Cultural Appropriation Is Not Really About What You're Wearing

Cultural Appropriation Is Not Really About What You're Wearing

Maybe reconsider wearing that qipao to your prom.
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Cultural appropriation is one of the hottest new buzzwords. But, is it just that—a buzzword? It seems like celebrities and civilians alike get vilified if they so much as think about wearing a saree. I do not think it is fair to claim every single thing is a form of cultural appropriation. However, I also do not think it is fair to claim cultural appropriation does not exist or is not harmful.

Saying cultural appropriation does not exist reinforces the long-held practice of dismissing the voice of the minority in society. This is because cultural appropriation involves a distinct power dynamic. It is when the dominant group in a society takes symbols, such as hair, clothing, and accessories, from the minority, often historically oppressed groups. This is most harmful when the culturally dominant group does not acknowledge where these symbols originated from and capitalize on them.

One heavily referenced example is Kim Kardashian and her braids. It is not the fact that the Kardashians are wearing braids that makes people mad. It is the fact that it is acceptable on a white woman’s body and shamed on a woman of color’s body. It is the fact that they have been rebranded and called something they are not, denying its cultural origin.

See also: Let's Agree On One Thing: Cultural Appreciation Is Not Cultural Appropriation

Let’s say you wear a qipao to your prom or a Native American dress to a Halloween party. You just think they're pretty, but you have a vague idea of where these articles of clothing originated from. Is this not cultural appreciation? The context of the situation creates a fundamental problem. It appears as if you are reducing someone’s culture to a costume. This culture is exotic and other.

Another example of this power imbalance is when cultural symbols become fashionable for the dominant culture but are physically harmful to the minority culture from which they originated. For instance, as of late, bindis have become very trendy for girls to wear at Coachella or in music videos (where artists capitalize on the minority culture). However, some South Asian women were specifically targeted by a gang called dotbusters while donning bindis, specifically because of their culture.

It may just be a hairstyle, clothing, or accessory to you, but it may mean more than that to someone else.

Feel free to wear what you please because cultural appropriation is not really about what you are wearing. It is about the fact that people who actually wear their own cultural symbols are treated in dramatically different and negative ways than a cultural outsider. So maybe reconsider wearing that qipao to your prom.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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I Might Have Aborted My Fetus When I Was 18, But Looking Back, I Saved A Child’s Life

It may have been one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't had done it.

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Due to recent political strife happening in the world today, I have decided to write on a very touchy, difficult subject for me that only a handful of people truly know.

When I was 18 years old, I had an abortion.

I was fresh out of high school, and deferring college for a year or two — I wanted to get all of my immature fun out so I was prepared to focus and work in the future. I was going through my hardcore party stage, and I had a boyfriend at the time that truly was a work of art (I mean truly).

Needless to say, I was extremely misinformed on sex education, and I never really thought it could happen to me. I actually thought I was invincible to getting pregnant, and it never really registered to me that if I had unprotected sex, I could actually get pregnant (I was 18, I never said I was smart).

I remember being at my desk job and for weeks, I just felt so nauseous and overly tired. I was late for my period, but it never really registered to me something could be wrong besides just getting the flu — it was November, which is the peak of flu season.

The first person I told was my best friend, and she came with me to get three pregnancy tests at Target. The first one came negative, however, the second two came positive.

I truly believe this was when my anxiety disorder started because I haven't been the same ever since.

Growing up in a conservative, Catholic Italian household, teen pregnancy and especially abortion is 150% frowned upon. So when I went to Planned Parenthood and got the actual lab test done that came out positive, I was heartbroken.

I felt like I was stuck between two roads: Follow how I was raised and have the child, or terminate it and ultimately save myself AND the child from a hard future.

My boyfriend at the time and I were beyond not ready. That same week, I found out he had cheated on me with his ex and finances weren't looking so great, and I was starting to go through the hardest depression of my life. Because of our relationship, I had lost so many friends and family, that I was left to decide the fate of both myself and this fetus. I could barely take care of myself — I was drinking, overcoming drug addictions, slightly suicidal and living with a man who didn't love me.

As selfish as you may think this was, I terminated the fetus and had the abortion.

I knew that if I had the child, I would be continuing the cycle in which my family has created. My goal since I was young was to break the cycle and breakaway from the toxicity in how generations of children in my family were raised. If I had this child, I can assure you my life would be far from how it is now.

If I had carried to term, I would have had a six-year old, and God knows where I would've been.

Now, I am fulfilling my future by getting a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, having several student leadership roles, and looking into law schools for the future.

Although it still haunts me, and the thought of having another abortion truly upsets me, it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I get asked constantly "Do you think it's just to kill a valuable future of a child?" and my response to that is this:

It's in the hands of the woman. She is giving away her valuable future to an unwanted pregnancy, which then resentment could cause horror to both the child and the woman.

As horrible as it was for me in my personal experience, I would not be where I am today: a strong woman, who had overcome addiction, her partying stage, and ultimately got her life in order. If I would have had the child, I can assure you that I would have followed the footsteps of my own childhood, and the child would not have had an easy life.

Because of this, I saved both my life and the child's life.

And if you don't agree or you dislike this decision, tough stuff because this is my body, my decision, my choice — no one else.

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