Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cultural Appropriation and Fetishizing

I have grown very weary of Black people claiming cultural appropriation and fetishizing. Here is a definition of cultural appropriation from Wikipedia:
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It describes acculturation or assimilation, but can imply a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, can take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held.
Appropriation practice involves the 'appropriation' of ideas, symbols, artefacts, image, sound, objects, forms or styles from other cultures, from art history, from popular culture or other aspects of man made visual or non visual culture. Anthropologists have studied the process of cultural appropriation, or cultural borrowing (which includes art and urbanism), as part of cultural change and contact between different cultures.
This post was inspired by an article called Dolce and Gabbana 2013- Racist or overblown. I just don't see the point of these terms in 2012 where people of various ethnicites travel all over the world and share their cultures with everyone through trade and media. Haven't people been sharing their culture with outsiders for centuries? Haven't people of various cultures been adopting the cultural items, ideas, and teachings of outsiders for centuries? That just cultural assimilation! So why is it that in this day of age where different cultures have more access to outside cultures than ever before that Black people are freaking out about it? I think current viewpoint on the issue is very liberal (e.g., relax, it's not a big deal, live and let live, let's accept everything that's good) and very conservative on this matter (e.g., it's you making yourself miserable not society, you are seeing racism everywhere, you are too sensitive)!

It's like in order for a non-Black person to wear something considered "Black or African" then they are required to take a Black history course and join the NAACP! They must also have Black friends, think Black people are beautiful, and employ Black people. Why does everything have to be so serious when it comes to interacting with Black people? Why do you place so many expectations on others when you don't have to do the same amount of work to get along with them? Like I have said before, this is Black people once again acting like they need special care because they are fragile, wounded, and victims of everyone else. In order to associate with them or their culture outsiders must have special training and work harder than they have to with other people. Are you victims or are you strong and resilient? If you are a mixture of both then act like it and admit your strengths and vulnerabilities instead of stating your are completely powerless or powerful because you are telling people how to treat you! Victims get help and pity, the strong are expected to handle everything alone, but a "normal person" is not entirely powerless or powerful all the time so they can be independent and still get help and special care when needed.

This is why outsiders say it is difficult to get along with Black people and they are "too sensitive" because that is exactly what many Black people are telling them! I am not doing it but other Black people are adamantly telling others "you have to be very careful with us because we are so hurt and easily hurt by almost everything you do (including when you style your hair like us)! It sends the message to non-Black people that maybe it's just easier not to deal with Black people because they are never satisfied with any of their attempts to be inclusive or accepting and they are so easily hurt (ironic since Black people are often called strong and many embrace the term). For example, the producers of the new Nina Simone biopic may decide to never do a film focusing on a BW again because they cast EBW Zoe Saldana in the title role. Although White actresses like Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman can transform their appearances to play less attractive women (and win Oscars), Black people are too sensitive and delicate to accept that. No, they insist on casting a less attractive actress and they have no concern with talent or box-office draw. Another example is when non-Black people wear the image of Black people on their clothing, it is often interpreted as mocking or racist when images of many races are shown on clothing. Let's not forget whenever non-Black people embrace music created by Black people. Some Black people will almost shove this music down people's throats (insist they are racist or elitist if they don't...seriously) while others call it cultural appropriation when these people finally accept their culture (e.g., outrage at Japanese and White people embracing hip hop, jazz, blues, and reggae culture).

A non-Black man is not allowed to be attracted to Black women without it being called a fetish. Here is the definition of a fetish (doesn't sound bad to me at all):

1. an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency. 2. any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion: to make a fetish of high grades. 3. Psychology any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.

But for some reason, instead of seeing dark skin or other features many Black women have (e.g., full lips, full behinds) as comparable to other attractive feminine features (e.g., large chests, curves, softness, long hair) they call this a fetish that is somehow wrong!? By calling attraction for BW a fetish you are teaching the world that there is something wrong with liking BW and men who do are strange and deviant! Some will say that this is the point and it's called a fetish so that non-Black men will not be attracted to BW, and some BW are actually encouraging this! I would think that if BW want to be accepted as equals to other women then they would want to be found universally attractive. I would think that they would want it to seem perfectly understandable and non-deviant for someone to find them beautiful.

Why does this all irritate me? I guess because these behaviours are working against something I see as a positive thing. Unless something is accepted by the majority then it will not be seen as normal. So unless we react "normally" to non-Black people accepting Black culture and BW then this acceptance will never be seen as normal! People strive to be normal and negative reactions to their behaviour may cause them to reject us. If liking BW or aspects of Black culture continue to be seen as forms of rebellion or something to scare parents this will not do us any favors. It's time to stop holding on so tight to "Black culture" because the only way to gain acceptance is by allowing others to accept you without making them regret it afterward.

