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June 17, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Refinery29: Houston Says Culturally Inappropriate Fashion Is Theft

Dr. Akil Houston, Assistant Professor of Cultural and Media Studies in the Department of African American Studies at Ohio University, was quoted in a Refinery29 post on “The Fashion Mistakes You Need to Avoid.”

From Pharrell wearing a headdress on the cover of ELLE, to Sky Ferreira’s Girlz In The Hood music video, to the festival season’s explosion of starlets in bindis and other questionable garb, it’s clear that culturally inappropriate fashion isn’t going away anytime soon.

But, it’s also clear there’s a major disconnect between those who call out appropriation, and those who actually do it. To some, slapping a bindi on their forehead might seem like a no-big-deal fashion statement — or, like they’re paying tribute to a culture they admire. To others, a non-Hindu person in a bindi represents an arrogant disrespect of a culture to which they have no claim. Clearly, we’re not hearing each other here.

To find some understanding between the social-justice crowd and the hipsters-in-headdresses brigade, we spoke with experts for their take on what’s okay, what’s just not, and how we can all do better. Turns out, there’s a thin line between appropriating and appreciating, and the key to not being a jerk when you’re getting dressed is knowing the difference….

Akil Houston, PhD., professor at Ohio University, offers an even more plain-spoken definition: “It is the use of another culture or cultural symbols to support or justify one’s need for self-expression or sense of freedom. Quite simply, it is theft.”

Read the entire article at Refinery29.

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