Fashion or Fury?
Trudeau’s trip to India: Appropriation or Appreciation?
A Diplomatic Success
Written by MWR writer Elizabeth Hua
Justin Trudeau’s first state visit to India captured the media’s attention with flashy scarves and dazzling jewelry. Despite heavy criticism, Trudeau’s attire was not offensive, but rather displayed cultural appreciation.
Donning the traditional dress is customary for visiting political leaders, and Trudeau was no exception. With great respect for the South Asian country, he enlisted the skills of top fashion designers to adorn him and his family in clothing “too Indian for even an Indian” (Bureau, 2018).
Trudeau made a statement – one that went beyond the week of media sensation. By showcasing his love for the foreign culture and, by extension, multiculturalism, he embodied liberal ideologies, appealed to the new generation of Indo-Canadians (Walkom, 2018), and secured even more votes in the upcoming election with a barrage of cute family photos. Moreover, by exploiting his reputation as the relatable, mediagenic political figure the public already loves, he succeeded in promoting India’s national beauty. After all, who wouldn’t want to visit the Taj Mahal after Canada’s PM dubbed it “one of the most beautiful places in the world” (ANI, 2018)?
The media took full advantage of Trudeau’s fabulous state trip to India. Certainly, his clothing and namaste poses were a little over-the-top, but despite controversy, the PM proved that tradition is not limited to film sets and weddings. His appreciation – and not appropriation – of Indian culture has inspired other millennials to explore diversity as well. One young Indo-Canadian interviewee even praises Trudeau for “trying to portray inclusivity way more than his predecessors” (Millennial, 2018).
India does not seem to mind Trudeau’s wedding get-up either. As It Happens host Carol Off tells Delhi journalist Shivam Vij that the people in India believe there’s “nothing offensive about [his clothes]” (Off, 2018). If anything, they are “amused because he’s so overdressing, so overdoing it” that he is following the fashion model of their Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Justin Trudeau is more than a pretty political figure; his constant attempts to support diversity – be it ethnic, sexual, or religious – is admirable. His actions leave a lasting impression by stirring conversations and debates across the globe, by providing visibility to foreign cultures, and by steering the public toward acceptance. Indeed, Trudeau’s visit to India was a veritable success – groom garments and all.
Edited by Anastasia Chang Leong
Trudeau’s Appropriation of Indian Culture Backfires Hilariously
Written by MWR writer Razvan Banica
As the PyeongChang Winter Olympics were coming to a close last February, our Prime Minister was busy turning a simple business trip to India into his most recent scandal. The offense? He and his family wore traditional Indian attire for most of the week-long visit. While some merely accuse him of being too extravagant, others call it all-out cultural appropriation. While Trudeau is loved for his over-the-top Selfies and his lavish hair, this poor choice of wardrobe may have serious consequences for him and his party.
Cultural appropriation is most often understood to mean the usurpation of a minority group’s culture, especially for political or social gain. Trudeau did exactly that in choosing traditional attire over a plain old suit. What’s more, he brought his family along with him as accomplices—on a taxpayer-funded business trip, no less! It seems like our
dear Prime Minister, with his fawning left and right, may be trying to divert our attention from the real issues, like the fact that Jaspal Atwal, convicted in 1986 of attempted murder for his role in the attack of an Indian cabinet member, was invited to an official banquet during the trip. So long for Trudeau’s ‘Peace and Love’ reputation. Or perhaps the parading was to take our eyes off of the fact that the Liberals are running an $18 Billion-dollar deficit for which we—the youngest generation—will have to pay.
Ruse or not, some affirm that Trudeau’s fashion choices were to appreciate India’s culture, not appropriate it. “That can only do good for the Liberals!”, they tell us reassuringly. Recent polls beg to differ. In particular, the CBC’s shows the
Conservatives surging ahead to 37.9% and the Liberals dropping to 33.7%. This 4 point lead may not seem significant, but consider that less than six months ago the Liberals were 10 points ahead of their Conservative rivals. The sudden drop will no doubt sound an alarm or two at the party’s headquarters.
Appreciating a culture is all about admiring it—taking in the complexity and beauty of a people’s customs. It becomes downright appropriation, however, as soon as one uses those cultural elements for personal gain. People dressing up in a Sari on Halloween might get away with it, but Trudeau certainly shouldn’t. Our Prime Minister should be a role model for Canadians and should act as such. Not only that, Trudeau shouldn’t be going around “promoting”—and embarrassingly so—other cultures when he has one of his own to show the world. Unfortunately, it seems that Trudeau cares more about his ego and (as we ramp up for the 2019 Elections) about maintaining his base than about the people he, as leader of our democracy, should be focusing on: Canadians.
Edited by Guillaume Bouchard