Teenager's prom dress leads to huge debate online

Teenager's prom dress leads to huge debate online

It's prom season across the states right now, meaning that social media has become awash with pictures and videos of high schoolers wearing their best get-ups and riding around in fancy cars. And, while most of us would probably see the teenage antics as a bit of harmless fun, some people have found a number of problems with some individuals' ways of celebrating.

Keziah, an 18-year-old girl from Utah, sparked huge debate online after posting some prom selfies last week. In the snaps, the student can be seen wearing a cheongsam, a traditional Chinese dress also known as a qipao. She posted four pictures, along with the simple caption, "PROM", and that was that.

So, what's the problem? Well, Keziah is not Chinese, and so her decision to wear the garment was promptly called out as "cultural appropriation".

Shortly after uploading the shots, the teenager began to get lambasted by people who accused her of using a part of Chinese culture without being properly educated on the importance or meaning of the dress.

The situation then escalated when Twitter user, Jeremy Lam, quote tweeted Keziah and put her on blast, leading more than 177,000 people to "like" his response and join in with criticizing the young woman.

"My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress," he wrote.

He then gave a brief history of the qipao and explained why it was inappropriate for a non-Chinese woman to wear it.

"The qipao was originally a loose dress/garment without shape, made for Chinese women to clean the house and do other domestic chores with," Lam explained. "It was then altered and embroidered as a beautiful form-fitting outfit to wear publically, which Chinese women were not allowed to do at during the times of extreme patriarchal oppression."

He continued: "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."

While Lam's outrage over cultural appropriation is understandable, many people jumped into the thread to either directly attack Keziah, or - for those who disagreed with the thread - hurl racist insults at Lam for speaking up. And that's where it began to get really ugly.

After Keziah began to get messages asking her to take the pictures down, she posted a rebuttal under her original tweet.

"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 f**king dress. And it’s beautiful."

However, this then caused more debate, as many users argued that if she was showing "appreciation", as she claimed, then she would know it's not just a dress.

At the same time, though, many Chinese people - especially women - jumped in to support the girl.

Opinions are still divided on the matter, with one side saying that Keziah cannot be blamed for not knowing the historical significance of the outfit, and the other insisting that she should have done her research before wearing something like this as a fashion statement.

Either way, the conversation shows that there's still a lot we need to learn about cultural appropriation/appreciation - but perhaps Twitter isn't the best place for hashing it out.