My Culture Is Not Your Costume, So Stop Appropriating It

My Culture Is Not Your Costume, So Stop Appropriating It

Dear America, it's time to have a talk.
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Fashion is an addiction. As society becomes continuously integrated and media diffusion becomes every more rampant with social media, oftentimes, cultural standards are violated for aesthetic means. A simple search on Forever 21's website turns up numerous accounts of culturally appropriated styles. Although there may be no intent to target certain styles from other cultures, the habit of "borrowing ideas" for fashion purposes has turned into a commonality rather than a widespread problem. There is a line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, and unfortunately, society seems to have a hard time understanding the extent of the problem.

Cultural appropriation ranges from types of music, food, books, movies and almost every other commodity. As the economy becomes continuously open to foreign influence, the diffusion of ideas is almost guaranteed, and the use of these foreign commodities is completely understandable; however, this only becomes a problem when one culture claims "ownership" of a borrowed idea and defiles it into commercial and aesthetic purposes.

For example, the ying-yang is an organic symbol sketched onto ripped and "grungy" style shirts. On one hand, the market advertises it as a new fashion icon and sells the shirt to an entire targeted group, resulting in the ying-yang losing its original meaning as the balance and harmony of Daoist beliefs. On the other hand, this symbol now becomes an item for purchase and design in the American fashion industry while it is continuously promulgated to other companies and designers without proper credit.

SEE ALSO: Asian Cultural Appropriation In Entertainment

As an Asian American, my culture and heritage traces its roots back dynasties among dynasties, and these symbols used as graphic designs have great influence on many of my family and friends. The meaning has been lost, and the ying-yang is no longer a Daoist symbol of balance, peace and harmony. Instead, it has become subjected as a marketing device — one that is culturally inappropriate to advertise commercially. This type of marketing must be stopped to control the diffusion of cultural ideas to industries for profit. Otherwise, all cultures will blend into one instead of each being appreciated individually, and the world may perhaps become the next melting pot free-for-all.

SEE ALSO: Cultural Appropriation V.S. Cultural Appreciation

Another major problem no one ever sees coming? Consumers do not realize that they are committing cultural appropriation. The companies that take credit for the success of certain trends based off century-long styles see money instead of cultural richness. Consumers see aesthetic instead of tradition, and most importantly, society sees this as normality. Like the image shown below, which was shot at a Victoria's Secret Runway, the model is portrayed with a Native American headdress, which holds significant cultural and social value in Native American society.

Cultural appropriation on the media and in the film industry remains as an unaddressed problem. Racial bias and stereotypes are often compounded with such habits. Thus, this contributes to the loss of cultural richness and divide while enforcing a type of superiority over certain styles borrowed from other cultures. While society today may see it an a minor flaw in the fashion industry, cultural appropraition is a brooding threat to many indigenous places and should not be taken for granted. So next time, before you buy that shirt, stop and think.


Cover Image Credit: Unsplash / Savs

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20 Small Tattoos With Big Meanings

Tattoos with meaning you can't deny.
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It's tough to find perfect tattoos with meaning.

You probably want something permanent on your body to mean something deeply, but how do you choose a tattoo that will still be significant in 5, 10, 15, or 50 years? Over time, tattoos have lost much of their stigma and many people consider them a form of art, but it's still possible to get a tattoo you regret.

So here are 20 tattoos you can't go wrong with. Each tattoo has its own unique meaning, but don't blame me if you still have to deal with questions that everyone with a tattoo is tired of hearing!

SEE RELATED: "Please Stop Asking What My Tattoos Mean"

1. A semicolon indicates a pause in a sentence but does not end. Sometimes it seems like you may have stopped, but you choose to continue on.


2. "A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor."


3. Top symbol: unclosed delta symbol which represents open to change. Bottom symbol: strategy.


4. "There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls."


5. Viking symbol meaning "create your own reality."


6. Greek symbol of Inguz: Where there's a will, there's a way.

7. Psalm 18:33 "He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights."


8. 'Ohm' tattoo that represents 4 different states of consciousness and a world of illusion: waking (jagrat), dreaming (swapna), deep sleep (sushupti), transcendental state (turiya) and world of illusion (maya).


9. Alchemy: symbolizes copper, means love, balance, feminine beauty, and artistic creativity.


10. The Greek word “Meraki" means to do something with soul, passion, love, and creativity or to put yourself into whatever you do.


11. Malin (Skövde, Sweden) – you have to face setbacks to be able to go forward.

12. Symbol meaning "thief" from "The Hobbit." It was the rune Gandalf etched into Bilbo's door so the dwarves could find his house.


13. “Lux in tenebris" means “light in darkness."

14. Anchor Tattoo: symbolizing strength and stability, something (or someone) who holds you in place, and provides you the strength to hold on no matter how rough things get.

15."Ad Maiora" is translated literally as “Towards greater things." It is a formula of greeting used to wish more success in life, career or love.


16. A glyph means “explore." It was meant as a reminder for me to never stop exploring.

17. "Aut inveniam viam aut faciam," meaning roughly, "Either I shall find a way, or I will make one."


18. Lotus Flower. It grows in muddy water, and it is this environment that gives forth the flower's first and most literal meaning: rising and blooming above the murk to achieve enlightenment.

19. The zen (or ensō) circle to me represents enlightenment, the universe and the strength we all have inside of us.

20. Two meanings. The moon affirms life. It looks as if it is constantly changing. Can remind us of the inconsistency of life. It also symbolizes the continuous circular nature of time and even karma.


SEE ALSO: Sorry That You're Offended, But I Won't Apologize For My Tattoos


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