I recently posted a series of photos of myself wearing a Native American style headdress that I was sent to review. I jumped at the opportunity to review such an item because I really love the way they look. I'm afraid that is all the thought I gave to the issue. The idea of cultural misappropriation just didn't cross my mind at all. Sure, I'd cringed at the images of 'white girls' at coachella wearing such items but I think to be honest this was more about their attempts to be edgy than the fact they were misappropriating cultural items. I just didn't relate this, or in fact any offence, with my portrayal of a piece like this as I knew that I would be representing the piece artfully and in a cool way.
I got my first comment from a reader and was a little shocked. I feel guilty for using ignorance as an excuse but I was ignorant of the amount of offence that could be caused here. I talked to a number of my friends about this issue and a number of us agreed that Native American culture just hasn't really permeated into the UK awareness. In fact I would argue (and this is just myself as I'm sure many Brits have sought to become a great deal more informed than I have) that the only things I learnt about the Native American culture was their aesthetics; I remember making these headdresses at school and so I had never registered them as something that could cause offence.
In response to this comment I really considered my views on the topic. I will paste the comment below because I think it sums up what I really feel on the topic.
Hi, I'm really sorry this post made you uncomfortable of course it wasn't my intention to do so.
I read through those articles and found them really thought provoking. I agree with you (and the authors) that cultural misappropriation can be an incredibly uncomfortable thing when it is accompanied with a view of 'dressing up AS that culture'.
Personally, though I firmly believe in anyone's right to disagree with this, I think that aesthetic items of culture can trickle into the fashion world without being accompanied by the entirety of the history and issues surrounding that culture. For instance I have a kimono and love it. I feel that I am allowed to love it as a piece of fashion rather than a cultural item and I don't feel any guilt in admiring it without knowing the particular area of Japan that this style is worn, or the atrocities or history of violence that this item could potentially represent. Although this might be an unpopular opinion I firmly believe that you are allowed to judge an item which may have a significant meaning to some, on purely aesthetic grounds. EDIT Marianne pointed out really well in the comments why this is an inaccurate analogy. I hope you'll read her comment because it's really well said.
The focus of my blog is to celebrate the beauty of things in a positive and happy way. If I am representing a culture here, which was certainly not my intent, (I believe you can refer to an item by a country purely referentially so I think it is as acceptable to call this fashion item a Native American headdress as it is to call a hairstyle a French Braid) I do not believe I have done so negatively. My concern was only to represent an item I found beautiful, beautifully.
I hope you can see from reading my blog that I am a respectful person who would not intend to cause offence in any way. I have really sat and considered my views on this topic and I feel comfortable with expressing my conclusions even if I know these may not be shared by others.
So. I do believe this. However on reflection I can only conclude that I believe this because of lack of understanding or proximity to the topic. I chose to take the post down. I truly want all my readers to know that I did this because I am hugely concerned about upsetting people. I hate the idea that people may be offended by my actions, that makes me feel awful and so I can only imagine how those who feel close to the topic may feel in response.
To all those who felt hurt or offended by this post I am truly sorry. I would like to share a number of the articles shared by one of my readers in the previous post as I wouldn't like them to get lost in the process of deleting the post. I recommend them wholeheartedly and I can honestly say that they opened my eyes to a phenomena an view I wasn't aware existed. If anyone would like to share further articles on the topic please feel free to in the comments.