Pharrell Williams is ‘genuinely sorry’ about his ‘Native American’ Elle UK shoot

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Pharrell Williams’ ELLE UK cover and cover shoot was widely criticized as offensive cultural appropriation. As it should have been. Although now that we’re a few days removed from it, I am wondering how much of it was Pharrell’s idea. I mean, yes, at the end of the day he agreed to wear the Native American headpiece. But I kind of wonder why there was no one on Elle UK’s editorial staff, or any stylist, or any photographer who stopped and said, “Wait a second, this probably wasn’t the best concept.” I’m just saying – you can be mad at Pharrell AND you can be mad at Elle UK. Meanwhile, Pharrell did offer these simple two-sentence apology:

“I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture,” Pharrell says. “I am genuinely sorry.”

[From Buzzfeed]

That’s it. That’s all he gave by way of explanation. Do you prefer this kind of “genuine,” straight-forward apology or do you prefer the long-winded explanations of why a celebrity did a bad thing? I kind of like Pharrell’s minimalist apology, and I like that he offered an apology too. He could have easily gone silent and waited for the controversy to blow over. But I think he actually is sorry.

Meanwhile, Pharrell appeared on the Today Show yesterday. He’s rocking a new hat. And apparently he has it in his rider that his dressing room always needs to have a photo of Carl Sagan.

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Photos courtesy of WENN, Elle UK.

 

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118 Responses to “Pharrell Williams is ‘genuinely sorry’ about his ‘Native American’ Elle UK shoot”

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  1. Kiddo says:

    Unequivocally apologetic is good and rare.

  2. break says:

    I love the new hat.
    I want one!
    (also, the magazine should apologize. they have editorial teams, and nobody caught this?)

  3. birdie says:

    I like the genuine, short apologies and not Jonah Hill’s tour of the sorry.

  4. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I like Pharrell and see nothing wrong with his apology. I just don’t understand how anyone at this point could have been unaware that this shoot would be considered disrespectful and cultural appropriation. Similar acts have been in the news almost constantly this year, so… Why?

    • Erinn says:

      THIS.
      I think he gets a bit more of a pass than some people would because he just seems so likable. But at the same time, how long can we use the ‘oh they didn’t know it was offensive’ excuse.

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        I agree but I can also see Pharrell being in the stylists’ studio at Elle, the stylist coming out with a headdress and Pharrell just going along with it. He seems like a chill guy.

        Rereading that ^^ it DOES sounds like I’m making excuses, but I honestly put the responsibility more on Elle than Pharrell. I know that he’s a big enough star that he could have said no and he should have said no, but he really does strike me as a mellow fellow, not one to make waves…

    • AryaMartell says:

      I see what you are saying and I am not excusing Pharrell but consider this: You are on a plane ride to London, you’re on a private plane where you can rest, sure, but still traveling to London to begin a press tour. You just finished a press tour and interview in North America last night where you were in NYC going from interview to interview from 6am-10pm and doing the same thing in Toronto for the Canadians the day before and then you immediately hop on a plane. You get to London do 2 interviews and now have a photo shoot interview. The people in the photo shoot say “here put this headpiece on,” you may not be 100% comfortable wearing it fearing it’s culturally insensitive but you have 2 hours with these people plus you don’t want to be labeled as “difficult,” it’s bad press. So you wear it…

      Now is that Pharrell’s schedule? Eh, could be. But you get the idea. Am I excusing Pharrell? No. But I recognize that he made a mistake. I figure everyone gets one mistake like this/one slur Jonah Hill style and genuine sounding apology.If it happens a 2nd time I won’t be forgiving. Celebrities are human beings and make stupid mistakes like the rest of us. The world changes at break-neck speed and sometimes it is hard to say what will offend people and what won’t these days. Pharell’s apology will be genuine if it doesn’t happpen again.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Yes, to you and OKitten, I certainly blame the magazine as much or more for the concept and he did apologize. I just don’t see how anyone could “not know,” but maybe my perception is warped because we talk about it so much on here.

