The commodification of culture is ‘you can wear it, but I can’t’. 

Cultural appropriation is the same - ‘You can wear it, but I can’t!’ cries the white person as they drench themselves in henna, superglue a bindi to their forehead, and refuse to brush their hair for weeks on end.

Growing up, I was surrounded by white kids. They said I smelled dirty every time I got back from visiting my family, or when I went to school the morning after my mother had made a particularly strong curry. They complained to their parents, who complained to their teacher, who complained to my parents, who gently told me that I spilled rice on the table at lunch time. Thus the switch to white bread and red meat began - bleaching myself from the inside out. School meals fucking sucked. I was banned from using my tastebuds for years.

Every time I went to Delhi, I would leave with henna on my hands - my mother would take me to the market in a rickshaw and we’d sit there for half an hour while some stranger drew these beautiful things all over me, and I would watch him, fascinated, on a stool before me, his legs splayed out. We’d hand him a few coins and be on our way, and she’d stop for panipuri on the way home. I’d be careful not to wipe my hands on the rickshaw rail, careful not to wipe my hands on anything . I’d smell the traces of India on my clothes, and washing them the evening I got home would always be a little sad.

‘You can wear it, but I can’t.' 

Kids ran away from me at school like I was poison ivy. Convinced that I would give them a horrible disease, or if I didn’t, I probably smelled anyway so there was no reason to go within a thirty foot proximity of me. Their parents would encourage them - instating bans on ever ending up at my house when they saw my mother pick me up in the playground with a bindi on her forehead one day, when they heard my father’s strong accent. Like they’d have wanted to go to my house anyway.

'You can wear it, but I can’t.’

Funnily, I can’t wear it. I can’t wear the sari, the lengha or the bindi, even now, without someone looking me up and down with disgust. ‘Get out of our country’; ‘dothead’; ‘Paki’; ‘lousy immigrants, running our healthcare systems to lock us out’; it’s all the same to me. 

'But it’s cool to wear it at Coachella, right? At the party next week? I saw Madonna doing it, it’s completely in right now.’ And if I say no, I’m the bad guy, and it’s people like me that are keeping the stereotype of Indian people alive - they’re all freshies, they don’t belong here and they’re just, like, so intrusive. What’s with them taking all our jobs? Why is there one behind every corner shop counter and on every call centre line? Why are all the doctors in my local hospital brown, yet the receptionist is white? Seems like some kind of supremacy, right?

Thus the commodification of my culture continues. I watch crystal bindis being marked up to be sold in Forever21 and Topshop when I can buy them on the street in Delhi for a tenth of the cost. I see girls I knew in primary school plaster Friday night pictures of them in their bodycon dress and their bindi spot with a mixer in their hand all over my news feed, and I know that this is how it is -

'You can wear it, but I can’t.’

I have somehow been locked out of a culture that I want to be proud of; I am rejected as the fresh off the boat immigrant who’s going to give everyone a disease with their dirty hands. On me it’s dirt, worthy of a slur in my direction and an inside joke with the next white person you see - but on you, it’s chic. It’s cheerful and oh-so-boho-indie-pastel-pale-cute.

You point with your left hand, and painstakingly apply your bindi spot with the right. Then you forget about it, because you can afford to, and adjust your sari in the mirror with both.

Blog Post - Jashmin Patel, “When did cultural appropriation turn into appreciation?”


I often reflect on my position in a ‘multicultural’ society as a young South Asian woman born and raised in London and still getting the dreaded question “But where are you really from?”

The daily battle of fighting against racist and sexist stereotypes unfortunately still lives on. But recently, the much needed heavy debates around the representation of women of colour in mainstream media, has got me thinking about the portrayal of  (and lack of) Asian women in music videos.

I remember in 2004 the hype over Gwen Stefani going solo from No Doubt and everybody talking about her new style and vision for her album ‘Love.Angel.Music.Baby’. I respected Stefani; I even put up with the bindis, but this respect was soon lost when I saw her music videos for the album. Repeatedly seeing a successful white pop star using four nameless Asian women as props to show her ‘admiration’ for Japanese culture and fashion is just another example of the unquestioned sense of entitlement that white people have over women of colour.

