Fashionably Trendy Cultural Appropriation?

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Cultural appropriation in recent years has been highlighted by cultural items becoming fashion accessories, traditional clothing becoming tacky costumes and fashion styles that sometimes have questionable influences.

But we’re here to ask where can the line between cultural appropriation and appreciation be drawn in fashion? When does a fashion item become an act of cultural appropriation? Can we call it a “cultural influence” with respect or an act of appropriation that disrespects?

Recent festival trends have seen the popularisation of native headdresses, bindis and temporary “tribal tattoos” as the must have fashion accessories to these events. Coachella sees an influx of young girls wearing bindis on their forehead (so much so a hashtag #reclaimthebindi was ignited).

So when is fashion cultural appropriation? Well we’d have to say that sometimes it just takes some common sense. Are you taking an item that traditionally is regarded with high respect?Used on special occasions? Signifies an importance in a culture?When you’re using it does it still mean the same thing? Answered yes? Yep most likely that fashion trend is cultural appropriation.

That being said that doesn’t mean fashion can’t be influenced or draw from other cultures. Fashion can exhibit other cultures yet still be respectful and not be appropriating. Designers such as Akira Isogawa and Bethany Yellowtail both incorporate elements of a culture into their clothing with respect. Akira Isogawa sees Western influenced designs paired with  Japanese fabrics that exhibits creativity from both culture without appropriation. Similarly Bethany Yellowtail designs clothing with a Native American influence that aims to redfine beauty and experience of culture. Both sharing culture through fashion with the aim of appreciation rather then a loss of meaning through appropriation.

So next time you wear an item that you’ve given a second thought about and you’re unsure if its cultural appropriation. Ask yourself.
Are you taking an item that traditionally is regarded with high respect?Used on special occasions? Signifies an importance in a culture?When you’re using it does it still mean the same thing?

(Obviously a bit of common sense will also help, there’s no need to question everything you wear. Unless its about how clean your clothes are after a week and if they smell. Which is yes they do.)

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation

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Akira Isogawa work can be found at (x)
Bethany Yellowtail work can be found at (x)
Ongley, H. 2015 “#ReclaimTheBindi: 8 Important Lessons About Cultural Appropriation and Coachella”. (x)

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My Culture is NOT a Costume

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With Halloween steadily approaching we’ve seen an upsurge of the hashtag “culturenotacostume” and we thought its about time we weighed in on this topic.

That being said it is incredibly hard to speak for a whole culture and there will always be disagreement. The views represented below are my own personal thoughts and views and with time and even more education/information may change. So please go easy on me here.

Growing up in a white dominant culture as a minority I’ve experience all types of racism, stereotypes and prejudices.  I’ve experience people yelling “CHING CHONG” as a group of my friends walked down the street, or “Go Home its an Asian Invasion” (I’d have to say good work on the rhyme there didn’t think he’d be smart enough for that). I’ve been asked if I’ve eaten dog countless times, why do we put chopsticks in our hair (we don’t) and had people laugh at me as they pulled their eyes to make it look slanted. And the best bit, all this happened before I was even a legal adult, 18.

So to say I feel strongly about this subject is an understatement. So why is it that my culture gets joked about to my face but once someone else experiences it, it becomes “cool”? I’ve always wondered why in High School why some kids would wear chopsticks in their hair to look “exotic” or wear kimonos and cheongsams as a costume and everyone thought it was awesome. Whilst I stood here wondering if we would get the same reaction if we did it. Why it just felt plain wrong. I’d ask myself well we don’t do that? Why is it cool for them but when we do it we get isolated? Why does that costume have like 50 different asian cultures in one? So you can understand why when I found out there was an actual name for this I rejoiced a little knowing other minorities had experienced the same thing.

Orientalism, a term made popular by Edward W. Said in his publication “Orientalism” in 1978. Loosely put it is the term to describe how Western Society has a tendency to collate cultures from Asia into one whilst viewing them as “exotic” and “underdeveloped”. Reinforcing these ideas through constantly reproducing images to represent a single culture and VOILA we get stereotypes. Obviously this term goes a lot deeper and can be explored on multiple levels. But a great example of this is when someone says “Japanese” and immediately all we can think of is “Geishas” and “sushi” as if the culture has nothing else to present (a bit extreme but you get the general idea).

