Around a week ago, a friend sent me a screenshot of a post from a certain cuntroversial Facebook group and I couldn’t help but laugh in sheer disbelief.
In this ridiculous post, someone had taken a photo of a rugby jumper bearing the brand name ‘Samurai Rugby Gear’ and was claiming, albeit hesitantly, that it was cultural appropriation and decrying it as making them feel ‘uncomfortable’. The word ‘Samurai’, written on a jumper was making someone feel ‘uncomfortable’. Really?
This is but one instance of inappropriate claims of cultural appropriation which are symptomatic of this utterly pathetic, hypersensitive culture that is developing, particularly on University campuses, where people live their lives in a perpetual state of offence.
Thank God this particular claim of cultural appropriation was quickly dismantled by people copying and pasting information from the company’s website regarding their foundation. However, this isn’t enough. We have now seemingly got to the stage where even a word written on a jumper is enough to send people raging toward their keyboards. It’s not as if the guy was even dressed up as a samurai.
This developing culture of online safe spaces where people obsess over intricacies and decry everything as offensive is creating a generation of trigger happy, hyper-vigilant Facebook
samurai warriors, constantly looking for the next thing to be offended by. This has to stop.
Before all you keyboard warriors go to town in the comments section (although you probably won’t even get past the title), I need to make it clear that I’m not denying the existence of harmful cultural appropriation. This is a real problem that arises when elements of a minority culture are ‘stolen’ by a majority culture without their permission. This is a colonial act of oppression.
An obvious example is ‘blackface.’ In the 19th and early 20th century, actors blackened their faces with shoe polish to represent black people. This act is out-right racist as opposed to cultural appropriation. However, the following performances would depict and parody elements of African-American culture.
Another example that has recently been all over the media, is the wearing of Native American headdresses without belonging to that ethnic group or being granted permission. In 2014, a petition was successful in making Glastonbury Festival ban their sale.
Granted, wearing the headdresses is disrespectful to that ethnic group and is especially insensitive given their historical oppression. Then again, are you really telling me that a 16 year old public school girl, halfway through a bottle of vodka, sitting in the middle of a field in Somerset, wearing a Native American headdress is committing a colonial act? I think not. It only takes the slightest sense of perspective to realise that this is a gross overreaction.
The potential threat of Twitter’s self-righteous culture crusaders bearing down on them with a flurry of 140 character tirades is enough for people to hurriedly bow to the smallest level of pressure. It sets a precedent that allows the pseudo-progressive mob to take control.
Despite valid claims of cultural appropriation, sometimes it’s just downright ridiculous. University of East Anglia banned a local Mexican restaurant from giving out Sombreros to student diners at their Fresher’s Fair. The very worst thing about wearing a sombrero is that is makes you look like an idiot. There’s no way that wearing a hat is oppressing Mexican people.
Funny forms of head gear seem to be a common theme thus far, but it doesn’t stop there. Just last year, student leaders at the University of Ottawa forced a yoga class to be cancelled because: ‘there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice.’ Even the teacher’s suggestion of renaming the classes to ‘mindful stretching’ was rejected. This is another ridiculous example of heavy-handed policing of student’s choices by other students.
Sadly, these people are simply deluded. Posting a post or tweeting a tweet about an example of ‘problematic’ or ‘deeply damaging’ cultural appropriation isn’t about fighting a cause, it’s about virtue signalling and showing everyone else how sensitive and aware you are. A very selfish act given the issues being discussed. Complaining about every single little issue is irresponsible as it draws attention away from real cases of cultural appropriation.
The dangerous irony in all this is that it calls for cultural segregation: everyone of different ethnicities ghettoised into separate little bubbles with a pre-approved selection of things that they are allowed to say, wear, eat and do, as part of their rigid ‘culture.’
Cultures are fluid, intangible entities, so who are they to determine what belongs to whom? And doesn’t this policing of people’s choices all seem a bit too 1984-esque for comfort?