Sadly, Stefani wasn’t the first and isn’t the last person to fashion this appropriation of Asian cultures into mainstream music videos. More recently we have Iggy Azalea. We all know that she’s a blatant racist and homophobe, but her video for ‘Bounce’   was the icing on the cake for me. In this video we see Iggy in a “fantasy” world (India), dressed in sarees, riding an elephant, dancing Bollywood style whilst singing “Shake it, break it, make it bounce”. What’s the big deal I hear you say? Isn’t it just a bit of harmless fun or even a celebration of Indian culture by mainstream society? Actually it achieves quite the opposite. By making South Asian women invisible and ‘otherising’ them to the extent that the only representation of them left is cultural symbols like sarees and bindis, this highly-sexualised white-dominated industry further exotifies and objectifies them.

Some people would argue that these pop stars are showing their ‘appreciation’ and are attempting to assimilate ‘minority’ cultures (which are often portrayed as resistant) into mainstream culture. If this was truly just appreciation then why did Stefani feel the need to contractually obligate four Asian women to only speak Japanese in public? Why does it take Iggy to wear traditional Indian clothing to be ‘cool’ but when I wear it I’m seen as a foreigner and refusing to integrate?

Appreciation would only be a fair argument if everyone in this world were seen as equal, if systematic racism didn’t still exist and white privilege didn’t rear its ugly head every time people of colour voiced their concerns. Until this happens, Stefani and Iggy, you can keep your appreciation!

Unpopular opinion.

The whole “cultural appropriation” debate…

It bothers me.

As someone involved in art and fashion, I will tell you that it is IMPOSSIBLE not to be inspired by other cultures, time periods, ect. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think if we want to take something and recontextualize it into something beautiful, we should by all means.

I love fifties fashion. There was a lot of sexism in the 50’s. Does that mean I’m promoting sexism? No. Same goes for that if you wear a Native American headdress, you are not supporting the slaughter of innocent people.

Yeah, don’t forget the original meaning, but calling racism whenever you see someone wearing a headdress or a white person with dreads is only going to make you look stupid.

Understand the history, but remember things can take on new meanings and it’s not a bad thing all the time.

white-n-0-i-s-e asked:

I'm not asking you to feel, or think positively about her hair. What Im trying to bring to the surface that you point out time after time that what she is doing is negative not because of her race but because she is specifically a white female. I know that dreads are perceived differently on white people as they are on black people. I am also in no way standing up for her choice of hairstyle. I am instead standing against the ease at which her femininity was used against her in your judgements.

“I’m not asking you to feel, or think positively about her hair.”

From your original ask: “Your statement about the how the woman was nasty and unwashed in no way offers anything positive and instead seeks to perpetuate the shamming of women.”

Let me make something clear for you - I am decidedly pro-women. I am a feminist. I am an ally. As an ally, I strive to support the best as I can, and occasionally am problematic.

I acknowledge this. However, what you need to understand is that in this situation, I was responding to a white woman. Therefore I referred to her as such and used the pronouns associated with white women. Please don’t tone police me. Despite your backtrack, you initially wanted me to “find something positive” about her hair. 

Let the record show that I would say the exact same thing about a white male, but (as I stated earlier) my initial response was directed towards a white woman. At no point did I offer value judgements towards her femininity or imply that she was less of a woman because of her hair. Let’s recap things I actually said, and not the ideas and values you’ve projected on to them. These are the only times I used the phrase “woman” or “her” or “she”: 

Me: This nasty, unwashed young woman who feels the need to rebel against something (probably a shower) is sitting up proclaiming to the world that she has locs?

Yes, I said nasty and unwashed because guess what? My mama taught me that if you don’t bathe or wash your hair when it is dirty (and her hair is clearly in need of some attention) that you are unwashed. You are dirty. Once again - no value judgement on her femininity, but certainly one on her personal hygiene. 

