The daily chuckle: Kim Kardashian accused of cultural appropriation for naming her underwear line “kimono”

June 26, 2019 • 3:30 pm

Yes, even Kim Kardashian is guilty of appropriation, at least according to this article in The Daily Fail (click on screenshot):

Once again we see people looking for an outlet for their outrage, and taking it out on garments that don’t even resemble Japanese kimonos, but simply bear their name. (It may be that the “kim” in “kimono” refers to Kardashian.)

Forgive me for reproducting this picture of Kardashian and some models showing the kimono “shapewear”, which I guess is like full-body Spanx, but you need to see what’s causing the outrage:

And the backlash:

The 38-year-old entrepreneur said the brand ‘celebrates and enhances the shape and curves of women’, as she made the announcement on social media.

She shared three images from her Kimono Solutionwear shoot while posing alongside models, adding a lengthy caption to talk about her new venture that she said was ‘coming soon’.

But Japanese people say the trademarked brand disrespects the traditional 15th century kimono clothing.

. . .One social media user wrote: ‘I feel very sad that the name ”Kimono” is being used to something completely different from what we Japanese know about it. Kimono is Japanese traditional clothes and we are very proud of its history and culture. I’m sorry but I feel this name choice is simply ignorant. #KimOhNo.’

Professor Sheila Cliffe from the Jumonji Women’s University in Niiza, Japan, said the kimono was actually the opposite of figure-hugging shapewear.

. . .’She’s been to Japan many times. I’m shocked. She has no respect,’ tweeted one social media user in Japanese.

‘I like Kim Kardashian, but please pick a name other than kimono if it’s underwear,’ wrote another.

‘The Japanese government should file a protest against Kardashian,’ wrote a third.

This is also reported by the BBC, which reproduces some tweets (I’ve added a few from #kimohno):

Yet Japanese salarymen wear Western suits, complete with tie. Are we supposed to call them out by tweeting “My culture’s not your neckwear”?

I think some people need to do something constructive rather that sit before their keyboards looking for cases of cultural appropriation (in this case only a name). Really, what does all this outrage accomplish?

I have yet to see a single instance of inappropriate cultural appropriation. I’ve given some hypothetical cases in which cultural appropriation could be harmful, but I’ve never seen any. And certainly this is not one of them.


h/t: Randy

76 thoughts on “The daily chuckle: Kim Kardashian accused of cultural appropriation for naming her underwear line “kimono”

  1. Anyone who worries about cultural appropriation is profoundly ignorant about what culture actually is.

    1. To mis-quote Hermann Göring, “Whenever I hear the word “culture”, I reach for my Petri dish!”

      I suppose to balance it, I should misquote de Gaulle “Whenever I hear the word “culture”, I look for the cheese board!”

        1. If I could do cartoon voices, I think I could make … one of Top Cat’s associates? … deliver a laughable version of “yoghurt yoghurt yoghurt!”

  2. Any truth to the rumor the Japanese have retaliated by naming a new line of kimonos “Badonkadonk”?

  3. Hmm, I might have to disagree on this one. Kardashian is using the name of one thing to describe something in the same general category (clothing) but not at all similar in the specific sense. I.E, her product is not in anyway a Kimono.

    It’s somewhat like using the term “bordeaux” or “chianti” to refer to a lemon-lime soft drink. It dilutes the meaning of the original word. Make a wine nearly identical to a bordeaux and I’d have no problem with you using the term “bordeaux”.

    1. But, so what? If I call a Bordeaux “Chianti” you might chuckle at my ignorance. But take offense? Get a life!

    2. I agree with Divalent (if I understand correctly). The name as applied to this product is an affront to language and common sense, or, darker, has perhaps been calculated to cause controversy.

      Ridicule has to be the weapon of choice here, not so much outrage over cultural appropriation.

      1. Right. I suggest another name for her clothing line that is both an accurate description and is not appropriating anything;

        Hideous by Kardashian

    3. Those who confuse a Chianti with a lemon-lime soft drink, or a traditional Japanese dress with Kim K’s underwear are more to be pitied for their ignorance than condemned for their appropriation.

      Kimono will continue to mean primarily a particular style of Japanese clothing but as an underwear brand name it will largely be forgotten within a few years.

      Meanwhile, who has been harmed by this verbal hi-jacking?

    4. Make a wine nearly identical to a bordeaux and I’d have no problem with you using the term “bordeaux”.

      Isn’t “Bordeaux” an appelation contrôlée – and therefore protected under both French national laws and EU laws? So … using it for anything other than a wine produced in the terroir of Bordeaux is cruising for a lawsuit?

      1. Selling wine with the label might get you into legal trouble as a consequence of international trade rules. Misusing the word to describe the creek in your back yard would not. The offense would not be labeled “cultural appropriation”.

