argument top image

What is cultural appropriation?
Back to question

Borrowing from other cultures is not cultural appropriation

Western fashion and art have always been influenced by minority cultures and designs. Why is it suddenly such an issue?


The blending of cultures is something that has happened since the beginning of the human race. Now, just because we have a term like “cultural appropriation” people see it as a problem and something offensive.

The Argument

Adopting and borrowing from other cultures can lead to greater understanding and appreciation for other cultures. Educating yourself and adopting parts of another’s culture can allow people to learn more about other cultures and grow an appreciation for it. Fashion and art can be an opportunity for learning and embracing new cultures and many fashion designers travel in order to find new inspiration. Globalization makes the borrowing of other cultures inevitable. The speed and volume of information people come into contact with online or in-person is insurmountable. It is difficult to navigate the different histories, traditions, and beliefs behind numerous cultural symbols we see every day. Cathy Young notes several examples of cultural borrowings that have breathed new life into their own cultures in her article, "To the New Cultural Cops, Everything is Appropriation:" "The medieval Japanese absorbed major elements of Chinese and Korean civilizations, while the cultural practices of modern-day Japan include such Western borrowings as a secularized and reinvented Christmas. Russian culture with its Slavic roots is also the product of Greek, Nordic, Tatar and Mongol influences — and the rapid Westernization of the elites in the 18th century." Borrowing fashion and art from other cultures is inspirational and educational, not politically incorrect.

Counter arguments

Cultural exchanges are consensual. They usually occur because one culture has consensually shared aspects of their culture with another and representatives from both cultures have a role in creating the final product. However, cultural appropriation is not consensual, and usually ill-informed. For example, when Katy Perry dressed as a Japanese geisha for a Japanese-themed performance, despite having Japanese backup dancers on stage, the outfit wasn’t even from Japan and incorporated none of the traditional elements of Japanese attire. As such, the exchange was clearly non-consensual, and she was carelessly exploiting elements of Japanese culture. [1] The presence of consent is what makes cultural appropriation distinct from cultural exchange. One is acceptable, one is not. One enriches society, one damages it and alienates minorities.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Friday, 2 Oct 2020 at 12:36 UTC

Explore related arguments