“I am Japanese”: why is Gwen Stefani accused of cultural appropriation?
At the beginning of her career, Gwen Stefani had developed an aesthetic strongly inspired by Japanese culture. While some evoke a form of cultural appropriation, the singer does not see the problem.
VSthey and those who have more or less followed Gwen Stefani’s career know that when her first solo album was released, Love. Angel. Music. Baby.she was accompanied by a group of four Japanese-American dancers. called the “Harajuku Girls”they accompanied him both on stage and in his music videos. Subsequently, she even released a line of perfumes, the Harajuku Lovers. But in recent years, with the democratization of discussions around cultural appropriation, this aspect of his career has raised many controversies. As the release of her new beauty brand approaches, Filipino-American journalist Jesa Marie Calaor wanted to reflect on her previous experience in the cosmetics industry and the lessons she was able to learn from the reviews. The former No Doubt singer explained his relationship to Japanese culture and wanted to give his opinion on the notion of cultural appropriation.
“We should be able to draw inspiration from other cultures”
To answer questions from the magazine’s journalist Seducethe singer said that her father had worked between California and Japan for eighteen years and spoke to her regularly about this “culture steeped in tradition, but also very futuristic”. As an adult, Gwen Stefani was able to travel to Japan and in particular to the Harajuku district in Tokyo. “I said to myself ‘My God, I’m Japanese and I didn’t even know it'”, she launched, leaving the journalist dumbfounded. While the singer probably didn’t mean to be “malicious” or “hurtful,” according to Jesa Marie Calaor, that doesn’t change much of the issue. As a Filipino-American, the reporter is first in line when it comes to what it’s like to be an Asian woman in the United States and to have to face racism because of this.
“I envy anyone who can claim to be part of this vibrant, creative community while avoiding the part of the story that can be painful or scary,” she wrote.
“When a group has been historically marginalized or racialized by another group, the question of power is central to the notion of cultural appropriation,” explained Fariha I. Khan, co-director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. White people like Gwen Stefani can appropriate some elements of Japanese culture without suffering the consequences that are racism and discrimination. Moreover, the fact that a white person takes on certain aspects of a culture “like a costume” can skew the general perception of a minority. Already in 2005, the actress Margaret Cho evoked on his blog the dichotomy between the fact of not be visible in American society as an Asian woman and facing “racial stereotypes”. For now, Gwen Stefani does not understand where the problem is. “We should be able to draw inspiration from other cultures, because if we don’t have the right, that’s the best way to divide people, isn’t it?” she considered.