        1. international trade rules

          Shhh, you’ll wake the Tangerine one from his slumber in R’lyeh and spark another round of taxation of US consumers (a.k.a. tarrifs)

  4. What I don’t understand here is why do the not so smart people seem to make all the money?

  5. Male underwear has its cultural appropriation problems, too. A Boxer rebellion is in the air. And no puns about my underwear being revolting anyway, unless the wordplay comes about by sheer Occident.

  6. Those undies are NOT kimonos. I think it’s goofy and stupid of Kardashian to call her underwear “kimono”.

    That said, I think it’s impossible to eliminate cultural appropriation! Never gonna happen.

    The way I see it, we human beans function on a mixture of appropriation and innovation. Children learn by imitating, and go on to create their own stuff after starting with the things they’ve learned.

    And adults learn from others and then go on to innovate. The Italians got noodles from the Chinese and went on to create spaghetti and meatballs. The Scots are famous for bagpipes, but instruments of that sort are played all over the world. I’m sure any number of people here can come up with examples of things that were learned from another culture and then developed into something else.

    Shucks, if we couldn’t learn from others and then go on to innovate and create, well…

    I’ve been struggling with this issue ever since belly dancing was spoiled for me (it was my 65th birthday present to myself, taking belly dancing lessons and having a wonderful time) by an article by Randa Jarrar (I do believe that’s her name) about how she hates white belly dancers because they’ve appropriated middle eastern dance.

    I stopped dancing. I have to sort this out.

    I’m thinking that the problem is NOT the appropriation. As others have pointed out, our culture is constantly being appropriated. (I have some Issey Miyake clothes given to me by my friend who used to work in Bergdorf Goodman’s in the Issey department, and I love the way Issey Miyake has appropriated western clothes and turned them into something wonderful and based on Japanese ideas. He appropriated and innovated.)

    I think the problem is bigotry and, well, a one up one down (I’m fishing for a word here), and the way a dominant culture will exploit a subordinate culture. It’s not the imitation of something, it’s the one-up power over dynamic.

    But appropriating and copying and imitating will be with us forever, and we build knowledge by learning from each other and facilitating growth of the knowledge.

    1. That’s ridiculous. I hope you don’t stop dancing because of that article.

      The power dynamic makes a big difference, as does the motivation, intention, and the respect shown by the actual individual doing the appropriating. For example, I heard a Native Canadian on radio describing a particular face tattoo she sports and when asked if she’s OK with others taking that design, she said No. My first reaction was, who cares if it’s a respectful replication; it’s a way of celebrating that part of their culture. But I can’t really ignore the deep context of her answer and I’m inclined to respect it. My attitude can’t just simply stem from an abstract deliberation of things when living in a world of beings.

      1. My thoughts too. Are producers ‘obliged’ to check that their product names are acceptable in all languages? For economic reasons perhaps, but because some arbitrary victimhood signalling?

        1. Every so often people produce listings of product names that … translate, unfortunately.
          Examples that spring to my mind include
          a Swedish toilet paper, or chocolate bar, or something, which goes by the name of “Krapp”.
          A British car, the Triumph (maker) Acclaim (model) marketed in Germanyas the “Seig Heil” (OK, that one probably didn’t get beyond the “George, we’ve got a problem” phase.)
          Another car – German I think, marketed as the “Nova” (“new”). Until the Spanish publicity went public.

          1. One I recall was a car named the Matador, which in Spanish is literally “killer”.

            By the way, the Nova was a Chevrolet.

            1. Aren’t Chevrolet a branch of Opel? (I still have to check the label on the back to remember what the badge on the front means. It rarely means anything important.)

              1. Chevrolet is a brand of General Motors. GM use to own Opel, too, if Google is telling the truth.

            2. My brother had a Mitsubishi Pacheho(sp?) which apparently means masturbator in one of the South American countries.

              1. My brother had a Mitsubishi Pacheho(sp?) which apparently means masturbator in one of the South American countries.

                IIRC, in 1996 there was a song/dance, “The Macarena,” that was all the rage. (They did it in the aisles of the national political conventions.) Not long after, some wit somewhere substituted the above self-“abusive” word as the title and song subject and wrote and recorded relevant/related lyrics to the tune.

          2. Allegedly, Rolls Royce, following on from Silver Ghost, Shadow, Cloud, etc, when looking for a new name, came up with Silver Mist. Luckily, some spotted just in time that this can be roughly translated in German as Silver Shit.

            1. This field is better ploughed than Jason and the dragon’s teeth field, but that is a new one to me. Filed for future use.

              (Why is Ray Harryhausen animation rattling through my head this morning?)

      1. Horribly impractical when you need to “perform a functional sacrifice”.
        Oh, the hilarity of the delicate shade of bulging red piggy eyes as the man in the skin-tight wetsuit, under a set of rope access harnessing, under 80kg of diving equipment, harnesses and tackle … when the “Old Peculiar” of the night before bites and the digestive system hits for the “eject” button.

