The topic of cultural appropriation is a tricky one, so ill first try and define it. Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of parts of one culture by a different cultures people. Sounds simple enough, but where do you draw the line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange? I thought I’d start off by showing a classic example of cultural appropriation.
In 2013 Katy Perry was criticised for her music video ‘This is how we do’ which included many Black stereotypes such as cornrows, watermelon and specific slang words. But also in this video is a picture of Aretha Franklin and the word respect? How can you stereotype black culture so much and then include one of the most respected black artists with the word respect? This isn’t the first time Katy Perry has done something like this either, she has been criticised before for the same thing. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine she was asked about the appropriation which was becoming “increasingly uncool”. She doesn’t seem to understand that there are different ways of appreciating a culture other than co-opting, fetishizing and appropriating it.
“I guess I’ll just stick to baseball and hot dogs, and that’s it,” she told the magazine. “I know that’s a quote that’s gonna come to f–k me in the ass, but can’t you appreciate a culture? I guess, like, everybody has to stay in their lane? I don’t know.”
So that was an obvious case of ‘bad’ cultural appropriation. But how do we know when fine turns to not fine? I don’t have an answer to this, but I am going to look at some different situations with some examples.
Is it ok if the person doing it has a real connection with that culture, but is from a different one?
For example I have a friend who has studied Japanese for many years, loves Japanese culture and has been to japan a few times now. So is it wrong that she wore a kimono to her formal, or that while she was in japan once got made up as a geisha even if she knows the cultural and historical relevance?
If it’s part of a certain culture but many of the people in that culture don’t go along with the traditional beliefs associated with it?
I’m going to use the example of dreadlocks for this part. Dreadlocks traditionally are part of many cultures including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and many African faiths, and they all have varying beliefs around what they mean. But dreadlocks aren’t really associated that much with any of those things anymore. I would argue that dreadlocks are now associated with black culture which as Amandla Stenberg explains is a way to keep their hair healthy and stylish at the same time. So assuming all of that, is it ok that my white friend has his hair in dreadlocks? As the only reason is that he has a skin condition that affects his scalp and it’s the only hairstyle that doesn’t exacerbate it?
The line between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange still remains unfound but for me a main component seems to be respect and understanding.
What do you think about the questions I asked?
Thanks for reading guys