cultural or species appropriation

by Andrea Elizabeth

Yesterday a conversation went from tattoos to species appropriation because I said if I had a tattoo – which I would neither like to have nor get because of the amount of skin invasion and how it makes an otherwise pretty and crisp design, which would be better suited on canvas or in commemorative jewelry, ugly and blurry – I would get one of a horse because the rationale for getting a tattoo is because it makes the owner happy whenever they look at it. Looking at horses makes me happy like no other species. When I was young, “playing horses” was just about all I wanted to do. I would go around like King Arthur in Monty Python before I ever saw the movie, and after which I wished I had had a coconut person to make it more authentic. But I was the rider and not the horse even though the rider has to do the horse’s gaits.

Nevertheless, as I thought about tattoos, since looking at horses makes me so happy, especially when they move, I thought of an extensive tattoo with hooves on my hands and feet, the head going down at least one side of my face, etc. It would be fun to imitate the movements and see if looking at horse features moving horse-like on my arms and legs would suspend my disbelief. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to have my horse branded with a primitive shaped horse-head tattoo on my thigh or neck. The person I was talking to said, this is why you shouldn’t have a tattoo. I guess it was species appropriation. Not only would I think that ideal, I mean, four powerful legs unstead of two!, but regarding cultures, if I had to be a human, I would also like to be an American Indian, or an African. I like how natural and free tribal life seems. I heard a Native American talk about how in his childhood when you saw a rushing stream you believed you could cross it and you did. Nowadays people are so scared and think bridges are totally necessary. Yes, I feel kindred to that way of thinking, but I would take my Indian canoe or Eskimo kayak. I have thought about starting a canoe ferry business at state parks with lakes before. Wearing braids and feathers would add.

So nowadays “culture appropriation” and “species appropriation” are things, as is gender dysphoria and appropriation. So do cultural and species appropriators have their respective dysphorias? I wouldn’t think I was a horse but I would like to compare and contrast their gates to mine and be inspired by theirs, sort of like the new stable robot design is. And I would enjoy their prettiness on me. Maybe it would also be like how Indians get power from wearing bear skins. They don’t forget they’re human or think they are actually bears. Back to cultural dysphoria, I am fascinated however by stories of abducted white children who are raised by Indians and who prefer their way of life, like Cynthia Anne Parker and possibly Olive Oatman.

I know it is common for some people to feel alien in their circle. There are probably millions of  different reasons for this. One being autism, for instance. Or post traumatic stress. Or other psychiatric disorders. Writers often feel removed, or that there is a Golden Age where they would have felt more at home, like in Midnight in Paris. And what if you do feel more at home reading the words of people from 100 years ago, and that your circle’s language is learned just for practical navigation and not richness of true or deep expression? Was it better back then? I don’t know because things were harder back then. But they still ring truer. And I don’t know if I could have turned a blind eye to the suffering of animals and poor people who did the hard things machines do now. But the Indians didn’t have as hard work to do, but the raiding ones, I know I know… still.