Over the last week, a controversy has been brewing in San Francisco over cookie dough. We know, “How could someone screw up something as lovable as cookie dough?” Well, it seems someone found a way, and San Francisco Chronicle’s Justin Phillips called out the peddlers of the sweet treat “DoughP.”
Yes, it’s pronounced ‘dope.’ Yes, that’s dumb.
Kelsey Witherow sat down with Phillips to talk about the grand opening of DoughP. The short article touched on some of the names of the flavors like ‘This S’More is Hella Lit,’ ‘Cold Brew is Bae,’ and ‘The OG.’ Witherow continued to explain that she “was the white girl at my high school who was going through the Hyphy movement. I was obsessed with Mac Dre.”
Phillips response was a single word response: “Hm.”
It’s clear the Phillips was put off by Witherow — a very white, female, upper-class small business owner — using hip hop culture in her business’ branding. “As an African American, journalist, hip hop junkie and connoisseur of sweets, I’m torn,” Phillips laments. “Witherow seems charming and well intentioned. And I loved Mac Dre, too. But I can’t help but tilt my head at this.”
A few questions: Are we headed to a point where people feel disallowed to like/ reference things because of race? That seems … crazy. Also, is this an example of a deeper problem or simply a person thinking about #branding in an obnoxious way?
There’s actually a serious question that needs to be answered here: The line of what constitutes ‘cultural appropriation’ seems to be in flux constantly. There’s also a distinct difference between cultural appreciation, cultural appropriation, and cultural misappropriation. The latter being conflated with the other two far too often. There’s a sizable gulf between appreciating and celebrating something you’re a fan of in a way that’s respectful as opposed to using grotesque stereotypes to misrepresent another culture for your own monetary gain.
Witherow has already responded with a blog post on her cookie dough blog. She defended her branding with a long statement, “I wanted to make a brand that was relatable to my generation. The ‘millennials’ as we’re called seem to have our own sort of language so I wanted to build off of that.” Witherow continues, “I recognize how serious cultural appropriation is and, after some exploration, can understand how my incorporation of hip hop influences into the DOUGHP brand can be viewed as such.”
Witherow decided to scale back the direct references to hip hop culture in her recipes. ‘The OG’ is now ‘The Original’ and ‘This S’more Is Hella Lit’ is now ‘This S’more is Hella Awesome.’ Witherow also seems to have dropped her new lemon and cayenne cookie dough flavor’s Beyonce inspired name for the much tamer ‘Lemon and Chili.‘
The M&Ms inspired flavor ‘Eminem’ is still on the menu.