Now Reading
My Culture and My Body Are Not Your Trends

My Culture and My Body Are Not Your Trends

We are always the trendsetters, those of us from marginalized communities who grew up and were told that we need to aspire to whiteness to be successful.
And you were told that. I promise. There’s a reason that none of the faces on magazine covers looked like yours, why news anchors never looked liked you, and why our features were never seen as being “enough.”
You can disagree with me, but it’s true. And look at us now. We see white girls in bindis, everyone practices yoga, and your neighbor down the street serves hummus with her meatloaf.  She takes bellydance classes every Saturday, and there’s a “Make a America Great Again” sign in her front yard.

Are we in a beautiful post-race age?  Not even close.

I would love to look beyond race and appropriation, but in order for that to happen someone needs to build a time machine and un-colonize the world. You could say that as human beings, we’ve been colonizing each other from time….but populations colonizing each other is different than ENTIRE COUNTRIES colonizing one another.
Columbus, thanks for ruining the world.
But back to trends…have you realized how everything comes full circle? As a kid, you were made fun of mercilessly for having a different sounding name…and now all those kids are literally competing with each other to find the most unique name for their kid.
“But Eman, maybe everyone is learning to appreciate culture,” you argue.
Nope sorry, too late for that. We bully minority populations that embrace their culture full throttle, and then when they assimilate, decide that we like “ethnic” as long as it’s on us. And the us is–let’s face it–white society.

Because let’s me honest, what’s “ trendy” right now is a black woman’s body, Middle Eastern-inspired makeup and East Indian culture. The catch is that these trends are only admired and appreciated on white bodies.

And when I say “white people” I don’t mean individuals, I mean the structure of the society that we live in that systemically oppresses non-white people.

See Also

People get very sensitive when you question their privilege, but making people comfortable is not my priority when it comes to justice and equality.

All my girls with thick bushy eyebrows, what was growing up like for you? Did you feel pressured to pluck and shape your beautiful brows? I remember as a kid on Eid, my mom wouldn’t let me wear henna to school because she was worried I would be made fun of. I’m East African; henna is a huge part of our culture, and my mother felt like she had to protect me from my identity in order for me to be safe at my all-white school.
Now those same kids that my mother thought she had to protect me from are advertising their henna-tattooing services on instagram.
Corn rows? Same deal. I’m a curly haired girl, and as a child corn-rows were the only way my mother could tame my hair. Kids are always mean, but they’re especially mean if you are different. Now THOSE SAME GIRLS are rocking my third grade hair and calling it Khloe Kardashian inspired braids.
My body is not a trend. My culture is not a trend. I will not pay $20 for coconut oil because white culture has suddenly discovered what my ancestors have been using from time, and let capitalism have their way with it.
We are the trend setters, all of us from marginalized communities. And it’s time that we start accepting our trends, our bodies, and our aesthetic without the approval of the white gaze.

View Comments (13)
  • But- am I wrong if I say that you’re copying them even as they copy you? I totally dig owning your culture and I think it’s so stupid when society thinks they got something new when it’s really from someone else. But you take American culture- the makeup, fashion, whatever. So what’s the diff? I don’t think it’s wrong to wear dreadlocks if you’re white and I don’t think it’s wrong to straighten your hair if you’re black. Where’s the line between cultural appropriation and just rocking a look you like?

    • The difference is for a hundred years Black women have HAD to straighten their hair to get jobs. And dreadlocks are simply a cute look for White people, where it’s a culture and even part of a religion for many Black folks. The difference is for hundreds of years, all of these non white looks and traditions have been unacceptable for non whites if we wanted to move ahead in white worlds that we did not always choose to be part of. And it is now a slap in the face for white people to actually make money appropriating these very cultures and traditions as something cool to do. In other words, it’s starting to look like white people are the only ones who are peacefully allowed to be us.

