Monday, May 17, 2010

The usual Western Cultural Imperialism

I read in today's NY Times an editorial about the Chinese government's campaign to convince Shanghai residents to stop wearing pajamas in public, in view of the 2010 World Expo ( I can't help but get angry (again!) because the idea behind the campaign is not to shock and disgust foreign visitors to the Expo.

Although the article says that it is a habit typical of Shanghai, anyone who has been to other South-East Asian countries knows that "pajamas" are worn in public elsewhere as well. When I was young(er) and living in Saigon, there was really no distinction between what you wear to bed and what you wear to go outside. Unless you work in an office or go to school, most people on the streets wear clothes that are considered as "pajamas" by Westerners. The peasants working in the fields would be described as "black pajamas clad" by American soldiers and Newsweek or Time Magazine. 

The thing is, contrary to Western countries, where different activities call for different clothes, people in Third World counties cannot afford to have too many sets of clothes and tend to wear the same type of clothes all the time, indoors or outdoors. In Vietnam, there usually are three types of clothes: formal wear (ao dai for example), everyday wear (bà ba, "pajamas", etc.) and Western clothes.

So once again, Asian countries are bowing to foreign tastes and biases and forcing their populations to give up their traditions, so as not to offend Westerners' sensibilities.

1 comment:

kca said...

Je crois mee souvenir qu'il y a aussi un decret passe il y a quelques années (5,4?) pour Hanoi en raison de l'APEC: interdiction de pyjamas et d'être torse-nu en centre ville.

Mais bon avec la nouvelle mode il faudrait plutôt un décret pour pousser les femmes a se rhabillé.

Ah au fait tu as suivit l'histoire du gamin a Hanoi qui a couper la tete de sa copine et a mit le corp dans le water tank de l' immeuble avec l'aide de sa mere et sa soeur?