Mon point de vue sur la question de « l’appropriation culturelle » dans la mode

Il y a peu, comme c’était Halloween, j’ai vu passer plein d’articles mettant en garde de ne pas pratiquer « l’appropriation culturelle » en se grimant.

Un débat qui fait aussi rage dans le monde de la mode.

Et qui a tendance à m’agacer. C’est vrai quoi, que serait la mode sans l’inspiration culturelle dont elle se nourrit depuis des siècles?

En plus, de manière tout à fait égoïste, je suis particulièrement sensible à l’esthétique des imprimés wax et des bindis fantaisie que j’aimerais bien continuer à porter sans être cataloguée comme une voleuse de culture.

Est ce que je pratique l’appropriation culturelle alors que je pensais seulement m’inspirer? Quelle est la différence? Pourquoi ce sujet, loin d’être nouveau, est-il devenu ultra clivant en 2016?

Depuis que l’homme a fait trois pas hors de sa contrée natale, il s’est inspiré des cultures de voisins proches ou lointains. En France, on se souvient de l’orientalisme du 19e siècle, du style renaissance copié sur les italiens ou, plus près de nous, des sublimes collections mauresques de Saint Laurent. La notion d’appropriation culturelle n’existait pas à l’époque. Mais l’histoire nous ayant prouvé que l’habitude ne légitime rien, ces antécédents n’ont pas valeur de dédouanement.

Avons nous toujours été des voleurs de culture sans vergogne? Inspiration ou appropriation?

Ceux qui s’élèvent contre l’appropriation culturelle critiquent le fait que l’origine de la tendance soit occultée. Que quand Kylie Jenner pose avec ses boxers braids, les médias imputeraient à cette dernière la maternité de cette coiffure (j’allais dire la paternité quand j’ai constaté que ce mot m’énervait)… qui existe depuis toujours dans la communauté africaine.

Je pense que cette accusation est exagérée. Evidemment une grande majorité de la population ne connaît pas l’origine de cette tendance. Ce qui est à peu près toujours le cas! Qui sait d’où vient le denim ou le col victorien? Qui connaît le nom de la couturière qui a lancé la petite robe noire (sauf vous toutes ici)?

Ceux qui savent reconnaîtront les tresses africaines. Ceux qui ne savent pas les découvriront.

Certains les adopteront.

Subsiste une question. Pourquoi diable « les blanches » ont t’elles attendu l’aval d’une Kardashian pour se lancer dans les tressages?

Certainement parce qu’avant elles n’avaient pas eu l’idée de s’approprier un élément d’une culture qui leur semblait trop éloignée de la leur. En voyant une personnalité ou un magazine de mode auquel elles s’identifient reprendre ce code communautaire, elles envisagent de le transposer à leur style de vie. Qui pourrait les en blâmer? En mode, à part certains visionnaires, nous sommes tous suiveurs!

Ce qui me semble plus problématique, c’est que ce certaines parures, perçues comme discriminantes quand elles sont portées par la communauté qui les a créées deviennent par magie hautement stylées quand elle sont portées par la communauté dominante.

Ainsi, dans les sociétés occidentales, par souci d’intégration et/ ou par conformisme à l’idéal de beauté en vigueur, beaucoup de femmes noires délaissent leur afros et autres tressages pour leur préférer lissages agressifs et perruques doucement ondulées.

On comprend leur colère quand la communauté dominante se les approprie pour en faire « le dernier truc à la mode ».

Nottamment quand cette nouvelle mode génère des profits… pour une autre communauté que celle qui l’a créée.

Pourtant, si les marques de luxe et leurs petits soldats de la fast fashion font leur beurre sur des emprunts culturels, le retentissement sur les communautés d’origine se fait sentir. Nombre de petites marques du quartier métissé de Château-rouge connaissent un véritable essor. Peut-être verra t’on dans quelques années émerger des marques de luxe international africaines ou sud-américaines?

Peut-on pour autant tout s’approprier?

Tout est question de d’appréciation. Le sujet du religieux est particulièrement sensible.

Il semble aujourd’hui compliqué de porter le voile comme les musulmanes, juste pour une question de style. Même si nombre de grandes marques de luxe en insèrent dans leurs collections.

 

Alors même que l’on est conscient du tollé que provoquerait cette attitude, on s’autorise à porter des bindis. Est-ce faire insulte à la communauté indienne? Si je ne peux m’exprimer en leur nom, j’ai l’impression que les faux diamants que les starlettes de Coachella se collent sur le front, vagues inspirations des bindis d’origine, ne sont pas blâmables. Seule une copie littérale le serait.

Après tout, la croix catholique, descendue de son piédestal il y a des années pour se retrouver aux oreilles de Madonna et dans les décolletés de Dolce&Gabbana, a perdu son pouvoir subversif.

