'The Mahjong Line Company' Accused of Cultural Appropriation

'The Mahjong Line Company' Accused of Cultural Appropriation

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'The Mahjong Line Company' Accused of Cultural Appropriation

The Dallas - based company faces backlash on social media over its failed attempt to ‘respectfully refresh’ the centuries old Chinese tile game.

The Dallas - based company faces backlash on social media over its failed attempt to ‘respectfully refresh’ the centuries old Chinese tile game.

Styling: Lorena Caro

A Dallas based company is facing extensive criticism on social media for its attempt to give Mahjong a “modern makeover”. 

Kate LaGere, Annie O’Grady and Bianca Watson are the co-founders of The Mahjong Line, a company who sought out to bring the centuries-old game to the “stylish masses” by completely redesigning the game into $325 sets titled “the Minimal Line,” and “the Cheeky Line.” The game features an additional $50 tile mat that reads “Not Your Mama’s Mahjong” and “Get Your Mahj On.” 

According to the website’s about page, the game was redesigned to “better reflect the fun that was had when playing with her friends.” It was created in an attempt to “refresh” the game’s aesthetic design and appeal to American women.

© The Mahjong Line

We don't take ourselves too seriously. But we do our Mahjong. We honor the heritage but like a bit of edge. The Mahjong Line is for jaunt gals playing a civilized game with a wink," wrote the company. "... The struggle is real when reading the old-school tiles, especially for new players .. We enlarged the face of the tile just a smidge to give our artwork room to breathe and to improve legibility."

The line was officially launched in November but faced criticism online this week as screenshots of its original copy circulated on Twitter. Many stated that the line was an example of cultural appropriation due to the fact that it was created by three women who are not of Chinese descent. 

It was also said that the company whitewashed Mahjong’s cultural and historical origins by centering the story of Mahjong on Joseph Babcock, an American businessman who only popularized Mahjong in the United States during the 1920s. It also lacked a proper homage to the game's Chinese heritage.

Others pointed out the copy’s tone which was problematic for the way it made the original game sound like it lacked style. “Kate discovered that the artwork of traditional tiles, while beautiful was all the same - and did not reflect the fun that she had when playing with her friends. And nothing came close to mirroring her style and personality,” read the site during its launch. 

The game was targeted at a specific personality archetype such as the girl “who loves a good Eames chair, the smell of coffee shops, abnormally long walks on crisp days and the pulse of NYC” or the botanical girl who is “a Francophile at heart.”  

The owners of The Mahjong line issued a public apology earlier this Tuesday via their social media and on the About Us page on their official website

"While our intent is to inspire and engage with a new generation of American mahjong players, we recognize our failure to pay proper homage to the game's Chinese heritage," wrote the company. "Using words like 'refresh' were hurtful to many and we are deeply sorry.. We are always open to constructive criticism and are continuing to conduct conversations with those who can provide further insight to the game's traditions and roots in both Chinese and American cultures."

Read the statement below:

Courtesy of @themahjongline on Instagram
Credits: Cover photo courtesy of The Mahjong Line's Instagram

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