Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Citizenship

This Girl’s Prom Dress Started a Major Twitter Debate. Here's Why.

When Keziah Daum found her prom dress at a vintage store in Salt Lake City, Utah, she had no idea her dress would cause such a controversy. But the 18-year-old is now at the center of a Twitterstorm after sharing photos of herself in the ensemble, a traditional Chinese dress called a qipao (in Mandarin) or a cheongsam (in Cantonese).

Take Action: Refugee? Migrant? Human Being. Show Your Support for All People

Several people have accused Daum—who is not Chinese—of cultural appropriation and racism for wearing the dress without knowing its history, sparking a fierce online debate.

Others said they didn’t find her attire offensive, as the qipao does not have a strong religious, ceremonial, or cultural significance — though in the West, the dress is stereotypically associated with Chinese culture. 

Some observers from China have even said Daum’s dress choice was “cultural appreciation” not cultural appropriation.

“I think it’s beautiful! Thanking you for liking the Chinese qipao,” one woman tweeted in Chinese.

Another Twitter user said Daum’s ability to wear the traditional Chinese dress without apprehension was a reflection of white privilege, as minorities often hesitate to wear traditional or cultural clothing for fear of discrimination.

Others took issue with the way in which Daum and her friends are posing in one photo, crouched down with their hands pressed together, which some interpreted as mocking Asian customs. However, people have pointed out that both the girls’ poses and the boys’ poses in the photo appear to be references to gestures from YouTuber Ethan Klein's videos.

Read more: Muslims in Germany Wear Jewish Kippahs to Show Solidarity After Hate Crime

Daum has said she will not take down the photos and reiterated that she wore the dress in appreciation, not mockery, of Chinese culture.

Global Citizen campaigns in support of the Global Goals, which call for inclusive and tolerant societies. You can take action here to support a world where everyone is equal.