    • lunchcoma says:

      We’ve found out that a long list of celebrities don’t know the meaning of common words like “feminism.” Cultural appropriation is a much newer concept and one that’s discussed far less often. I’ve run into well-educated and well-informed people who don’t understand it at all. If you want examples, read the comments related to this issue. Celebitchy has a pretty savvy, articulate bunch of commenters compared to most other internet sites (including a lot of ones focused on more serious topics), and there are a lot of people even here who don’t get it.

      I’m guessing Pharrell has never thought much about Native American issues, is used to showing up to photoshoots and putting on whatever he’s provided, and participated in this process without thinking about cultural appropriation for even a second. That doesn’t mean it’s okay or that he shouldn’t apologize! If you hurt someone, even out of ignorance, it’s still the right thing to do.

    • kri says:

      Excellent point, @GoodNames. When this came out the other day, my first thought was” what a great portatrit pic”. When I came here and saw that people were upset, I wanted to know what happened, so I ASKED. I think this is the key to good communication and respect-if you don’t know something-ask!! A couple of lovely posters explained that this is a sacred piece worn for ceremonial purposes. I appreciated their kindness in answering me. Maybe he should have asked..but all that said, I don’t think he set out to deliberately piss people off. I hope not , anyway.

  5. Ollyholly says:

    It’s not an excuse, but this is a UK mag- they don’t have nearly as much awareness of the racial background of Native Americans, they really think of it as a cool costume.

    I live in London and work for a fashion mag (not this one!) and using Native American accessories is just really seen as a trend, no English person or even European person at work would ever even think twice of this sort of thing. I only know better because I am American so I am aware…

    • Maria says:

      I doubt they would care given a European magazine recently had a white woman in tribal African clothing including the darkening of her skin….

      Europeans like to pretend to be free of racial insensitivity but they’re not (NOTE: this obviously doesn’t apply to every European as appropriation doesn’t apply to every American).

    • jinni says:

      I don’t see why it being a UK mag would make them ignorant about NA culture seeing as their nation was one of the European countries that colonized and jacked up the NA peoples of the Americas. Don’t the English learn about their part in the creation of America ?

      • Meow Moo Bzzz says:

        You know, if we were all guilty of the sins of our forefathers than I hope that as an Italian I won’t have to grovel and base my actions on behalf of the Romans who enslaved and/or conquered most of Europe and North Africa.

        Neither Pharell nor this photographer were set out to offend anyone and he apologized if anyone was offended and reaffirmed his love for everyone.

    • Sarah says:

      I am in the uk and I know very well that it would be inappropriate. I just don’t think the fashion industry is very respectful and /or educated. Katy perry had the Japanese incident and I am pretty sure it’s not katy perry or pharrell that comes up with theses ideas, it’s the stylists and so on.What surprised me was that pharrell is not better educated, I didn’t expect it from Katy or Miley but I actually thought this guy was a bit more clued up.

      • Agreed. The fashion industry is sometimes guilty of not taking a step back and thinking it through when they get on a concept. Elle really should have known better. Seriously, that is a major fail.

        Even when taken as just a fashion concept, it’s pretty weak, the headdress. Wouldn’t you, the fashion follower, rather see something that was “inspired by” rather than an appropriation of something? As the good people of project runway would say (love you Tim Gunn) this is way too literal an interpretation, never mind the utter inappropriateness of It.

    • Ollyholly says:

      Well, I’m just talking from my experience. My boyfriend is English, went to a really posh grammar school, and he doesn’t really “get” why this would be offensive. From what he has told me about his schooling though, I feel like he didn’t learn that much about America- they focused much more on England and Europe.

      As for fashion, it’s mostly just that in the industry it is seen as a good thing to push the boundaries, do different things, so even if people get offended, it doesn’t matter to the magazine- all that matters is that it looks good stylistically, or that it is pushing some sort of boundary, etc.

      If people get offended it kind of justifies it… The only time a fashion mag would take this kind of reaction seriously is if advertising started pulling out, but otherwise they really don’t care.

