Cultural appropriation is a huge issue in today’s modern culture. Many celebrities are now representing many cultures, religions and social groups in a way, which is not respectful of the culture’s values and morals. This issue has inflamed in recent years, with the expansion of social media, which allows these celebrities to share these appropriations online to a larger audience. When I was doing research into some examples and instances of cultural appropriation, I found a somewhat common theme. It became evident to me that the large amounts of these cases of misrepresentation were relative to the Islamic culture. Of the research, I found two particular high profile cases in which religious garments, or headwear, were misused by high-profile celebrities, party due to having no knowledge of the culture.
One of social media’s most prominent figures is Khloe Kardashian. She has over 14million likes on Facebook, 15.9million twitter followers and over 30million Instagram followers, and can reach her large fan base easily through the use of these medias. In a photo uploaded to her Instagram, she is seen to be wearing a hijab, with the caption “habibi love”1. It is the context of this story that caused the biggest outrage, rather than the initial photo itself, as Khloe was travelling to Dubai, a country-unlike other Arabic countries like Saudi Arabia- in which it is not compulsory for women to wear burqas in public. This sparked anger amongst the social media community as Kardashian, who does not identify as Muslim, and she was insulted for what many people describe as cultural appropriation. “Someone slap the cultural appropriation out of Khloe Kardashian for making the higab into a fashion statement.”1One person wrote on social media. ‘Reclaiming Native Stories’ argues that for all levels of this appropriation, these people who belong to the Islamic culture “…assert a right to control who can tell their stories and who can use their designs and symbols.”
Another example is from the music industry is Lady Gaga’s leaked song ‘Burqa’. Although the song was never officially released, it was leaked by a third-party, and the lyrics used not only parodies Islamic culture, but also outline damning levels of racism. “Do you wanna see me naked, lover?/Do you wanna be peak underneath the cover?” Her use of these lyrics in the chorus clearly show no level of respect or compassion for the believers of this culture. It also seemingly comes as an attempt to sexualise the burqa; a total contrast to the morals and values in which the burqa is defined.
These instances are prime examples of how the ideas, stories and designs of a culture can be taken out of context by individuals in society. We need to be respectful of other cultures and should be educated to eliminate accounts of cultural appropriation. The people of the particular culture must be the ones to “…control representations of their cultures as a means to ensure cultural survival.”
- Johnson, Maisha, ‘What is wrong with cultural appropriation?’, 2015, Everyday Feminsim.
- Reed, Sam, ‘Khloe Kardashian receives internet backlash for niqab selfie’, 2015, The Hollywood Reporter
- Ziff, Rao, ‘Reclaiming Native stories’