Posts Tagged With: cultural appropriation

A Conversation

Cultural Appropriation: A conversation by Sanaa Hamid

This body of work is an exploration of the extent of cultural appropriation and encourages a discussion about it. I give the appropriator and the appropriated the opportunity to defend themselves and create a dialogue between them, while maintaining a neutral stance myself. I am not attacking those who appropriate, merely educating and creating awareness. Neutrality is key in this series, as i remove myself from my political and social status and opinions, stripping the problem to the most basic issue; taking an item that means a great deal to somebody and corrupting it.

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So hey, when did Hinduism become a trend?

As you know, I have a curious habit of browsing online for clothes on a daily basis and during my daily scouts for prospective items and deals, I’ve come across an insane amount of t-shirts baring different Hindu Gods and Goddesses with some cheesy one-liner about how amazing life is etc, along with the sale of bindi’s (an ornament sacred in the Hindu religion) and other such things that have linkages back to Hinduism. What is happening? And more importantly, why.

It’s so funny;  Hindu’s have been targeted, ridiculed and eaten alive for their differences. If you read their history, Hindu’s were murdered for following their faiths and today, their God(s) are being worn on t-shirts and their bindis are being completely misused by hipster white girls.

What is this? Reverse history? It’s cool to be Hindu for a couple months because you want to tick off your Christian parents?

Look, if you like aspects of a religion, respect it enough to admire it from afar because it really isn’t cool when the Indian religion and history is completely forgotten by the western world to create some hipster-hyped, out-of-place aesthetic. Wearing feather head pieces to be boho, or wearing crosses when you aren’t attached to the Christian religion, or wearing pentacle necklaces when you aren’t Wiccan, all raise the same sort of issues.

Believe me, I’m all for embracing individuality. But wearing bindis and whatnot isn’t indie at all. Anyone from India would say that bindis became a worldwide fashion accessory a long time ago, and many Hindus even wear them with no spiritual intent. But that isn’t a reason to abuse it because centuries of history lie behind its existence so appropriating culture and religion just isn’t cool in my books.


“What makes the non-South Asian person’s use of the bindi problematic is the fact that a pop star like Selena Gomez wearing one is guaranteed to be better received than I would if I were to step out of the house rocking a dot on my forehead. On her, it’s a bold new look; on me, it’s a symbol of my failure to assimilate. On her, it’s unquestionably cool; on me, it’s yet another marker of my Otherness, another thing that makes me different from other American girls. If the use of the bindi by mainstream pop stars made it easier for South Asian women to wear it, I’d be all for its proliferation — but it doesn’t. They lend the bindi an aura of cool that a desi woman simply can’t compete with, often with the privilege of automatic acceptance in a society when many non-white women must fight for it.”

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More On Cultural Appropriation

If you don't know what cultural appropriation is then: 
click Here And Here to read more about my past posts on cultural appropriation.

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[Read this post before you go any further]

Remember the contender "Reverse Sexism"? Well look out people, we have two new gladiators in the Arena of Stupidity. They go by the names of "Reverse Cultural Appropriation" and "Reverse Racism". 

I've been reading quite a few angry responses from white folks who are constantly invalidating the opinions of nearly ever person of color, who have taken on the exhausting task of explaining why cultural appropriation is wrong. Let's begin with this GIF and then move on to these angry responses..

Angry response 1: "People of color speak English! Isn't that cultural appropriation?"
Angry response 2: "I see people of color wearing Western clothes all the time. So why can't I be a Bollywood Diva for Halloween?"
Angry response 3: "I'm cherishing diversity – why is that wrong?! All I'm doing is supporting your culture" 

I could tell you why all these responses bear little weight but I honestly don't have the energy.. So instead, I ask you to read this post which explains very beautifully why it is some white folks should stop feeling so damn entitled. 

As for Western clothing, consider this:

"Trousers first enter recorded history in the 6th century BCE, with the appearance of horse-riding Iranian peoples in Greek ethnography. At this time, not only the Persians, but also allied Eastern and Central Asian peoples such as the Bactrians, Armenians, Tigraxauda Scythians and Xiongnu Hunnu, are known to have worn them.[3][4] Trousers are believed to have been worn by both sexes among these early users.

So we got pants/trousers for both sexes before white people. Whoa.

A straw-woven skirt dating to 3,900 B.C. was discovered in Armenia. Skirts have been worn by men and women from many cultures, such as the lungi, kanga and sarong worn in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and the kilt worn in Scotland.

The earliest known culture to have females wear clothing resembling miniskirts were the Duan Qun Miao, which literally meant “short skirt Miao” in Chinese. This was in reference to the short miniskirts “that barely cover the buttocks” worn by women of the tribe, and which were “probably shocking” to observers in medieval and early modern times.

