Rachel Tilner- “Eating the other” and Cultural Appropriation

Posted: November 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

Bell Hook’s article “Eating the other” immediately made me think of Miley Cyrus and her new music and image she has as of recently. The singer/actress has received an extreme amount of criticism regarding her uses of cultural appropriation. People are accusing her of “trying to be black” and leading to the exploitation black culture in commercialization.

This is especially evident in her music videos “We Can’t Stop” and “23” where she continuously “twerks”, is wearing grills and is taking part in various things that are traditionally associated with Black culture. Before reading “Eating the Other” I wasn’t a fan of Miley’s transformation but I never saw anything particularly wrong with it in terms of racism. However, after reading the article, I have realized why a lot of people claim that what Miley Cyrus is doing is wrong and that is because she is practicing and reinforcing cultural appropriation. Borrowing dances such as twerking from predominantly Black culture may seem innocent in that it appears to merge Black and White cultures, but instead it could be said that by bringing these “ratchet” and “ghetto” things into mainstream White culture, it has caused these aspects of Black culture to be exploited as they are transitioned into commodities. For example, Forever 21 has recently sold gold necklaces containing the word “ratchet” on it and twerking is a widespread dance now among white culture that is viewed as comedic.

Not to say that it is not okay for cultures to appreciate traditions and styles of other cultures, but once we start borrowing from other historically subordinate cultures and exploiting it, we cross the line from cultural appreciation into cultural appropriation. The idea behind this is that white culture constantly plays around with ideas of experiencing the “other” but the problem with this is the fact that we are able to play around with it (as Miley is doing with African American culture) and discard it just as fast without actually dealing with the realities of the inequalities that these cultures face or have faced in the past, and we ignore the meanings behind a lot of these cultural symbols.


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