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#tulabuildscommunities: Culture and Community Project

#tulabuildscommunities: Culture and Community Project
On appropriation and appreciation

At Baby Tula, we pride ourselves on building communities, both big and small. We love the sense of camaraderie that comes with finding fellow baby wearers and parents, and the beauty in learning that you are not alone on the path of parenthood. That’s why respect of communities is very important to us.

In our search to provide the most fashion-forward options to our customers, we have tried to select prints that appeal to a wide variety of tastes. In doing so, we chose certain prints that we felt honored tradition and cultures, but we learned that they in fact appropriated those cultures. We deeply regret these choices, and are truly sorry.

As we learned about cultural appropriation, we became passionate about educating ourselves and helping to raise awareness. We therefore launched a project under the name “Culture and Community,” which we are now ready to share.
Our Culture and Community project is two-fold; we focus on RESPONSIVENESS and RESPECTFULNESS.

 

Our initial actions focused on responsiveness. We immediately worked to educate ourselves about cultural appropriation through focused research and outreach to educational institutions. We reached out to those doing excellent work in the field at various universities and organizations for research assistance. We studied the differences between cultural appropriation and appreciation and the nuances thereof in pop culture, the media, and in fashion. As we learned, we responded by pulling products we were concerned about from our production line and discontinuing prints. We planned and considered how to address cultural appropriation with our audience in a way that helps to raise awareness, build community, and maintain a climate of justice and mutual respect while still offering expression of individuality and diversity. We are still learning.

 

Cultural appropriation is a challenging subject. It is one that involves the adoption of various motifs or elements (such as dress, dance, music, language, cuisine, religious symbols, etc.) of another culture, most frequently one that has been oppressed or exploited. Oftentimes, cultural appropriation is a reflection of stereotypes. It is harmful, hurtful, and damaging to a spirit of equity, inclusion, and diversity, and partnership. It is harmful to communities.

 

That is why we are committed to the second piece of our mission, respectfulness. In keeping with our beliefs that we, as a world, have a responsibility to band together in mutual respect, sensitivity, and justice, we have been focusing our efforts on the evaluation of prints going forward. The eyes on our prints aren’t those of only one demographic, but of many, and our goal is to continue to work with experts and students in various fields including social justice, psychology, law, and anthropology, to select prints that meet our high standards. Fordham University Law professor Dr. Susan Scafidi has written a groundbreaking book on the topic: Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law (2005). Her work was a great step in learning more about this topic. She offers advice in her article, “When Native American Appropriation is Appropriate,” which really resonated with us, and which inspired our action and follow up.

 

She said:

“Staying on the right side of the inspiration/appropriation divide requires individual awareness and attention to three S’s: significance (or sacredness), source and similarity. What’s the significance of the necklace you’re about to put on: is it just jewelry or a set of prayer beads? Did the source community invite you to wear that traditional robe, perhaps via voluntary sale, and does the community still suffer from a history of exploitation, discrimination or oppression? And how similar is that designer adaptation to the original: a head-to-toe copy, or just a nod in the direction of silhouette or pattern?”

While the beauty of a global community is that it allows for many different cultures, demographics, societies, and influences to blend together, respect remains paramount in importance and must be continually considered.

Please keep an eye on our blog for more information on how our Culture and Community project has hit the ground running and has driven our passion to learn more about—and support—our mission of building communities.

The post #tulabuildscommunities: Culture and Community Project appeared first on Baby Tula Blog.

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