Appropriation

by stonesphinxes

Part of my personal development in the last several years has been to finally internalize that men like long hair.

Yes, they do.

Yeah, I know your best dude-friend and all your BFFs told you your pixie cut was adorbz.  They’re lying.

The truth is that your dude-friend can’t tell you otherwise because he knows all girls have a screeching harpy inside and he doesn’t know at what level your harpy containment facility is holding at, and this is “Does X make me look fat?” level harpy bait.  Your BFFs are just delighted that they’re now all cuter than you by default.

That’s SO cute on you!  No really!  Super flattering, keep doing it that way. Sound familiar?

There’s even been studies that suggest it doesn’t matter what your face looks like, as long as you’ve got that goddamn hair.

And trust me, this was really hard for me.  I was very resistant.  It took me realizing just how much outward attractiveness matters.  Which is a lot.  I’d grown up in a culture where I had it endlessly held forth to me that people who care about appearance are shallow and beauty came from the inside.

Didn’t really work out so much.

That’s pretty much me, but add a buzz cut, acne, and less social awareness.

Long hair is a pain.  It’s work.  You’ve got to start preparing when it’s only a few inches long.  You have to schedule showers and washing and make some serious product investments.  Say goodbye to the “high” setting on your hairdryer and hello to Mennonite ladies’ blogs.

I’m working on at least mermaid strategic-nudity length and potentially longer if I can manage it.

That’s about right.

My favorite thing these days is coconut oil.  Coconut oil on fucking everything.  Every.thing.  I soak my head in it for hours at a time and have enjoyed the amazing paradoxical effects.

If there are any ladies reading – Holy crap.  Do. It.

Also, only shampoo your roots and only condition the ends.

My favorite hair treatments are those marketed toward Indian women.  I follow their instructional videos on youtube, and, horror of horrors, I scope out the “ethnic” section of the hair care products.  I don’t really see how it’s my fault that they don’t market hair oil to pasty white euro-mutt women, but I’ve caught criticism for it.

Apparently I am “appropriating” Indian hair, and need to check my privilege.  Apparently women of color have worked long and hard to have access to their own section of hair products at Walmart, and I am not welcome on aisle 12.

As absurd as it sounds, I’ve been accused of having “white hair privilege” before.  Which makes me wonder what the advantage is to having hair genes that come from the same place that invented those dreadlock dogs and/or haggis and Nazis.  Half of it is wavy, the other half is curly in the opposite direction, it’s all very big if there’s a microliter of humidity, and there’s no cultural outreach to teach me how to do my hair.

Cultural appropriation is widely defined as:

Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.

So, uh, well, okay.  As I’m lacking in access to whatever cultural bureaucracy grants authorization to use another culture’s cuisine, I guess this will stand as an official apology for eating sashimi served by a Filipino and Korean chef team earlier this evening.  I was planning on making tikka masala later this week at home, but now I am confused and afraid.

I own a 1920’s kimono, which I am proud to say, only takes me 4 hours and one case of tennis elbow to put on.  I am working on some art that incorporates the imagery of Kachina dolls, because it’s beautiful and fascinating.  I first became aware of how Indian women do their hair when I lived next to a community of recently immigrated Indian folks, who also still wore saris daily.  I also think that saris are gorgeous and convenient for the climate, and would wear them myself if I knew how.

However:

the Orientalism that comes with donning saris, henna tattoos, and other Indian ornations, rub many people in both communities the wrong way

And:

An authentic cultural exchange should feel free and affirming, rather than plagiarizing or thieving.

So is it free and affirming for me to wear a sari that is appropriate for the weather conditions and buy the “ethnic” hair products that work really well for me, or is it insulting to the culture those things are intended for?  If I go to actual India and wear Indian clothes in India where everyone else is wearing them am I respecting or insulting the culture because somewhere before I was born someone of my skin color was a total bell end to Indians?

I suppose it depends on how butthurt you feel like being that day.

I grew up in a neighborhood where I carpooled with a Mexican immigrant family who didn’t speak English, my neighbor was a Dutch lady who conducted Tibetan Buddhist meditation ceremonies, and I went to Catholic Mass and Unitarian Universalist services on the regular.  My friends were Indian Indian, and Native American Indian + Italian hash, and  Mexican (of the native incorporated sort), and a whole bunch of other people whose defining characteristic was that they were able to overlook the mortal sin of my wearing puffy paint kitty sweater sets.

That’s actually the sweater. I had matching stirrup pants. My beard was never quite so lush though…

Are we supposed to be a melting pot here?  That’s what I always thought.

We learn from each other, and if one speaks pidgin Gaelic and Mandarin to get along in the world, so it shall be and we shall celebrate with potato pot stickers and soju car bombs.  And it will be good.  Especially after a couple soju car bombs, oh my yes.

Or are we all going to sit in our little tribes and demand that no one else can look at our super-secret special things?  Is everyone’s culture so fragile it can be entirely negated by a silly valley girl’s tasteless Halloween costume?

All said, I never expected to be getting dirty looks in the ethnic hair products aisle.

Edit: 01/25/15 – 8:20p

Just to illustrate, here’s a bunch of people yapping about cultural appropriation of “Chinatown Bags” by Stella McCartney’s clothing line.  Chinatown bags are apparently cheap, plaid, laminated cloth bags used for shopping in low-income immigrant districts of mostly Asian origin.  I guess.  All I got on the first two pages of Google were guide for buying fake Louis Vuitton in Chinatown, and shoes based on said unpictured bags.

This is problematic because we’re ignoring the Asian immigrant plight by incorporating these bags into hoighty-toighty Western fashion.

One trench of irony to leap though –  Plaid is Scottish.

Which was appropriated by Asians who needed cheap shopping bags.  Which then the English, via Stella McCartney, appropriated back.  But apparently it belongs to the lowest bidder.  Whomever wins that particular bracket of oppression Olympics.

Edit: 01/25/15 – 9:51p

My carriage returns disappeared.  I’m allowed to use those, they were invented in Cleveland.

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