Colorful Clouds of Controversy (or how a bunch of rainbow wigs got blown way out of proportion)


For some reason, you can’t just like shit these days. This might be a disingenuous statement. This might be a rant on ‘privileged disillusionment’. Or I might just think that people are sucking the life out of everything I like and it’s tiring.

Definitely the last thing.

I like fashion. Kind of love it, but most definitely have a preference for it. Recently a designer called Ashish Gupta put on a rousing display of fashion things that I like and got accused of cultural appropriation. Seems we’re no longer letting anyone use afro-esque wigs in fashion shows anymore and no one cc’d him on that email. Fuck, right?

This other guy, Valentino I think his name is? Had the gall to reference cornrows and Africa in a collection last season. Well, it’s not a guy it’s a man and woman design team, but whatever. They are in trouble. You’re not allowed to call attention to African culture nor are you allowed to show everyone that cornrowed braids are cool no matter where you’re from. That’s appropriation.

I feel some funny ways about this. I feel like this appropriation thing is maybe taking fashion and style way too seriously. I feel like you can’t enjoy any damn thing without some overly sensitive type jumping all over it, trashing the creative process involved, and running headlong past the actual compliment implied. Cornrows on the runway? Hey. It means they see you and you’re beautiful. But maybe I’m just simple-minded.

These are my boots from LL Bean. I am black and I am wearing these white people boots and I feel bad because I appropriated the piss out of these waterproof shoes. I mean, who am I to reference New England on my feet? By rights, some white person could call me out on this. They haven’t, but… well, they prob could care less.

That’s not her hair, or her hair color. Nobody’s said anything? But that’s some appropriating nonsense right there.

I went in my kitchen and made myself some Mongolian Beef and ate it. I appropriated the fuck out of that Chinese food. Then I shared the photo and bragged about it. I spread it around that I cooked this dish which I did not create and which comes from some other racial group. I did that. I’m gonna do it again, too. Soonish. Because I can.

I feel like we’ve come to a point where people either really want to be part of things and equal, or they just want to stay a special interest group claiming ownership of ‘culture’. I have gone to the opera and ballet, and no one yelled appropriation. I’ve listened to Nirvana and worn rock t-shirts, no one said a word. I’ve worn some hair that wasn’t mine in various ways, and it was cool with all concerned. I have watched Friends, ok? Many times. While eating McDonald’s.

I feel like we need to see ‘appropriation’ as cultural exchange more often and let bygones be bygones. If the Valentino people want to reference Africa, that means interest. Capitalize on that. Exploit it for your own gain. Walk through the door they’re opening and bask in the cultural sunshine. If Ashish Gupta references Afros, say ‘damn our moment has come’ and jump on that bandwagon.

Because you can’t have it both ways. You can’t clamp down on your cultural shit while freely gobbling up everyone else’s. Thats not realistic. You have to SHARE. It’s not always about slavery, or stealing. Sometimes it’s just fashion. Learn to live and let live. Or one day they’re gonna take all their shit back and leave us out of everything. And I’m gonna be pissed.