Some people aren’t familiar with the term “Cultural Appropriation” which can be why the issue is so often overlooked. Usually, this occurs with people appropriating eastern cultures and religions. Although cultural appropriation can sound like a simple concept at first such as Chinese food adapting into American culture, it’s not that simple. Cultural appropriation can make people stereotype one another and it tends to taint religious and cultural symbols, which often leads to cause people of the original culture or religion to find it disrespectful and offensive.
Cultural appropriation normally occurs without any understanding of a particular culture and why they take part in certain activities and wear certain things. When people appropriate culture they may see it as nothing but a fashion statement. Every year the Californian music festival Coachella can encourage Cultural Appropriation, from headdresses and “aztec” prints to bindi’s and kimonos, this is one trend that refuses to die. When pictures appeared of celebrities such as Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez they were seen at the festival to be wearing bindi’s, which can be symbolic of marriage in the Hindu religion.
An anonymous woman started the #Reclaim TheBindi campaign in hope of educating people that her culture is not a fashion accessory and that she isn’t just wearing’a pretty face jewel. Culture is appropriated every single day, things we may see daily such as dreadlocks and sleeve tattoos are also a form of cultural appropriation ones in which people use to express themselves, without knowing they have stolen this element from another culture.
Really they are expressing the views of that particular culture or religion in the end, not themselves. People can be seen wearing saris and Muslim hijab’s and they seem to think of it as a fashion “trend”. Hijabs and saris are not a “trend” for those of the particular religion. You wouldn’t wear a cross if you weren’t a Christian, would you? There are too many things wrong with cultural appropriation for it to be acceptable in today’s society. Firstly, it trivializes violent historical oppression.
To some people this may not seem like a good enough reason to stop wearing their favourite kimono or bindi but when violence targets a particular group of people through genocide or slavery the trauma of the past will last through generations. Cultural appropriation allows white people to do freely, what people of colour were punished for doing in the past, is this fair? Yoga can be a common example of this. Yoga was once banned in India as part of the “racist and orientalist narratives” which forced Indians to conform to western ways, but nowadays yoga seems to be everywhere.
Cultural appropriation perpetrates racial stereotypes Dr. Adrienne Keene of Native Appropriations once said: “You are pretending to be a race that you are not, and are drawing upon stereotypes to do so. ” For example, Katy Perry performed as a geisha during the 2013 American Music Awards, completely misinterpreting what she thought she was honouring. As a result of the 5. 75 million viewers that tuned in she used her platform as a way to perpetuate negative stereotypes about Asian women. Halloween is without a doubt a day where culture is appropriated and people see it as just a bit of fun.
If you were to think about the real story of Pocahontas and then see a little girl dressed as the famous Disney character, that should be disturbing in some way but how can so many people be unfazed by this victim’s story that it is okay to turn it into a costume? What if the girl wanted to dress up as Anne Frank for example, both Anne Frank and Pocahontas have true, distressing stories but more of us tend to believe that to trivialize Anne Frank’s life would be looked down upon. Imagine if Disney tried to make a movie out of Anne frank’s diary and if it was marketed to
Germans, who have been told that the historical figures who oppressed the Jewish people were actually their country’s heroes. Now, I’m not saying that because it seems to be acceptable to dress up as Pocahontas that everyone should go out and dress up as Anne Frank for Halloween this year, but in reality it should be deemed as wrong to dress up as either of these girls, not just one. One of the biggest problems with Cultural Appropriation is that it makes things ‘cool for white people but too ethnic’ for people of colour.
In todays society the standards of professionalism can hold back almost everyone who aren’t white men. It is deemed as unprofessional to have dreadlocks or an afro, which can be some of the most natural ways for black people to style their hair. But comparing this to magazines that praise Kylie Jenner’s ‘edgy cornrows’ if black women have to work for acceptance to wear the same styles as white women, is this sending a clear message to black women and girls?
To conclude, Cultural appropriation is a by-product of oppression and racism. As the majority of the people appropriating cultures aren’t very well educated on the subject, they are promoting oppression without even knowing it. Cultural appropriation is and will always be inappropriate. The next time you think about wearing a bindi as a fashion accessory or getting henna, ask yourself the question; is this appropriative?