American girl wears qipao to prom, gets accused of ‘cultural appropriation’
The student has said that she was just showing her ‘appreciation’ for Chinese culture with her dress choice
Over the weekend, Twitter got into quite the tizzy regarding photos of a non-Chinese high school student wearing a qipao, or cheongsam, to her prom in Utah.
The photos, which were posted to Twitter by a girl named “Keziah,” ignited debate online with some angrily accusing the student of “cultural appropriation” for wearing the traditional Chinese dress.
One of her main critics was a Twitter user named “Jeremy Lam,” who wrote: “My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress.”
After his initial tweet went viral, Lam responded with a more lengthy, historical argument about why it was not appropriate for Keziah to wear a qipao to her prom:
The qipao was originally a loose dress/garment without shape, made for Chinese women to clean the house and do other domestic chores with.
It was then altered and embroidered as a beautiful form-fitting outfit to wear publically, which Chinese women were not allowed to do at during the times of extreme patriarchal oppression.
In a time where Asian women were silenced they were able to create, not only a piece of art but a symbol of activism. This piece of clothing embraced femininity, confidence, and gender equality through its beautiful, eye-catching appearance.
It even broke the division of financial classes! It could be made with high-quality materials that only the upper class could afford such as special silks and linens, but a dress just as beautiful could have been made with just cotton and low-quality linen.
Femme factory workers wore this dress!!! And the style was then spread throughout Asian as a beautiful garment and sign of women’s liberation.
In short: I’m proud of my culture, including the extreme barriers marginalized people within that culture have had to overcome those obstacles. For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience, is parallel to colonial ideology.
Meanwhile, most Twitter users were less offended by the teenager’s choice of prom attire, complimenting her on her dress:
And others, like Foreign Policy’s Asia Editor James Palmer, argued that the debate was “very, very silly,” noting that the qipao would not be what it is today without Western influences, with the iconic dress originating with the Manchus as a wide and loose garment that covered most of a woman’s body, before changing over time.
Eventually, Keziah herself responded to all of the criticism, explaining that by wearing the qipao she was “simply showing my appreciation to [Chinese] culture” and moreover arguing that “it’s a fucking dress.”
However, some Twitter users wrote that it was ultimately not her dress choice that offended them, but how she and her friends had decided to pose for a group photo:
Hey, at least they didn’t make “slanty eyes?”