      • Anthea says:

        You’re right about British schools lacking education in American history.

      • I dare say it’s not going to get any better any time soon. They just yanked Classic American lit from the GCSE exams. No more To Kill A Mockingbird for British high schoolers. Speaking of getting the race relations thing wrong. Literary ethnic cleansing. Not cool.

      • LAK says:

        Highland Fashionista: I agree with american literature being removed from the curriculum in favour of BRITISH literature which had been removed or downgraded in the curriculum.

        What is the point of having a great national literary tradition if the locals are taught about foreign literary traditions instead.

        It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn about the rest of the world, but let’s learn BRITISH literature first as that is OUR tradition.

    • bob says:

      I think it’s a case of depth; I don’t know about American schooling but along with stuff like the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Middle East, two world wars, there’s about four thousand years of history to cover in the British Isles alone so the nuances can be lost.

      I can see why some people in the UK wouldn’t think this is wrong because Native American imagery has always been seen as cool, unlike blackface which clearly has a history of alienation and otherness.

  6. Andrea says:

    I appreciate his apology. However, lost in all of this is the possibility that he does have some Native blood in him. But maybe I’m just over thinking this.

  7. Dani2 says:

    Glad he apologised, and I think it was a pretty sincere one too.

    • MrsBPitt says:

      Tlhis is all bullshit!!!! In this day and age, HE KNEW THIS WOULD BE CONTROVERSIAL and would get him lots of publicity…I am not accepting anymore apologies (not that anyone care what I think) for these stupid asses doing the wrong thing and fake apologizing….ITS ALL ABOUT PUBLICITY….who would have even cared that he was on the cover of this magazine???? I’m done with these ignaorant fools who do these things for publicity and then apologize…DONE!

    • Patty Cake says:

      I think both Pharell and Jonah Hill’s apologyies were sincere. Tbh, I didn’t know about the offence of wearing the headband, but I did know about the offence of the Atlanta Braves using the Tomohawk ( I hope I wrote that right). This can be viewed as a teachable moment, if you will, about the need for others to learn and respect the culture of another. Honestly, I’m pretty embarrassed that I didn’t know given that my grand father was a full blooded Cherokee Native American.

  8. GiGi says:

    I like his apology. It’s enough and isn’t over the top.

  9. Frenchie says:

    Who would say his canadian guard hat is as much offensive as this ?? well nobody, we are on an american-based blog of course !
    Do you need to be 100% american-indian to wear the head piece ?
    So I can’t wear a beret since I have 1/8th Italian in me ??
    What I mean is that this picture seems totally respectfull to me, it’s not like he is greeming of any sort related to that culture he is wearing the frocks off. (like being dressed as a chinese man AND making chinese eyes, which I find offensive )
    Be cool, people.

    • notleo says:

      Frenchie, you may want to read the whole article before spewing stupid posts such as the on you just wrote. Before commenting on and saying the same old “picture seemed totally respectful to me” you may want to read the previous thread on this and find out why I find this comment so pathetic. Also, the whole beret comparison is not even logical. Do the French hold a beret to be sacred in their society? Did you have to do good works and earn every single thread in that beret? Right, I didn’t think so. So the comparison between a beret and Indigenous headdress is like an apple to oranges comparison.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Thank you. Every time this comes up, there’s a small group of people who make this same lame argument – so I can’t wear cowboy hat because I’m not a cowboy? It’s so exasperating.

      • shannon says:

        Christians hold the cross sacred as well, but it didn’t keep Madonna and several other celebrities from taking it as a stylish, meaningless accessory. And so what? Just because *you* hold something sacred doesn’t obligate the rest of the world to hold it sacred, that’s the nature of living in a diverse world full of people with different ideas and beliefs. If feeling offended over a magazine cover is your biggest problem in life, all I can say is #firstworldproblems, be grateful.

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        Shannon– Madonna was RAISED Catholic, so obviously the cross is not “meaningless” to her.
        A cross is something ANYONE can wear. ANYONE.
        Hell, you can buy a plastic cross in a Dollar Store.

