PC Culture

Skinny Eyebrows Declared ‘Cultural Appropriation’

Rihanna at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival; inset: British Vogue‘s cover (Regis Duvignau/Reuters; British Vogue/Twitter)
Apparently it is offensive for anyone who is not Latina to tweeze her eyebrows a lot.

According to a piece in Marie Claire, deciding to pluck your eyebrows so that they are very thin is “problematic” and “cultural appropriation.”

The author, Krystyna Chávez, explained that she was absolutely horrified when she saw a photo of Rihanna with skinny eyebrows.

“When I saw Rihanna on the cover of British Vogue this week with a set of ultra-skinny brows, my immediate reaction was, ‘Wait, WTF?’” Chávez writes in a piece titled “I’m Latina, and I Find Rihanna’s Skinny Brows Problematic.” “Why is Rihanna wearing chola brows?”

“Considering it was highly unlikely that Rihanna had suddenly joined a gang, and seeing as the Caribbean singer wasn’t exactly raised on the streets of East L.A., my Mexican-American heart was deeply confused, and deeply annoyed,” Chávez continued.

Basically, Chávez believes that it is offensive for anyone who is not Latina to tweeze her eyebrows a lot. Why? Well, because according to Chávez, any Latina who would go with this style would be judged harshly.

“I guarantee had, say, J.Lo or Gina Rodriguez graced the cover of a magazine with pencil-thin brows, they would have been ripped apart on the Internet for looking like a girl from the hood at best, or a chola at ‘worst,’” she writes. “To most Mexican and Mexican-American women, drawn-on eyebrows are a look historically representative of a marginalized culture — my culture — and have become a Latinx street style viewed as ‘trashy’ by the rest of society.”

“That is, until Rihanna wears them,” she continues.

Interestingly enough, Chávez later goes on to essentially disprove her own point. She explains that she understands that “skinny brows were not created or exclusively owned by the Latinx community.”

“They also have roots in South African culture, in Roaring Twenties fashion, in the Harlem Renaissance community, and I’m sure they can be found in many other subsections of the world, too,” she writes.

Yet, Chávez insists that it’s still a problem:

“I understand that some people may not see Rihanna’s photos and immediately think chola,” she writes. “I get that some people will see the brows and think of the ’20s and Josephine Baker, or even Marlene Dietrich.”

“But for the Latinxs among us who have faced persecution for our appearances for decades — and for the cholas I knew growing up who took immense pride in their look — we will only ever see chola brows, no matter how much you dress them up,” she concludes.

Sorry, but Rihanna’s eyebrows are a completely ridiculous thing to be complaining about, especially for the reasons that Chávez gives. In fact, she does a pretty good job herself of showing why her own point is so absurd: Just like she says, skinny brows are far from a strictly Latina phenomenon. Horrifically enough, most girls in my high school used to over-tweeze their brows back in the ’00s. (I’m proud to say that I never participated in this trend.) Usually when I see people complaining about things being cultural appropriation that really are not — like, for example, hoop earrings — it comes from a place of the author not understanding that his or her culture actually does not own the trend that he or she is talking about. Chávez seems to understand this perfectly, which is what makes her article make such little sense.

Unfortunately, however, this is not the first time that I’ve seen eyebrows being treated as a controversial topic. Last year, a Louisiana State University student wrote an op-ed declaring that some eyebrow styles were cultural appropriation. According to this student, it was thick eyebrows that were the problem.

“Current American eyebrow culture also shows a prime example of the cultural appropriation in the country,” the student, Lynne Bunch, wrote. “The trend right now is thick brows, and although a lot of ethnic women have always had bushy, harder-to-maintain eyebrows, it has only become trendy now that white women have started to do it.”

In other words? There is basically no kind of eyebrow style that a white person can go with without the risk of offending someone. Both thin and thick eyebrows are problematic, and white people should probably just keep theirs covered with hats or scarves at all times to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. There is, of course, another option: realizing that we are talking about eyebrows here, and just chilling the hell out.

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