Opinion: Cultural Appropriation Trends

Dhwani Maroo

From Kim Kardashian and Rihanna to Halloween, cultural appropriation has been playing a big factor in all present-day events. The whole modern pop industry is being influenced by taking specific factors from a culture in such a way which doesn’t honor their actual meaning, strengthening stereotypes and marginalization of minorities in society. 2020 has been the year of fighting against inequality, so where can you see these cultural appropriation trends?

One of the biggest examples is Coachella. Coachella is a yearly spring music festival taking place in the Colorado desert. During this time, you see people of all ages dressing up and calling themselves “exotic”. For example, performers or even the public crowd itself putting on Native American headdresses to find the “vibe and have more fun”. If appropriating terms like spirit animal was’t enough, the stereotypical dressing being called “costumes” is humiliating to the Indeginous people. 

Additionally, wearing bindis, getting henna (it’s called mehendi, actually), and covering yourself with jewels is not appreciated. In Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism), the bindi holds a very spiritual meaning. However, people will wear bindis selectively and use them at Coachella without even knowing the meaning. “Our religion should not be anyone’s aesthetic…People would make ignorant comments [about my bindi] and stare/glare at me. They would ask me if I am bleeding,” says Praharsha Sista, a sophomore in college, during her recent interview. Many Dharmics go through the same experience, being made fun of when they wear bindis or get mehendi (henna) done. It’s not only that, but yoga as well. Majority of yoga instructors don’t know the actual spiritual definition or value behind the poses they perform (not even the actual names of the poses). This reinforces the re-colonization of Hindu culture by weakening its meaning.

Another example of a community facing cultural appropriation is the Asian community. Wearing chopsticks in the hair or kimonos as outfits, the problematic behavior which erupts is illuminating. When the fox-eye makeup trend came, it highlighted the point of how a person of that culture is bullied, while a person who isn’t is admired for the same thing. Even to the Black community, the amount of hate they receive from wearing box braids or traditional Black hairstyles is high, but “White women are able to wear Black hairstyles without the stigma of actually being Black,” says Zeba Blay from Huffpost. 

Even with words like “exotic” being glued towards dressing up during Halloween is tremendously troublesome to use, especially when referring to a person of color. Dressing up as a Mexican man, a Native American princess, geisha, gypsy, or anything to do with the Day of the Dead is extremely problematic.  Not only do you encourage cultural appropriation, but also racism and stereotypes.

When famous pop stars start to target a religion or culture by their actions, they are called out. While some people do get defensive and call it appreciation, if they actually want to support a culture, they shouldn’t grab random aspects of it–especially when it comes to the entertainment industry. Not only are they using it for their own personal profit, but also limiting a specific cultural value just to a simple “trend”.  

So what do you do? The best thing to follow cultural appreciation is seeking to learn about different cultures, to honor their beliefs and traditions. This way, not only do you get educated, but also have the chance to correct others’ mistakes and teach them as well. Instead of being selective and creating more divisions and problems, why not call out any cultural appropriation you see and educate yourself and others about it? My culture is not your aesthetic and shouldn’t be limited just for the sake of trends and popularity. 

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