Normally, liberals become profoundly upset when a woman’s achievement is overshadowed by a man. They made an exception last night, however. Miss Philippines won the Miss Universe pageant but much of the attention and applause went to “Miss” Spain, a man.
“Miss” Spain was the first transgender to compete in the pageant. He didn’t finish in the top three, but he still managed to steal much of the spotlight from the authentic women on the stage. Not to mention, there is a real beauty queen somewhere in Spain who was excluded entirely because a man took her spot. If you’re looking for appropriation to rail against, look no further.
Of course, the Left is not interested in this kind of appropriation. They are too busy screaming at little white girls for dressing like Moana on Halloween. But unlike the girl in the Disney costume, a man in a women’s beauty pageant, or a man in a women’s restroom, or a man in a women’s track meet, etc., is actually taking something from women. It is true appropriation because it involves deprivation. A woman in Spain was deprived of her chance to be Miss Universe because a man took her place. A girl on a track team is deprived of the gold medal because a man stole it. Women in restrooms and girls in locker rooms are deprived of privacy because men are allowed to intrude. This is how appropriation works.
On the other hand, much of what the Left calls “cultural appropriation” isn’t appropriation at all because it doesn’t take anything away from anyone. A white girl in a Moana costume isn’t preventing a Polynesian girl from wearing one. A frat boy in a Native American headdress isn’t stopping Native Americans from wearing headdresses. This isn’t appropriation — it’s merely participation. Even if the participation is unwelcome, it still is not preventing anyone of the “correct” culture from engaging in their own traditions.
Another important point about appropriation: a thing can only be appropriated if it is first owned. You appropriate when you seize or commandeer something without the permission of the owner. But cultures cannot really own anything. They especially cannot own styles of dress or music or whatever else. These things really are fluid. They are shared between cultures. They change. They develop. They are not absolute or engrained.
Women, on the other hand, own womanhood. Only they have the right to be called women because only they can be women. A drag queen makes a mockery of womanhood, and himself, but he doesn’t really appropriate womanhood because he isn’t claiming to be a woman. He’s just dressing like a grotesquely exaggerated version of one. But the man in the beauty pageant last night, and the men in women’s restrooms and so on, do not just demand the right to participate in female fashion or female hobbies. They demand the right to be women. And wherever they are given that right, women are deprived of what is rightfully their own.