This morning, we had a new question: Should I wear a sari as a westerner to a wedding in India?

The title has since been edited, but the original title read "Is it cultural appropriation to wear a sari as a westerner in India?".

The 'cultural appropriation' part was edited out.

To be clear: There's a difference between culturally appropriate (Conforming to a culture's acceptable expressions and standards of behavior and thoughts.) and cultural appropriation: When we look at Wikipedia, it states: "Cultural appropriation, often framed as cultural misappropriation, is sometimes portrayed as harmful and is claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture."

Now, we do not allow questions asking whether or not something is racist or not, because those questions are basically unanswerable.

Question: Is asking whether something is cultural appropriation or not just as unanswerable as whether or not something is racist?

When looking for other question about clothing, I came across 2 other questions. One of them is this one:

Is it appropriate for a non-Japanese person to wear a yukata when going to fireworks?

Here, the body and the only answer are asking/answering whether this would be seen as cultural appropriation or not. The question is old. The answer isn't disrepectful in my opinion, although it could have fleshed out a little on the difference between appropriation and assimilation.

Question: Should this question body be edited, to remove the part asking whether or not this is cultural appropriation, thereby invalidating the only answer?

Should we somehow close this question as being a 'bad' precedent, or leave it as is, and hope no-one stumbles upon it and goes 'but mooooom, you did allow them to do that, why not me'?

3 Answers 3


Now, we do not allow questions asking whether or not something is racist or not, because those questions are basically unanswerable.

I don't know that this is true... I do know that those questions tend to draw an awful lot of heated and often rude argument, but saying that they're unanswerable is a big leap.

Asking whether something is appropriate for a situation, and being aware of cultural sensitivities when you do it, is probably a good idea. In some cultures traditional dress would be expected on certain occasions, but in other cultures it may come across as offensive. So, I could see a question asking how to approach or pose this kind of delicate question to a host being both on-topic and useful for future readers.

Basically, don't ask "Is X cultural appropriation?" Ask how to ask your host about what sort of dress/behavior is expected at their event without coming across as offensive.

To be honest I don't see a problem with leaving the phrase "cultural appropriation" it's just a type of offense that someone may be looking to avoid. Just make sure that the question is about avoiding offense in a specific situation, rather than asking if something is cultural appropriation generally.

In my opinion, questions about racism are similar. Asking whether something is racist generally speaking is an argument waiting to happen. Asking why someone was offended when you said something, or asking how to apologize after a racist misstep should be a helpful on-topic question.

  • 2
    Yes, I think "Is X inherently Y" questions are hard to answer definitively, but "Is X likely to be perceived as Y in setting Z" questions are much more answerable and on-topic.
    – 1006a
    Commented Nov 27, 2017 at 16:32
  • What exactly is cultural appropriation can be disagreed on even within the culture itself. See the infamous "Kimono" event at MoFA in the US for a good example of a clash between a few loud young Japanese diaspora and older immigrants and residents of Japan. We have to make sure that we are not listening to loud minority voices that have a strong urge to protect and "fight for" their identity over the quieter majority that are actually okay with it. Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 15:45
  • "Basically, don't ask "Is X cultural appropriation?" Ask how to ask your host about what sort of dress/behavior is expected at their event without coming across as offensive." : The proposed replacement phrasing does not contain "X", is it intended? In other words, if I am unsure about wearing a sari, should I post without writing the word "sari", and hope that readers will somehow guess what is the real gist of the question?
    – nic
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 3:26
  • 1
    As well as asking for how to approach the host with a question like this; I feel it's also valid to ask something along the lines of "What are the cultural norms for a westerner attending an traditional wedding in India?". Asking general context on cultural norms is on-topic here.
    – user10883
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 10:30

Cultural Appropriation is off-topic

I think this is a very subjective topic, which, similar to questions about racism, only skirts IPS because people can get offended by it.

I think it is very important to properly distinguish between cultural appropriation and asking whether something is appropriate in a specific situation. The former is very broad and can possible divisive. Furthermore, there is no Interpersonal aspect of that subject. Whether something 'belongs' to a specific culture and as such can or cannot be used by other cultures is not an interpersonal skill. The only avenue that this might relate to IPS is in a circumstance where someone is offended.

The latter is much more closely related to etiquette. From the point of view from a certain culture or community, this should be answerable.

  • "there is no Interpersonal aspect of that subject" : I believe the opposite is true. By the way, everything we discuss on this site is inherently cultural.
    – nic
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 3:30

No, neither the question or the answer should be edited to change or remove previously on topic parts. Not only is the top voted answer here saying it shouldn't be off topic unless it's just a generic/no substance is x y question, editing like that changes the meaning of the question.

This is what historical locks are for. Specifically:

When is it appropriate to lock a question for historical reasons?

Questions can be historically locked when:

  1. The post does not meet the current guidelines for a good, on-topic question, and
  2. The post is stellar, in spite of its off-topic nature, and
  3. There are a large number of views, upvotes and inbound links on the post, and
  4. The post is contentious; e.g., it has been closed and reopened at least once, or deleted and undeleted at least once
  • 5
    There's noting wrong with the question other than the mention of CA. As such, it's much better to fix the question and answers to meet the standards than to historically lock it. The concept of CA is not inherent to that specific question.
    – Catija
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 15:48
  • 1
    Also, I don't think this post qualifies for a historical lock by virtue of points 3 and 4: after 9 months it only has 744 views and has only been edited for improvements (no closures or deletions, or even rollbacks until you did it just now...)
    – Em C
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 16:01

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