A 5-year-old blog post about a tea party has caused a fierce debate on Tumblr.
Heidi, a Utah mom, shared photos of her daughter's birthday on her blog, "The Gala Gals," in November 2012, observes HuffPost.
As Heidi explained at the time, "I was searching the web for simple Japanese food recipes when I came across an article in Parent’s Magazine for a fun [kids’] Japanese Tea Party."
The resulting blog post documenting the party is richly illustrated with photos of the Japanese-themed decor, including a cherry blossom centerpiece, traditional tea cups, chopsticks, and traditional Japanese garments.
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Heidi's daughter and her friends are also seen wearing kimonos and geisha makeup.
Some Tumblr users accused Heidi of "cultural appropriation," defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as "the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture."
"Teach children this is not ok," one user wrote. When another Tumblr user defended the photos, the first writer responded:
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The makeup is clearly reflective of traditional geisha makeup which is yellowface and therefore racist. Furthermore, the girl is wearing a kimono, a garment that has for ages carried cultural significance. Assuming that she is white how can you think this is ok? And cultural appropriation isn't a thing? What rock do you live under? I suggest you educate yourself on the differences between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation.
However, a Japanese person chimed in to defend the party.
"I am Japanese, in Japan at this very moment. The only people who think culture shouldn't be shared are racists like you," the user wrote. "A vast majority of Japanese people actually enjoy other people making an effort to spread and enjoy japanese culture, and encourage it. Many make businesses in deliberately taking pictures of people in kimono. A common omiage for foreigners from japanese people is traditional japanese things such as kimonos, tea seats, shisa dog statues, etc."
Another user also sympathized with Heidi. "This party is an attempt at experiencing and appreciating another culture. The mom who put this together is not an expert on Japan, but she did her best. She got a lot of things right: there are few things Japan loves more than tea, Pocky, and sakura."
The same user went on to raise some thoughtful questions. "Where do you draw the line for who is 'allowed' to learn about Japan? If the girl were of Japanese descent, would that make it OK? If one of the girl's parents were from Japan, then would it be OK? Are you only allowed to make pizza if you live in Italy? If you're an Italian immigrant? How do we decide these things?"