom.

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The story went viral...  there are several other articles out there about it now.

 

The answer is you cannot overly bow to worrying about what is offensive and still have freedom of speech.  I realize this is Canada and the rules are different there, but if you're worried about offending and appropriating to this degree, you have lost your freedom.

 

My feeling is that people do not have a right to never be offended. Truly free people are free to do or say anything they want, even if it's offensive, as long as it doesn't take away or endanger the freedoms of others.

 

That doesn't mean there aren't social repercussions of being a complete jerk.  There always will be.  But it does mean this sort of policing of every little thing is more compatible with fascism than with freedom.

 

But this isn't a free speech story. An institution decided (wrongly, I agree) to not offer a class. That's not a speech issue. They can decide to use their space and funds and time however they like. Just like schools and community groups can decide how to present stories, what to read in class, how to spend their time and what values they want to reflect.

 

And speech issues are about more than the pure ability to be able to say things. I do believe in that right. And I totally agree with you that people don't have a right not to be offended. Poppycock. And I suspect we would be on the same side of some of the safe space sort of discussions currently.

 

However, I don't walk around saying rude things even when I think them - we all self-censor on a pretty regular basis because we want to be good, kind people and put good things out into the world. (Well, most of us do anyway.) Thus, there is a struggle to figure out what will be a good, kind thing and how much do we care about the world around us and want to be the sort of good people who care how our words and actions affect others. And even if we don't care, we recognize that our words have real repercussions. Sure, I can call my boss a rude name, but I might be fired. I can say nasty things to my waitress, but the restaurant will then be in their right to turn me out and not serve me.

 

So there is this struggle to figure out what are the right things... but that's the struggle - it's worth doing if we want to be good people. Worth figuring out what's okay, what's not, what's appropriation, what's not, what's upsetting to others, what's not. At least, it is to me. And while sometimes people make mistakes and err on either side by being offensive or by curtailing something that isn't offensive - that doesn't make the struggle to figure it out not worthwhile.

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I think the world has gone mad. 

 

Last week the instructor asked the class which shows they were missing (by being in the class).  So they blurted out various shows.  I said The Big Bang Theory.  A few people said they didn't like the show because they think it makes fun of people who are on the spectrum.  What on earth!?  Geesh, I don't see that in the show at all.  I have watched every episode an embarrassing number of times.  Of course they are free to not watch it and not like it, but what in heck.  It is a fictional show about fictional people doing fictional things.  If anything I think it has a pretty wide appeal and roots for the underdogs in many ways. 

 

Of course these may also be the same students who will run you over leaving the parking lot. 

 

On the spectrum?   I had no idea.  Fictional?   Both DH and I have Physics degrees.  I swear I went to school with three of them.  DH is certain he went to school with all four guys.  I even dated Leonard after he broke up with the cute blonde.  Although I am nothing like the women he briefly dated after her.  

 

Back to the general topic.  It seems that cancelling the class is being disrespectful to India.  The class is saying, "Hey, I really like this part of your culture."    

 

I guess 'They' will want me to change my dog's name from Yogi.  

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I'm not sure I understand why it makes a difference whether people are practicing yoga spiritually or not.  Why shouldn't North Americans practice yoga spiritually or as religious practice?  back when it became popular in the 60s, it was promoted that way, not just as exersize.  And people do still do that, there is a yoga studio of that type a block from me.

 

We just had a play canceled here that was inspired by Chinese theater, but written by someone of European descent, with non-Chinese actors. 

 

I think there is a huge difference between that and making fun of people, or I might even say making fun of people in a nasty way, or using a cultural symbol in a way that is really insensitive.

 

I think the problem here fundamentally is that culture, religion, is about ideas, and as much as some person might want to claim an idea, they don't belong to people.  Ideas are viral, they infect others, and then they are part of you.  All ideas come from many sources, and many of the best ones come out of fusions and cultural meetings - even violent ones.

 

If we shut down arts and ideas, or begin to define them somehow by ethnicity or sex or really anything but a universal human nature, I think we are going down a path that is not only going to be impossible to police without extreme measures, but that is far poorer in every way. 

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My snarky side would like to make this comparison:

 

Hypothetically, if rock music had never been invented yet and were just being created now, someone might complain that it's cultural appropriation of African music (if there is a real relation between the genres). They might be against it for the same reason that Bill Gothard is! Wouldn't that be a hoot!

 

/Back to your regular serious discussion.

