A snack blog is probably the last place you’d expect to find politics, but it can’t all be “I had a yummy today!” in this life. And there’s no way to deny…food is a very political topic.
One of my secret vices is that I read a gossip blog. While reading it today, I found out that several conservative American political commentators are upset at Rachel Ray for wearing what looks like a keffiyeh in her latest Dunkin’ Donuts ad. A keffiyeh is a black-and-white or red-and-white houndstooth-patterned scarf with tassels. They are traditional head scarves worn throughout the Arab world – most notably – in Palestine.
They are also worn throughout my NY neighborhood.
Brooklyn is the world capital of street fashion. Sometime last winter, the hip-hop kids and hipsters around here began wearing keffiyehs- but with a twist. They were worn around the neck, not on the head, and came in colors like neon green and bright purple. Some were even laced with gold thread.
I have an aversion to anything “trendy” (which is why you’ll rarely/never catch me posting about celebrity chefs or restaurants with “Momofuku” anywhere in the name) so, although I was happy to see this enthusiastic show of solidarity for the people of Palestine, my will to buy one of these colorful creations dwindled as their popularity increased.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was walking through Time Square toward my cousin’s apartment when I saw a pert, blond, sorority-sister-type tourist sporting a keffiyeh and strutting through town with her Burberry-patterned mother. I stopped dead in my tracks and wondered: Are keffiyehs the new Tiffany sweetheart charm bracelet?
Half of me was really tickled, and wondered “could a privileged gal like her, whose counterparts scoffed at my gender equality petition-signing booth in college, really be in support of a struggling, war-torn nation half way around the world?”
The other half was a bit disconcerted. If every fashion follower wearing “one of those cute scarves” knew what it stood for, would they still be wearing it? And what if keffiyehs went out of fashion before Democracy was achieved in the Mid-East? And what exactly did it stand for?
The conservative commentators think that anyone who wears a keffiyeh is supporting terrorism. Oh yeah, and eating french fries means you are a communist, and playing with purple toys makes you gay, right?
To Rachel Ray, or her stylist, it may have stood for a woman who is in the know, about fashion, food, and most importantly, what “coffee extract”-flavored beverage will get you through your morning.
To the young people who started the nouveau-keffiyeh trend, it may have stood for a few things. Here are some ideas:
- keffiyehs are pro-Palestine
- keffiyehs are anti-war
- keffiyeh=terrorist (stereotype),terrorist= tough, tough=cool, cool=keffiyeh
- keffiyehs just look good, who cares what they stand for
- keffiyehs look good and stand for something…Pride? Autonomy? Fighting for what you believe in?
- It’s freakin’ cold and I want to keep my neck warm
That a fashion accessory can inspire so much controversy says a lot about…us…everything…insecurity, racism, identity. I could go on, and on.
But instead, I will ask: What the heck is coffee extract?
*UPDATE* Here’s a fact filled NY Times article about the craze.