Cultural mis-appropriation

I think I might have just stumbled across the most crazy buzz phrase in my news feed. And by crazy, I mean #hastheworldgonemad? Is nothing sacred from the ambush of political correctness anymore? Before the fun police stole our personalities (and by fun police, I mean a teeny tiny minority of radicals who are determined never to smile again), there once was a time when we went to fancy dress parties.

If the theme was to dress up as something starting with H (and it’s just an example people), someone would slip into a Hawaiian hula getup; you’d find someone dressed as a hippie, maybe even a 2 piece horses’ outfit. Despite being bent over all night, stuffed into a velour pinto costume, even the wearers of said costume never seemed to mind or feel offended. But that grass skirt and plastic Hawaiian Lei you were wearing, well, the new founded cultural appropriation trustees must have been tripping over themselves. 

There it is, another slogan sitting delicately on the very fine line between diversity & inclusion and bad taste. I don’t feel offended when I see other people wearing shorts and flip-flops. You could argue this is absolutely the cultural norm for anyone spending summer in Australia. But hey, knock yourselves out. I don’t feel violated that this icon of cultural heritage is now widely acclaimed as a mandatory must-have.

This week, the ever so talented Adele, dressed up with a with a Brazilian twist to attend a Brazilian Festival held in London. She had her hair in a bunch of cute top knots (bantu style) and heaven forbid, a bikini top with a Brazilian flag. I know, stop the press. It’s bordering on shameful. Quite ok to see a flag printed on t-shirts, cups, sports gear and caps, but on a bikini? It’s horrifying how debased Brazilians must feel that a multi award winning Grammy songstress would want to show support for a community clearly loved and respected by her. This would have been considered nothing more than a respectful cultural nod in years gone by.

The sombre brigade would have been beside themselves if they’d seen me when I lived in India. Swirling around shopping malls in fuchsia and emerald lenghas, wearing a crimson saree to a wedding. When westerners parade around in elegant Indian attire, it must drive the locals mad. We anyway look like members of the East India Company and should probably try to downplay our pomp and bad reputation. I didn’t do this. Instead, mustering up all the Bollywood bling I could find, I loved fashioning myself in the fabulous extravaganza of Indian clothes. No one ever gave me the death stare. Instead, they embraced it in the same way I embraced India. 

Until recently, I thought this natural curiosity and celebration of each other’s culture was just what humans did. Explore, learn, understand, adapt, celebrate. If we were all really on the inclusive bandwagon, our global kumbaya would be in full swing. Instead, cultural appropriation is yet another page in the ever growing rule book of glum. (And by glum, I mean how to live in the 2020’s.) I’m confused as to where we draw the line. Though I’m not the least bit offended that Adele’s yellow feathered cape looks just like the one I’m planning on wearing to my next zoom catch-up.

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