Cultural Imperialism is the creation and maintenance of unequal relationships between civilisations, favouring the more dominant civilisation. Thus, cultural imperialism is the practice of promoting and imposing a culture of a dominant nation over a less powerful society.
– John Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism: A Critical Introduction
We see this in effect with the relationship between the Western fashion industry and people belonging to cultural minorities in these western countries. Time and time again, American labels (eg. Victoria’s Secret) have benefitted off minority cultures for their profitability. This can be seen in the Victoria’s secret fashion show, when the headdress, sacred to Native American culture, was decontextualised without concern of the Indigenous people for an aesthetic and commercial gain.
This is problematic as such sacred objects have been decontextualised and in the case of Victorias secret, was used to aid in the sexualisation of the brand; something that was not the intended purpose of the item.
It is vital that as creative practitioners, we avoid this insensitivity, as we must respect the rich and beautiful cultures from which we draw our inspiration from instead of blatantly stealing these ideas; effectively behaving like colonists in previous centuries. It is important to honour these cultures instead of leaving them feeling powerless.
It is important to remember that it’s ok to “punch up” but never “punch down”.
Join our movement against cultural appropriation and towards creative sensitivity: