Tag Archives: culture

Good Grief, I Just Like Culture

Isn’t there an irony in the fact that I am a communications major, and I’ve been a blogger for ten years, yet I can’t seem to adequately communicate a simple concept on my blog?

Friday night I posted about hipster Mennonites. I knew it was likely to go Menno-viral, with that picture and that headline, so I was expecting a little misunderstanding. Maybe some hipster-ish Mennos would feel a bit attacked. However, I was completely unprepared for the odd off-topic comments that poured in when I shared it on Facebook.

Which, for me, raised a question I’ve never thought of before:

Are we incapable of noticing interesting and/or humorous things about a culture without condemning, passing judgement, or idolizing that culture?

Exhibit A: This is exactly the reason I left the Mennonite thing it is not about Christianity it’s about being a Mennonite.”

With all the likes and replies this comment received it seemed to strike a nerve, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how it related to my post. The hipsters put their Mennonite-ness over Christ? I’m putting my Mennonite-ness over Christ by “judging” the hipsters?

I just…what?

Exhibit B: Present day mennonites now wearing all the latest name brands now say….it matters whats on the inside….bunch of wackos with one foot on either side of the fence.

Yeah but…do you know anything about hipsters? Brand names aren’t really a thing. If you’re concerned about it, perhaps you should explore the topic in a blog post of your own.

Exhibit C: It’s pretty easy to point out all the inconsistencies in any group’s doctrine and practice.

Maybe so. But, I promise, I wasn’t trying to point out anyone’s inconsistencies in that post.

Honestly, I just like noticing the odd/funny/unique things about cultures.

I know that Mennonites can get religion and culture mixed up a bit, and it may seem unique in the individualistic western world we live in, but it’s really a universal problem. Similarly, I know that Mennonites steal some of their trends and ideas from the greater American population, but really, as a whole, we are extraordinarily good at nonconformity.

You may have a lot you want to say about the above topics, and if you do, I encourage you to write up your own blog post/Facebook post about it. My own post was about neither of those things. Not even close.

I just like thinking about culture.

It fascinated me when all the fashionable celebrities began wearing the poofed hair that was Menno-fashionable in my mother’s day. I roared with laughter when culottes (briefly) came in style again. I made a friend from Germany recently, and we spent a long and wonderful afternoon discussing cultural differences between America and Germany.

Apparently she came here and was highly amused to see that our world was, indeed, full of giant yellow school buses and to-go coffee cups, just like in the movies.

To me, seeing hipster Mennonites is odd, funny, and interesting, like the culture of to-go coffee is to Germans.

That’s all.

The Bizarre Hipster Mennonite Trend

Surely I’m not the only one who’s noticed the Pacific Northwest Hipster vibe creeping into Mennonite communities. Specialty coffee. Bushy beards. Donald Miller books. Artsy hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Flannel shirts. Adventuring. On and on.

Am I the only one who finds it odd?

Ever since I connected to the greater American Mennonite culture through social media, I’ve seen trends come and go. They always seemed to originate in the east and then slowly migrate west, so that my area has always been whatever the opposite of “cutting edge” is. Someone going to Bible School and coming home wearing knee-length skirts and leggings was the equivalent of a Victorian-era American going to Paris and then coming home with the news that short sleeves were now “in.”

I’ve always liked PNW culture, but I never expected it to become “cool.” Not in the non-Menno world, and ESPECIALLY not in the Menno world. But it has, to the point where a Facebook photo showed up in my feed of an artsy Mennonite band from back east where one member is wearing a Powell’s Books t-shirt.

Probably the main reason I find this PNW appropriation so weird is that I live in an ACTUAL Mennonite community in the ACTUAL Pacific Northwest, and here, hipster culture just isn’t a thing.

Yes, you could argue that my friends and I have adopted some of the hipster traits we like–wearing weird thrift-store clothes, going hiking, hanging out at coffee shops, etc–but as a whole we are the outliers, and the Mennonites as a whole aren’t into that. It’s not “cool” here unless you’re outside the Menno bubble and probably also in a city somewhere.

So yeah, I find it weird. Not bad, just odd. But here’s what I think: If you have an obsession with PNW culture, you should move to the actual Pacific Northwest.