  7. When I first moved to Canada from California I noticed all kinds of things labelled California which had nothing particularly to do with California: closets, shelving, pizza, etc. Who cares??

  8. I don’t have anything to say about kimonogate, but just an observation that Kim Kardashian is the type specimen for someone who is famous for being famous. Her fame power is so great that she drags along a constellation of lesser hangers-on.

  9. I’m more upset that people are calling a shaft of banana with peanut butter slathered on top a banana sushi. That’s not sushi and it’s offensive.

  10. The cultural appropriation allegation is of course ludicrous. But looking at those outfits, I agree with the hashtag: “Kim, oh no.”

    1. Agreed.

      Cultural appropriation is nonsense, IMO. And if those things looked anything like kimonos I’d agree the fuss is groundless.

      But they actually look hideous and nothing remotely like kimonos. They are utterly misnamed, the name is highly misleading, so in this particular case I sympathise with those who objected to having their traditional name hijacked and applied to something so ugly.


  11. I love it. Anyone who gets pissed off about a name deserves more triggering.
    Can’t wait for the “Kim-Chi” yoga outfit launch in Korea and the “Kim-istry” pushup bra launch in the US.

  12. This is different from a lot of “cultural appropriation” accusations. The complaint isn’t that a foreigner is wearing Japanese clothes. The complaint is that Kardashian is sullying/insulting/diluting the brand of the kimono (a highly formal type of ceremonial dress, the designing which is considered a fine art) by applying its name to a brand of underwear.

    1. Update: the mayor of Kyoto wrote a letter to Kim Kardashian politely explaining the nature of Japan’s objection to her appropriation of the term “kimono”, and asking her to consider changing the name off her product, so as not to trample over the kimono “brand”. She has agreed to do so.
      As I said before, this is not a case of the Japanese objecting to foreigners wearing Japanese-settle clothes, adopting or imitating a Japanese customer or styles, etc., analogous to what usually goes under the name of “cultural appropriation”, which, in fact, Japanese people generally don’t object to. (They tend to regard imitation as a flattering sign of admiration.) Rather, it is that her appropriating the BRAND undermines a traditional Japanese guild industry’s ability to promote its own brand.
      This is similar to the French objecting to foreign sparkling wine being marketed under the “champagne” brand, but not objecting to foreigners making sparkling wine using the methode champenoise.

    1. That looks more like an accusation of intellectual property theft. She copied certain patterns from certain communities without acknowledging them or paying any kind of royalty.

      1. I don’t think traditional designs are covered by copyright. There would be nobody to pay a royalty to.

              1. Why would someone in a different country be subject to peculiar property laws in Mexico (if they existed, which seems unlikely)?

                Your moral case would boil down to “I’m offended that someone adopted visual patterns invented by someone in the past in a different part of the world!” Go ahead, be offended. But nobody has a right to not be offended.

              2. No, my moral case boils down to: these are designs invented in a certain community by the people who are part of it, or by their ancestors, and this woman has decided to use them without even acknowledging the source, let alone giving them compensation. She’s freeloading off other people’s creativity. It may or may not be illegal, but it’s certainly pretty cheap.

    1. I’m not sure that I ever expected to say this, but …

      I think Yoko Ono has better taste than that.

      1. (More I should say, because I don’t waste much time thinking about Yoko Ono than because I think there is anything noticeable about her taste.)

  13. I was half tempted to respond to the Japanese lady who complained about appropriating “my culture” for Kim’s amusement with, “Please stop speaking English. My language is not for you to use for whinging.”

    Of course I love that so many people speak English since I love talking to people, but I still want to make a point here. 🙂

    1. And you don’t feel even slightly offended or contemptuous when people mangle English and perpetrate ridiculous and ugly jargon?

      (Though the offenders in that are usually ‘English’ speakers and not foreigners).

      If Kim’s thing was even remotely like a Kimono I’d say she was doing no wrong. But as it is, that thing is so hideous that whatever she called it would be an insult to whatever-she-named-it-after.


      1. If ridiculous jargon offends someone, I really think their priorities are askew. Why would anything ridiculous offend someone?

        As for offending “whatever…”, this is just a figure of speech, right? Certainly nobody thinks items of clothing take offense at anything.

  14. As said earlier, the Japanese are “cultural approprietors” par excellence, and they are excellent at it.
    Here it is not a question of appropriation, but misnaming or misspelling (Kimmono, as in Kim’s mono underwear). Ugly and probably unpractical underwear, btw. I can’t imagine it having any success.
    A storm in a thimble of water.

  15. Well, most of us are kind of a cultural appropriation, since there are no pure groups of people. Is that next? Oh, no, you can’t attend because you’re a mix of Neanderthal and Northern European! I’m starting a “Don’t appropriate Neanderthals” Group.

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