En résumé, je pense que cette appropriation culturelle prouve que la mode occidentale, à l’image de nos sociétés, se métisse. Et que, bien que le chemin soit chaotique, c’est plutôt une bonne chose.

Qu’en pensez vous?

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24 Responses to “Mon point de vue sur la question de « l’appropriation culturelle » dans la mode”
  1. K Fols dit :

    The problem with cultural appropriation is that non-white people deserve privacy and respect of their culture. As a person of African descent, if I wear my hair in braids, it’s because of the special connection I have with my hair, the symbolism of my culture and the unique texture of my hair. It’s not something I do for fun on the weekends. Non-white people aren’t here for white society’s amusement. It’s very disrespectful. Purchasing a culture item for sale by a non-white person is very different from wearing blackface or braids. And when I look at tv and see Beyoncé wearing a blond wig, but I may not get a job for wearing my natural hair to the interview, there’s something severely wrong with the natural order of the universe. Being a white person is a freedom that I will never know in the currrent global landscape. But I would appreciate if white society left the African culture alone for a few thousand years and enjoy the standard of beauty that has been created for them to enjoy.

    • Aloïs Guinut dit :

      I know I am just a little white french girl. But many things you do for your beauty/style are not because you need to (unique texture of hair), but because you want to (have your hair the color of a unicorn, wear eye liner like a pin up, wear super high heels…). Yes it make more sense that you wear braids because of the unique texture of your hair and symbolism. Yet it does not mean the white girl next door can’t do it just for fun. Beauty is fun. And by braiding her hair, I think she shows admiration of your culture and is absolutely not disrespecting you.
      On the other side, that is complete and unfair discrimination that you may not get a job if your wear your natural hair and unfortunately this still exists.
      Yet, I think that if braids become something common no matter what color, you are, it can help that discrimination against this hairstyle disappears.
      I know I am lucky to be a white person. I also think cultural inspiration is not bad and that if we shall stick with the standards of beauty that were set for us, the world would be very sad.
      I mean, I would not be wearing jeans today because they were meant for american workers!

      • K Fols dit :

        I think it’s ironic that you would use the phrase « lucky to be white » in the comment section for a blog post about cultural appropriation. I’ll reserve any other comments because I could see this going real south, real quick.

  2. CB dit :

    Thank you for this article; I agreed with you on many points and especially that there is no easy single answer! My perspective is that of an American-born person with Asian origins. I do not feel offended when non-Asians wear costumes from my parents’ country (Vietnam). When Asian costumes are worn by others, I feel that it helps my culture become more accepted and more widely appreciated. What offends me is racist behavior, but wearing something because you consider it beautiful, go ahead, why not?!? It is like fashion freedom of expression. Yes, back then these styles would have been made fun of, but that’s even more a good reason to let more people wear them and make those fashions less stigmatized.

  3. Manderley dit :

    Je pense que le terme « appropriation » en ce qui concerne la mode est brutal, clivant et employé a dessein pour créer une polémique inappropriée.

    En effet, la mode n’a jamais cessé d’emprunter à des métiers, à des activités sportives, à des références culturelles:
    – métiers: le jean, le caban, la marinière, le trench, les clarks (desert boots), le duffle coat, le treillis, la veste officier, le spencer…
    – activités sportives: les bottes cavalières, les vestes de chasses, le polo…
    – références culturelles: le kilt (et donc toutes les jupes plissées), l’anorak (et toutes des doudounes ornées de fourrure autour de la capuche), le pull irlandais, les spartiates, les espadrilles, le tissu madras, les jupes/robes dites patineuses en tissu rigide (voir le tableau de Goya l’infante espagnole), l’indigo (culturellement japonais et africain), le paréo (polynésien), la couleur rouge en teinture (voir colonisation du Brésil par les portugais), les collections de Saint Laurent (russe, africaine, la robe Mondrian), la collection de bijoux « Touareg » par Hermès…
    Bref c’est une liste sans fin.
    Autres points:
    – le wax est un tissu hollandais utilisé principalement en Afrique
    – toujours en Afrique, les sapeurs empruntent exclusivement à la mode occidentale

    Pour ma part, je pense que le terme appropriation est plus adapté au pillage d’objets sacrés et d’œuvres d’art patrimoniales par les occidentaux et là encore la liste est sans fin et autrement plus polémique et douloureuse.

