While the rest of the world put on fancy dresses and tried to look interested in the Golden Globe, Katy Perry traipsed around the world to China. She posted a photo of herself on the Great Wall, doing a fairly impressive pose:
Who knew Katy Perry could do the splits? I am impressed and confused, although also slightly put off by any adult who can contort themselves like that. She captioned it “#bestdressed #goldenglobes.” Indeed.
Perry’s wardrobe is uncharacteristically low-key in the shot: She’s wearing a simple jacket, jeans and shades, though she has accented the outfit with a conical Chinese “paddy hat.”
Hmm. Something about this doesn’t seem right. While I don’t think Perry meant any real offense, I looked into the narrative behind white women wearing traditional Asian garments, and found some compelling points about how doing so contributes to a larger, negative message about Asian people. Over on Angry Asian Girls United, they answered the question of is it inherently racist for a white person to wear a paddy hat.
To say “it’s racist to wear “rice paddy” hat” if you’re not Asian” isn’t really the point, or the whole picture. Racism is this undercurrent that pervades so much of today’s society, not a label to slap onto situations, and the whole rice paddy hat thing is yet another symptom of it. It’s so many issues about that particular scenario that make it wrong, like the fact that Asian people would never be able to wear shit like that (I’m American so I’m speaking for America) and be seen as “fashionable.” It’s the fact that people don’t want to see that hat on an Asian body, but a white one, because if a rice paddy hat is on an Asian person, it signifies “rice paddy” or “FOB.” On a white body, the hat becomes just clothing. And that hurts. It hurts that we can’t wear things from our own culture and be seen as JUST fashionable.
To me, this is an excellent explanation of appropriation in general, and that the intention is rarely to be racist in any capacity. And before anyone freaks out and says “If I wear a beret, I’m not being racist against French people,” I just want to quickly say that it’s not the same and if I really have to explain that to you then I don’t want to talk to you.
“Paddy hats,” or conical Asian hats (People seems to think these only exist in China) are a prime tool for stereotyping or exploiting Asian people in the West–anyone remember when American Apparel tried to sell them for $15 a piece?
While I think that Perry is simply ignorant and not malicious, it’s hard to ignore this, especially following her pan-Asian, hypersexualized amalgam at the American Music Awards. And maybe a hat is just a hat, but I do think it’s important that we (this we means white people) educate ourselves and are critical of our own actions, because they typically have different gravity outside of our white perspective. So maybe she bought it at some tourist cart because the day was sunny, or she thought “oh hey, here’s a sunhat.” I doubt she thought “today, I would like to assert my white dominance over the rest of the world by elevating their logistical necessity and often-made fun of garment simply by wearing it atop my head,” but I’d like to live in a world where Katy Perry understands that not everyone can put on the paddy hat.
Photos: Getty, Instagram