What some people need to do is really examine themselves and why they get so angry when non-Black people try to accept them or aspects of their culture. I think there are deep personal issues being triggered:

  1. For one, people who hate non-White people and see them as the enemy will object to this acceptance. They will see it as a treat because they see anything their enemy does as a treat. These people will always be complaining.
  2. Others are very attached to Black culture because it is their escape from the mainstream, therefore they think they will be lost if their culture becomes mainstream (i.e., they feel that their culture and uniqueness is all they have and without it they are nothing). This to me may be self-imposed limitations, a fear of being open to change and new things, and a sign that you don't have enough going on for you. 
  3. There are also some people who really want to be accepted but they are afraid of getting hurt (i.e., they don't think they are good enough so they are skeptical others who accept them or what they like). So they insist on more proof that they are accepted so that they can be sure of it (e.g., you can't just be my friend/date, you have to disavow your White privilege too and feel guilty about everything White people have ever done. You can't just have a Black actress in your film/show, you have to celebrate Black love and discuss racism too. You can't just have a Black model, she has to look like Alek Wek or India Arie). I think that this is an insecurity issue because the Black person does not believe that they are really accepted so they insist on extreme levels of 100% acceptance and perfect understanding of the Black experience (which is impossible even for most Black people).  
  4. Some Black people I think are too attached to "being cool" rather than being accepted by the mainstream so they want their culture to be exclusive (i.e., only some people are allowed into the Black culture club and they decide who gets in). This leads them to basically be culture snobs even when the things they cherish the most are considered harmful or tacky by the mainstream anyway. I also see this as a sign of entitlement, yes ENTITLEMENT because you are allowed to do things while other people can't. You have a special status where you are free to like, dress, and act in certain ways but others can't, and you expect this freedom to be respected. You also embrace things from other cultures but have a list of reasons why you are allowed to do so (e.g., being oppressed, racism, pressure to conform etc.). This again is feeling entitled to special treatment. If you like something for a reason, then others may like it for the same reasons...accept it instead of seeing it as a threat. You can't complain about being prevented from doing things because you are Black if you prevent non-Black people from doing things just because they are not Black!

I think that I'm starting to have a negative view of many of the theories that have come out of AA academics and research. Since the U.S. is the largest producer of race theories regarding Black people they are seen as the authority and no one questions it. But others have criticized that it always makes Black people out to be powerless victims. I do not feel like a powerless victim! The academics, similar to many Black blogs, also make it seem like we have to be angry activists all the time and that we must be constantly fighting against something. They trace everything back to slavery so that our anger about slavery is constantly being triggered. These AA teachings have become so prevalent that Black people online know many of the theories and trace every incident and aspect of their current existence to slavery. I wonder if people of other cultures do this and if it is self-defeating? With all the self-help talk about how important it is to stay in the present and plan for the future is it beneficial for the average Black person to constantly look back? I'm not saying forget, but is it helpful in any way to link your whole existence back to slavery? That's a good idea for a study :) I constantly hear people reason that "we must look at the causes in order to find solutions", but on a personal level I do not believe this is necessary at all. To find solutions in your own life you do not have to spend years examining your birth events, childhood, grandparents lives etc., you can just examine your current circumstances and find ways to improve in the present. Historical research may be important for societal change but totally unnecessary for personal change (e.g., your personal changes don't need to be run past the government or a committee, laws don't need to be created, a proposal doesn't have to be written, you don't need a grant etc.).

So what does this have to do with femininity? Well, if you get angry all the time about race then you will appear mean, unhappy, and argumentative to others like the stereotypical Angry Black Woman. It is feminine to be accepting and open to others rather than closed off, suspicious, and hostile. It is also against your best interest of being a desirable woman to all men when you insult your admirers by calling them fetishists and insisting they are deviant and defective for finding you attractive. If you want to be loved and admired you need to let other people love and admire you! A lady knows how to take a compliment. I also think that non-Black women will respect you more if they stop seeing you as the unattractive friend or as no competition for their men. Personally, I'm never going to use the term "fetish" in relation to liking BW or any race of woman ever again.

Related Articles:
Cultural Appropriation on Wikipedia (interesting!)
Cultural appropriation: Homage or insult? (see, if one focuses on the past and power differentials then assimilation by the mainstream will always cause negative feelings. This is the individual's personal anger at the mainstream)
Race preference or race fetish?
When does a racial preference become a fetish?
Top 10 fetishes from (risque language lol. What's interesting is that this is almost a list of things you can wear and do to make men instantly attracted to you...there are some I wouldn't do though...ever)


  1. I agree with you on this post and also think that some people just use the word fetish randomly.It could have to deal with that person not believing that a man from another race could like that aspect about their black womanhood without it being suspect (i.e. full lips, dark skin etc).

    Fetish isn't the first thing I think of when someone compliments me. I think what some people fail to understand is, like in your earlier posts of men liking to look at women, compliment women etc, being of a different race/culture than the woman doesn't load a compliment. But people choose to read it as a loaded remark and try to find the "hidden insult/fetish" etc.

    I like reading your blog because you have a similar perspective, I am Canadian born, educated etc as well.

  2. *standing ovation*
    I'm glad you wrote this post; I didn't have the heart. The ridiculousness of this was just too annoying.

