You’ve probably, at some time in your life, considered showing up to a fancy dress party as a Red Indian–or, as we’re obliged to call them these days, a “Native American.” You probably didn’t then consider the delicate racial politics of your costume choice, innocently believing that dressing up was the sort of perfectly normal, morally neutral thing you do on, say, Halloween.
But it might be time to start worrying, if the fuss around Ellie Goulding this morning is anything to go by. Ms Goulding, for those readers whose tastes are wisely confined to crackly vinyl pressings of late Beethoven string quartets, is a British singer best known for performing a cover of “Your Song” at Wills & Kate’s wedding reception.
She’s otherwise strikingly inoffensive: the sort of nice home counties girl every mother hopes her son will bring home. But, today, Goulding is the latest victim of the faux-left’s ridiculous war on what they call “appropriation”–that is, homages in fashion, art or music to earlier cultures. Since appearing in a Red Indian headdress, Goulding has been the subject of furious tweets from well-meaning morons telling her that donning such a costume is “no better than blackface.”
Well. It’s hard to overestimate how stupid the doctrine of racial and cultural appropriation is, because for one thing it’s how all art works: by riffing on, remixing, reinterpreting, reviving and re-sharing influences from the past. I almost don’t need to make this point, it’s so obvious, but here are a few questions for the idiots penning furious editorials at places such as Salon and Slate:
Should the Rolling Stones have been banned, because their music was so heavily influenced by black blues artists, including Muddy Waters? Should Wagner’s Rienzi be banned from German opera houses for drawing too heavily on Jewish composer Meyerbeer? How would you go about deciding which Mariah Carey songs to ban? (Is she “black enough” to have released that “Loverboy” remix?) And what on earth do we do with Madonna and Lady Gaga?
So desperate are they for things to be cross about, social justice warriors and third-wave feminists are moving in on these sorts of questions, drawing depressingly predictable conclusions. Witness this psychotic screed–published in TIME, no less!–demanding that gay men stop acting like black women and “appropriating female black culture,” whatever that is.
That piece caused uproar–rightly so–among gay men, who asked how the author, a rich girl at a good school, dared to question the “struggle” they had gone through and how they chose to assemble the package of influences that comprise modern gay parlance and culture. Ordinarily, I’d be laughing at a left-on-left bloodbath like this: there’s nothing more entertaining than the Oppression Olympics.
But when a nice, innocent, sweet and talented girl from Herefordshire is being abused by vicious third-wave harpies with axes to grind (none of whom, of course, has experienced an iota of oppression or suffering themselves, of course), it’s perhaps time to ask why we’re giving oxygen to malcontents determined to close off avenues of cultural enquiry and shut down free expression, all in the name of bogus offence-taking.
There was a similar fuss in the US recently over the name of a football team in Washington, the Redskins. Led by the odious far-left fascists at Gawker, a campaign was staged in the media to change this “offensive” name, despite the fact that 79 per cent of Americans polled said the name ought to stay. (Another, later poll by AP said 83 per cent, indicating that frothing in the liberal media had produced the exact opposite effect to the one intended.)
75 per cent of Native Americans had no problem with the name Redskins–as indeed, I am sure, they would have no problem seeing their unique designs sported by pop stars. I mean, isn’t that the point? Isn’t wearing a Red Indian headdress a compliment? That’s not enough for the culture warriors, though, who–even against the wishes of the people supposedly offended–are demanding that Goulding apologise.
The only thing, truthfully, that’s disappointing about Goulding’s ensemble is how pedestrian it looks next to this fabulous get-up from Simon Cowell’s old flame, 80s pop star Sinitta. Goulding’s gone for demure, feathered fantasy… when what’s really required for an authentic Native American outfit is comic excess and one those $4.99 dreamcatchers hanging from her back pocket.
Of course, if she’d actually wanted to be offensive, she might have donned the more recognisable modern Native American costume of a fleece jacket, vodka breath, a betting slip and a pair of jeans from Big and Mighty straining under the effects of a Taco Bell paunch. But I digress.