It feels like there’s not a day that goes by without opening up social media and reading about a recent issue surrounding cultural appropriation. Whether it is the latest fashion collection or a group of millennials, there is always someone to call them out and accuse them of violating a cultural minority by using their cultural and religious traditions, fashion, symbols, language for their own purpose. Is this “political correctness gone too far” or actually a very serious issue?
Gucci was recently criticised for styling turbans on white models. Multiple Sikhs condemned this act as a significant indication of disrespect by highlighting that the turban is a symbol of faith and was not designed as a fashion accessory. In other cases, Victoria’s Secret was deplored for using a native American style headdress on one of their models. Many Coachella-goers have been attacked in the past for wearing native American style headdresses. Marc Jacobs was also held under fire when he used dreadlocks on mainly white models, to which he responded: “[To] all who cry ‘cultural appropriation’ or whatever nonsense about any race or skin colour wearing their hair in any particular style or manner – funny how you don’t criticise women of colour for straightening their hair.” Famous artists such as Beyoncé, Selena Gomez and Katy Perry have been reprimanded for wearing henna, bindis – essentially dressing up as a geisha which disrespects religion. Just this week a girl has been condemned on social media for wearing a traditional Chinese dress to prom. She simply responded saying “To everyone causing so much negativity: I mean no disrespect to the Chinese culture. I’m simply showing my appreciation to their culture. I’m not deleting my post because I’ve done nothing but show my love for the culture. It’s a fucking dress. And it’s beautiful.”
I think that when people take another culture’s ‘identity’ and style themselves that way or design a collection around it, it is mostly because they are inspired by this culture and this appearance and they want to show their love and appreciation for it, but it does depend on the context in which this happens. If this takes place in a context that ridicules and shows them to be inferior then it is wrong. It is mostly important that these cultures are credited and acknowledged and not just used to boost the status and image of the person using the culture for their own benefit. Artists such as Iggy Azalea is a white girl with blonde hair who presents herself as a rapper. She has been accused of picking and choosing from black culture, not caring about the community and ignoring larger issues. She was not born into this culture and doesn’t derive from this background so it is vital she acknowledges and credits the culture she is earning her living from. She gets to profit off of her white appeal while simultaneously selling a black sound. She is making a huge career for herself by mimicking the vocal patterns and phrases of a Southern black girl. “Our mainstream culture does not really know how to handle this and in an age of digital media – we have a perfect storm.”