It’s almost like Kim Kardashian knows that every time she does something slightly controversial, an army of people online will spend an enormous amount of energy responding to her, perpetuating her name and the brand she has created across the world. Wild, right? Anyway, here we are again: after going on a wild Instagram and Twitter posting spree in which she shared a series of increasingly nude photos taken by photographer Marcus Hyde, Kim was once again accused of cultural appropriation, this time for her hairstyle.
BO WEST pic.twitter.com/jCA5Odyu5D— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 29, 2018
In all of the now-viral photos, she sported Fulani braids, also known as cornrows, a hairstyle closely associated with black women and black culture. Rather than give credit where credit is due, Kim dubbed the style “Bo Derek braids,” referencing the hairstyle that white actress Bo Derek wore in the 1979 movie 10. Derek came to Kim’s defense, tweeting that “it’s just a hairstyle.”
Hey! It’s just a hairstyle that I wore in the movie “10” @KimKardashian calls it the Bo Derek because she copied my pattern of braids. I copied it from Ann-Margret’s backup singer from her Vegas Sho. And we all copied Queen Nofretari. I hope Her Royal Highness is flattered. pic.twitter.com/UuQkh8VKOi— Bo Derek (@boderek) January 31, 2018
Derek went on to trace a history of the braids: Kim was only copying her, and she was only copying Ann-Margret’s backup singer from a Vegas show, and everyone is only copying Queen Nosfretari. That history might be contested (as People notes, Egyptian Queen Ahmose-Nefertari was buried in braids, but not cornrows) but the point that many have made is that the hairstyle has become a cultural icon, and in American society, black culture is systematically stolen by those who don’t belong to it. The issue of cultural appropriation arises when that person who is stealing a custom benefits in ways that the originating culture never has, either by money or by attention. The cultural appropriation argument posits that mainstream culture loves the things that black people create, but doesn’t love or support black people themselves.
They are called Fulani braids or some may even say corn rows. You could of called them either one but you called them "Bo derek" giving credit to a white woman for a black style knowing you already catch heat for culture vulturing. #KimKardashian #culturalvul pic.twitter.com/aIF4NzJ9rw— Roses🌷 (@Teenagenature) January 29, 2018
Derek, for example, has previously defended Kim’s youngest sister, Kylie Jenner, against the same cries of cultural appropriation when she wore the same cornrows. At the time, Derek said she would prefer to “save my efforts toward important racial and cultural issues” rather than get upset over what is merely a hairstyle. However, critics would argue that a hairstyle does amount to a cultural issue, and by tackling everyday issues, we can all become more aware of internalized biases and unconscious prejudices and work to fight against them. Larger, more overt “racial and cultural issues” are aided and abetted by less obvious acts, such as cultural appropriation.
Kim has yet to respond to either her critics or Derek for standing up for her. She did, however, post a photo implying that she gives absolutely “no fucks”—she’s even sending gifts to her haters—so that’s probably enough to know where her head is at.
Hi, can I get zero fucks please, thanks pic.twitter.com/svo3tewQC8— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 30, 2018