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We just had a play canceled here that was inspired by Chinese theater, but written by someone of European descent, with non-Chinese actors. 

 

 

 

Seriously?  Does that mean my kids shouldn't learn how to write a haiku?  Or if they do write one they couldn't perform it? Or that non-Italians shouldn't write sonnets?  

 

The world keeps getting crazier.

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But this isn't a free speech story. An institution decided (wrongly, I agree) to not offer a class. That's not a speech issue. They can decide to use their space and funds and time however they like. Just like schools and community groups can decide how to present stories, what to read in class, how to spend their time and what values they want to reflect.

 

And speech issues are about more than the pure ability to be able to say things. I do believe in that right. And I totally agree with you that people don't have a right not to be offended. Poppycock. And I suspect we would be on the same side of some of the safe space sort of discussions currently.

 

However, I don't walk around saying rude things even when I think them - we all self-censor on a pretty regular basis because we want to be good, kind people and put good things out into the world. (Well, most of us do anyway.) Thus, there is a struggle to figure out what will be a good, kind thing and how much do we care about the world around us and want to be the sort of good people who care how our words and actions affect others. And even if we don't care, we recognize that our words have real repercussions. Sure, I can call my boss a rude name, but I might be fired. I can say nasty things to my waitress, but the restaurant will then be in their right to turn me out and not serve me.

 

So there is this struggle to figure out what are the right things... but that's the struggle - it's worth doing if we want to be good people. Worth figuring out what's okay, what's not, what's appropriation, what's not, what's upsetting to others, what's not. At least, it is to me. And while sometimes people make mistakes and err on either side by being offensive or by curtailing something that isn't offensive - that doesn't make the struggle to figure it out not worthwhile.

 

Stopping instruction in a gym at a public university IS a speech issue.  The fact that the instruction is in yoga rather than something more academic makes no difference.

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I'm not sure I understand why it makes a difference whether people are practicing yoga spiritually or not.  Why shouldn't North Americans practice yoga spiritually or as religious practice?  back when it became popular in the 60s, it was promoted that way, not just as exersize.  And people do still do that, there is a yoga studio of that type a block from me.

 

We just had a play canceled here that was inspired by Chinese theater, but written by someone of European descent, with non-Chinese actors. 

 

I think there is a huge difference between that and making fun of people, or I might even say making fun of people in a nasty way, or using a cultural symbol in a way that is really insensitive.

 

I think the problem here fundamentally is that culture, religion, is about ideas, and as much as some person might want to claim an idea, they don't belong to people.  Ideas are viral, they infect others, and then they are part of you.  All ideas come from many sources, and many of the best ones come out of fusions and cultural meetings - even violent ones.

 

If we shut down arts and ideas, or begin to define them somehow by ethnicity or sex or really anything but a universal human nature, I think we are going down a path that is not only going to be impossible to police without extreme measures, but that is far poorer in every way. 

 

This is legally true as well.  Ideas cannot be copyrighted.  This is why the lawsuit over the movie Gravity failed.

 

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Stopping instruction in a gym at a public university IS a speech issue.  The fact that the instruction is in yoga rather than something more academic makes no difference.

 

It's a general free speech issue. What I meant is that it isn't a protected speech issue. Legally (even if this was the US) they could do whatever they wanted with their gym unless they had somehow created a public forum with its use, which I doubt was the case.

 

ETA: A lot of free speech issues fall into this category. Like, say, that duck show being canceled after that guy said homophobic stuff. Not a legal free speech issue - the networks can show what they like.

Edited by Farrar
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Yes, because it's the Boy Who Cried Wolf! If some new religious group that wasn't an offshoot of Christianity decided to have some sort of imitation of communion, I'd completely understand Catholics being offended and seeing it as a mockery of something they hold dear. But if a new religious group decided that they like the look of stained glass windows and wanted make some of their religious figures then I wouldn't support churches being upset about it.

 

Decades ago, I visited a "Golden Temple" in West Virginia (IIRC) with some Hindu friends.  I was really uncomfortable with the way they had Jesus sitting up there among all the other religious gurus etc. and covered with flowers.

 

At some point people just need to live and let live.  If you don't like the way someone does something, don't participate.  Yep, I just said if you don't like it, don't look at it.  Who is it hurting?

 

Are there Hindu children being harmed by this class?

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So let's say that the people offering the class should have checked with the Indian population on campus before offering the class, as (I think) Sadie suggested, above.

