Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation

By Francheska Lupo

September 21, 2020

Recently, there has been a controversy concerning the popular “fox-eye” makeup look, which is being accused of being cultural appropriation of Asians.  Additionally, this has brought up some confusion over what exactly cultural appropriation is compared to cultural appreciation. 

   By definition, cultural appropriation is “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one person or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society” (Oxford Languages). Meanwhile, cultural appreciation involves learning about a culture different from your own to deepen your understanding of different lifestyles, traditions, or aspects of a different race. There is no advantage other than knowledge and earnestly seeking to expand viewpoints, while appropriation is when there is something to gain from exploiting a part of someone else’s culture. This might take form in Instagram likes, money, fame, or any other type of recognition where the credit is not given to the original culture it is derived from.

   Additionally, it is often a case where the original idea is looked down upon in society when it is worn or used by the original race, however, when a celebrity of a different race uses this idea, it is praised. 

   For example, there has been a long history of Afrocentric hairstyles such as cornrows or locs being deemed unprofessional or “ghetto” when worn by Black women, however, when a white celebrity tries out a traditionally Black hairstyle, they are praised as fashionable and trendy. A famous example of this would be when the Kardashian family decided to use these Afrocentric hairstyles for their own financial gain. Kim Kardashian was bashed earlier this year for showing up to Paris Fashion Week with plaited hair, a traditionally Afrocentric style, as she tried to make a fashion statement.

   A similar instance can be seen in the case of the fox-eye makeup trend, which is an eye look that reflects the Asian eye shape. Many Asians felt offended that their natural eyes, which had previously not been considered the ideal shape, were being suddenly praised when worn by non-Asian women. 

   It is important to consider that someone’s culture or natural features should not be used as a costume that one can just take on and off when they get bored of it or it is no longer trending. 

   To conclude, learning about different cultures and being respectful of them is perfectly fine. If you are careful not to exploit this, credit the origin of the idea, and be respectful, recognizing other cultures can be something that can grow our understanding of other people and recognize the beauty of our differences.

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