I always learn something new on social media. Memes? Yup. Ever-changing Internet lingo? Definitely. But what I didn’t expect is to see people making “gender appropriation” a thing.
It’s exactly what you’re thinking: It’s the “disruptive and harmful practice of adopting or using the elements of one gender by members of the another gender.” (According to a Twitter account that’s supposedly meant to advocate against this.) I first saw this term being used to criticize James Charles, and men in general, for wearing makeup. A woman asked, “If black face is racist, what’s woman face? When are we ‘sisters’ going to start shaming [people] for gender appropriation?”
When I did a quick Twitter search on the term, I saw other conservative netizens using it against transgender people. One argued that trans activism, which is a movement fighting for equal rights for transgenders, is misogynistic and those who identify as such appropriate others’ genders.
What a disgusting article. It completely ignores the very real abuse of women and feminists by trans activists. Trans activism is gender appropriation and misogyny. ThIs is more balanced. https://t.co/XK6MMhZvDb
Apparently, “gender appropriation” popped up some time in 2016 when the topic of “transracialism” started. Rogers Brubaker, a sociology professor in UCLA, told the Princeton University Press that it’s the concept of people moving from one race to another. He also likened it to transgenderism, claiming that if people can change genders, then transracialism can exist too.
Fast forward to 2018, Spiked released a piece questioning why transgenderism isn’t considered cultural appropriation. The article attempted to call out people, specifically women, who are criticizing models for appropriating black culture but doesn’t do so with transwomen (biologically male transitioning into a female) wearing women’s clothing.
It conflates race and gender, claiming that appropriation is on the same level for both. To put it simply: If it’s not yours to begin with, don’t do it. But contrary to that argument, people (not just transgenders) wearing clothing or wearing that’s not expected of the gender they’re born into isn’t the same as appropriating culture.
Cultural appropriation is when a superior race owns another race’s attributes, most of the time for aesthetics. It becomes especially offensive when they don’t respect the ancestry or when they are praised for how they utilize these attributes while the minorities, who are known for them, are shamed.
But telling members of the LGBTQ+ community, or any other person who doesn’t believe in conformity, that they’re “appropriating gender” doesn’t make sense. As several of them would tell you, homosexuality and being transgender isn’t a choice. They’re born realizing that they’re different or are in the wrong bodies. They’re not “stealing” someone else’s gender, it’s who they are.
In the case of men in makeup: it’s just product on someone’s face and it’s a form of self-expression. Plus, men were the first people to wear makeup as early as 4,000 BCE. Byrdie cited that men in Ancient Egypt would do cat-eye-wings with kohl eyeliner—they were on fleek way before women.
It only proves that makeup isn’t limited to the cis-female market. More brands are also recognizing the fact that it should be gender neutral. Besides, women aren’t given too much sh*t for dressing masculine—it’s seen as revolutionary even and nobody calls them out for gender appropriation, and they shouldn’t be. Neither should the people who don’t conform into the gender they’re born into.