Why Cultural Appropriation Is Real And Hurtful

Why Cultural Appropriation Is Real And Hurtful

It isn't just people of color being whiny.

I understand that racism has bigger problems than cultural appropriation. Problems like mass incarceration, deportation, police profiling and shootings, etc. However, I do feel that people undermine the fact that cultural appropriation goes beyond just wearing bindis and Native American headgear at Coachella.

The fact that cultural appropriation is the literal translation of plagiarizing someone's culture while continuing to undermine that culture is pretty shocking. And it hits on an individual level affecting even children. Even in my own life, I have seen the terrifying truth about cultural appropriation. For instance, coconut oil today is hailed as the ultimate cure-all for any beauty related problem by every western fashion and health publication, but as a child when my mother and grandmother, who have known the benefits of coconut oil for generations, would put it in my hair, my caucasian American teacher would pull me aside and tell me that my hair looked dirty and I should tell my mother to never put oil in my hair again.

I remember when I was fifteen, seeing an Indian actress go to the Cannes Film Festival and dressing in traditional Indian clothes and accessories. She wore a gold and white saree and a gold nose ring. I genuinely thought she looked stunning and I felt proud that she was representing her culture on this global platform.

However, western fashion critics felt differently. They put her on worst-dressed lists citing her nose ring as grotesque and her outfit as over-the-top. I felt startled as someone who loves fashion and reading fashion publications, I thought they would celebrate her novelty and confidence in wearing her cultural garbs. What bothered me even more, however, is when the French luxury design house Givenchy put out a whole collection of nose rings that same year, the same publication showered the collection with praise and called the fashion house "innovative" and "cutting edge."

I felt robbed. How can a South-Asian woman upholding generations of beauty traditions be called grotesque and a western fashion house stealing from that same culture be called innovative?

What bothers me the most is not that white girls wear bindis to Coachella or the fact that western fashion houses make nose rings. It is the fact that credit and knowledge of the origin of these items and concepts are not known.

That white girl has no idea the cultural history and significance of a bindi and yet she touts it around as if it is the latest seasonal trend. How can I explain to these people that my culture is not a trend?

In college, we are told that we can get kicked out of school for plagiarizing, but what about the centuries of cultural plagiarism that has gone untold and unpunished?

Cover Image Credit: Sarah Larkin

Popular Right Now

6 Things You Should Know About The Woman Who Can't Stand Modern Feminism

Yes, she wants to be heard too.


2018 is sort of a trap for this woman. She believes in women with all of the fire inside of her, but it is hard for her to offer support when people are making fools of themselves and disguising it as feminism.

The fact of the matter is that women possess qualities that men don't and men possess qualities that women don't. That is natural. Plus, no one sees men parading the streets in penis costumes complaining that they don't get to carry their own fetus for nine months.

1. She really loves and values women.

She is incredibly proud to be a woman.

She knows the amount of power than a woman's presence alone can hold. She sees when a woman walks into a room and makes the whole place light up. She begs that you won't make her feel like a "lady hater" because she doesn't want to follow a trend that she doesn't agree with.

2. She wants equality, too

She has seen the fundamental issues in the corporate world, where women and men are not receiving equal pay.

She doesn't cheer on the businesses that don't see women and men as equivalents. But she does recognize that if she works her butt off, she can be as successful as she wants to.

3. She wears a bra.

While she knows the "I don't have to wear a bra for society" trend isn't a new one, but she doesn't quite get it. Like maybe she wants to wear a bra because it makes her feel better. Maybe she wears a bra because it is the normal things to do... And that's OK.

Maybe she wants to put wear a lacy bra and pretty makeup to feel girly on .a date night. She is confused by the women who claim to be "fighting for women," because sometimes they make her feel bad for expressing her ladyhood in a different way than them.

4. She hates creeps just as much as you do. .

Just because she isn't a feminist does not mean that she is cool with the gruesome reality that 1 in 5 women are sexually abused.

In fact, this makes her stomach turn inside out to think about. She knows and loves people who have been through such a tragedy and wants to put the terrible, creepy, sexually charged criminals behind bars just as bad as the next woman.

Remember that just because she isn't a feminist doesn't mean she thinks awful men can do whatever they want.

5. There is a reason she is ashamed of 2018's version of feminism.

She looks at women in history who have made a difference and is miserably blown away by modern feminism's performance.

Not only have women in the past won themselves the right to vote, but also the right to buy birth control and have credit cards in their names and EVEN saw marital rape become a criminal offense.

None of them dressed in vagina costumes to win anyone over though... Crazy, right?

6. She isn't going to dress in a lady parts costume to prove a point.

This leaves her speechless. It is like the women around her have absolutely lost their minds and their agendas, only lessening their own credibility.

"Mom, what are those ladies on TV dressed up as?"

"Ummm... it looks to me like they are pink taco's honey."

She loves who she is and she cherished what makes her different from the men around her. She doesn't want to compromise who she is as a woman just so she can be "equal with men."

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

To All The Asian Representation We DIDN'T Have Before, Thank You

From television to the big screen, Asian culture has been progressively familiarizing itself with the Western audience and it's momentous.


Growing up as an Asian-American, racial insecurity was something I dealt with from the start. I was always the one Asian in class, the one that stood out because my eyes were shaped differently. Because my skin was a different color. Because my lunch from home was dumplings and not a PB&J.; I was always afraid to make the wrong move because I didn't want to be seen as that "weird Asian girl." With home life being so culturally different from my surroundings, I never really knew where to look. That's why when movies starring Asian leads comes out a decade later, it's momentous.

We have become accustomed to seeing Asians in the media as the sidekick, the nerd, the weird one, etc. (if they are even cast). You never see an Asian person as the main character or the star. Because of the rarity of Asians in the media, I never really understood the importance of ethnic representation until now. Seeing movies like "Crazy Rich Asians" and "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" made me recognize how proud I am to be Asian. To see people that looked like me on the big screen, it was heartwarming and frankly, overwhelming.

My whole life I've dealt with the insecurity of living through stereotypes about my race. I hated how different I felt compared to my peers. I wanted to be white, to be like the girls I was seeing on television or in movies. It is so empowering to finally see Asian leads in movies.

It made me appreciate and embrace my culture and who I am.

In an interview with Netflix, Lana Condor, the star of "To All The Boys I've Loved Before," says, "...the lead is written as an Asian American girl — that blew my mind because I'm telling you I never see that...I hope that this film inspires Asian American girls and show them that they can absolutely star in their own rom-com!" I cannot emphasize how important representation is. If I had seen Asians on television and in movies growing up, I definitely would not have been so ethnically conscious and insecure.

I needed this growing up.

I cried tears of joy and pride whilst watching "Crazy Rich Asians" and am so proud of the needed growing diversity in Hollywood. A quote by actor Aziz Ansari says, "Everyone seems to be becoming slowly aware of how overwhelmingly white everything is..."

Slowly but surely, we're getting there. People are starting to realize how significant it is to have diversity and representation in the media.

The show "Fresh Off The Boat" is the first Asian-American sitcom in more than 20 years. "Crazy Rich Asians" is the first movie with an all-Asian cast and an Asian-American lead in 25 years. Seeing Lana Condor being the Asian-American lead in a Netflix rom-com is also something new. Asian culture has been progressively familiarizing itself with the Western audience. K-Pop group, BTS, topped the charts, exploding with sales and an upcoming tour in the States. It's amazing to see all this happen and feel nothing but pride and happiness for your culture.

Related Content

Facebook Comments