        Cultural dress is usually designed for a SPECIFIC person. It is meant to honor that person and his/her achievements or standing in that cultural society.
        It’s also worth noting that there is usually ritual, tradition, and reverence involved in the making of the garment.

        Man I am SO sick of this shit.

        “Oh, like, sorry you had to hike through 5 miles of rocky terrain and then climb a mountain to get a particular berry to make a specific dye for a garment to be worn by a spiritual leader in your tribe and all that, BUT I DESERVE TO WEAR THAT SHIT. MINE MINE MINE!!!!”

    • GiGi says:

      No, you don’t have to be any degree of Native American to wear that headdress, but you do have to earn it. The feathers are very symbolic and are only awarded. One doesn’t just pick up a feather and put it in their hair. This is not simply a hat.

    • Dani2 says:

      @Frenchie Read the comments from the first post, or have a look around the internet as to why wearing a Native American headdress is not the same thing as wearing a beret. I know that a lot of people think that the people on here are cry babies, OTT, overly sensitive but if you’d actually try to understand the reasons behind the offense, you’d see that it’s not just a bunch of whiney sjws.

    • sputnik says:

      not the same thing. a native american war bonnet is not a hat. it’s not a random piece of clothing. it has significant meaning to native americans and in fact can only be worn by honoured members of tribes, so not even 100% “american indians” can wear them. to take a highly symbolic item from a group that were almost erased from existence and wear it as a fashion item is insensitive and gross at best.

      • Godwina says:

        Exactly. Last time I checked, the French were doing fine.

        If you want to “appropriate,” for pity’s sake do it from a dominant culture, not a traditionally oppressed and marginalized one. The fact this is still lost on people can be nothing more than willful ignorance in this day and age.

      • Amy Tennant says:

        This is true. My old boss is 100% Native American, born and raised on a reservation. One time a group of my coworkers wanted to dress up like the Village People and he explained to them that he would be very willing to be “the Indian” but could not wear the bonnet because he hadn’t earned it.

    • Erinn says:

      Canadian weighing in here – That’s not a mountie hat. It’s shaped differently. It has aspects that are similar, but he’s not ACTUALLY wearing a mountie hat.
      Mountie Hat:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/Mountie_in_Banff,_Alberta.JPG
      Pharrell’s Hat: http://www.billboard.com/files/styles/promo_650/public/media/pharrell-grammy-2014-650a.jpg

      Big difference, here.

  10. Rosalee says:

    Frenchie, I am considered 100% Aishinaabe and would never have the audacity to don a headdress it is a matter of knowing and if you don’t know don’t do it simple kindergarten logic. Yes, headdresses are beautiful, but are significant to our culture and history. I would never wear my father in law’s WW2 medals and today is D-day. #notyourmascot #notyourtigerlilly the education system is woefully limited in teaching the history of the first peoples – the different groups- the languages and our culture and traditions.

  11. Meandyou says:

    I am starting to think that all these celebrities do controversial things on purpose to get publicity. They can swiftly apologize generating additional buzz and everyone gets over it. Apologies accepted. What do they have to lose if they properly apologize? Nothing. It’s a neat PR ploy. I mean, I could see lack of awareness after the first pr second incident, but after the 100?

  12. Rhiley says:

    I think Pharrell is one of the most beautiful human beings on the planet. It was a dumb move to wear the headpiece, but I do believe he has respects for people from all races, cultures, and creeds. There is so much racism in pop music: John Mayer, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, to name a few, but I really don’t get that vibe from Pharrell.

  13. L says:

    I said this the other day on the original post but the idea came from the editorial staff/stylist. According to Elle magazine when they released the cover “We persuaded ELLE Style Award winner Pharrell to trade his Vivienne Westwood mountie hat for a native American feather headdress in his best ever shoot.” They’ve since taken that promo copy down.