So this was what was happening to my culture alongside with cultural appropriation. I recently saw a picture come up on social media of a high school classmate with a group of his friend dressed up in short “kimonos” (looked more like a chinese hanfu) faces painted white with pink cheeks. Cheap tacky fans and chopsticks in their hair. Ouch. All I could think was. WHY? Don’t they understand how much effort goes into making traditional clothes. And it made me really think. How many times have I seen this happen. People wearing cheongsams but with geisha makeup and chopsticks in their hair with very little care about the effort, tradition and culture behind it.

It hit close to home. Why? Well my grandfather was a tailor in China, he worked to provide for my mother’s family making traditional qipao and tangzhuang out of the loveliest silk and handcrafted buttons. He’s made traditional clothes for me and I’ve witness his skills at work as he measured silk out with chalk string. Sewing with an old pedal powered sewing machine. Recently he made my grandmother a beautiful green cheongsam for a wedding. It took him a month and when I asked how much it would cost to buy one like this I got told close to $600AUD.

So when I do see people dress up in using clothes made for special occasions all I can  think is do they know how much effort goes into making those? Do they know anything about this culture? When it should be worn? How painstakingly hard it is to craft such an item?

So that is why I believe culture should always be more than just a costume worn at Halloween. Why should some get to pick the best of one culture whilst we have to carry the good, the bad the ugly side of it?

That being said I think its brilliant if you can invest some time just to find out about the culture, this doesn’t mean don’t wear it! If someone invites you to go for it! Its a moment of cultural appreciation. Really invest and be educated, be immersive. A good understanding and appreciation will give you the common sense of when you should wear/or not wear any culture’s items. So this Halloween have a bit of common sense.

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation

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Said, E. 1978. “Orientalism”, Vintage Books, United States.
Cheongsam/Qipao Image by Mity on Flickr, used under Creative Commons 2.0 for non-profit. No modifications. (x)

Celebrities & Cultural Appropriation, EVERYWHERE!

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Katy Perry, Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian! What do all these celebrities have in common? (Well besides the fact that all their names start with a ‘K’) They’ve all been recently called out for cultural appropriation and being serial offenders.

So are question is why are celebrities & cultural appropriation everywhere recently? Is this getting to a point where its ridiculous and we really need to just “get over it”?

As you’ve probably guessed by now we @ Stop the Cult really don’t think cultural appropriation is okay. Why? Simply check any of our previous post and there is a plethora of information about it. So to simply “get over it” would mean admitting defeat at letting cultural appropriation be okay. But we do have to admit it is getting a bit ridiculous.

Constantly we are seeing the same celebrities culturally appropriating items for pure aesthetics. So why is this? And why are we letting it happen? Celebrities live in a world of their own and whilst many of us don’t like to admit it often the rules of society (and occasionally the law) don’t apply to them. A simple slap on the wrist, apology on social media and in about a month lets just repeat this cycle again. Its easy to see how we’re getting just plain sick of it. But hey DON’T ‘get over it’. Because every single bit of exposure raises that bit more awareness of cultural appropriation and if you’re also starting to get sick of all this hype, good cause thats when we can all finally shout ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP’. (Lets just hope thats soon).

So if you’re sick of the Kardashians (in general) or for just cultural appropriation (still not sure when they did it? Check it out!)

Have no fear! There are celebrities out there who are finally calling it all out. Recently Amandla Stenberg posted a thought provoking video on cultural appropriation, Zendaya called out the racist comments on her faux locs hairstyle by a TV commentator and explained to us the severity of cultural appropriation and Nicki Minaj articulated her problems with cultural appropriation and fellow celebrity Miley Cyrus (Whats Good?).

So we say, don’t “get over it”. Keep interested, get educated about the topic and share why cultural appropriation is wrong. Get frustrated if you have to but always reason and educate with a level head! And don’t forget to check out those inspiring celebrities below!

Amandla Stenberg on Cultural Appropriation (x).
Zendaya “Explains the Severity of Cultural Appropriation” (x)
Nicki Minaj “Her problem with cultural appropriation and Miley Cyrus” (x)

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How can I avoid Cultural Appropriation?

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SO how can we all avoid cultural appropriation?

Well first thing, stopping it all beginnings with know what it is! Get EDUCATED.
Simply hit up our other post and find out what cultural appropriation is exactly and why its so important.

Now that you know what it is simply as your self these questions:
Am I offending a culture by wearing/doing this?
Has someone from that culture told me explicitly not to wear/do this?
If I do this will it alter the original meaning or eliminate the meaning behind the act/item?