 

1. Who do they call?  There's no Central Number...or is there?  What if there are two Indian groups?  

2.  What if there is disagreement within the Indian population?  Who decides? 

3.  What if the Indian population is offended by being stereotyped by being asked the question?

 

I have a few more, but these kind of get to the gist of it...

 

Now, let me ask these questions:

 

There is a lot of awareness in popular culture these days about Mindfulness.  People offer classes on it, teach others about it, and so on.  But the roots of what they are teaching is in Buddhism, at least for the most part.  There is Mindfulness practice derived from Eastern religious practices.  Who do these people need to call so they won't be appropriating something that doesn't belong to their culture?  Are they allowed to modify the Buddhist teachings based on their own experience or personal preference?

 

And, just to pick on my own group:   Who in the Middle East are the churches in America supposed to call to make sure it's OK to practice Christianity?  Or which practices to use?  

 

I don't get it.  But I'm not averse to "getting it" if there is something to be "got."  

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Here, maybe this will help some people understand the whole concept of what is and isn't cultural appropriation:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/

 

ETA: I should add that I don't agree with absolutely everything in this piece. But it does discuss yoga and the ways that it is and isn't cultural appropriation.

Edited by Farrar
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Here, maybe this will help some people understand the whole concept of what is and isn't cultural appropriation:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/

 

There are so many things wrong with the logic in this article I don't know where to begin.

 

Basically, the university was right, because Indians cannot give consent to evangelize yoga, because they are oppressed and white people profit from it?!?

 

 

This is insane.

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I'm trying to imagine what would still exist if we took away all cultural appropriation according to that article. All Martial arts, gone. Most if not all dance styles, gone. Most music, gone.

 

Even my favorite Asian restaurant, owned by a family from China, would be suspect. After all, they have Hunan, Mandarin, and Cantonese sections on their menu. Not to mention the Sushi and Pad Thai.

 

It would be a pretty boring world.

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Actually that wouldn't be an example, because she's not part of the oppressive class.

 

Sure she is.  She's light-skinned and she's a school principal.  English is her first language.  India was part of the British empire.  Clearly she is an oppressor.

 

BTW I am not sure why Canadians are oppressors over Yoga practicers.  I guess you could say it's because a lot of them are white and Canada is sorta British-ish.  Say, maybe US people are allowed to do Yoga because we are less British-ish.  Though some of my Indian student friends had to be informed that the US was not in fact the country that controlled India prior to its independence.  A little confusion there.

 

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Sure she is.  She's light-skinned and she's a school principal.  English is her first language.  India was part of the British empire.  Clearly she is an oppressor.

 

BTW I am not sure why Canadians are oppressors over Yoga practicers.  I guess you could say it's because a lot of them are white and Canada is sorta British-ish.  Say, maybe US people are allowed to do Yoga because we are less British-ish.  Though some of my Indian student friends had to be informed that the US was not in fact the country that controlled India prior to its independence.  A little confusion there.

 

 

Silly rabbit.  The US is the world's biggest superpower and we spend more on the military than anyone else. Plus, most of us support Israel.  We are clearly the worst oppressor in history.

 

:lol:

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On the contrary, I think the Everyday Feminism article is part of the problem, not a reasonable take on it. It takes the same view of yoga as the college students did and says it's an example of cultural appropriation.

 

I don't agree with everything it says, but I think this is the gist of where that article comes down on it: 

 

 

Barkataki also says that this doesn’t mean white people can’t practice yoga.

But if you’re doing it in a way that contributes to excluding Indian people from it, prioritizing white practitioners’ desires over South Asian people’s needs, or making white people the image of yoga, you’re part of the problem.

 

In other words, yoga isn't necessarily bad and isn't off the table. What's potentially bad is conveying an image that yoga is a white thing or that yoga was created by white people or is best practiced by white people. And it's saying, hey, this is just worth thinking about. Sort like how there's nothing wrong with eating quinoa, but it's sure worth thinking about how the inflated price of quinoa has disrupted access to it by the very people who have always used it as a dietary staple. Should you not eat quinoa? I don't know. But I sure think it's worthy of a conversation and not a joke.

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White people should probably not professionally play any sport or instrument that wasn't originally invented and made popular by white people, because that could give the impression that the instrument or sport is a "white-only" thing.  (I assume the same goes for other races and nationalities.  So the East Asian girl who plays kickass violin needs to stop.)

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