So, this week I have decided to blog about my opinion on the idea/theme/social construct or whatever you would like to phrase it as – Cultural Appropriation. The whole scepticism around the concept, and how it has affected me directly or exactly how it has affected girls my age or around my ethnicity.
But first, let’s define the term as: “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society”
In simpler terms, it’s the process of taking another group’s culture, or traditions or lifestyle and adopting it as your own, and therefore making it accepted in your culture, rather than theirs, hopefully that makes sense?
The term arose around 2016/2017 and it came to it’s prominence due to its association with celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber all facing criticism over it. Even celebrities we recognise today such as 6ix9ine who regularly use the derogatory word “n*gga” in his lyrics is facing high criticism from let’s say the “black culture” after using the term quite frequently
So why would anyone be offended over this idea? Let’s look at it in depth. The whole process of it is when you are taking a person’s culture (mainly of a lesser dominant race) and using it as your own. An example of this could be when Kim Kardashian wore braids and posted it on her Instagram account. On the outside, there is nothing wrong with it, after all she is just wearing a hairstyle, isn’t she? However, the problem starts when she referred to the braids as “Bo Derek” braids after the famous actress who wore the hairstyle in a movie. Many black women were highly offended by this act, stating that she completely disregarded the history of braids and cornrows, as it can be traced back to relating to slavery, as those were the styles that women wore before they boarded slave ships and had their hair removed, it was apart of their culture and customs, and unfortunately it was stripped away by the slave owners, due to their wanting of them to assimilate to western types of hair which is mainly straightened.
Other instances include singers such as Katy Perry being criticised for wearing Geisha which is the tradition of Japanese culture which includes wearing pale white make-up and elaborate hairstyles. This stemmed from her American Music Awards performance in 2013. Many people again were hurt and offended by the act, which she later apologised for. Now there is not anything wrong with wearing other people’s cultural attire or materials, it can simply mean you show appreciation for their culture and are interested in it. However, when it is culturally accepted by a person of a dominant race, whilst the weaker race is criticised for it, it becomes a problem and many people who view it happening on social media become very offended by it.
So, what is my opinion then? I completely understand the hatred and the annoyance coming from the receiving end of cultural appropriation. After all, imagine wearing something you find attractive, but when a person of a higher status or wealth wears it they are praised and adored for it whilst you are ridiculed for it. However, I believe we have to look at it from both sides. Taking the example of black cultural appropriation, with hairstyles and facial features such as lip shapes, aren’t we doing the same by doing processes such as contouring noses and wearing weaves and wigs? There is the argument of it being protective styling and beautiful, however we happen to take the culture of Europeans or Caucasians by wearing straight wigs, even with the emergence of frontals to make it look extremely realistic (as you can see I am digressing into hair talk)
But the point is, in realistic terms, we take things from people’s cultures all the time, sometimes without realising that we are doing so. This is not necessarily wrong, as it can be considered as a way of appreciating the beauty in one’s culture, I think where the problem lies is when the persons culture is not being accepted for its originality and praised when someone of a different culture takes it into the public light. Whether culture appropriation would ever be solved is the question, as time goes by, people’s cultures are being shared and intertwined with others rapidly. So, should we start to accept that this is occurring, or should we put an end to appropriation due to the harm that it causes to the lesser dominant race ?
Thanks for reading !