Thursday, 27 November 2014

Appropriation or Appreciation?

So this has been a *dad voice* HOT TOPIC for a while now. Surprised I haven't written about it before, to be honest. So, here it is! The Tegan on Toast breakdown of all the generally culturally appropriated things going about at the moment with my verdict. Cultural appropriation came to light, I reckon, over the summer, probably around the same time everyone wore bindis to Coachella. Here's looking at you, Vanessa Hudgens! Which leads me to my first generally appropriated item...

The Bindi 

Basic white girls adorn their faces with traditional Hindu decoration, having probably no idea where it came from or what they are traditionally worn for. Now, does this mean that we're just jealous that women from South-East Asia get 
to wear these cool pieces and we want in on the action? Are girls just appreciating their culture for the beautiful decorations it produces? Or are they just belittling it to no more than a gimmicky trend?
I'm torn on this one,  mostly cos I think they look really fucking cute. But then I have to ask myself - is it really worth "looking cute"? Is it even about looking cute? Are we really gonna rip off a religious symbol for the sake of looking well trendy on Instagram?
I mean, it's all well and good you looking up the significance of the Bindi on Wikipedia and now feeling like you are entitled to wear it. Heck, even if your research spread beyond Wikipedia, that doesn't make you a fucking Hindu. I reckon you can only wear it if you're willing to take all the other parts of the religion with it. Oh, you want to wear a Bindi? OK, well that means you're appreciating the Hindu faith. Does that mean you're gonna start going to worship? I don't think so. Although Hinduism is a very open faith, that accepts everyone and doesn't believe in blasphemy, I reckon err on the side of caution and stick to general face gems. They're cute and less likely to piss people off.
The Native American Headdress

Recently banned from being sold at Glastonbury, the Native American Headdress is the classic example of cultural appropriation. This one is pretty much a no-brainer. The headdress is a war bonnet, worn by Plains Indian men who had earned a place of respect in their tribe.

Each feather represents an accomplishment. I'm struggling to think what kind of war-related accomplishments the people in these pictures have achieved...
Put it down. This one is definitely appropriation, not appreciation. I'm sure it's not too difficult to stop wearing it - plus it looks so heavy and inconvenient, why would you put yourself through that?

Avril Lavigne's "Hello Kitty" Video

Aside from this being completely cringey and crap, this has been speculated as to being culturally appropriative. I find this one a bit more tricky, as the whole "kawaii" thing is more of a style than a religious thing. When I was about twelve I fucking loved all that Japanese shit, and well, I'm not Japanese.
I think this is just something we can overlook as just an embarrassing moment in Avril Lavigne's career. I mean, yeah, the Asian girls in the back are looking like hella pissed accessories. But overall, I think the whole "kawaii" trend is something anyone can get on board with. It's more of a fashion/style genre that anyone in the world can be a part of, as opposed to a serious religious artefact or symbol. The whole point of the kawaii style is image, so it kind of makes sense that non-Asian people can take part, seeing as it's all about materialism really.

Taylor Swift & Lily Allen being "hip hop"
Two artists that are famous for music that isn't hip hop, trying to be gangster. Is it appropriation? In her video "Shake it Off" some people were all "Taylor's a white popstar, she knows nothing about the struggle, how dare she" etc etc. Pipe down. The whole point of Taylor's video is how she kind of awkwardly doesn't really fit in with any of these "cliques". I think she's trying to show  that she doesn't fit in with hip hop, and that's the whole point. Anyway, even if she was, she's literally just dressing that way, she's not trying to produce a "hip hop" song. I wouldn't say she's appropriating the style of hip hop in terms of fashion, because the whole point, as I say, is that she's trying to put on this bravado, the swagger of hip hop stars, but looking awkward and realising she doesn't really fit in there, but she's like na fuck it it's fine Ima just be me.

And then Lily Allen dresses with these big earrings and fake nails and stuff, also trying to be hip hop with her huge car and black back up dancers. So? I'm pretty sure she only really does this in Hard Out Here, and the whole point of that song is taking the piss out of the misogyny of hip hop and rap and, primarily, Robin Thicke. The whole video is orchestrated as a piss-take, a satire, not as Lily Allen actually trying to become a hip hop artist.
And if she dresses like that in day to day life, well, you can't put a ban on fucking high tops and hoop earrings, can you? They've become such general fashion accessories in day to day life, it's ridiculous trying to say you can only dress that way if you belong to a certain genre. What about people who listen to hip hop? Are they only allowed to be from a rough area with a difficult background to appreciate the music? Cos that's just ridiculous.

I think the whole topic of cultural appreciation is very subjective; some people may not see it as offensive, whereas others might. My verdict is that religious symbols and traditions such as the Bindi and the War Bonnet can only really be worn by people of that religion/culture, otherwise it looks like a bit of a pisstake. However, things like hip hop and kawaii which is based a lot on aesthetic can be given a bit more leeway. 

Sorry that that was really long, I bet nobody even got this far, HA. Get back to your Christmas shopping!

Tegan xo 


Armed Withcamera said...

I enjoyed this post a lot and agree with your points. What I love about your writing though, is that even when I don't agree with everything you write, I feel you make a good point when then makes me understand the whole debate better. That last sentence is so badly written haha but I hope you get an idea of what I'm at least trying to say! :p

p.s. I wondered what your thoughts were on this:

Armed Withcamera said...

*which then
urgh I cannot work with words right now

Katia said...

The whole Avril Lavigne thing reminds me of an early Gwen Stefani with her whole Love Music Angel Baby Harajuku girls which was probably actually far worse in terms of objectifying and racism etc.

Great post!

Armed Withcamera said...

I got your last 2 comments saying you weren't sure if your comment posted and then realising I approve comments, but there was nothing else :/