    • Godwina says:

      Yeah. As a white Canadian, I would argue donning the RCMP gear would have been way less offensive than donning an Aboriginal war bonnet for a fashion shoot (except perhaps to a few RCMP officers, and as a Canadian I frankly couldn’t care less about that–another story, though). Apart from that unfortunate incident yesterday in Moncton, the Mounties haven’t exactly been trampled on, historically. In fact, they’re typically the tramplers. They can take it.

      • Mia4S says:

        @Godwina, as a fellow Canadian do me a favour…shut up. These officers have not even been buried yet and you make comments like this? I’ll take 100000 RCMP officers over the likes of you.

        As for Pharrell, it shows again, the message about wearing these things is not getting through. 90% of the outrage was on the Internet. In those cases, the world only sort of cares. He was wrong, the magazine was wrong, and Internet activism is only mildly effective.

      • Erinn says:

        FFS – another Canadian here – it’s not even a mountie hat. Have you SEEN a mountie hat? It’s not what Pharrell is wearing. And “Apart from that unfortunate incident yesterday ” really? REALLY? You’re using that to make a point? These poor men’s identities have JUST been released and you’re already using them to make a point about a celebrity being offensive.

        Completely baffled.

  14. Adrien says:

    Mag eds intentionally do these offensive, culturally insensitive pictorials to gain publicity. They are not that ignorant. I’m disappointed at Pharell who I believe is struggling with his racial identity.

  15. Rando says:

    Would it get as much flack if he were wearing a Mexican sombrero?

    I didn’t actually find the cover offensive. It’s not like he’s wearing a a hat that says I hate Native Americans (or any other race).

  16. Argirl says:

    At the Walmart Shareholder’s meeting this morning, the old hat is back.

  17. MsMercury says:

    I’m just sick of the fashion industry doing this again and again. Thanks to Pharrell for realizing it was wrong and apologizing but many people had to approve the idea before they shot the first picture. This isn’t all his fault.

  18. TRUTHFULLY says:

    HOW MANY PEOPLE ACTUALLY KNOW THAT THE HEADDRESS IS SACRED? CALM DOWN PEOPLE THE MAN DIDN’T KILL ANYONE!!!!!!!!!

  19. anna says:

    Huh never knew that the head dress is scared and you had to do something to earn it. I never understood why it was offensive to wear it i just knew that i shouldn’t. As someone from Australia we don’t learn much about cultures outside of our own(i did drop history in the last 2 yrs of HS) all though the school syllabus is seriously lacking in Aboriginal history and culture i must say (from when i was in school a while back)

    I guess its kinda similar to the New Zealand maoris and their traditional tattoos. A lot of people who aren’t even from NZ get them.

    I think the mag should apologise and maybe do an article on the significance of the head piece and why everyone should not wear it. Hopefully by education people about other cultures and learn to respect them, they will learn not to use it as a fashion item.

    • elisa says:

      I think that’s a great idea, anna, featuring an article explaining the significance and sanctity of the headdress. It would certainly be one way to educate the larger world. Unfortunately, it won’t happen. It should. Magazines who feature this type of photo-shoot and then apologise should have to do a lengthy explanation of why they were wrong exactly. Not sure I would completely trust them with the explanation either, though.

  20. AryaMartell says:

    Did anyone see Elle’s non-apology apology? They don’t get why people are offended and UK mags do this thing all the time. Asking a British publication why it was unaware of its cultural appropriation is like asking Wal-Mart what the effect of their low prices are on the working class. The UK possesses a culture that exists and thrives on cultural appropriation and sees nothing wrong with it.

    Elgin marbles anyone?

  21. Stephanie says:

    I think that they do stupid and insensitive things like this for one purpose: to get people to talk about them. You can’t tell me that every editor at this magazine looked at these photos and said, “yes, let’s put a celebrity in an ancient piece of tribal clothing taken totally out of context, because it looks pretty. That fits our aesthetic. No one will be bothered by that.” They know what they’re doing. They’re not stupid.

