March 9 2017
Two students at Pitzer College have demanded white women stop wearing hoop earrings, claiming that they “belong to the black and brown folks who created the culture.”
The student newspaper, the Claremont Independent, reported yesterday that a message spray-painted on the college’s free-speech wall said, “White Girl, take off your hoops!!!”
In a campus-wide email, Alegria Martinez of the Latinx Student Union elaborated on the message, saying she painted it with other women of color who were “tired and annoyed with the reoccuring [sic] theme of white women appropriating styles.”
Martinez said that hoop earrings come “from a historical background of oppression and exclusion,” and that they are worn, along with winged eyeliner and lip liner, as “an everyday act of resistance, especially here at the Claremont Colleges.”
Jacquelyn Aguilera, who will not graduate for another two years, also presumes that she has the right to say who can and cannot wear hoop earrings.
“If you didn’t create the culture as a coping mechanism for marginalization, take off those hoops,” Aguilera wrote in an email to her fellow students. “If your feminism isn’t intersectional take off those hoops, if you try to wear mi cultura when the creators can no longer afford it, take off those hoops, if you are incapable of using a search engine and expect other people to educate you, take off those hoops, if you can’t pronounce my name or spell it … take off those hoops/ I use ‘those’ instead of ‘your’ because hoops were never ‘yours’ to begin with.”
As for their historical claims, Martinez and Aguilera are wrong: Hoop earrings have spanned diverse cultures. The New York Metropolitan Museum’s collection alone includes Sumerian hoops created between 2500-2600 B.C., Egyptian hoopspossibly as old as 1981 B.C., Frankish hoops that date between 675-725 A.D., 6th or 7th century Byzantine or Langobardic hoops likely made in Italy, 8th century Indonesian hoops, 11th century Iranian hoops, and dozens more.
In other words, the earrings have been worn across eras and cultures, by oppressors and the oppressed alike. No culture has a monopoly on hoops. In fact, to claim such a monopoly may be closer to cultural appropriation.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.