Utah teen's 'racist' prom dress stirs cultural appropriation debate


The Utah teen refuses to take down her post showing a dress she wore to prom that is sparking controversy around the world.

"Nowadays we are so influenced by the Western culture in many ways that not many people would wear cheongsam as a everyday dress".

On April 21 - the day of the dance - she and her prom group were photographed at the state Capitol. "It's just like blown up, and I was not expecting this", she said.

"I was accused of racism and cultural appropriation", Daum said. "And I loved it a lot because it showed beauty in other ways than revealing your body", she said.

Days later, the seemingly innocent photos caught the eye of another Twitter user, Jeremy Lam, who lambasted her in a seething tweet, accusing her of "cultural appropriation" - the adoption of elements of a minority culture by people of a dominant culture.

Jeremy proceeded to highlight that the cheongsam was originally a loose dress/garment without shape, made for Chinese women to clean the house and do other domestic chores with. "I'm simply showing my love for a handsome culture and there is nothing wrong with that", she tweeted and conveyed that she has enormous respect for the Chinese culture. "I love how you wear the dress with confidence!"

"This isn't OK. I wouldn't wear traditional Korean, Japanese or any other traditional dress and I'm Asian", another user wrote.

The student chose to keep her Twitter active, stand up to her critics and stand by her decision to wear the dress. Yet you claim, it's just a "dress.' It has cultural meaning and significance to us". Lam then described the traditions and history behind the qipao in a series of tweets. Ultimately, Daum may not owe any one a direct apology but she certainly should be more sensitive to people's concerns and use this experience as an opportunity for learning and growth.

Daum, who just celebrated her 18th birthday, does not have Chinese heritage.

She also said that Daum has grown up with a multicultural extended family.

"They said they were honored and proud an American girl would wear something that is attractive to their culture", Daum said.

On a Sunday after the dance, like many other social media-savvy high schoolers, she posted a photo in her dress alongside her friends. She has part-Hispanic cousins, and her nieces and nephews are of Pacific Island descent. "I mean no hate".

Deam, whose Twitter followers increased dramatically in the wake of the social-media dressing down, tweeted that she meant "no harm".

"I'm proud of her for standing her ground because she didn't do anything wrong", Dawes said.

Still, she is staunch about her freedom to wear what she wants. And it's attractive, ' she added.

Prom season is in full swing, which means that social media is now flooded with photos of students in their fanciest attire. She thought it had a special look, and hoped it would help her stand out at the dance.

While it's likely that Daum sincerely didn't intend to offend anyone, there is a very fine line between cultural appropriation and appreciation that she was, indeed, straddling.