    • I think this is also the like between Cultural Appropriation (taking the culture of a marginalized community and using for your own gain or self-satisfation) and forced cultural assimilation of marginalized people (in order to get a job, or be taken seriously, one must look, act, talk “white”). Lets say, for instance, your invited to a business party. The invitation says formal attire, let’s say you are an Indian woman, for your family, traditionally, formal attire is a full sari, but if you go to a business party dressed in a full sari, what will people say? or even just going out, or attending normal functions. White society rejects people who choose to display their cultural heritage in dress. Yet white women wear sari’s, and it becomes fashionable and/or trendy. In the end the difference are the power relations behind the clothes. Does this mean white people can never do henna, or wear certain outfits? I’m not so sure, but the its something that people should think about before engaging in these activities.

      • well let me ask you were do I fall. I am not white, I Mexican I like to wear saris even before they became trendy just because I really like them they are beautiful and I have wear them to formal occasions. I have also done it with Native Mexican attire. What is my label per se?
        My question is why do we care so much of what other people say or think of what we wear or look?
        I know it has been said many times and in many different ways so here it is once more until we are not proud and respect our own culture, traditions, food of who we are and really show it to the world, no one is going to respect us. YES I know is a lot easier said than done!

  • We need to be careful when using the word ‘appropriation’. It is perfectly fine to appreciate other cultures and if you are a white person who happens to love the prettiness of henna on your hands, that is absolutely fine! Nobody is saying that is wrong.
    I think the real problem lies with our idea of beauty. When you see a white woman on Instagram with plump lips, fake-tanned skin and thick eyebrows, she looks beautiful – and she does. However, these features which are natural features on brown and black women are not appreciated in the same way. Many white women aspire to have deeply tanned bodies, and go to great lengths to get that, whereas people like me, from Indian descent, who naturally have that skin shade, are not appreciated for our skin tone.
    There have been more than one cases where I have seen a white person fake-tan or lay in the sun for hours to achieve a shade just as dark or even darker than mine, and have been praised for their tan – and that is fine, they do look good. But then I or any of my fellow brown women are categorised differently even though the white woman’s tan is even darker than us. It is hypocritical, in a sense.
    Now don’t get me wrong, this is not applicable to all white women.
    The argument is that all women, all cultures and all races need to be respected for their respective appearances.
    P.S. My argument is based on the fact that on multiple occasions when I was at school I was taunted for being “black” despite the fact that I am Asian Indian and my skin tone is nowhere near as dark as black skin tones. It is this ignorance and hypocrisy which annoys me.

  • This issue is one that is really dear and close to my heart. For one I am from Mexico, what happens to many other cultures I have seen it happen to mine as well. Americans dressing up with with Mexican Native Mexican clothes, the difference is that I never saw that as ‘appropriation’, I was glad they like it, they were comfortable to wear it, that is nice! And please do not tell me that Mexican are not or have not being marginalized from American white society. But now recently I have been on the other side of the coin, I started to learn about India about 10 years ago, not just Bollywood stuff but actual history, culture, food and traditions. I love saris, in my personal opinion they are I think one of the most creative and beautiful way a woman can dress, (yes I do like other place too, including my own country dresses). I made a very conscious effort that if I was going to ever wear one I needed to know what it meant, where it was from (the style) for the sari, anklet, bindi etc. because I knew that people were going to ask and wonder why if I’m not Indian was I wearing that. I see it as an humble homage on my part.
    When I went to Bangladesh to visit a friend the first thing they did was dress me up in a sari, had a lady do henna on my arms and hands and feet. I got to live with an muslim family and I have to say it was probably the most interesting 30 days of my life and I got to see, learn and appreciate Islam so much more.

  • there is nothing more annoying that when white people take what they want out of another person’s culture and make it cool. They want to copy our style but don’t want to deal with our struggles and hardships.

  • All I see is so much hatred towards one another. We are all human, we have all struggled, we have all experienced what it feels like to succeed, fail, judge and be judged. We should be more concerned with sharing our cultural heritage with others to create awareness and appreciation. We should not be holding tight to our cultures as if someone is trying to take our favorite toy away. Stop blaming other cultures or peoples for problems or stealing what isn’t theirs in your eyes. Share and spread the differences. Remember that we are all human.

Leave a Reply

Scroll To Top