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cultural crossdressing or cultural appropriation?

There was a particular passage that Jill and I were discussing in small group last week that I meant to bring up to the whole class but didn't have time to get to. In the "Representations of Latinidad in Hispanic Barbie" there following sentence about the costuming of Barbie and Ken sparked our discussion:

"Barbie and Ken's cultural cross-dressing metonymically invites the consumer to objectify the exotic other without ever actually invoking the image of the other's body."

Jill argued, and I agree, that to use cross-dressing in this context is not only inaccurate, but takes away from the specific subversive power and political or cultural message that cross-dressing and gender bending have. I feel like the term cultural appropriation would have been more accurate, since Mattel was using these folkloric Mexican designs as a means to financial gain, and was doing so most likely without permission or support from anyone from that specific culture. So I was just putting that out to the class to see if anyone felt the same or differently, and if they thought appropriation or another term would have been better used.

Comments

Thanks for remembering! yeah, i feel like it's really important for scholars to think about what sort of hierarchie they may be reinstating when they talk about dismantling other ones. i understand what the author intended to say in using the term "cross dressing" but i also feel that to be a cross dresser is a very important part of many people's identity; a part of one's identity that cannot be separated from their race, class, and other aspects of their social location. in using "cross dressing" to signify a really ugly negative colonial process, i feel like the author of this particular text perhaps unitentionally reinscribes transphobia/genderbend-o-phobia. (i just made that word up; yep, i'm giving myself the authority to do that).