Politics & Policy

Student Op Ed: It Is Offensive to Wear a Choker without Knowing the Cultural History of Chokers

(Photo: Sergey Ishkov/Dreamstime.com)
If we have to do research on the cultural legacy of every item we wear, we’ll never get dressed.

According to a Western European student at the University of Washington, the choker-necklace trend in the U.S. is cultural appropriation, and girls should learn the history of the necklaces before wearing them. 

In a piece for the school’s newspaper, The Daily, Joy Geerkens writes that she’s been seeing Americans disrespect the the cultural traditions of her “home countries,” Switzerland and Germany, since she left them for the United States last year . . . by doing things like wearing chokers without knowing that chokers are “part of traditional dress of Switzerland.” 

“The history behind [chokers] is really complex and fascinating; women used to wear them because the severe iodine deficiency in the high altitudes of the Alps would cause them to have goiters,” Geerkens writes. “In order to hide these lumps or the scars they would receive from having them removed, they adorned their necks with chokers.”

Geerkens writes that although she does love seeing people wearing a necklace style that reminds her of home, she does not love the discussions about them. 

“Wear them, but know the history behind the trend, and for the love of God, please do not keep spreading these offensive jokes about women being ‘whores’ for wearing them; it’s dehumanizing, sexist, and ignorant,” she writes. 

Now, let me say that I completely agree that women should not be called “whores” for wearing chokers.  I love wearing them, and it really does break my heart how many of your grandfathers I’ve had to block from my Instagram for leaving perverted, choker-related comments on the photos in which I’m wearing one. But at the same time, I also have to admit that I had no idea about their cultural history before reading this article — and that I really don’t feel bad about it, either. 

Taking offense that people did not Google ‘history of the choker’ before buying one at Forever 21 is absurd.

Sorry, but it’s completely normal to put a piece of fabric around your neck because you think it looks cool; you don’t need to conduct a fabric-placement research project first. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that Geerkens is sharing what she knows about chokers with the rest of us — knowledge is power! — but taking offense that people did not Google “history of the choker” before going to the register at Forever 21 to buy one is absurd. After all, if people had to stop and research every single thing they put in their mouth or on their body before they ate anything or wore anything, then none of us would ever have time to eat or get dressed again. 

For the record, Geerkens has had to deal with much more than just ill-informed choker-wearing. For example: ill-informed Oktoberfest. 

“Stop using Oktoberfest as an excuse to get drunk off of cheap, terribly watered-down beer or to wear our traditional clothes to make your boobs look nice,” she writes. 

Yeah — she sounds fun. 

– Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.


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