  22. roxy750 says:

    Please. How is this offensive honestly. It’s a great photo. Respectful, beautiful and quiet. He isn’t stomping on it or naked with it on, although that would be interesting. People need to settle down. Indian artifact, culture and the old way of life is extremely awesome, beautiful and everyone knows it. He’s a great guy. Now if the beebs were wearing it I would be offended just cuz.

  23. Odesa says:

    How hard would it be to hire an aboriginal consultant to come and advise? I’m a music teacher and I’ve asked elders and made a few phone calls to ask if a piece of music was appropriate or not. It’s being controversial for publicity and both the magazine and the cover star are lazy at best and attention seeking idiots at worst.

  24. Amulla says:

    He does not owe anyone an apology.

    Many clothing styles come from different cultures all over the world. You are probably wearing some clothing style right now that you have no idea what its origins are.

    I like to wear turquoise/silver jewelry and I’ve also worn moccasins. I won’t be apologizing for that.
    I’ve also worn Scottish tartan scarves even though I am not Scottish. Again, I won’t apologize for that.

    My last word on this is those who crave apologies are weak.

  25. shannon says:

    At the “Original Kitten” – reply button wasn’t on my screen – Madonna is not Catholic now, nor has she been during the entirety of her career, so if those of you who are against Pharrell wearing the headdress regardless of his heritage, well, why should Madonna get a pass on wearing a cross simply because she was raised Catholic? It’s a double-standard, plain and simple. You can’t say what the cross means to Madonna any more than you can say what a headdress means to Pharrell.

    I grew up in an Irish-American family, also grew up in the South. I’ve lived my entire life watching people mock the stereotypical “drunk, fighting Irish person with a red face” and the “racist, stupid redneck who sleeps with their relatives,” and I’ve learned to take things in the spirit of which they are intended. Also, I let things roll off my back. If you live your life looking to be offended, you won’t be disappointed. I don’t live my life that way, and I’m convinced it makes me a happier person. I don’t expect the rest of the world to think the way I think or to consider sacred what I consider sacred, and that’s worked out well for me.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      First of all, crosses do not BELONG to Catholicism. The cross originated among the ancient Babylonians of Chaldea. From there, it spread to ancient China, India, Mexico, parts of Africa and other places, centuries before Christianity was born. As I said, anyone can wear a cross-it’s not comparable to specifically-designed cultural attire like a headdress so I ask you to please retire that poor analogy.

      Secondly, just because something doesn’t offend YOU doesn’t mean you should so easily discard the feelings of others.

      As far as equating Irish heritage with a culture that has suffered a history of oppression like the Native Americans, it’s simply not the same thing. The Irish did not suffer genocide and ethnic cleansing in this country.

      Even so, I would argue that stereotypes of any kind (including the one of the drunk, Irish fighter) do more harm than good. It’s great you can let it roll off your back, but not everyone can nor does every person have an obligation to.

      • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

        Trading in false equivalents is stock and trade. Woe be to him who has to actually learn something.

        Let’s send Queen E. to Glasgow with a placard that says ‘Edward Plantagenet was right, lay the ‘malleus’ down!’ That would go over well.

        I wish I lived on this higher plane of existence where nothing could embarrass or shame me, that’s pretty enlightened. I know that there’s nothing anyone could do that would be personally offensive to me, so have at it. Oh wait, it’s not that? It’s only other people’s horrific, centuries-long struggles which continue to this day who don’t matter? And clearly all people have identical histories, so who cares? Oh the people in question care? Okay, but we’re talking about people who matter. Message received.

        God help me if someone throws out the Stephen Fry quotation again. People talk about the over-sensitivity of others and then they throw a fit if they’re ever challenged. So noble.

      • TheOriginalKitten says:

        This is so great..I can just let all of you guys do the talking while I sip beer.
        It’s one of many reasons why I love this place–always commenters that can say everything I would want to say for me.

        I love you crazy kids ;)

      • Kiddo says:

        @Pepsi Presents…Coke Ha! In other words: You’re overly sensitive about the overly sensitive.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      “I’ve lived my entire life watching people mock the stereotypical “drunk, fighting Irish person with a red face” and the “racist, stupid redneck who sleeps with their relatives,” and I’ve learned to take things in the spirit of which they are intended.”

