In what many view as a hilarious example of affected celebrity styling, Ariana Grande showed fans a new tattoo in Japanese Kanji writing that she said meant “7 Rings.” In reality, a missing character left a tattoo reading “BBQ Grill.” Some however did not miss the opportunity to be outraged and have claimed that any Kanji writing is cultural appropriation.
For those of us who last recalled this star making headlines for her disgusting conduct at a shop licking all the donuts, any cultural appropriation would be an improvement. However, that still raises again the premise of much of these cultural appropriation claims.
As we discussed just yesterday, I have admittedly been a critic of some of these claims on college campuses. We discussed a basketball game where a player was attacked due to wearing braids that 20-year-old Hispanic student, Carmen Figueroa, claimed to be cultural misappropriation. Then there was the controversy at Pitzer College where white female students were warned to take off big hoop earrings as cultural appropriation. Then there were the students at Oberlin who declared the serving of sushi as cultural appropriation while a white student was assaulted at San Francisco State University for wearing dreadlocks by an African American student. At the heart of some of these controversies is the claim of exclusivity in the use or enjoyment of styles, foods, art, or material originally associated with one culture.
There are troubling cases of insensitivity toward cultures that are rightfully condemned. There was however a shift from insensitivity to appropriation as the basis for many complaints on campuses.
In this case, the two characters separately mean seven (七) and ring (輪), but when put together “七輪” turns into Shichirin, the name for a small charcoal grill. That should make Grande a hit at the next Japanese grill she attends, but it raised gasps among in some quarters (examples: here and here and here and here).
I have never understood why people get tattoos in languages that they do not understand simply to tell people what it means. However, in fairness to Grande, she has a long-standing interest in the Japanese culture and has studied the language. It hardly constitutes appropriation of any kind to use another language or adopt phrases or words in another language.
Ironically, Grande may have projected this controversy with her hit single “7 Rings” when she sang “Girls with tattoos who like getting in trouble.”