If you answered to yes to any of these then hey take a step back they could be indicating that some cultural appropriation is going on here. Whilst this is just a short guide there are obviously   people (hopefully a small percentage) that do take it to the extreme and think everything is cultural appropriation. (Which unfortunately while their intentions may be good, does more harm in the long run when people start to think of cultural appropriation as a joke/non-existent). So if your educated, decide for yourself!

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation @ Stop The Cult
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Why should I care about cultural appropriation?

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Why should I care about cultural appropriation?

BECAUSE CULTURE IS IMPORTANT!

Simple as that!

Cultural appropriation is when a dominate culture takes aspects of a minority culture and changes it resulting in a loss of its traditional meaning and context.

A person’s culture embodies their values, heritage, tradition and history all which should not be belittled. Lets take a look at the Japanese Kimono. The kimono is a traditional garment made from the finest materials and only worm on very formal occasions. It is a very polite and reserved garment, with countless variations for different occasions. Yet cultural appropriation has taken such a garment and made it into a tacky  and skimpy costume often seen on music shows and halloween. And often or not such an appropriation incorporates other elements of other cultures (Chinese, Korean can anyone say orientalism?). Gone are the traditional elements and value of such a piece. So don’t do cultural appropriation.

Culture is important to everyone. Its all about respect. Appreciation not appropriate.

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation @ Stop The Cult
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‘Geisha’ image by Kate Nevens (all credit) used under Creative Commons 2.0. No alteration has been done. Source (x)

Share your experience about cultural appropriation with #stopthecult

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Cultural appropriation affects all, share with us why your culture matters to you and why we should appreciate and respect it.

With Halloween approaching we asked why culture shouldn’t be a costume. One of our follows shared with us their personal opinion about their culture.

I take a lot of pride in my native heritage. And every Halloween I see cultural appropriation everywhere when people ” dress up ” like native Americans. I feel like first of all they stole a nation and now they think it’s ok to try and be native for a night. My culture ( and any culture for that matter ) is not a costume.

dvmien.j (@dvmien.j)

‘Stop the Cult’ helps to educate people about cultural appropriation and why it matters. Share your opinions and experience of culture/cultural appropriation with the tag #stopthecult

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation @ Stop The Cult
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What if I do Culturally Appropriate?

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Sometimes the answer to this question,
just don’t do it in the first place’ isn’t always the most helpful. Cultural appropriation can often occur unknowingly or accidentally. So here we are to help!

Well what do I do if I do culturally approriate?

First things first, STOP (obviously).
There does need much reasoning behind this, cultural appropriation disrespects and alters the original meaning of the culture and the best way to not do this is to stop.

Secondly, RECOGNISE & APOLOGISE.
Recognising that you’ve culturally appropriated an aspect of someones culture is great (you’re learning and identifying) but even better is to recognise those faults and apologise. And we applaud you in doing so and leading the way for others!

Thirdly, EDUCATE.
Its great to stop, recognise & apologise but there is no harm in educating yourself. If aspects of cultures truly appeal to you only for aesthetic reasons (bindi, henna, cornrows etc) I encourage you to find out why these are so important culturally and the history behind it because its far more interesting. Not only that educating yourself means you can educate others on not why we should participate in cultural appropriation!

Enriching your knowledge will further your appreciation and perhaps instead of cultural appropriation you’ll be invited to culture exchange and truly experience these traditions with respect and permission. We need to understand that cultural appropriation isn’t always intentional. Educating others is one step closer to stopping cultural appropriation.

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation

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What the hell is Cultural Appropriation?

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The term gets thrown around by the media, internet, celebrities but what the hell is cultural appropriation exactly?

There are varying definitions of cultural appropriation floating around on the internet and what it can be applied to, so for many of us we’re just bloody confused to as what it is exactly.

In the simplest terms possible (and in no way trying to reduce the seriousness of this issue):

Cultural appropriation is when elements of a minority culture are taken by members of a more dominant culture for their own use.

This results in the original context to become distorted and it’s meaning reduced. Those taking elements of the culture do not experience the same cultural significance.

Often this can be seen as disrespectful and offensive. Culture is important to all people all around the world, as people we should respect that.

Hopefully this has explained what cultural appropriation is exactly, follow us to keep informed and inform others. And continue to find out why cultural appropriation need to be stopped.

R.C.W – Stopping Cultural Appropriation

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Definition provided by Young, J 2010, Cultural Appropriation and the Arts.