Aug 8, 2011

It's Not The Hat It's The Woman Wearing The Hat

If you ever visit Vietnam you will see many beautiful and charming Vietnamese ladies wearing the Áo Dài (Vietnamese traditional long dress) and Non La (conical leaf hat, Vietnamese: Nón Lá) walking gracefully along the streets.  While the hats are worn by both sexes, it is the Vietnamese woman who epitomizes it.

Vietnam's conical straw hat or the nón lá has its origin, coming from a legend related to the history of rice growing in Vietnam. The story is about a giant woman from the sky who has protected mankind from a deluge of rain. She wore a hat made of four round shaped leaves to guard against all the rain. After the Goddess was gone,  the Vietnamese built a temple to commemorate her as the Rain-shielding Goddess.

The conical straw hats are used elsewhere throughout Southeast Asia, but they are not as common as they are in Vietnam.  The hats are mostly worn in other countries by farmers and those working in the rice paddies.  Since I've been living in Southeast Asia I have heard the hat refered to in many different ways, a straw hat, an Asian hat, a palm frond hat, a coolie hat but I never heard the hat referred to in any offensive way until today.

In a post entitled Does American Apparel's Ching Chong Hat Offend You?  the website Racialicious asks readers if they find the wearing of the hat by Americans as offensive.  The irony of which apparently eludes Latoya Peterson the editor and owner of the site.  With a website though entitled Racialicious one might think that both the author and Ms. Peterson would be a bit more sensitive considering. 

Remember, it is not the hat, its the woman wearing the hat, and come to think of it, yes Ms. Peterson you would look offensive wearing it.

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