Saturday, September 5, 2015

LSA and "cultural appropriation" (1): Beyoncé edition

Image credit: Daily Mail

Today women on Lipstick Alley are angry. Well, considering the (deserved?) reputation of black women, let's say the are extra angry. The reason for this is that some white people in the comments section of a Daily Mail article on Beyoncé's new haircut had the sheer audacity of suggesting that she is culturally appropriating white people's hair. While the commenters were most likely not seriously suggesting that Beyoncé is culturally appropritating white people's hair but merely mocking the outrage of black supremacists/social justice warriors/guilt ridden white women about Kylie Jenner's cornrows, this has become the topic of a 25+ page thread on LSA. Why so much of a fuss? Three reasons:


For white women it is just a thing that grows on your head and you can style. For black women, hair has special status. It is a culture, a way of life and a business. Something white people in Europe are completely unaware of, something I learned when visiting Virginia and seeing a black history calendar at my place of stay, is that the first American female self made millionaire was black. What did she owe her success to? Hair products. There is a Chris Rock documentary on the subject, for those that care.Black women are willing to spend small fortunes on weaves, braids, other people's hair (extensions) and all kinds of nasty chemical junk to "relax" (=straighten) their hair. In short: for black women, hair is a big deal.

Light skin

Beyoncé is one of the "queens" of LSA. The other queens are Rihanna and Lupita. While I bet most women on LSA are darkskin, it might come as a surprise to white people that two out of these three "queens" are lightskin. That's because women on LSA are color struck. They will heavily criticize black men who date white women and light skin black women. Yet they themselves often swoon over light skin black guys and half-castes like Jesse Williams. Every now and then there is a thread on LSA on whether there is such a thing as "light skin privilege", which tend to be very divisive and hence usually have many pages of comments.

In many African countries, bleaching is further a big thing. I learned this as I've been married and divorced to a black woman. While black people will blame white people (they always do anyway) for creating "euro centric" beauty standards and for making black people and asians hate themselves, this is largely bullshit. Here is why:

  1. As far as asians are concerned, cosmetics to whiten the face (often containing unhealthy lead) were used almost a thousand years before Commodore Perry ever set foot in Japan. Hell, even white people used that lead based shit more than a thousand years ago, which according to some contributed to the death of the Roman empire. The reasoning behind it, is that it allowed to mimick the wealthy who could stay indoors and hence be lighter. Currently, many white people ruin their skin tanning in the sun for the same reason: plane vacations to sunny countries were originally for the rich (now everyone can afford to sit on a cramped plane skybus to Ibiza or another sun filled shithole).
  2. As far as black people are concerned, even in Ethiopia, which was never colonized by white people (the Italians tried, but being Italian failed and miserably so) this whole light skin thing is a big thing and has been since forever. When I was passing through Ethiopia, I stayed with a black Kenyan man working for the UN. It was through him that I learned this stuff, which surprised me. He told me that the Ethiopians were very racist, that according to them in the Creation process people were like coffee beans (coffee is a big thing in Ethiopia, it is a major producer, look it up or look where your coffee comes from): white people had not been roasted enough, black people had been roasted too much and Ethiopians were just about perfect.

White people and colonialism may not have helped, but the usual blame whitey is nothing more but the usual oversimplification and usual blame game.In short, for black women light skin is a big deal, especially if white people dare comment Beyoncé looks pretty white/bleached.

Cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation is nothing but a rather meaningless buzz word. The term is currently used as an excuse by insecure black women to tell white women not to do certain things considered black. David Beckham was not culturally appropriating cornrows, Kylie Jenner was. Eminem and Macklemore for example are not considered to culturally appropriate rap music, officially because "they rap from their own perspective". Unofficially I can tell you it is because black men aren't all that insecure. Iggy Azalea is culturally appropriating rap and Kylie Jenner is culturally appropriating cornrows because black women are insecure and fear white competitors for both music and men. Nothing more than that. Really.

When white people and saner black people (mostly men) will argue that wearing weaves, straightening hair or wearing blond extensions could also be considered "cultural appropriation", you will start to see a lot of bullshit excuses from black women. The usual excuses are:

  1. When black women do it, it is "cultural assimilation". This is again nothing but a meaningless term. The difference according to their concocted, twisted logic, is that black people are not the majority so they can't "appropriate". If you look however in any dictionary for the definition of appropriation, you will not see any mention of the words majority or minority. Hence it is quite clear that this is but a word game and pure hypocrisy, double standards.
  2. When black women do it, they don't claim that style as their own. It is claimed that when white people do cornrows for example, they "claim it as their own", "claim they invented it" or "claim it as something new". The first two are arguments not supported by any evidence. The third argument has a small amount of merit, sometimes it has occurred that some fashion magazine has mentioned cornrows as a new trend. This ignores that in those specific cases, it was neither claimed white people own it, invented it and that for white people specifically, it would be a new trend.
  3. White people do it too. Sure, you can find white women wearing extensions in order to make their own, natural hair, appear longer. It is indistinguishable from their own hair if well done. Sure, you can find white women dyeing their hair blond or red. Blond however is a color specific to white people (no, sun bleached aboriginal hair doesn't count), so for black people this is an unnatural color.
What can we learn from all this? That black women are very insecure, especially about their hair, and that there are many color struck black women, and ofcourse all of this is white people's fault. As always.

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