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Cultural appropriation: What is and why is it so controversial

By hollisterclothingoutlet 29/10/2022 652 Views

(Spanish CNN) - In recent years, several artists and influencers have been accused of cultural appropriation, and although the term has a very clear definition, the line between appropriation and appreciation sometimes seems to be very close.Whether with a Barbie alluding to the day of the dead or tourists dressed in Kimonos in Japan, the debate between the tribute and the disrespectful use of traditions is usually present in several cultural and economic manifestations of a globalized world.

A case that is commonly indicated as cultural appropriation is the use of garments from a country outside their own, such as typical Mexican costumes, China's qipas or Japanese geisha clothing.And while for some the idea that a tourist looks with regional garments is cultural appropriation, many others see it as a way of sharing their culture.

"The context is the key to thinking about accusations of appropriation," says Erich Hatala Matthes, a professor of cultural ethics at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Matthes states that the most important thing for culture visitors is to listen: "try to be respectful of those who have cultural experience and knowledge, and listen to what they tell you about how to wear clothes or how to act with respect within that context".

However, when we talk about a very close line between appropriation and cultural appreciation, we can mention endless cases.For example, recently the Mexican government accused Zara, Anthropologie and Patowl fashion brands, for "making use" of designs created by the country's indigenous populations.

The Ministry of Culture of Mexico said to be acting in order to "prevent plagiarism ... by national and transnational companies" and added that it was "protecting the rights of original peoples that have historically been disregarded".


In a statement sent by email to CNN, Zara's parent company, Inditex, said it had "the greatest respect" for "the Secretariat (of Culture) and the communities of Mexico", but added that "the design in question in questionNo intentional way borrowed or influenced the art of the Mixtec people of Mexico ".

This event is only an example of a series of similar incidents, such as the controversial launch of Kendall Jenner Tequila 818, the "offensive" use of a pendant that represents the Hindu god Ganesha by Rihanna or the "insensitive" launch of aGucci US $ 790 turban.

Apropiación cultural: qué es y por qué es tan controversial

These events have a similar pattern: someone takes something borrow, becomes the target of criticism on the Internet, and in most cases, offers an apology and the promise to do it better.However, where does the line between appropriation and appreciation draw?Then we try to solve it.

Appropriation or appreciation

According to the Cambridge dictionary, cultural appropriation is "the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not yours, especially without demonstrating that you understand or respect this culture".

So the adoption - often not recognized or inappropriate - of the ideas, practices, customs and indicators of cultural identity belonging to a group by members of another group that have greater privilege or power is known as cultural appropriation, he saidThe professor of Sociology at the University of Kansas Kelly H.Chong A CNN via email.

"The cultural influencers of the dominant group legitimize it as a" trend 'of great style, and in the process they exotize and erotize, "Chong added

On the other hand, Nancy Wang Yuen, sociologist and author who writes about race and representation, explained to CNN that when a culture is inspired by another culture it is one thing, "but if they claim to improve and lack respect for the original culture, or ifThere is an air of superiority on the original content, so that becomes appropriation ".

However, Yuen indicates that this is more harmful when there is a difference in power between the appropriators and the group they are borrowing, since a dominant group "denigrates" the minority culture while benefiting from it or the misrepresent.

A very popular case in early 2021 was that of The Mahjong Line company.Founded by three white women from Dallas, The Mahjong Line launched a "respectful update" and modern of the Chinese table game: Mahjong.After its launch, users on social networks, including the Asian -American community, accused the founders of cultural appropriation, disrespectful language and ignorance towards the cultural meaning of the game.

While the company soon apologized indicating that its "intention is to inspire and commit ourselves to a new generation of American Mahjong players, we recognize our failure to pay a tribute appropriate to the Chinese inheritance of the game".However, the company did not stop production and continued selling its products.

"We support our products and we are proud to be one of the many different companies that offer a wide range of mosaics and accessories for the American Mahjong game," said co -founder Kate Lagere in a statement to CNN."That said, we assume all the responsibility that, in our search to introduce new mosaics, we involuntarily recreate an experience shared by many Americans of Asian origin of cultural erase and we are working to correct this error".

Controversial trends

The complexity linked to cultural appropriation is not in its definition, but in its layers, since it can be applied in several spheres of life, such as clothing, food, makeup, speaks and even in skin tone.

An example is the makeup trend that went viral in 2020, the so -called "Fox Eye", a term that could be translated as "fox eyes".This trend was accompanied by tutorials and social networks photographs showing how through makeup and tactics such as the "migraine posture" –– use one or two hands to lift your eyes through the temples with the aim of exaggerating the result–– to achieve emulateThe elongated eyes, "almond -shaped" by celebrities such as Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Megan Fox.

However, this position is very similar to the action that was used to degrade the Asian community in the past.

In an Instagram publication by Dear Asian Youth, a California -based organization that encourages Asian activism, entitled "The problem with the #FOXEYEYE trend", the organization wrote: "The fact is: our eyes only became a trend in a trendWhen the whites decided that it would conveniently fit their aesthetics ".The organization indicated that although the trend could not have originated with bad intentions "appropriates our eyes and does not know past racism".

Under the same line, there is Blackfishing, which although it is not the same as cultural appropriation, they are terms that are interconnected, since one cannot have one without the other, said journalist Wanna Thompson to CNN.

"Blackfishing is when white public figures, influential and similar people do everything within their reach to look black," Thompson explained, while critics have described it as a blackface form (an expression used to refer when someoneThe black face is painted to look like someone from another race, something considered offensive), saying that this creates a dangerous paradox since it celebrates black beauty and aesthetics, but only when the whites stand out.

"Instead of appreciating the black culture from outside, there is a need to possess it, to participate in it without wanting the complete experience of blackness and systemic discrimination that accompanies it," said Thompson.

The feminist writer and speaker Jones has described cultural appropriation as when people with power and privileges take customs and traditions for which oppressed people have been marginalized for a long time and reuse them as something new and hot.

"People have no respect for black culture; they believe they are available, and they will take it and participate in it and explode it because it has been commercialized," Thompson said.

Rebecca Cairns, Faith Karimi, Alicia Lee, Amir Vera, Megan C.Hills and Jessie Yeung collaborated in this report.

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