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!