By Anastasia Burton
Ariana Grande and many other celebrities are finding themselves under fire due to cultural appropriation, but what is it exactly? Cultural appropriation means adopting a certain element of another culture. The reason it is so controversial is due to people being disrespectful in the way they go about this process.
In order to get a wider perspective on the issue, I decided to speak with my African-Irish friend, Bongani. He had recently encountered a certain scene in Galway which could be a case of cultural misappropriation. “I was walking down Shop Street one night, and I saw these women who were obviously having a hen party. They were wearing these Kimono’s, which looked legit. They probably got them online, but still they looked good. But… it seemed out of place. The Kimono is a traditional dress which Japanese people wear for special occasions, such as festivals related to religion or celebrations of some sort. But we know what goes on a hen parties and it just didn’t seem right to wear such a traditional piece to a night out, especially since that is not the purpose of the piece”.
“Most people who carry out cultural misappropriation don’t understand what cultural appropriation is”, he explains, which could also be related to certain celebrities, who get themselves in trouble for cultural appropriation. For example, Ariana Grande is being accused of this trend, as she often makes herself look darker than her natural skin tone, as well as her manner of speech and dress. This does not mean that she is doing this on purpose to offend people, but she is not being honest with her audience.
Many clothing brands sell traditional colourful shirts as festival clothes, which also sparks this trend. “Online and in shops, they sell anything that is ethnic and different automatically as festival clothes. Anything alternative just means ‘That’s my fit for the night’. It can be quite disrespectful to some people, just recognizing your tradition as a festival thing without knowing what it is and what it stands for. That can be quite frustrating”, Bongani shares.
Many people seem to glamourise themselves by coming out as somewhat related to an ethnic group, only when it has become trendy to be a part of that ethnic group. This is also a prime example of cultural misappropriation, which could become quite serious if one is not careful. It is not appropriate to wear a hijab in certain situations, as was infamously proven by porn star Mia Khalifa, who outraged the Muslim community when she filmed sex scenes whilst wearing her hijab. Most cultural misappropriation happens in the entertainment industry, which is unacceptable. Entertainment businesses should be aware that they are also forms of education and information and if they use their power to influence others in a negative light, without acknowledging that their actions could cause a domino effect, it becomes a problem.
“When you are a celebrity, you have to be self-aware. You must try your best to be self-aware, especially when it comes to your identity. You can get a lot of backlash for things like that. Especially when rappers start using the “N word” and that because they grew up in the “hood” or what not. Society functions differently, so you always have to be careful with what you say. Because at the end of the day, if you offend someone just a little bit, your career could go down the drain, that’s how many careers end.”
This writer hopes that, after reading this article, you feel like you understand what cultural appropriation is and how to avoid cultural misappropriation. We have to be respectful of each other’s backgrounds and be supportive! Being self-aware and informed goes a long way.