We have skirts of different lengths too! Look at that!

The earliest known shoes are sandals dating from approximately 7,000 or 8,000 B.C., found in the Fort Rock Cave in the US state of Oregon. in 1938.[1] The world’s oldest leather shoe, made from a single piece of cowhide laced with a leather cord along seams at the front and back, was found in a cave in Armenia in 2008 and it is believed to date to 3,500 B.C. Ötzi the Iceman’s shoes, dating to 3,300 BC, featured brown bearskin bases, deerskin side panels, and a bark-string net, which pulled tight around the foot.

Many early natives in North America wore a similar type of footwear known as the moccasin. These are tight-fitting, soft-soled shoes typically made out of leather or bison hides. Many moccasins were also decorated with various beads and other adornments. Moccasins were not designed to get wet, and in wet weather and warm summer months, most Native Americans went barefoot.

As civilizations began to develop, thong sandals (the precursors of the modern flip-flop) were worn. This practice dates back to pictures of them in ancient Egyptian murals from 4,000 B.C. One pair found in Europe was made of papyrus leaves and dated to be approximately 1,500 years old. They were also worn in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus Christ.Thong sandals were worn by many civilizations and made from a wide variety of materials. Ancient Egyptian sandals were made from papyrus and palm leaves. The Masai of Africa made them out of rawhide. In India, they were made from wood. In China and Japan, rice straw was used. The leaves of the sisal plant were used to make twine for sandals in South America, while the natives of Mexico used the Yucca plant.

What about dresses? Well dresses, gowns and frocks are recorded as originally showing up in Medieval Europe. Also, there's Abaya's,the Ao Dia from Vietnam and the Boubou."

(Source: The Mind Is Limitless)

So really, western clothing is an adaptation and an amalgamation of several different cultures that have contributed to what it has become today. 

Checkmate, racists. 


"Many nations of the third world are described as ‘underdeveloped’. These less wealthy nations are generally those that suffered under colonialism and neo-colonialism. The ‘developed’ nations are those that exploited their resources and wealth. Therefore, rather than referring to these countries as ‘underdeveloped’, a more appropriate and meaningful designation might be ‘over exploited’. Again, transpose this term next time you read about the ‘underdeveloped nations’ and note the different meaning that results.”
– Robert B. Moore

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Your Privilege Is Showing

Check out the following images.

Don't see what's wrong with them? Let's start with everything. This, my friends, is cultural appropriation. After you have clicked the link and are now aware of the wiki definition, I INSIST you check your privilege here.

Some people, such as the ones in the images above, carry this radical notion that emulating certain cultures is a way of expressing their appreciation and deep respect for them. What they fail to realize is that they are actually disrespecting those cultures in a very profound way.

Let's break it down:
Picture 1 – This dude and a bunch of other participating white people decided to replicate and reenact the Indian religious festival of Holi. Why? Oh, because it's pretty and colorful and looks like so much fun! Why didn't they just have a massive paintball or waterballoon fight instead, you ask? Well silly, it wouldn't be considered cool, or edgy, or free-spirited if it didn't have a religious/cultural connotation slapped on it now would it?

Picture 2 – Headdresses are considered sacred in Native communities and they are reserved for the most respected and revered leaders. The girl in the picture is not only insulting this Native tradition but is wearing the headdress as a fashion accessory. The lovely cigarette smoking adds the icing to this cake.  

Picture 3 – Wearing bindi's is another stupid trend. Not only do I not like her because her face looks extremely annoying, this girl is yet another person who hasn't considered the religious implications behind wearing the bindi. And even if she was putting it on to honor that (which in itself is wrong), someone like her still cannot wear a bindi because of All These Reasons.

Picture 4 – Are you a rastafarian? No? Then take a pair of scissors and cut those off (and in case you still haven't gotten the idea for why this is wrong as well, read this). 

Picture 5 – Yes Lady Gaga, you like to be known for your crazy, over-the-top outfits but this is disgusting. She's made a mockery of the faith and culture associated with the burqa by prancing around in it and being so awesome. Reality: Muslim women get so much shit for wearing it but somehow, it's okay when liberated white woman Lady Gaga does it.  

What you should take away from this:
Cultural appropriation takes the cultural of a group of people, usually people of color, and turns it into a caricature. Despite what you may believe, appropriation hurts more than it helps. Wearing an afro wig doesn’t promote acceptance of Afros; sexy geisha/bollywood costumes doesn’t improve images of Asian women, it eroticizes them and turns them into objects to be consumed and exploited.

So here's the deal: My culture is not a trend. Stop commodifying it.

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