Move over, you "cultural appropriation" people, enemies of the genocidal $98 Lululemon pants.
I've got an even more arcane oppression-whine for you: "poverty appropriation."
Yup, Judy Westhale, who grew up in a trailer park in California, feels about the same way that South Asian social-justice warriors feel about upscale blondes lugging yoga mats on shoulder straps:
This background, this essential part of who I am, makes it particularly difficult to stomach the latest trend in “simple” living—people moving into tiny homes and trailers. How many folks, I wonder, who have engaged in the Tiny House Movement have ever actually lived in a tiny, mobile place? Because what those who can afford homes call “living light,” poor folks call “gratitude for what we’ve got.”
And it’s not just the Tiny House Movement that incites my discontent. From dumpster diving to trailer-themed bars to haute cuisine in the form of poor-household staples, it’s become trendy for those with money to appropriate the poverty lifestyle—and it troubles me for one simple reason. Choice.
Choice! How horrible! We can't have people actually choosing to gorge themselves on HoHos!
Such appropriation isn’t limited to the Tiny House trend, or even to the idea of simplicity. In major cities, people who com from high-income backgrounds flock to bars and restaurants that both appropriate, and mock, low-income communities. Perhaps the most egregious example is San Francisco’s Butter Bar, a trendy outpost that prides itself on being a true-blue, trailer park-themed bar, serving up the best in “trashy” cuisine and cocktails. With tater tots, microwaved food, and deep-fried Twinkies on the menu, the bar also serves cocktails that contain cheap ingredients, such as Welch’s grape soda. The bar has an actual trailer inside, and serves cans in paper bags, so that bar flies can have a paid-for experience of being what the owners of this bar think of when they think of trailer trash.
It’s but one example of an entire hipster movement—can it be called a movement when it’s a subculture rooted not in political consciousness, but in capitalism?—that has brought with it an ethos of poor-culture appropriation and the “re-invention” of things that have largely been tools of survival for poor, disabled, working class, and/or communities of color for decades.
Now, anyone who dumps on hipsters can't be all bad. And there's a lot to laugh at in the nostalgie de la boue of helicopter-parented millennials "ironically" dunking their tater tots into their Pabst Blue Ribbon.
But you know, Judy, how about acknowledging how funny it all is–instead of pulling the long face and pulling out the lecture? Wouldn't it be better to chuckle at the folks who think that Hindu-themed stretching exercises lift you to a superior spiritual plane–and think that guzzling cheap soda-pop out of a can shows how cool you are?