    • Aloïs Guinut dit :

      Tout à fait d’accord sur ta réflexion sur le choix du mot!
      Par contre si la wax est fabriquée par les hollandais à la base, les motifs sont clairement africains (j’ai gaffé une fois à chateau-rouge parce que moi non plus je ne savais pas trop qui avait fait quoi et je me suis faite reprendre)

  4. Dérupe dit :

    Bonjour,
    La réflexion est intéressante, je comprends que ça fasse débat. La mode occidentale s’est imposée au monde entier alors que ses éléments « ethniques » sont piqués à ces cultures différentes. Ce que je déplore, c’est que le mouvement vienne toujours de l’occident. Si un grand couturier africain nous imposait du wax (ou nous offrait cette inspiration gracieusement), ça coincerait beaucoup moins.
    La comparaison avec la croix n’est pas si bonne que ça. Encore une fois, les personnes qui ont désacralisé la croix sont issues de la culture chrétienne (et en plus, ça a quand même fait scandale). Comment réagirions-nous si une culture musulmane s’appropriait la croix et la déformerait à volonté ??

    Mis à part cela, je ne commente jamais, mais j’aime beaucoup vos articles d’inspirations. Merci pour ce partage de compétences !

    • Aloïs Guinut dit :

      Le problème est également que les couturiers non occidentaux (hors Japon et Moyen-Orient), ne jouissent pour le moment que d’une publicité très limitée.
      Et n’hésitez pas à commenter. Le travail de blogueuse est solitaire et ça fait tellement plaisir d’avoir des signaux de l’autre côté de l’écran <3

  5. léontine dit :

    Comme toujours Aloïs, je suis tellement mais tellement d’accord avec vous !

  6. vivien_noir dit :

    This is interesting! Good to read a well researched and funded article on this Topic. I admit I couldn’t get behind the reason of all the swivet myself, so it’s good to read about the reasons.

    Is it possible it is also linked to optical stereotypes? Like, african clothing is only recognized as « african », if it has traditional wax print? If it was the often to be seen mix of second Hand Shirts and Pants (with bright Patterns), maybe we wouldn’t draw the conclusion « this is african »?
    For instance, when I see a Girl wearing a Turban-style headband These days, I don’t automatically see her Quote or copy a Turban – it could be a nod to 1920ies headdresses (which themselves Quote Turbans, yes) or – depending on the fabric – could be plain headgear like so many other Hoods and Bonnets?

    Hm… I also get the Feeling People nowadays are super-uber-sensitive to this Topic and feel offended way more easily.
    The debate vaguely reminds me of discussions we had in the Goth community when Dressing « Goth » was on trend way back in the earlier 2000s. While one part was happy to get cheaper, better-made clothes, the other half felt offended and « copied ».

  7. Another thing that occurred to me right now — I think that the whole cultural appropriation debate has a lot to do with white guilt. Guilt about mocking other cultures, about seeing them as savage and less human, about displaying people from those cultures like an exotic animal. All this is still embarrassingly recent. And this is why it is white people that seem to be getting offended about something or other getting appropriated, whereas the people from those other cultures generally shrug and go on with their life.

  8. I remember browsing through an native American forum and reading their opinions about cultural appropriation. It was really interesting to see that apart from obvious no-nos (feather headdresses and other religious items), they talked about how buying their handmade products supported their communities. For example moccasins — the native Americans on the forum felt that everyone is welcome to wear them, as long as they are buying ones made by actual native American people and not products made in China. As native American communities tend to be heavily economically disadvantaged, so it is a positive thing if they can support themselves while practicing their traditional handwork.

    When I was in Peru I saw the indigenous people living on the floating islands of the Titicaca lake. If it were not for tourism, they would be forced to leave their islands to live in one of the neighbouring cities. However the money from tourists enabled them to maintain their traditional lifestyle. They made and sold beautiful products including shawls and jewelry, items that were traditional but not religious. So my point is that when I bought directly from them, they were able to control what part of their culture they shared with tourists like me. When I buy « exotic » products from stand of cultural festivals, the sellers are usually eager to talk about the items and tell me about them, how they should be used, etc. A stand in an event like that from an actual Hindu Indian will carry fashion bindis, pretty fabrics, jewelry, they will happily make a henna tattoo on your hands and tell you how to properly drape a saree; and they will not sell items that have a religious significance like the Mangalsutra or Puja items or rudraksha beads. Mabe they have some of those at the back for actual expat Indians who need to stock up on Puja items, but they won’t sell it to tourists.

