It’s Not About Cultural Appropriation
The problem here is not “cultural appropriation,” as CNN and various critics believe. Kim Kardashian is not appropriating Japanese culture by naming her form-shaping products “kimono,” anymore than Ford is appropriating Italian culture by naming a car the “Cortina.” Austin’s “Montego” and Bentley’s “Mulsanne” are not cultural appropriations either, even though these places lie more than 50 k from the towns where these cars are produced. The automakers want buyers to identify with romantic symbols. They aren’t “appropriating” Italian or Jamaican or French culture. (Mulsanne is named after the famous straight at Le Mans where Bentley has won six times.) In these cases, as far as I know, only an unbalanced person would worry about cultural appropriation.
Flab Is the Issue
So how is borrowing “kimono” different”? It is different, but not because the bien-pensants are worried about ransacking Japanese culture. It’s because a delicate and quite exquisite concept is being applied, quite frankly, to a lot of women who are overweight. This is the sentence on Kim Kardashian’s website that gives everybody the creeps:
“Whether the desire is to enhance, smooth, lift or sculpt, Kimono provides superior options for all shapes and tones.”
Shapewear is what girdles used to do, except we don’t call them girdles anymore outside of Ohio. So 1950s, you know. But shapewear is here to shape your butt, or shape your sagging after-three-deliveries belly, or shape whatever else you might be displeased with.
So, the Japanese authorities are upset that the airy, gracious “kimono” concept is being borrowed to reshape flab. They don’t like flab. In Japan, few women are overweight. In the US, half of all women are seriously overweight.
Ms. Kardashian has thus discovered a big market niche: the large number of overweight women who don’t think of themselves as out-sized and who don’t want to look it, either. I don’t have a problem with this! I am a bit out-sized. Most of my colleagues are! WTF!
Reshaping Our Bodies
But let’s not prettyface a discussion that gets into the guts of how our bodies can be reshaped, with an ethereal concept such as “cultural appropriation.” Hey, I wonder if anybody has been in touch with city officials at Cortina asking, “Do you know Ford has appropriated you? Maybe you can collect some money from them!”
You think they wouldn’t try this? You don’t know Italy.