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Does This Skirt Look Like Cultural Appropriation To You?

A popular clothing retailer is causing an online frenzy this week after it released a checkered mid-length skirt thought to be – you guessed it – culturally insensitive.

The skirt, which retails for close to $90 on Zara’s website, is described as “flowing,” with some “draped detail in front.” It’s available in one neutral brown shade called mink.

Here’s the seemingly innocuous skirt.

That’s Zara’s 70 $ worth skirt my friends! Does it look familiar to you? pic.twitter.com/f4rqQfqUGx

— أسماء بنت حيدر (@thatlonepilgrim) January 30, 2018

But since this is 2018 and we can’t have nice things, people quickly hopped on the racist bandwagon, which pulled out of the station at lightning speed this time. One of the first people to notice the skirt was Fast Company writer Elizabeth Segran.

“As someone who grew up in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, I feel pretty strongly about sarongs,” Segran said. Later, she and a Twitter user speculated that “the workers making this skirt were probably wearing sarongs pretty similar to it.” And somehow that could be construed as cultural appropriation.

It seems here that we have a good old fashioned 2018 faux controversy on our hands. To many people, this skirt looks like a perfectly normal – albeit slightly dated – piece of clothing you might find in your parents’ attic. But to those who see insult in everything, it’s a racist smear intended to rob South Asians of their cultural heritage and colonize their countries with cheap labor.

“If you need an argument as to why it’s important to have BAME people at every level in business and marketing, I give you the lungi-dads-skirt disaster,” Poorna Bell, a freelance writer, tweeted. For the less woke, “BAME” stands for black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

If you need an argument as to why it’s important to have BAME people at every level in business and marketing, I give you the lungi-dads-skirt disaster by @ZARA where literally ANY Indian person could’ve pointed out in two minutes what the problem is with this

— Poorna Bell (@poornabell) January 30, 2018

Zara is trying to sell your dad’s £3 lungi (Asian male skirt) for £70 https://t.co/U5NbyKzDVD

— shinde shivaji (@shindeshivaji13) January 30, 2018

Zara has released a ‘new’ skirt.

Probably got their inspiration from their workers on $1 a day in their factory in Bangladesh.

This is what is known as a ‘lungi’ or in the Arabic, ‘izaar’ and is actually a tradition of Prophet Muhammad.https://t.co/TQsTjKRZhu

— Christopher John George (@cjohngeorge) January 31, 2018

As of now, the skirt is still selling on Zara’s website and the company has not released a comment on the controversy. Elizabeth Segran of Fast Company has also not yet commented on whether her consumption of pizza, use of the English language, telephones, electricity and automobiles also count as cultural appropriation.

Follow Jena on Twitter.

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