  3. And, I completely agree with crush'ed; when people use "fetish" it is a reflection of their own prejudices, not the one who has the audacity to admire a Black woman's features.

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  5. Wow I truly applaud you for writing this. I started writing about this but I simply couldn't finish because I didn't feel right writing about it. I've been seething with anger all week over this nonsense. First it was the Zoe/Nina biopic issue. Zoe Saldana is a black actress who I believe is very good at what she does. Yet she is getting a lot of hate not from white people, but from the black community who should be supporting her. When I go on the Zoe Saldana tag on tumblr all I see is hateful comments, it's just unbelievable. I can't go on my dashboard without seeing something negative about Zoe. I think you're right by saying that white producers are going to think twice about hiring a black actor/actress because it appears that they cannot please black people no matter how hard they try.

    Then there was the youtube video with a black girl complaining about cultural appropriation. Apparently she has issues with people dressing up for Halloween. She complained about racist costumed and some white chick who wore an afro wig, yet she she had the nerve to wear a blonde wig and make fun of white girls in her video. Here is the link to the video see for yourself:

    The whole video just made me so upset. Sometimes I feel like throwing my computer out the window so I won't go on the internet ever again. I never heard terms like "white privilege" or "light skinned privilege" until I started reading BWE blogs and tumblr.

    You said that most of the race theories come from the US and I believe it's true. I find it Ironic because it is a fact that the majority of the slaves were taken to the Caribbean, Latin America and Brazil. The slaves there were treated far worse than the ones in the US, yet many of them do not enjoy the privileges that most blacks in the US enjoy, yet you don't see them walking around with a chip on their shoulder. Black people in the US makes up about 15% of the US population yet they are still represented in the media. They are on at least 20% of the productions seen on TV and in the movies. Someone would say that they are over represented but let's not go there.

    I'm trying really hard not to say anything offensive here because I'm aware that this is a very delicate topic. I just think that AA are just too sensitive. Many of them based their entire existence around race. I think we all need to start enjoying life because we only have one. Our ancestors did not fight and work hard for our freedom for us to use that freedom to complain and argue about race all the time.

    I would understand if you do not approve this post, but I felt that I needed to voice my opinion on this topic because it has been bothering me all week. Thank you for this post, you have done something I couldn't bring myself to do.

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  6. @ Maria - YES.
    Typically, I'm a fan of Chescaleigh (and I still enjoy her loc tutorials), but one of the reasons why I admired her so much was because she didn't make race the sole bane of her existence. Now, she's emulating the "social justice" activists that I stay far away from (a blog post for later... I am a former social justice activist). It seems since S&!# White Girls Say became popular she's taken it upon herself to be the modern "Sista Souljah."

    I am all for race education, but when our education efforts further divide instead of unite, then I cannot support it.

    I could say more, but I won't. Like you, Maria, the topic makes my blood boil so I'd rather just leave it alone and let them be.

  7. Welcome to the blog crush'ed. YES! If you think you are a beautiful woman then you would not be suspicious about the reasons why someone is attracted to you. But these BW don;t believe they are attractive enough for non-Black men so they are surprised and suspicious.

    Non-Black women don't act that way. Well I have read about some Asian women being suspicious when they hear their non-Asian date only likes Asian women...yet many of them still exclusively date and marry non-Asian men.

    Like you, I have never thought that someone had a fetish when they approached me. Maybe I thought they just wanted to sleep with me, but never a fetish.

    Thanks so much fellow Canadian and I'm glad you like the blog :)

  8. Thanks KC,

    LOL was I being majorly controversial here? It seems that both you and Maria were reluctant to write something like this...let's see if there is any fallout!

    Hi Maria :)
    The thing about Zoe and that film really bothers me. I should say that I don't know anything about Nina Simone but all the talk about her has made me want to listen to her music. That is the point of films like this, it tells people about the artist and makes them want to know more. People are not looking at it that way or the fact that maybe this film would not have gotten funding without a big star like Zoe. Then no one would be making a film about Nina Simone and the same people would be complaining about there not being enough films about BW!!!

    Zoe is an actress and good actresses are able to play anyone. These are probably the same people who do not respect Halle Berry winning an Oscar just because she had to kiss a White man in Monster's Ball. It's only Black people who have a problem with it and who are ignoring her acting talent and the progress she made for Black actresses and instead focus on racial hangups. They are perpetual complainers who will never be pleased and feel entitled to have others please them!

    I do agree that AA people have way more opportunities and financial power than many people in the Caribbean, Latin America, Brazil, and Africa. In the US there should be way more representation of Hispanics and Asians, but I don't think they care because they have more important things to work on. They are trying to gain power instead of complaining to the film industry or fashion designers.

    I'll approve the post and control for any arguments that may break out :)

  9. Hi KC,

    You did it, you put another blog post idea in my head so now I have to write about it lol :)

    People always try to drag Black people into becoming activists and it's an annoying burden that other people don't have to deal with. I wrote about it a bit in my post about whether Black people are too sensitive and others. I think education about race is good too but yes, some of this education blows things out of proportion and backfires by making people like us less. I have to write about this :)