What is okay?

Cultural Appreciation: When a person seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally and respectfully.

What is not okay?

Cultural Appropriation: The act of taking or using things from a culture that is not of your own and using it for your own personal interest, especially without showing any understanding or respect towards the culture.

Asian Conical Hats

  • In 2018, Khloe Kardashian posted a photo of herself and baby True Thompson on Instagram wearing Asian conical hats, more commonly known as rice hats or bamboo hats. As a traditional Asian hat, originating in Vietnam and seen in various other Asian countries, they received massive backlash for wearing it. Comments on the post include, “White girl with a black baby in a Chinese get up,” and “Could have done without the hats but okay.”
  • Often found in costume stores, the conical hats are still being sold as a party item. A traditional piece of Asian fashion with ties to hard labor in fields has now become a symbol of exoticism, comedy, and racial stereotyping.

Asian Cultural Appropriation in Fashion

Asian fashion has been used in the West for decades and many companies, celebrities, and regular people don’t realize that it is not allowed to be borrowed for an “exotic” party or music festival look. With Western generalization of the unique Asian countries labeled “Eastern” or “Oriental,” Asian fashion gets pilfered. Western companies and celebrities favor Eastern and Oriental clothing for its “exotic” look without caring to know which Asian country the clothes originate from and the cultural history rooted with that style of clothing.

A common example of Asian fashion often known to be appropriated is the Chinese qipao. As this style of dress is seen more in Western markets, companies that alter the qipao and non-Chinese people who wear these altered versions can face backlash. It is common for Western clothing companies to use European models to showcase these altered clothing, lacking the intention to show Chinese cultural appreciation. Fast fashion brands that sell qipaos and halloween costumes tend to sexualize these cultural garments by shortening the clothing & cutting slits around the cleavage area, and reinforce the normalization of how it is accepted to do so under the label that it is “trendy.”

Asian Cultural Appropriation in U.S Entertainment

Dressing up as Geisha:

  • At the 2013 American Music Awards, Katy Perry dressed up as a geisha in her performance of “Unconditionally.” After the backlash, she has stated, “I won’t ever understand some of those things because of who I am and I will never understand, but I can educate myself, and that’s what I’m trying to do along the way… I didn’t know that I did it wrong until I heard people saying I did it wrong. And sometimes that’s what it takes. It takes someone to say, out of compassion and out of love, ‘Hey, this is what the origin is.’”
  • In March 2017, Vogue magazine published photos of a white model in geisha-inspired outfits.

Appropriating Indian Culture:

  • Back in 2013, Selena Gomez performed her song “Come and Get It” at the MTV Movie Awards in a bindi and an Indian-inspired dress. Two days later, she wore a similar outfit and performed Bollywood-inspired dance moves for her performance on Dancing with the Stars.
  • In Coldplay’s 2016 music video “Hymn For the Weekend,” Beyoncé makes an appearance donned in traditional Indian clothing with henna on her hands.
  • Vanessa Hudgens has also worn bindis along with her infamous Coachella outfits
  • Miley Cirus posted pictures of herself wearing a rainbow-colored bindi for a Gay Pride event in Washington D.C.

Fox Eye Trend

The 2020 fox eye makeup trend blew up on Instagram and Tik Tok, but also gained backlash from the Asian-American community. While the fox eye is simply a makeup style used to elongate and elevate the eyes to appear like a fox, the act of pulling at one’s eyes has gotten backlash for mimicking the way someone would insult Asian eyes. Many Asian-Americans can recall a moment when their peers went up to them, pulled at their eyelids and saying “Ching Chong” or recite the subgroup taxonomy of eye-pulls: eyes pulled upward for Japanese, to the side for Chinese, and downward for Korean. The racist history of eye-pulling now turned into an act associated with a makeup trend has left society divided between the fox eye trend as a new makeup look or cultural appropriation with racist roots.