      Um, I have bad news… The spirit in which these remarks were intended was ignorant, prejudiced and cruel. So, if you took things in the spirit in which they were intended, you would be hurt or angry. Your logic and arguments are very poor.

    • Kiddo says:

      So wait, is getting drunk, being red-faced and a racist redneck sacred to you? That’s how the logic seems to follow.

  26. lunchcoma says:

    I think a short apology is all he really can do here. I suspect the long version of the story is, “The photographer handed this thing to me and I put it on without knowing anything about it or thinking twice.” That doesn’t really add anything, and I think the apology is stronger without him talking about other people’s role in the picture.

  27. Mia4S says:

    The point is being missed here. This has nothing to do with sombreros or tartan. He’s a better analogy for every country (yes that means Europeans too). What would you think of someone photographed for a fashion magazine wearing a set of your nation’s military medals they had never earned? Crime against humanity? No. Gross? Yes.

  28. Regarded says:

    The concept of cultural appropriation is something I don’t always understand – but it anyone could read this and give me their take on it, I would really appreciate it.
    Years ago, I learned about Japanese culture/history for a social studies unit in school. To say I was fascinated would be an understatement. I was so impressed with the etiquette and discipline of geishas, samurai, etc. I started reading up on Japanese culture in my own time and walked away with a better understanding/appreciation of these people and their values.
    That being said – if I decided to dress up as a geisha for some kind of festival or ceremony, would this be cultural appropriation? I would dress up out of respect and reverence for the people and their culture. It wouldn’t be to make some kind of fashion statement.
    Note that I am not planning on doing this anytime soon! I’m just curious about if this is inappropriate.

    • Amulla says:

      I have a Japanese style dress. It actually was made in Japan. Beautiful, red and black silk. I am not Japanese though. Am I going to take it out of my closet and stop wearing it? No. What I choose to wear on my body is my own business. Someone is really crossing a line to say “don’t wear that”. I am not apologizing to anyone and won’t change my wardrobe styles to suit the needs of other people.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      @Regarded,

      I think dressing as a member of another culture, especially one that has been oppressed, is seen as offensive because it seems that people are using elements of their culture as fashion accessories in an uniformed and disrespectful way that trivializes their lives. I don’t think you would be uninformed or disrespectful, but I still wouldn’t do it if I were you, because people can’t read your mind, and they might still be offended. To the extent I can, I try to respect the feelings of others. You can take Amulla’s attitude and say I don’t care who is offended, I’ll do whatever I want, regardless of the feelings of others, and they are wrong to be offended. Or, you can say I’m not sure I understand why this would offend you when I feel I am celebrating you, but you’re telling me it hurts you, so I won’t do it. We can’t control much in the world, but we can control how we treat other people.

  29. NevermindMe says:

    Hello! Not trying to offend anyone, or sound harsh, so my apologies for my remarks,,,

    I believe it has to do with cultures and people seem to not understand that different countries have totally different perceptions about things. In my country, blackface during carnival has no bad connotation. Actually, the first time I heard that blackface was considered rude was here on CB, I was totally unaware of it.. Carnival here has the following rule: It’s Carnival, no one gets offended… You can dress as a nun, the Pope, an islamic person, a prostitute, a Chinese, a woman, a man, a police officer etc… that’s the rule.. and people here would never see blackface or putting on a headdress as offensive on that particular day…

    I believe that there’s one major problem with the world, we tend to judge others and think that they have to have the same beliefs as us, instead of questioning whether in that particular person’s culture, something that is offensive to us, might not be offensive to them… And I’m sorry, but the entire world doesn’t have to know about american beliefs, the same way, americans don’t know everything about other countries’ beliefs…

    Now, I know that in the USA, I have to be careful about blackface and wearing headdresses, but that doesn’t mean in my country, inside my own culture I won’t do it at a carnival party, since inside my culture, it’s inocuous..

