- Rihanna wore a papal-inspired ensemble to the Met Gala.
- No one is accusing her of cultural appropriation.
- Leftists arbitrarily decide which cultures are and are not worth protecting.
Amid the deluge of beautiful, eye-catching dresses worn Monday night at the Met Gala, Rihanna‘s elaborate, embellished ensemble stood out. The theme this year was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and Catholic Imagination,” and some, like Rihanna, opted for a literal interpretation of the suggested dress code.
Her outfit was meant to evoke papal garb. Her hat, according to The New York Times, was “reminiscent of the papal tiaras worn by popes from the medieval era until the mid-1960s.”
No one is pretending that Rihanna is the Bishop of Rome. And yet absent are the cries that she’s appropriating papal culture.
In fact, Catholic officials have actually signalled their pleasure with this year’s theme. Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said at the exhibit’s opening:
“You may be asking, ‘What’s the church doing here? Why is the church part of all this?’ You may be asking, ‘What’s the Cardinal Archbishop of New York?’ I asked that when I was first invited a couple of months ago … It’s because the church and the Catholic imagination are all about three things: truth, goodness, and beauty. That’s why we have great schools and universities, to each the truth. That’s why we love to serve the poor and to do good. And that’s why we’re into things such as art, poetry, music, liturgy, and, yes, even fashion, to thank God for the gift of beauty.”
In truth, there were aspects of the gala with which the church might have reasonably found fault. Rihanna looked beautiful, and there was nothing meaningfully wrong with what she chose to wear. But it’s worth considering that her decolletage and miniskirt, in combination with the papal hat, could easily be seen as offensive by religious Catholics. And yet there has been no coordinated attack on the event or its attendees.
The lack of controversy stands in direct contrast to barrage of criticism that befell 18-year-old Keziah Daum after she dared to wear a traditional Chinese dress to her high-school prom.
Neither Daum’s nor Rihanna’s wardrobe choices strike me as worthy of condemnation. In fact, the concept of cultural appropriation as a whole is deeply misguided because it ignores the reality that ultimately, every culture, tradition, or religion borrows slightly from those that surround it.
But the disparity between these two cases serves to illustrate more than just the incoherence inherent in the charge of appropriation. It highlights the unfairness. Social-justice warriors inevitably create distinctions – they have appointed themselves the arbiters of which cultures deserve protecting. And in the meantime, it seems, they have left Catholics out to dry.
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