Culture

Things You Can’t Wear to a Music Festival, According to Social Justice Internet

Inappropriate appropriation?

Music-festival season is underway, and it’s important to make sure to dress appropriately — not just for the weather, but for cultural sensitivity as well.

If you’re not sure what I mean, that’s okay! I spent some time on Social Justice Internet today finding some helpful tips so that you can understand what I mean and why it’s so important:

Aside from obvious no-nos like Native-American headdresses or Indian bindis, you also need to make sure that the patterns on your clothes aren’t offensive. That’s right — it’s not enough to simply make sure your shirt is clean and doesn’t have any insensitive or crude images on it, you actually also also need to research the pattern and make sure it couldn’t be interpreted as having been inspired by “tribal” or Aztec culture:

“Even something . . . mainstream as ‘tribal’” or Aztec prints are forms of cultural appropriation,” warns a post on the Source.

The Source defines cultural appropriation as “adopting elements of a different culture, typically without consent,” and that is bad.

Seeing as the Aztec empire hasn’t been around since the 16th century, it seems like it would be pretty hard to get proper “consent” to wear a pattern, so perhaps just use an image search to look and see if it looks like it was inspired by their culture. (You can find some examples here, but be warned that clicking on the link could be traumatic to people who are triggered by this kind of clothing.)

As for tribal patterns, perhaps you could look into which tribe the pattern was inspired by and get permission from them, though maybe it would be easier to just avoid any patterns altogether. After all, no amount of research really could make it okay for you to wear these certain patterns because, as the Source explains, “Even the purest of intentions and most earnest interest in a foreign or unfamiliar culture does not necessarily warrant a person’s right to practice a cultural or religious tradition outside of its original context.”

Okay. Now that we’ve covered fabric patterns, let’s move on to the next serious problem: henna tattoos.

In a post for Bustle, Maxine Builder explains that although she doesn’t have a problem with the idea of fake tattoos in general, the way some brands mix together different designs in historically inaccurate ways can be really problematic. Egyptian glyphs with Indian henna designs and Native American arrows all in the same tattoo?! That’s totally inaccurate, and putting them together makes the designer “seem entirely ignorant of the cultural differences.” After all, we wouldn’t want to mislead all the people who consider their henna tattoos to be historically accurate representations of a culture’s art! Ugh. If only the henna-tattoo designers could be as smart and culturally aware as Builder.

#related#Keep in mind that it’s not like you can’t use henna tattoos at all. That would be ridiculous! It’s just that before you do, you should take some time and do some research on whether or not the design of the tattoo is historically and culturally accurate. Perhaps have an anthropologist on hand in case you have any questions.

Oh, and by the way — it doesn’t matter that many people who belong to these cultures say they actually like seeing them represented in mainstream fashion. Arizona State University sophomore Lakshmi Punati discussed the issue with her student newspaper and had this to say:

It’s really great to see other people taking in my [Hindu] culture. When I see people [outside my culture] wearing bindis, it shows me they appreciate [my culture]. . . . It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s like dressing to a theme.

Sigh. So sad.

Too bad she doesn’t know as much about how she should feel about her culture as I do — hopefully she can read this and become educated enough to get upset. 

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.

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