    Sorry, If that hurts someone, but it is my country’s culture, and it is as valid as yours.. I’ll respect yours in your country and expect you to respect mine, in my country…

    Oh, and these little details are not learnt at school, basically we learn about Columbus, first settlers, American Civil War and the 2 WW, in relation to American History; then , we have the rest of the world’s history too… and our own country’s…

  30. Flabbergasted! says:

    Did someone say the Irish WEREN’T repressed?!? I’m pretty sure the Irish repression started when the Romans invaded and killed all of their religious leaders at the time. And it continued from there. Including years when they were not allowed to practice their religion.
    Why get so mad that the rest of the world is not immersed in American culture, when you aren’t versed in the challenges other countries have gone through?
    You say the issue is that it is “sacred” but that ISN’T all you are saying. You are making blanket statements that aren’t true, and frankly, although I agree that there should be more sensitivity toward ALL cultures, you obviously are not practicing what you are preaching when you want respect but are unwilling to give it.

    • Kiddo says:

      Native Americans are American as is Pharrell, the issue was between people from the same country. Some people were upset, he apologized sincerely; that’s really the end of the story. Now people are getting upset over other people getting upset to the point that it has reached the level of absurdity. None of the Native Americans said anything about the suffering or lack of suffering of other people and other cultures. They asked for respect and apparently Pharrell responded with respectful regret for offending them.

      I really don’t understand how it turned into a pissing match of who cares or doesn’t care how other people feel. But there you have it.

    • Amulla says:

      The Irish were one of the most oppressed ethnic groups in America during a certain time period. There were signs on many businesses that said “Irish need not apply” , for example. Those who think oppression and racism only happened to non-whites are extremely ignorant of history. And, dare I say it? Just as politically incorrect as they accuse everyone else of being.

  31. LAK says:

    I’m going to defend Elle UK for a minute.

    Outside of the usual fashion ignorance, we don’t have any awareness of Native indian sensitivities over here. We celebrate the culture, but not necessarily aware of specifics beyond the fact that they were annihilated by the pioneers and settlers and continue to live as second class citizens.

    And also as we have multiculturalism in the UK, we mix and match and celebrate other cultures without a neurotic need to wonder if it might cause offence.

    As an example, we and white NZ celebrate the Haka before rugby games. Americans would think that was cultural appropriation and be offended by it.

    Now should Pharrell have pointed out the potential minefield? Absolutely. He comes from a country that has that neurosis and he isn’t an unknown without power who can’t veto the fashion shoot wardrobe suggestions.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Love you, but I don’t call respecting the feelings of others a neurosis. And I wonder if people in the UK, considering it’s history, should maybe ask native people they have oppressed in the past how they feel about white people dressing up in their sacred or ceremonial costumes for fun and games? Perhaps you lack sensitivity, rather than our culture being overly sensitive.

      • LAK says:

        Goodnames: There is a very big difference between respecting the feelings of others and worrying all the time that you might offend them with every thing you do or say. considering the term ‘cultural appropriation’ is familiar primarily to Americans and not the rest of the world => cultural neurosis. case in point the Moari Haka which is celebrated by every rugby fan in the Britain no matter their race. It’s seen as a celebration, but i bet it would be seen as insensitive in the USA and banned.

        As for Britain’s oppressing the rest of the world, we’ve invited multiculturalism in and it works very well over here such that it’s all seen as a celebration as opposed to appropriation. an opportunity to educate ourselves rather than oppress. It’s not perfect, but it works.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Insensitivity isn’t banned in the US. It’s just frowned upon by people who care. Carry on, then.

    • Elisa the I. says:

      +1… you are 100% spot on, LAK!

  32. LAK says:

    “Irish didn’t suffer genocide or repression”

    Hahahahahaha

    Ignorance at it’s best.

    …….but you carry on.

  33. vv007 says:

    I think the magazine should be apologizing. Some stylist or editor decided this was a good look, and decided to go to print with that particular picture. I feel bad he’s the only one having to take the hit for this.

  34. bored_01 says:

    It was an innapropriate but oddly beautiful shoot, no?