A Lesson In…Cultural Appropriation (featuring Lady Gaga)

Lady Gaga is known for her outlandish outfits. Some are mildly entertaining and others are just plain confusing. However, one of her latest get-ups is plain offensive. Not in the “oh my gawsh a boob!” sense but in the “let me wear something culturally sacred as a fashion trend!” sense.

The get-up in question?

A bright pink burqa. I’m sure there are people out there that will think I am making a big deal over what they think is nothing so I’m just going to turn this post into a vocabulary lesson. Your first vocabulary term is cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is taking elements of another culture, often sacred and symbolic, and presenting it in a shallow manner. In other words, cultural appropriation turns someone’s culture into a trend or commodity.

Here are a few examples:

I hope you get the drift. Cultural appropriation takes the cultural of a group of people, usually people of color, and turns it into a caricature. A rasta wig is a fun souvenir and gag for many people but it is also a mockery of a faith and culture. A lot of folks think wearing a Native American headdress is a trendy hipstery Halloween costume but for actual Native American people, headdresses mean something significant. It might seem like I am making a mountain out of a mole hill but there is a bigger issue at work. For instance, Lady Gaga can walk around in a burqa to make some type of convoluted fashion statement meanwhile women that wear burqas for symbolic reasons are catching hell. Some places have laws against coverings and in other places, Muslim women get taunted and sometimes assaulted for wearing their coverings. Not to mention the supposedly well-meaning white feminists that deem all covered women as needing to be liberated, including those that consciously choose to wear them.

Sure, wearing an afro wig is pretty damn funny to a lot of people but as someone with a head full of nappy hair growing out of their head it isn’t a walk in the park. A white girl wearing an afro wig can snatch that mofo off and just go about her day. There aren’t debates about her texture. She doesn’t have to worry about not getting a job for simply wearing her hair down. I’m sure she does get compared to (insert unpopular white woman) for wearing her hair in it’s natural state. But people that actually grow Afros have to deal with those issues.

Despite what some may believe, appropriation hurts more than it helps. Wearing an afro wig doesn’t promote acceptance of Afros, it turns them into a mockery. That sexy geisha costume doesn’t improve images of Asian women, it eroticizes them and turns them into objects to be consumed and exploited. Cultural appropriation turns people into a commodity and their culture into a mockery.

So please, think before picking up that Native American head dress or some other asinine costume and if you know Lady Gaga, tap her on the shoulder, snatch that pink mess off of her head and tell her to have a seat.

What do you think of cultural appropriation? Is it wrong? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Speak!

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9 thoughts on “A Lesson In…Cultural Appropriation (featuring Lady Gaga)

  1. zzravizz says:

    I doubt Lady Gaga was going for a message of being offensive or inappropriately using symbols of faith. She stands as an icon for diversity and being proud of who we are and embracing our religions, our genders, our bodies, our ages and experiences in life, and our sexual orientations and gender expressions. I doubt that she meant to shock or to offend muslims with her outfit. It is possible she wasn’t even going for a “burqa” look and maybe it was just interpreted as such.

  2. Hykeem Brown says:

    I think you are right on cultural appropriation, and what I mean by that is each culture should be respected. Adding on to what zzravizz mention of Lady Gaga, she has been known to be unique then almost any other artist currently which pull the phrases of “diversity” and “embracing our religions”.

  3. LovelyBubbles says:

    I gotta say both arguements are very strong as far as reasoning for Lady Ga Ga’s unique sense (or can we call it sense?) of fashion. However, i will make it a point to say that as far as entertainers go, the image they represent to the public is very important. The only thing that could possibly prevent the general offense of different cultures is regulation. Although if this was put into motion and the rules were set, unfortunely the world of individuality in the process of making a image would be severed. In short, artists would be as plain as a cardboard cut out, not they aren’t like that already. (money, cars, and other various material things come from almost all the big selling rappers mouths like vomit!) But i digress, unless there is a great uprising of a world wide scale of changing how people represent themselves in general media, we are gonna be stuck with the awkward and offensive language and dress that has now become common and deemed acceptable by unknowing and uncaring masses.

  4. SL says:

    As unique and shocking as Lady Gaga attempts to be, some things are off limits. Burqas along other headdresses, and attire have symbolic, sacred meaning. Even if it isn’t meant to be offensive, if there exists the possibility thereof, it should not be done. Period.

  5. rwravennah says:

    You bring up a really good point Ashleigh that I did not consider. When I think of Lady Gaga I expect her to be her outrageous self and what-not. But what you mentioned as far as cultural appropriation is something that everyone should take into consideration. Myself being half Native American, I sometimes find people’s mockery of my heritage offensive. People who wear them, the head dress, for fashion or as a costume piece often do not have the knowledge of its significance in a different culture. Some may feel like it’s not a big deal but some people it is and they should be more considerate of it.

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