  9. Anita dit :

    A few years ago there was a media uproar about an American football team named the Fighting Sioux (after a Native American tribe). The media said it was « offensive » to the Native American communities, especially that particular tribe. In my college class, one student actually belonged to the Sioux tribe, and my teacher asked for his opinion. He said it was flattering that the team was named after him and he didn’t want it changed, neither did many of his friends of the tribe.
    I am of Irish heritage, and the fact that almost all of American celebrates or acknowledges St. Patrick’s day makes me even more proud of my Irish ancestors. They may have been « white Europeans », but they were a highly persecuted group of people 🙁
    I think Onkuri was spot on. I’ve dressed up as from another culture or age, but the intent is never disrespectful, it’s awe and wonder at the differences in cultures and civilizations, traditions and history. I don’t believe quoting fashion is mockery.
    However, I disagree with Allison. I don’t believe it is appropriate to use sacred symbols as fashion for ANY group. I would think it highly disrespectful of a Quran used as a household decoration (for a non Muslim) as I would to see a tabernacle of my own faith used as a bread box. Doesn’t matter how « powerful » or not the group is.

    • Allison dit :

      I agree using sacred symbols irreverently is problematic no matter what. But I would never say never because art often pushes boundaries that we feel are taboo and I’m not into censorship either. There is no easy single answer. I was trying to explain in short form the perspective of the article I linked to, not stating my own opinion. It is a complex topic and it can be hard to find the line of reason. As mentioned it can also be paternalistic to decide something is offensive without the persons in question saying for themselves that they feel that way. Overall,  » use your best judgement and try something else if you have doubts » is always a good approach.

  10. Onkuri dit :

    I think a large feeling proportion of the hurt caused by cultural appropriation in dress is if the ‘appropriatee’ feels they are (or have been) oppressed. And that feeling disappears with confidence in their culture.

    In India, we still wear our Indian traditional clothes a lot, and very proudly. Of course, these have changed over the centuries, with the influence of trade, conquest, migration, etc, but whatever form they are in today, they are worn with pride and even combined with western clothes.

    So if we see a foreigner walking around in Indian clothes, everyone typically appreciates the fact that s/he tried to blend in — no one is going to be offended, or think that the tourist is trying to caricature Indians. Even if the woman is wearing a bindi, no one would mind, because they bindi itself has no connotations and is just for decoration. Now if a foreigner were wearing particular caste marks (like those worn by orthodox Brahmins), or if a foreign woman had vermillion in her hair parting (meaning she is married), people would definitely jump to conclusions — that they have converted to Hinduism or that the woman is married to an Indian man. These are not negative conclusions, but just that they actually do have particular meanings unlike bindis and mehendi on the hands which are both just decoration.

    Of course, some tourists are blithely unaware of local nuances. Like, they will buy very blingy clothes from cheap tourist areas, and then think they are ‘dressing Indian’, and not notice that no Indian person is wearing clothes like that. Or a man wearing a kurta which is obviously cut and shaped for a woman. Or a woman displaying too much of a regular blouse instead of covering most of it with her sari (that would be equivalent to flashing granny panties, because blouses which are meant to be displayed are usually cut daringly and embellished — unlike regular blouses). Things like that.

    And yes, it is difficult to land in the middle of a new culture and catch all its fashion nuances, so when we see tourists doing things like that, most people are not offended; they just think « Crazy tourist!! »

    • Aloïs Guinut dit :

      This is very interesting Onkuri, I did not know bindis were only decorative.
      I also think your quote  » I think a large feeling proportion of the hurt caused by cultural appropriation in dress is if the ‘appropriatee’ feels they are (or have been) oppressed. And that feeling disappears with confidence in their culture. » is so very true!

  11. Allison dit :

    http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2016/03/olivia-munn-threat-of-the-fake-geeks/

    This article had one of the best explanations of cultural appropriation that I have seen. It is about talking about « geek culture » at first but don’t be sidetracked because it discusses the concept in general really clearly. It was the article that made me « get » it.

    My main take away message is that the problem stems when a group in power (usually white and western) use culturally specific symbols (often that have significant meaning within the culture) from a less powerful group as exotic decoration for their own enjoyment but with no real connection (or remuneration) to the origin culture. It is an exploitative action even when done more passively as a consumer. Using sacred symbols as cute fashion inspiration from a marginalised group is very different than doing so to an extremely powerful one (e.g. Catholic church). Inspiration vs exploitation is a fine line when the cultural power divide is also at play.

    • Aloïs Guinut dit :

      True. But I also think people in media are overreacting to some situations. Vanessa Huydgens has been criticized for wearing bindis (that do not even look like the ones indian women wear)… but if you read Onkuri’s comment, you’ll see that, as an indian woman, she is ok with the fact that western women wear bindis and also quotes that they are just decoration. I think some of this « scandals » of cultural appropriation are created not by the community itself but by what you call the « group of power ». It is also a sort of cultural appropriation to speak for others and make conclusion about what they shall be oppressed about.
      As Onkuri says, when the group becomes confident enough, the oppression in the appropriation disappears.
      Maybe we, western, see other culture than ours less strong than they are.

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