Sunday, 3 April 2016

Dawn of the Dread

I can't just leave it, can I? There is a video 'going viral' of one person confronting another because the latter is wearing dreadlocks. The former claims that he is appropriating her culture. 

This kind of argument, and the backlash, is all the rage these days. In the Realm of Pure Forms, the Entity Patriarchy is having a right good wank over this video. I mean, it's fucking perfect. A 'minority group' acting all dictatorial, political correctness gone mad, picking on the woman for oppressing a man on the grounds that he is oppressing her.

Mind you, I totally fucking agree with her when she asks 'have you got scissors?' The poor male victim, Cory Goldstein, has got a really shit set of dreads. Fix up, look smart Cory. 

However, this debate does not deserve the cultural attention it is receiving. It's a pair of idiots arguing in a stairwell. It's not, as my former idol Nick Cohen seems to think, an example of how universities are capitulating to anti-free speech campaigners. It's two people who haven't done the class reading bickering over semiotics. Cory, for example, shows an exemplary knowledge of geography with 'it isn't African, it's Egyptian.'
Africa, yesterday. Starring Egyt

It's pretty easy to condemn the accuser. She's rude and aggressive - although her smile is rather charming - and, regardless of her beliefs, her conduct is inappropriate. The emphasis, which is common, on the righteousness of opinion over the generosity of behaviour encourages this kind of aggression. To be controversial, it's the same emphasis that gets the leader of the Liberal Democrats a slagging for 'being Christian' or that guy who replaced IDS in the Conservative cabinet being called out on his links to a homophobic organisation rather than his egregious abuse of expenses. 

Getting over that, there is a reason this stuff goes viral. It suits the agenda of those who wish to demonise 'snow-flakes', to caricature intersectionality, anti-racism and feminism. I don't support no-platforming, I think Cory can have whatever shit hair-cut he likes (I regard appropriation as a feature of healthy cultural exchange and worry that saying only people of a certain race are allowed certain fashions is racist). Micro-aggressions can be called out, sure, but not without the caveat that macro-aggressions like sexual assault are more important to address (yes, I know it's a continuum). 

There are serious feminists, serious anti-racists, doing serious work, but their videos don't go viral. Please tell me how that doesn't support a patriarchal agenda. 

Mundane Matt, a YouTube outrage merchant gives it the whole 'dreadlocks aren't cultural significant' routine, identifying their origin in India as a religious thing, and 'popping up' in Viking culture. Apart from ignoring the semiotic symbolism of fashion (yes, your buzz-cut does echo militaristic style), Matt doesn't mention Rastafarians who do wear dreads for cultural reasons. 

Again, without approving aggression against wimpy kids in the school corridor (I got enough of that myself, although my name helped the bullies so that they didn't need to point out my fashion choices), the incident is being used to discredit what is a serious point about how the clothes we wear are part of the dramaturgy of our identities.

As for Cory - look at the state of him. It would be easier to agree with his right to bear dreads if his entire body-language wasn't ripped off from an episode of Yo! MTV Raps. I'm sure he thinks he looks great, but I think he looks like a fucking bell-end stereotype. It doesn't matter what I think, though. He dresses, and gestures, in a certain way to transmit signifiers of personality. 

1 comment :

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.