Kylie and Kendall Jenner are being accused of cultural appropriation for their new fashion line
In the arguments surrounding the Kardashian-Jenner dynasty/regime, one can argue that the prior generation of Kardashians, such as Kim, have used their business skills to reach the platform they have now. Whatever you think of that argument, the new generation of budding Kardashians/Jenners, Kendall and Kylie, are more like the children of wealthy rentiers or monarchal money. They were born into it. They inherited the business acumen of their older siblings.
As a result, it's totally unclear what purpose they are supposed to serve in popular culture. We already get the Kim Kardashian phenomenon - but now it has cycled to a new generation so rapidly that I can't help but see an identity crisis. Kendall Jenner was in a much-maligned advertisement that featured a wealthy white heiress attain world peace by handing a riot cop a Pepsi (yeah). And Kylie and Kendall recently faced total mockery for releasing shirts that featured Tupac... with their faces photoshopped over his.
Now, this shirt you're about to see, is apparently the latest in a string of racist sentiments coming from the Kylie-Kendall synthesis.
Well, not the shirt itself, but rather, wearing it with the two top buttons closed and the rest fluttering around like a cloak. Just like this:
The argument goes like this: Kylie and Kendall have appropriated 'latinx' (a gender-neutral term for people of Latin descent) culture by selling a product that is knowingly modeled after the fruits of another culture's labor. The 'chola' style was invented by latinx people, but only Kylie and Kendall get rich off of it.
It's an interesting argument, but also mired in some serious problems. What is the intellectual property clause on a shirt with only the top buttoned? How many latinx people feel that they have been robbed, in the general population, not just on Twitter?
In the argument's favor, it appeals to the same logic behind the original sinner of cultural appropriation - Elvis Presley. Elvis, as the idea goes, used black dance moves and black styles to market his overtly white brand to white people, effectively becoming a legend by stealing other peoples' ideas.
In the end, the Kardashian-Jenner sisters deleted their Instagram post advertising the plaid shirt, though it is still available on their website. Maybe there's another idea buried in here too - it's one thing for someone to wear a chola style plaid shirt. It's another thing entirely to profit off of it. That's where the problems come in.
In the end, we have to wonder what is at stake in celebrity confrontations with cultural taboos. Is it merely an act of emotional release or catharsis to come after Kylie and Kendall as malicious racists? Or is the perception among activists that they can make life better for marginalized Americans through social media outcry?
Perhaps a mixture of both. It feels good to call someone out as a cultural thief, an example of all that is problematic in a divisive America, but it's unclear if any of the ideas surrounding cultural appropriation have a clear outcome. Should we not take what we enjoy from other cultures? After all, cultures are just collective ideas, and nobody shuns you for taking ideas from the Islamic world, hispanic artists, or Japanese anime.
Maybe we need to do more thinking on this.