The resurfacing of Cultural Appropriation has given social media users the opportunity to take initiative and protect their culture, but are some taking things too far?
by Vivega Saravana Prabhu
Along with recent BLM protests and Shein outrages, the topic of Cultural Appropriation has once again resurfaced. People on social media have started to criticize and “cancel” celebrities, models, and influencers for alleged cultural appropriation.
There are some people that do need to be called out for appropriating other cultures for personal benefits. However, some individuals have started canceling others to the extreme, getting easily offended by and accusing others’ gestures and attire in the name of cultural appropriation.
So how should people handle this issue? Can all circumstances be considered offensive? Or is the internet taking it out of hand? Here’s where the Trilemma is presented: When does cultural appropriation need to be taken seriously? When is it taken too seriously? What’s the neutral stance?
For those of you who might not know: according to dictionary.com, cultural appropriation, or cultural misappropriation, “ the adoption or co-opting, usually without acknowledgment, of cultural identity markers associated with or originating in minority communities by people or communities with a relatively privileged status.”
When the Internet NEEDS to call out Cultural Appropriation:
There are some people who might not consider cultural appropriation to be a problematic issue, but here is what is happening right now that shows otherwise (these are just a few of the many examples of cultural appropriation).
Some parts of the fashion industry have started stealing and altering cultural clothing. Recently the fashion brand, Shein, has drawn a lot of attention for appropriating different cultures.
They have taken multiple cultural attires and completely changed the names and didn’t
even use a model of that appropriate ethnicity. They also have borrowed Indian traditional clothes, rebranding them as “tribal wear”. As an Indian, seeing my culture getting manipulated and whitewashed aggravates me, and I can relate to people of other cultures who feel the same way.
Furthermore, western clothing brands are not only borrowing
other cultural clothing but are sexualizing them as well. Cheongsam, a symbol of Chinese culture, is usually floor-length or knee-length dress that sometimes has a slit up to the lower thigh. However, this elegant kind of clothing has been altered in a sexualizing manner by the fashion industry, being portrayed as a
type of dress that is extremely short with a slit rising all the way up to the hip. This kind of appropriation is highly disrespectful to the Chinese culture, and involved fashion companies should be called out for this kind of offensive behavior.
Additionally, the infamous Fox Eye trend has sparked outrage among some individuals as well, and the anger behind this issue is understandable.
East Asians have constantly suffered from insults and mockery for their smaller eyes. Yet, now, famous influencers and models are promoting this trend based on publicizing something people had once felt insecure about.
When the Internet does NOT need to call out Cultural Appropriation:
However, even though I believe that cultural appropriation at its worst is immoral and needs to be taken into consideration, I also worry that some are taking this issue to the extreme.
Since the resurfacing of this issue, some people have been overly sensitive to others’ possible harmless actions. Take wearing Bandanas, for example:
I have seen numerous posts on social media crediting different cultures for the bandana trend, and blaming others for wearing it. Although bandanas were originally from India, they have become trendy because of other cultures. It is inevitable that every culture will influence others in some way or another. Unless the clothing is undermining cultural and/or religious beliefs/attire, I personally don’t see a problem.
From poses to clothing choices, some celebrities and influencers are getting canceled for cultural appropriation when it was not their intention to do so (this does not include cultural clothing, cornrows, black-fishing, etc).
If even the way you sit becomes racist, then what exactly is “crossing the line”?
People have started to feel insecure about what they can’t say and do since numerous small things are getting them accused of appropriation.
It is true that you have to watch what you post on the internet, but the internet is also a place where a diverse group of people and cultures interact and share ideas. If people start to feel sensitive over such trivial things, then they will eventually fear to share their thoughts on different topics on social media, hindering the diversity within what was meant to be diversified in the first place.
As we all know, social media is one of the most influential platforms for these circumstances. We can use the power of the internet to correct people who have used an aspect of another culture in a disrespectful way. If it is clear that a person or a brand is appropriating a culture, then we should let them know what they did wrong, so they can learn from their mistake.
I refer to cultural appropriation as insulting, sexualizing, and taking credit for something that belongs to another culture. I believe that someone wearing or doing something that supports a different culture should be encouraged instead of receiving hate. In other words, we should learn to differentiate what is intended to hurt another culture and what is not.
In the end, everyone’s opinions on cultural appropriation differ. So, what’s yours?