Cultural Appropriation or Cultural Borrowing: Hair Chopsticks
You guys remember this post from a few weeks ago, about Emma Roberts and the her racist outfit including a tacky dragon purse and chopsticks in her hair. Fun fact: the chopsticks didn’t even make it to the red carpet, Roberts received such a backlash on her social media accounts that she removed the fashion faux pas from her hair.
Let’s look into why there was such an upset.
Is it because of cultural appropriation? No. Not exactly. It’s because of cultural misappropriation which is still racist, maybe more. This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed misappropriation on the blog. Last time we discussed it in regards to Kimono Cardigans. In which I argued they were not cultural appropriation but rather a misappropriation of Japanese culture as they in no way reflect the traditional kimono in which they were named.
See, Asian’s wearing chopsticks in their hair isn’t really a thing. Rather, they use Hair sticks, which are different than chopsticks in many ways, the most obvious being they’re not made for eating.
Hair sticks have been used in a wide variety of cultures throughout history, including Greek, Roman and Japanese. It is just in more recent times that they have become orientalized and used in the creation of this racist stereotype image of Asian people (once again often a homogenized one).
Actual Asian hair sticks are the Japanese Kanzashi. Kanzashi are hair ornamentation, who when first created were simple rods. believed to be able to ward off evil spirits. Since their creation Kanzashi have grown more complex, with a wide variety of styles and even serving multiple purposes, some adapted to aid in self defense. The most stick like of the Kanzashi would be the Kogai and the Tama (but this is actually pronged).
So is wearing chopsticks in your hair cultural appropriation? No. Is it racist? Hell ya. It’s feeding this racist orientalist view which misunderstand and misinterprets culture.
Really the concept is simple. Chopsticks are for eating, not for putting in your hair.
Hope this image helps illustrate how ridiculous it is for anyone that's still confused. Source (x)