Why Prom Isn’t an Excuse for Cultural Appropriation

Recently, there was a huge viral tweet by a girl named Keziah Daum. She posted her prom pictures with one big problem. She had worn a traditional Chinese dress – a qipao – to prom. While there was a lot of controversy about her intentions, this article is about how I view the issue. While you might not agree with my views, it does not mean my opinions should be invalidated. This is why I believe her heart was not in the right place when wearing this qipao to prom.

Keziah Daum lives in Utah, where she got her prom dress at a vintage shop. She got this dress because she thought it was beautiful. The thing is, you can appreciate a culture, do your research and execute your appreciation in a respectful way. However, Daum did not do this. With all of the criticism she received, she tweeted:

Image Courtesy of Twitter

This statement, to me at least, means that she had worn it simply because the dress was beautiful. It was a fashion statement and cultural appreciation does not mean you can use a culture’s traditional clothing for fashion or trends. Even though she says she appreciates and loves Chinese culture, she does not take into account that she should have done research first.

There’s nothing wrong with researching and appreciating a culture. However, I had heard that Daum decided to research the culture after she got so much backlash. This shows how her initial intention was not to appreciate. She didn’t understand the historical context of the dress; she just thought it was pretty. Her intent was not malicious, but that does not make it any less racist. For example, non-blacks who say the n-word when singing along to songs may not think they are being racist just because it is a song, but it is still incredibly disrespectful and racist.

She should not feel innocent that people are upset because she should have known that cultural appropriation is a sensitive topic; you can’t expect every Chinese person to love what you’re doing with their culture. While there are many Chinese individuals who have given her support, there are also many who find it offensive.

Let’s say that Daum wore a dashiki-inspired prom dress; a dashiki is a “colorful garment…worn mostly in West Africa.” I believe that there would have been a lot less support (but I will keep in mind that I could be wrong). When it comes down to it, I just think that Daum never truly appreciated the origins of her qipao-inspired dress. She only decided to do research after she was attacked on Twitter. Her heart might have been in the right place, but she chose to get defensive and constantly insist she wasn’t racist after people got angry. Appreciation is not the same thing as appropriation.