Me: Women like this are DIRECTLY affecting my life in that almost everyone I encounter has a friend or a cousin who is her and has given an entire LEGION of people a bad rap.

Now, in hindsight, I probably could have said men and women. But as I said earlier, I was responding to a woman, and thus focused on that. I would say the exact same things, in the exact same manner about a white man with hair in such disarray. 

I also touched on this in relation to black women not being able to wear their hair the way it grows out of their scalps in society, yet this woman is able to walk around looking dirty and gets cookies for it. 

But congratulations for continuing not to see the forest for the trees.

Niqab versus burqa

First of all before I begin, let’s clear up some definitions. A burqa is a loose, usually black or light blue robe worn by Muslim women, predominantly in Afghanistan. The burqa covers the body from head to toe and you cannot see any part the women’s face, including the eyes.

The niqab on the hand, differs in the sense that it covers most of the face except for the eyes, ensuring peripheral vision as well as an ability to ensure your well intentioned audience -suffering from some sort of a Jesus complex- knows the dangerous level of anger when you furrow your brows in fury.

I promise you this is not all quibbling over semantics. The difference is massive, especially to those who chose to wear either one.

History 101 AKA Google that Ish

So applying what we just learned, Lady Gaga was wearing a niqab not a burqa. But I do understand the allure of burqa, it just sounds so much more…terrifying…and oppressive…and Muslim.
Niqab would require a Google search and no one has time for that.

Now time for some history, that terrorist chic shit’s been done. In 2010 M.I.A. showed up to the Spike Scream Awards and just slayed them in a killer black and graphic printed niqab with metallic green eye shadow during the height of Muslim-phobia sweeping France.

To be completely honest, it does bother me a bit that M.I.A, a non-Muslim women is appropriating a symbol that is so politically volatile, but not even a fraction of the amount Lady Gaga botched campy attempt infuriated me. Am I applying a double standard, hell yes, absolutely. White* hipsters go culture shopping, mixing bindis, with feathered head dresses, and confusing Morocco for India, asking me why all Africans aren’t Black, and it is inexcusable. When M.I.A does it, the appropriation of the symbol implicates her with a cause on a stage for the dominant audience, which is mostly white. She was Brown and edgy; she made us cool for that moment. I’m not giving her a pass, but I won’t start talking shit about her in Arabic with my sisters if we were all at a party together.

I should clarify; this is not an attempt to take away another Muslim’s disapproval of M.I.A.’s appropriation. Agency is critical. Individuals are free in deciding what they deem to be problematic. Distinctive and diverse experiences cause various reactions irrespective of similar skin colour or history. You are completely free to be offended or not offended by depictions and costuming of your own culture. Just because I’m not side eyeing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

“This is why we can’t have nice stuff”- WoC feminists to non-WoC feminists

The idea the Muslim women need to stop griping and to appreciate Lady Gaga and others like her who don ‘terrorist chic’ as ways to either implicitly or explicitly reclaim, address, or bring forth to the discussion feminist and gender egalitarianism is ludicrous and insulting. It’s in line with the idea that wearing the scarf symbolizes a women’s submission to men, it is one of the most faulty causalities, simply due to its simplicity. Culture is not simple. It is fraught with historical legacy, cultural misgivings, religious misconstructions, and a planet wide plague of patriarchy.

The argument that I need someone else, someone outside of my culture and religion, to tell me how to feel about certain aspects of my individuality is the continuation of a long legacy of colonialism and ethnocentrism. Full stop.

The same way I tell straight cis-men that it is often safer to stay out of sexual politics because it is far less likely that it is their body that gets raped, maimed, and hyper-sexualized for commercial purposes—White* feminists please take note. It’s necessary to check yourself before you start preaching about how it’s okay to appropriate a symbol when it critiques supposed gender inequality. And it’s straight up imperialist logic to argue about the “genuine primitiveness” of some cultures and how I, a member of this culture, shouldn’t be so sensitive.

