Lime Crime and Cultural Appropriation

Hello, Tumblr! 

As you may or may not know, Lime Crime is a well-known indie makeup company that is masterminded by Doe Deere, who runs her own blog, Doe Deere Blogazine. Both the blogger and the brand have a dedicated fanfollowing and have had a number of scandals, the most recent of which is that surrounding her choice of character — "Chinadoll" — for an campaign promoting her brand’s newest product. The long story short is that for legitimate reasons, some netizens have justifiably found this campaign racist and (civilly) expressed their concerns to Doe Deere, who has issued some apologies but made her own the choice to continue with the campaign and release of the palette. (Which, while insensitive, irresponsible, and immature, is also understandable.) 

However, she has recently made a follow-up blog post on the controversy that states things that are just downright unacceptable. I won’t comment on the general tone of the article or her attitude (too subjective and besides the point!), but she states on cultural appropriation (and I copypasta quote): 

"To be honest, I find the notion a little silly. It implies that unless you are Japanese, you can’t cosplay as your favorite anime character or write manga without offending someone. You can’t sing the blues or release a rap album if you weren’t born black. And you most certainly can’t make this collection if you are Karl Lagerfeld! Call me crazy, but I find this whole ‘cultural appropriation’ thing — or cultural exchange, as I like to call it — kinda brilliant actually. I think it encourages acceptance, enriches our existence, and makes us more tolerant toward other humans all over the world. Borrowing from cultures — and letting borrow! — is vital to ending racism, bigotry and misanthropy [sic]…Not all that pertains to race has to be racist, just like not every cultural reference has to be met with opposition. What matters is intent. As an artist and a human being, I have the right to be inspired by and wanting to explore, adapt, and otherwise express myself through things I find wonderful.”

This shows no grasp on the actual social context of cultural appropriation or its consequences, not to mention uses the ultimate “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” excuse, the ‘intent’ card. I’m sure Liz Trotta, the female commentator who pretty much stated women in the military should expect to be raped, didn’t wake up Monday morning intending to be bigoted misogynist, but hey! She was!  

(A quick note: I am not a cultural appropriation resource, but they’re all over the place and littered about all over tumblr, Facebook, blogspot, everywhere! Miss Mai has been inspiringly articulate about Chinadoll and Chinese cultural appropriation in particular, and I highly recommend that you give her posts on the subject a read! I’m also sure the tag here on tumblr is alive and kickin’, though I imagine there’s also lots of bad eggs among the good ones, and here’s a good article on the topic, which also rebuts the biggest claims Doe Deere’s argument hinges on. If you don’t feel like looking, here’s a good summarizing quote: “What’s so wrong with being inspired by another culture? I’m not sure how to answer, because borrowing from a historically oppressed culture is not as simple as some would want it to be [sic]…For many people of color, it’s nearly impossible to unhook what the mainstream believes is harmless cultural borrowing from the broader experience and history of our people. “Harmless” is really in the eye of the beholder.”)

Regardless of intent, misunderstanding the concept, defending her campaign, or what have you, Doe Deere is communicating to several thousand fans and followers a misunderstanding that’s just going to perpetuate the problem. Not everyone has been exposed to the concept of cultural appropriation or got a quick lesson on why it’s A Very Not Okay Thing To Do, and it bothers me that there’s going to be a number of people who will read that article and get it all wrong. 

I suggest checking out the information and discussions that the Doe Deere Lies tumblr has gathered and initiated (and despite the name, they tend to do well with reposting impartial reviews and keeping themselves open to other sides and happy LC customers! ) but what this post is more interested in is communicating loud and clear that Doe Deere has cultural appropriation horribly wrong, and there are some real serious consequences of having someone with as large a following as hers misunderstand and miscommunicate this very real problem! Speak up, spread the word, tell your friends, tell the internet several times over, and even e-mail Doe Deere or the general Lime Crime address, requesting that she better understand the topic and rewrite the post or take it down altogether! ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ and all that.

I would also appreciate reblogging this and others of the same nature that show up on your dash or that you also happen to stumble across. I actually made this post partly for purposes of personal relief, because this thing is bothering me to the point where I actually feel compelled to do something about somebody being wrong about the internet (and how the hell could I have any pride as an Asian-American anthro major makeup maven and not speak up about this?) — but there are many more people who’ve been more involved in this debacle and more knowledgeable and articulate than I about it (the aforementioned Miss Mai comes to mind, as well as the Doe Deere Lies tumblr). I suggest go giving them a look! 

Sorry for the wall of text, dudes, but I think it’s a worthy thing to have to scroll a little extra for :) So — I guess, bottom line — don’t be a dick about cultural appropriation! 

big honkin edit (jan 2014): So! Nearly two years after this fiasco, Doe Deere Lies is now defunct, the circumstances of which I don’t know enough about to discuss but are nonetheless very suspicious. All the DDL links in this post are no longer going to work, sorry! >__< Efforts are being made to get the resources the blog provided and gathered up again, including Lime Crime: A Sordid History, which used to link to this post, and a new blog for voicing problems with/suspicious activity by Lime Crime/Doe Deere, Oh Dear Doe Deere. Please keep in mind that ODDD is run by a different person than DDL! 

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