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Avoiding cultural appropriation is for the best

Avoiding cultural appropriation is for the best

Avoiding cultural appropriation is for the best
April 25
21:52 2017

Since its 1999 start, Coachella has been a cultural phenomenon, setting trends in music and fashion alike. We all know when that time of the year hits, and our social media feed fills with photos of people parading in the desert in what they believe to be “cool” outfits.

Now don’t get me wrong, they are cool, but something always seems off about the media wave. It’s almost amazing how even in this generation, people don’t fully understand cultural appropriation, or why people may not be thrilled at the idea of someone wearing their culture as a fashion statement.

Music festivals serve as “de facto” runway shows, where people feel free to explore and set new fashion trends. But the problem comes when they wear cultural staples as if they’re costumes.

To be fair, I don’t think many people do it on purpose, but the way there seems to be little consideration of the meanings beyond clothing and accessories is offensive.

For certain, there is an immense difference between appreciation and appropriation. When someone appreciates another culture, it means they recognize its full worth and understand the implications of wearing the clothing. Appropriation is the action of taking something for your own use. They are not equal and make an entire world of a difference.

Take a Native American headdress for example, which is highly significant spiritually and ceremonially. Within the cultures, only through worthy achievements and brave acts do people earn the privilege of wearing them. Simon Moya-Smith, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, told MTV News, “This is analogous to casually wearing a Purple Heart or Medal of Honor that was not earned.”

Therefore, wearing those kinds of clothes to a music festival would not be the right occasion. In fact, some have even banned the feather headdress. You may have the right to be ridiculous with whatever you want, but you shouldn’t do so with someone else’s sacred artifact.

The same can be said for traditional Mexican and Central American dresses that are heavily steeped in Mayan and Aztec cultures. Most of the women responsible for this beautiful work go unrecognized. The intricate hand knitting in the blouses and dresses depicts the journey of Mayans and their history, which is often portrayed by the protection of water and environment. But these women have seen major fashion labels take their art and heritage without any acknowledgement of their community.

Culture and clothing both have purposes, and not taking them into consideration does a disservice to every single person whose culture is belittled and taken hostage by fashion trends.

This is not to say that we should all stay within confined boundaries. There is a lot to be gained from the sharing and fluidity of our world. As The Atlantic put it, there are a bevy of “dos and don’ts” as far as cultural appropriation goes. In regards to attire, “borrowing from other cultures isn’t just inevitable, it’s potentially positive.” To avoid appropriation, take into account how your favorite artists recognize the importance of paying homage to their inspirations, and how they always acknowledge their influences.

Maybe if we do this, we can get to a place where sharing fashion is how we can share our history, vision and culture to their fullest extent. Furthermore, we could become a little less cynical of the world we co-exist in.

Featured Image: Samuel Wiggins

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Gabriela Macias

Gabriela Macias

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1 Comment

  1. nickname
    nickname April 27, 13:58

    his is why us everybody looks at college people as dead killjoys and smug.

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