Please get out of here with your basic self.

*White for all extensive purposes includes those of the heterosexual, cis, and able-bodied Anglo-Saxon community.

Wided is an Algerian/American writer who is currently living in Beijing, China. Most of her published writings focus on North African politics. She likes to lecture ignorant people  on the massive range of skin pigments in Africa.

When cultural appropriation goes too far:

“Talking Heads’ Remain in Light is blatant cultural appropriation! How dare a privileged white rock ensemble steal the sounds of African music.”

“How dare white people wear snapbacks, tracksuits, Adidas shoes and Public Enemy t-shirts! That’s cultural appropriation of black culture!”

* “How dare black people decide to listen to hardcore punk rock, wear skinny jeans and Converse shoes, and start skateboarding. That’s cultural appropriation of white culture!”

“How dare Korean pop artists make music heavily indebted to the black music of the late 1980s/early-mid 1990s involving slow jams, Timbalandesque vibes and incorporate rapping into their songs! That’s black culture!”

** “How dare POC speak in English! That’s appropriation of privileged white Western/European culture!”

* It always fascinates that very little is said about how basically rock and roll is a major culprit of so-called “cultural appropriation” (although I wouldn’t call it that): all rock music traces its roots back to the blues, a genre almost exclusively made by black people. Do I even need to mention Elvis? Funny how I, as a black person who listens to a wealth of alternative rock, am always asked why I listen to “white music”; I always always always bring up the example of Jimi Hendrix (black musician playing “white” rock music, or at least, that’s what many believe). I’m also a big fan of the Beasties Boys who are always targeted for being white guys stepping into a black genre - despite the fact that they are well-respected by some of their black hip-hop peers, and they really know their hip-hop.

** or, to go one further, “POC shouldn’t speak English; they will only continue to oppress themselves, they need to speak their own native tongues to feel real freedom and escape from the privileged status quo.”

Basically, the point here was to show how ludicrous accusations of so-called “cultural appropriation” can be (see: twerking), and how not only does it descend into uncomfortably amusing self-parody but also precludes other races from exploring different cultures often attributed to a specific race. Also, the term “cultural appropriation” is used excessively, so much so that I’m afraid people don’t even know what normal “appropriation” is or what it’s defined as in the dictionary.

There are far more eloquent writers who have pointed out how difficult it is to growing up reading books (and watching movies) about a culture alien to you, and how pernicious the influences thereof can be. I am lucky in that Indian culture is more widely represented in Western media than other colonised regions—when I talk about Bollywood in the yuletide chat room, there are people who have an idea about what I might be referring to, bastardised ideas of ‘pundit’ and ‘caste system’ and ‘karma’ and ‘reincarnation’ are present in the English vocabulary. Yet still, my ability to connect fannishly with people from different parts of the world is mediated through the coloniser’s language and representation. Enid Blyton, with her hideous caricatures of African tribal boys helping the intrepid British children is read from Johannesburg to Jaipur—Iktomi stories are not.

These imbalances of power are what frustrate me in several discussions regarding issues of representation and diversity in writing that I’ve seen recently. I am summarising some positions that I have heard, and my responses to them.

READ THIS. It is commentary from an Indian writer named Deepa D. about race and depictions of race in literature and how writing and literature favours American/Western values and cultures. It brings up narratives from the author’s life and examples of Western culture’s literary attempts to represent non-Western cultures “respectfully” in order to hammer home this point:

 I would like to say that this well-intentioned championing of diversity is specific to countries that are trying to celebrate their appropriation of other cultures.

“kylie jenner buys mansion at age 17″ doesn’t impress me for a lot of reasons. if you wanna impress me, talk about how 16 year old amandla stenberg speaks like a race scholar or how 18 year old zendaya is becoming a fashion icon

anonymous asked:

kind of late to the discussion, just wanted to add that in Greece people are still very very bitter about Elgin (google elgin marbles) stealing parts of the Parthenon and selling them to the British museum, and we've been arguing for their return for LITERALLY DECADES. DECADES! We're actually part of the european union now and still nothing is being done, and it continues to be a really controvesial issue. It's so fucked up.

