Bilo is one of the most unique clothing brands in Second Life. In additional to the usual Western style designs, Bilo’s Mayaa Thistle also designs clothing drawn from Islamic fashion aesthetics such as this lovely caftan adorned with a wonderful fabric featuring an intricate pattern that developed from the focus on nonrepresentational figures in Islamic art. It is refreshing to see Islamic fashion represented with respect and accuracy in Second Life. When it is as lovely as this caftan, it’s doubly rewarding.
Whether in my first of second life, I tread carefully when wearing clothing or jewelry inspired or drawn from cultures that are not my own. I do not want to offend by using some symbol that has a religious meaning or by wearing something that represents some honors that I have no right to claim.
A striking example is Mala beads, a string of beads used by Buddhists for meditation. They are beautiful and many westerners have started wearing them as necklaces and bracelets, oblivious of their sacred context. The Dalai Lama went so far as to request that non-Buddhist not wear them. I remember mentioning this in a book club discussion, not noticing that one of the women was wearing mala beads. Her response was all too belligerent and typical, insisting that she had the right to wear anything she wanted, that she didn’t care what the Dalai Lama said, she would wear what she damn well liked. It’s a common misconception in America that just because we have the right to do and say offensive things that we are under some sort of affirmative obligation to act like an ass.
It is not that difficult to avoid becoming a culture vulture – stealing and appropriating images, icons and designs from other cultures without respect for the traditions they come from or what they represent. In the era of Google, there’s no excuse for not doing some research to discover the significance of the item in its culture. Things that are sacred or representative of high honors should be avoided. Think of how offensive it is for people to wear military medals they have not earned. Until the Supreme Court struck the law down last year, it was punishable by up to two years in prison. Wearing an Indian headdress is the same offense. The feathers are earned and chosen with ritual and prayer just as medals are earned and awarded with ritual and ceremony.
The general rule for avoiding offense is to consider the Source, Significance and Similarity to the cultural icons and motifs that are being “borrowed.” If the people whose culture is represented in the fashions have agency in what is shared, if they create and sell it in their own stores, then you are appreciating, not appropriating. Significance refers to whether it’s sacred or symbolic of some cultural value that would put it off limits for people who are not part of that tradition. Similarity refers to whether its inspired by or simply copied. Using color combinations, abstract motifs that do homage without outright theft is appreciation, not appropriation.
I know it’s easier to assert your right to do what you like and of course, it is perfectly legal. However, think of symbols that are sacred to you and how you feel when they are disrespected. Think of the widespread anger when a single crucifix was placed in a tank of urine for a piece of art. That offense against religious iconography has reverberated for years, now consider how some people may feel about seeing their sacred symbols tattooed on someone’s backside, not once, not twice and but over and over.
Store info at Blogging Second Life
Skin: -Belleza- Amy Med BBB 0 (Red)
Eyes: Poetic Colors
Mani/Pedi: SLink Mesh Hands
Hair: /Wasabi Pills/ Giselle Mesh Hair – Rouge
Clothing: Bilo Rani -Sabah (M) Faerie Night
Shoes: Baiastice_Lira Pumps-purple
Jewelry: Dark Mouse Lapis Lazuli (not available)