  1. You’ll be a part of the culture instead of just appropriating it.
  2. The nature thing is legit.
  3. Start an outreach church. Portland is the most non-religious city in America.
  4. Okay, for real though, we’re just kinda lonely out here in our little disconnected Mennonite community. So bring your friends.

What do you think of the hipster Mennonite trend? Have you noticed/participated in it?

MOP April 3: A Rant about Culture and Humanity

Amy food Blast, the evening is running out and there is a continuous rant about culture that is buzzing through my brain. It’s difficult to turn brain rants into coherent blog posts. But I shall try.

This term I’m taking a class on African anthropology. The teacher has a great grasp on culture, and I enjoy the class. With the students, though, it’s a different story.

The first day, the teacher asked us to write down the stereotypes that we associate with Africa. Then she asked us, “were those stereotypes mostly good or bad?”

“Bad,” we said. I mean, we’d all written down stuff like “poverty” and “danger.”

“Why do you think the stereotype of Africa is this way?” she asked.

In my mind, this negative view of Africa comes primarily from well-intentioned people who see something bad going on in Africa and think that Americans should be informed of this to help out in some way. And it works in a sense–aid money is earned for Africa–but people don’t always realize the huge negative effects of perpetually seeing another place in such a negative light.

I expressed this, but to my surprise, I was the only one in the class thinking along those lines. Everyone else who spoke seemed to say some variation of the sentiment, “oh, it’s racism.”

Now, I’m not saying that the colonialist and racist attitudes of the past have no effect on how we operate today. But just saying “it’s racism” is problematic in my opinion. Primarily because it pins the blame on an intangible enemy, and gives people the idea that if they’re not racist they’re not contributing to the problem.

In the next class session, the teacher began to talk about the nuances of culture. She asked us, “If you’re driving to school one day, thinking about whatever you’re thinking about, and if someone in Africa is going to school and thinking about what they think about, do you think you’d be thinking about the same types of things?”

Personally, I think we would be thinking about the same types of things, and I expressed this to my class. I mean sure, the specific things we thought about might reflect our culture, but that diversity happens even in our own classroom. When I go to school I, as a Mennonite, might be thinking about the next church potluck, while someone else in the class might think about getting together with his friends and drinking beer. Still, we’re both thinking about hanging out with our friends.

So many of the things people think about are universal things. Worry about grades and money. Daydreaming about the guy you like. Frustration with family relationships. Jealousy. Fear. Happiness. Loneliness. Everyone thinks about these things.

However, I was the only person in the class who thought that we’d pretty much be thinking the same things. Everyone else who spoke said that we’d mostly be thinking different things. No one gave specifics as to why until, after I’d spoken, one guy countered it by saying that those people would probably mostly be thinking about where their next meal was coming from. Are you kidding me?

I didn’t say anything back, because I really don’t want to be that girl who’s like, “I went to Africa for a few months eleven years ago, I know all about culture, everyone should listen to me.” But seriously? Starving people do probably think about food more than you do, but to say they don’t think about anything else is stripping them of their humanity.

And also, not everyone in Africa is starving.

And also, if this hypothetical person is going to school they probably have at least somewhat of an income stream.

And also…. Dear class. In the first class meeting, you insinuated that the pervasive negative view of Africa is not your fault at all, because you’re not racist. In the second class meeting,  you showed that you view Africans as fundamentally different than you. How does that compute?

I know that this is somewhat of a pot and kettle situation, because I, too, struggle with ethnocentrism. I’ve studied a lot about culture, but I’ve never gotten to know another culture in-depth, and I’ve never learned another language.

Still, this lack of basic knowledge on how negative stereotypes are formed and how they can be combated–and the importance of viewing people as first of all, human–it really disturbed me.

Cultural understanding is HUGELY important. When it comes to wars, and poverty, and pretty much every pressing world problem, if people can’t understand and communicate across a culture there is a very large possibility of well-intentioned people making things worse.

Yesterday’s MOP post: https://jasmucker.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/mop-april-2-an-apology-and-a-poem/

Monday, Mom will post at: http://dorcassmucker.blogspot.com/

Photo stolen from my sister Amy’s facebook. It has nothing to do with Africa but it’s related to culture so that’s why I chose it.