US teen's cheongsam photos split online views

High school student Keziah Daum, who is not Chinese, posted pictures of herself wearing a cheongsam for her prom last week, prompting Twitter user Jeremy Lam to accuse her of cultural appropriation. Tens of thousands of netizens have come out both in
High school student Keziah Daum, who is not Chinese, posted pictures of herself wearing a cheongsam for her prom last week, prompting Twitter user Jeremy Lam to accuse her of cultural appropriation. Tens of thousands of netizens have come out both in support and criticism of the charge. PHOTO: TWITTER/DAUMKEZIAH

SALT LAKE CITY (Utah) *An American high school student's prom pictures have unwittingly sparked a ''cultural appropriation'' debate on social media, BBC reported.

Twitter user Keziah Daum, who is not Chinese, posted pictures of herself wearing a cheongsam, or qipao - a traditional Chinese dress - for her prom last week.

The debate began when Twitter user Jeremy Lam tweeted a response to her post: ''My culture is NOT your... prom dress.'' He accused the 18-year-old of ''cultural appropriation'', or the adoption of minority cultures, typically by dominant cultures.

Since the online furore started, Mr Lam's post has garnered more than 41,000 retweets and over 177,000 likes on Twitter.

Ms Daum's original tweet has generated more than 5,000 retweets and over 84,000 likes.

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of other Twitter users have come out both in support and criticism over the concept of cultural appropriation.

Many supported Mr Lam, who explained in a lengthy Twitter thread why he found the photos troubling: ''The qipao was originally a loose dress/garment without shape, made for Chinese women to clean the house and do other domestic chores with. It was then altered and embroidered as a beautiful form-fitting outfit to wear (publicly).''

He added: ''In a time where Asian women were silenced, they were able to create not only a piece of art but a symbol of activism. This piece of clothing embraced femininity, confidence and gender equality through its beautiful, eye-catching appearance.

''The style then spread throughout Asia as a beautiful garment and (a) sign of women's liberation.''

''I'm proud of my culture, including the extreme barriers marginalised people within that culture have had to overcome those obstacles,'' he continued.

''For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience is parallel to colonial ideology.''

After some netizens suggested that Ms Daum remove the pictures, she refused and also took to Twitter to explain her decision. ''To everyone causing so much negativity: I mean no disrespect to the Chinese culture,'' she wrote.

''I'm simply showing my appreciation to their culture. I'm not deleting my post because I've done nothing but show my love for the culture.

''It's a... dress. And it's beautiful.'' But there are also others who came out in support of Ms Keziah, encouraging her to ''stay strong''.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2018, with the headline 'US teen's cheongsam photos split online views'. Print Edition | Subscribe