I saw some of them in the British Museum, it was a DISASTUH. They massacred these pieces, and like you said, people to this day from these nations are outraged. These aren’t ancient problems that only dead people and nit pickers care about - there are real concerns and hurts. African governments often sent letters to national museums in the UK, in Belgium, in France asking for the return of their national treasures, and are often ignored, which is SO hypocritical when people from these countries lose their fucking MINDS when there’s the hint of some of their stuff going overseas. I mean, Kelly Clarkson BOUGHT Jane Austen’s ring in a legal auction and they refused to let her leave the country with it, and held it for months until they mustered enough cash to get an English person to buy it. Like, really? You wanna play that game when every single piece in the British Museum was straight up thieved? I c u.

There’s a movie called Gods of Egypt is coming out in 2016. Here’s the cast:

  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Horus (White)
  • Gerard Butler as Set (White)
  • Brenton Thwaites as Bek (White)
  • Geoffrey Rush as Ra (White)
  • Elodie Yung as Hathor (Mixed: Asian/White)
  • Chadwick Boseman as Thoth (Black)
  • The rest of credited supporting cast also white save for Ya Ya Deng (Black)

and I’m just like

How are you gonna make a move that screams BLACK (or very brown at least) GODS and only have like, 2 black/brown people in it? Hollywood, do you even try?

It’s gonna be even WORSE if most of the extras in the film are black/brown! We all know how fucked up that will look/feel and Hollywood will be like, “Oh, look at all these black/brown people worshiping white gods. That’s right. That’s okay to put out into the world. Yeah, go Hollywood. *high-fives self*”

Seriously, this is ridiculous. White Hollywood must be stopped at all costs.

Tumblr is fucking hilarious when it comes to cultural appropriation. So white people can’t twerk because they didn’t come from the tribe (which was black) that twerking originated. However, neither did the majority of the black people doing it. Guess who gets the free pass? 

Same thing with dreads. Tribes all over the world did it, including white people. Of course, if you’re black nobody gives a shit you’re not from the tribe because you’re black, but if you’re white, god help you, you’re totally a racist who’s appropriating another persons culture. 

Of course, tumblr’s social justice section being what they are, can’t see past skin colour (funny that, for people who call others racist) and don’t bother to ask heritage first.

Y'all need to google this shit. 

Hello, tumblr! Lesson plan questions.

Well, howdy there tumblr, I’m a new teacher who was hired on to start at an elementary school in Vermont next semester and I’m looking to use social justice themes in my lessons: I already have one assignment drawn up, can you tell me what you think of it?

Question 1:

If you’re a white boy and you see children of color, or girls getting along with one another, and you want to join, what do you do?

A). Join in the fun!

B). Nothing, PoC and women need safe spaces away from white boys.

C). Call them names.

(Answer B)

Question 2 (boys only): When you’re hanging out with some gal friends what’s one thing that you must always remember.

A): Have fun!

B). Be nice and courteous

C). Don’t hit them

D). Don’t rape them

(Answer: D)

Question 2 (girls only): What’s the likelihood of one boy classmates raping you? 

A). 1/10

B). 1/5

C). 1/3

D). ½

(Answer: D)

Question 3: Why is it bad to wear clothes, or speak languages, from another culture for white people?

A). It isn’t

B). Because they look funny

C). Because it’s disrespectful to people from that culture. 

(Answer: C)

Question 4: Why is Feminism important and why should you be a Feminist?

A). Girls still aren’t the same as boys

B). So girls can know they can be whatever they want.

C). It’ll make you a good person

D). All of the above

(Answer: D)

Are these questions okay? I’m just trying to make sure the next generation of minds are taught these lessons at a young age so they could stick with them? What do you think? Suggestions?