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The Cultural Appropriation Embedded In TikTok Sounds

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

Due to the takeover of the internet and its integration into our everyday lives, everything can be accessed by people all over the globe. Though this has benefits, and has led to the spreading of trends, it often has its drawbacks. One such instance can be seen via culture specific TikTok sounds, which have become a worldwide trend. When the Arabian Nights song from Aladdin, and Moy Marmeladny went viral, their users faced a lot of backlash for cultural appropriation. To be able to understand how this happens, one must understand the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation given that there is a very thin line between the two.

Cultural appreciation refers to honouring another culture by adopting some of its practices respectfully, while crediting these ways to the culture they are from. While cultural appropriation is the adoption of a culture’s practices (by someone who does not belong to the culture in question) with no acknowledgement of that culture or respect for it.

Let’s delve into Katya Lel’s Moy Marmeladny, and its rise in popularity. The way it was formed into a trend was down to the people, mainly girls, singing the lyrics of the song while wearing fur coats and headwear. This gave rise to the ‘Slavic Girl’ trend, which a lot of people had problems with and deemed to be a form of cultural appropriation because it reminded Slavic girls of situations where they had to shy away from telling people where they are from to not be ridiculed. Many Slavic girls recall being bullied simply for being from Slavic countries and fearing not being offered the same opportunities as their non-Slavic counterparts. Many Slavic women called people out for embracing the aesthetic only when it is trendy or convenient for them. 

A current culturally appropriated sound is the Shik Shak Shok trend. Shik Shak Shok is a very popular Arabic song commonly played in Arab weddings, formals, and many Arab parties in general. At first, the trend started by using Shik Shak Shok as the equivalent of the word ‘shock’ to mention how women wanted their male partners to buy them expensive things like Cartier and Van Cleef. Later, as it became more popular, people adopted this trend and sound to refer to other things in their daily life, but it still mainly held the premise of how men in general should be gifting their female partners name brands to prove their love. Outside the realm of TikTok, Arabs are being killed and are facing racism for being “terrorists”, whether it is in the West or in their own countries. Therefore Arabs have deemed this trend as cultural appropriation due to people embracing the ‘Arab aesthetic’ only when it is trendy rather than treating Arabs with respect on a day-to-day basis and acknowledging their struggles.

These sounds are only two examples of how cultural appropriation runs very deep and subtly across major social media platforms, and these are two of many sounds used to culturally appropriate on TikTok. Although as Gen Z we often advocate for marginalised voices and increasingly use social media to give a platform to or voice our perspectives and attitudes, we’re guilty of ignoring some of the ways in which we contribute to further stigmatisation, which can contribute to taboos or stigmatisation in light of calling something a ‘trend’, deconstructing any efforts made to diminish these negative labels. This proves the need for wider awareness around more subtle forms of cultural appropriation, especially in trends, before simply joining in because of its popularity.

Lynn El Masri

Nottingham '24

Hey, I'm Lynn! I'm doing my MSc in Management Psychology and some interests of mine include ballet, social media, fashion, cooking, baking, and much more. I was born and raised in Lebanon, a small country in the heart of the Middle East (you’ll probably know about the food) and I came here with a suitcase and a dream. I have dabbled in writing for quite a few years now, jumping from one publication to another to put forth my opinions and discuss my passions in a way that is digestible for other people.