Culture

Pulling Your Hair Back with Bobby Pins a Certain Way Deemed ‘Cultural Appropriation’

Inset: the offending bun (via Instagram); Kardashian: Mike Segar/Reuters
I don’t think it’s all that hard to see just how insane this sounds.

An Instagram post showed Kim Kardashian with her hair pulled back into a bun using a headband of bobby pins – and the Internet is freaking out that it’s appropriating Caribbean culture.

Kardashian’s stylist, Chris Appleton, posted the photo on his account, and it didn’t take long for Instagram commenters to freak out, according to a post on the issue in Allure. (The comments seem to have since been deleted.)

Khalea Underwood, a columnist for Refinery29, also weighed in:

“I was a little bit stirred when Kim Kardashian’s glam squad posted her latest hairstyle a few days ago,” Underwood wrote. “It was one that a few Internet sites were quick to cover.”

“They called it ‘high fashion,’ ’edgy,’ and ‘pretty’ – and one even named it a ‘bobby pin headband,’” she continued. “Let’s make one thing clear: that’s a doobie wrap.”

A “doobie wrap,” Underwood explained, “is a protective style popular in the Caribbean and is worn to help maintain a blowout on textured or curly hair.”

“So what’s the problem? Like all cultural-appropriation issues, it’s about giving credit where credit is due,” Underwood stated.

But here’s the thing. Even though, in the beginning of her article, Underwood said she wanted to make it “clear” that the style was a “doobie wrap,” she said at the end of her article that she wasn’t “totally certain if Kim’s hairstylist was necessarily going for a doobie on purpose, especially because she had a low bun in the back. But you can’t deny the similarities.”

Similarly, according to Devon Abelman’s column in Allure, “the issue here isn’t the accuracy: It’s the fact that she’s once again being credited (whether intentionally or inadvertently) with originating a style that was created by and for women who’ve been doing it for a long, long time.”

First of all, neither Appleton nor Kardashian claimed to have invented this style in the first place. And yes, Appleton may call it a “bobby pin headband” and not a “doobie wrap,” but both columnists admit that Kardashian’s hairstyle is, in fact, not the same thing.

So, what they are saying is that even though it is not the same thing — and Kardashian’s stylist was using the bobby pins to adorn a bun instead of to preserve a blowout — it’s still cultural appropriation? How far does this go? I wear bobby pins sometimes, if I happened to wear too many around the sides of my head, then would that be a problem, too? Is there, like, a numerical limit of bobby pins I’m allowed to put on the side of my head without having to give a shout-out to the Caribbean? What about the hideous, sparkly butterfly clips that I used to wear in some kind of weird halo around my head in middle school? They weren’t exactly bobby pins, sure, but they served the same function — is that also not okay?

Let’s say a white-owned restaurant invents a new, hipster-eqsue food that looks kind of like a taco. It’s shaped like a taco, but it uses lettuce instead of a shell, and some sort of vegan-substitute instead of meat, and some kind of edible sparkles instead of cilantro and onion, and the restaurant calls it a “sparkly lettuce smiley face.” Would that restaurant be obligated to include a disclaimer in its Instagram caption of the dish stating: “We understand that this may resemble a taco, and we, as white people, acknowledge that we did not invent the taco”? Honestly, given how big of an issue cultural appropriation has become with food — students at Oberlin College even said that the school’s cafeteria sushi was cultural appropriation because, essentially, it was bad sushi — I wouldn’t be surprised. But is that the world we really want to live in? After all, as being far from the first humans on earth, everything modern has some sort of root in something ancient. According to this logic, I wouldn’t be able to post a selfie wearing a new style of hoop-shaped earrings with the caption “Look at these new hoops!” without adding “Note: This style of jewelry originates in ancient Greek, Roman, and Sumerian cultures.” Sorry, but I don’t think it’s all that hard to see just how insane that sounds.

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