Summary of “Every Culture Appropriates”

Customs we may think of as immemorially inherent in one culture very often originated in that culture’s own history of empire and domination.
The Chinese dress young Kezia Daum wanted to wear to prom originated in a brutal act of imperialism, but not by any western people.
They have a morality tale to tell, one of Western victimization of non-Western peoples-a victimization so extreme that it is triggered by a Western girl’s purchase of a Chinese dress designed precisely so that Chinese girls could live more like Western girls.
Why not? The would-be culture police build their whole philosophy on a single assumption of extreme chauvinism: that Western culture is universal-indeed the only universal culture.
Western technology, the Western emphasis on individual autonomy and equal human dignity, and even such oddly specific Western practices as death-metal music-the cultural police take all this for granted as thoroughly as a fish takes for granted the water in its fishbowl.
The various coverings voluntarily adopted by some women in North America and Western Europe evolved in societies where 90 percent of the population still agrees that women must obey their husbands at all times.
Their individual decision to wear a traditional garment has already changed that garment’s cultural context and put it to a new and very Western use.
The Western culture of personal autonomy and equal dignity is a precious thing precisely because it is not universal.

The orginal article.