Gwen Stefani’s latest comments about cultural appropriation only make things worse

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 26: Gwen Stefani attends the 2022 Matrix Awards Gala at the Ziegfeld Ballroom on October 26, 2022 in New York City.  (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

newly, Lure Gwen Stefani was interviewed by journalist Jesa Marie Calaor regarding her latest fragrance line, GXVE. Given that Calore is a first-generation Filipino-American, she felt compelled to ask Stephanie about her previous Harajuku line, which she described like this:

The fragrance collection included five fragrances and each was in a bottle shaped like a cartoonish doll to look like Stefani and four “Harajuku girls”, the Japanese and Japanese-American dancers she hired and named Love, Angel, Music and Baby. promoting her album. The fragrances have gained industry recognition, winning The Fragrance Foundation’s Fragrance of the Year award in 2009, and have spawned generations of fragrances. magazines (Lure included) covered them extensively. Meanwhile, I, a first-generation Filipino-American teen in New Jersey, starving for Asian representation in pop culture, begged my mom for the “Love” fragrance. She would continually say no, always referring to her price: $45 for an ounce of perfume at Macy’s.

Jessa Marie Calor, Lure

This was an experience I had myself, except that I was put off buying the figurines because “I felt like I had to.” Then they would sit on my shelf, staring blankly at me, and I would look back feeling uncomfortable for reasons I didn’t understand at the time.

Eventually, Reasons would become the dead cat I was swinging around in my adult years: The Harajuku line—named after the Harajuku district of Shibuya in Tokyo, Japan—was another example of a non-Asian appropriating Asian culture because Asian shit is “trendy.” At best, this kind of thing always made me feel very uncomfortable. At worst, it is completely inhumane. While I may not be Japanese, East Asian cultures often come together, in part because of the studied history of postwar concessions made to Western powers in order to reduce their reconstruction efforts.

In particular, Japan has already begun to redouble its efforts to rebuild its cultural power, with the great end goal of improving relations with Western countries. As a result, it has become very natural for Japanese pop culture to be spoon-fed to other countries with very little thought behind it. This extends to the people themselves, too; Asian women are at increased risk of experiencing sexual violence due to ideas surrounding accessibility, while Asian men are largely polished by idol culture.

All this to say, it only makes sense that Stephanie would go on to say this:

“…that was a culture that was very rich in traditions, yet very futuristic [with] Lots of attention to art, detail, discipline and it was just amazing to me,” she says, explaining how her father (who is Italian American) would come back with stories of street performers dressed up in fancy dress as Elvis and elegant women with colored hair. Then, as an adult, she was able to travel to Harajuku to see them for herself. I said, “Oh my God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t know that.” As those words seemed to hang in the air between us, she continued, “I am, you know.” She then explained that there was an “innocence” to her relationship with Japanese culture, referring to herself on She is a Big Fan.

“if [people are] I’m going to criticize me for liking something nice and sharing that, and then I think it’s not okay,” she tells me. “I think it was a beautiful time to be creative…a ping-pong match between Harajuku culture and American culture.” She further explained: “[It] It must be nice to be an inspiration to other cultures because if we’re not allowed, that divides people, right? ”

calor, Lure

That last sentence is a sentiment I often see expressed, and it makes me boil. It’s an undermining tactic to get people to shut up, without making any effort to hear what other people have to say. Because it’s not like we don’t want Stephanie or her consumers to have fun – by all means, go to Harajuku and feel the artistic inspiration, let her influence your art, do all of that and then some. There is a lot of beauty in Japanese culture that deserves appreciation, and the world is a big, beautiful place to explore.

But then you turn around and pretend you are bit To culture yourself, because just because you enjoy something and feel connected to it, you can claim control over it? Make money from it? My God, how spoiled are you? How do naive Are you? Was your family denied compensation? years Because of systemic racism?

what No Dividing people is if each person could only learn on modern systems of racism and understand that, while race does not define a person, it is a measure by which a person is born and experiences the world. Appreciating the culture of someone of another race simply means appreciating it with respect and humility. These things are great. to suitable is to consume and embody it, like a voracious alien, and then act as if it was always intended to take it.

when NME Covered on this topic in 2021, it included Stephanie’s response to criticisms made by Margaret Chu:

When comedian Margaret Cho criticized Stephanie’s dancers, comparing them to a brilliant show, she responded, “If we didn’t buy, sell, and trade our cultures, we wouldn’t have so much beauty, you know?”

“We learn from each other, we share from each other, we grow from each other. And all those rules divide us more and more… I think we grew up in a time when we didn’t have a lot of rules. We didn’t have to follow a narrative that was edited out for us through social media.” We had more freedom.”

Ryan Daly NME

And that just explains a lot. Cultures of “buying and selling”…thinking of it this way completely reframes how those in power support these systems of oppression. They do not see culture as an integral part of a people that needs to be honored and respected. They see it as a commodity, a by-product of capitalism, to be consumed and repurposed for their temporary needs. You can share cultures without having to exploit them for a quick buck.

In the end, I don’t think people like Stephanie will really understand the impact of the things they say. So, trying to convince them otherwise is like trying to teach an old dog not to pee on the carpet. Instead, what we can do is talk about it among ourselves and try to do something about the system itself. These people will always be critical and cry like little babies about how “social media” is the thing that makes the world worse, but the world really needed a spring cleaning. And now, we have tools to do that — hence the fact that we’re having these conversations at all.

I’ll close with this: Calor, your article was great, and I’m sorry you had to have that conversation. If it makes you feel any better, I was at a party where a guy tried to take me home by telling me he “followed the Bushido Code” in his daily life – meaning his love of, uh…a very loose understanding of Japanese history…make His game is better. And that I, a Chinese, would be in for it.

Yeah, that shit is all over the place. But fortunately, it can’t be beat.

(Featured photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

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