A white girl wore a bindi at Coachella. And, then my social media feeds went berserk. Hashtagging the term “cultural appropriation” follows the outrage and seems to justify it at the same time. Except that it doesn’t.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of a specific part of one culture by another cultural group. As I (an Indian) sit here, eating my sushi dinner (Japanese) and drinking tea (Chinese), wearing denim jeans (American), and overhearing Brahm’s Lullaby (German) from the baby’s room, I can’t help but think what’s the big deal?
The big deal with cultural appropriation is when the new adoption is void of the significance that it was supposed to have — it strips the religious, historical and cultural context of something and makes it mass-marketable. That’s pretty offensive. The truth is, I wouldn’t be on this side of the debate if we were talking about Native American headdresses, or tattoos of Polynesian tribal iconography, Chinese characters or Celtic bands.
Why shouldn’t the bindi warrant the same kind of response as the other cultural symbols I’ve listed, you ask? Because most South Asians won’t be able to tell you the religious significance of a bindi. Of my informal survey of 50 Hindu women, not one could accurately explain it’s history, religious or spiritual significance. I had to Google it myself, and I’ve been wearing one since before I could walk.
We can’t accuse non-Hindus of turning the bindi into a fashion accessory with little religious meaning because, well, we’ve already done that. We did it long before Vanessa Hudgens in Coachella 2014, long before Selena Gomez at the MTV Awards in 2013, and even before Gwen Stefani in the mid-90s.
Indian statesman Rajan Zed justifies the opposing view as he explains, “[The bindi] is an auspicious religious and spiritual symbol… It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory…” If us Indians had preserved the sanctity and holiness of the bindi, Zed’s argument for cultural appropriation would have been airtight. But, the reality is, we haven’t.
The 5,000 year old tradition of adorning my forehead with kumkum just doesn’t seem to align with the current bindi collection in my dresser — the 10-pack, crystal-encrusted, multi-colored stick-on bindis that have been designed to perfectly compliment my outfit. I didn’t happen to pick up these modern-day bindis at a hyper-hipster spot near my new home in California. No. This lot was brought from the motherland itself.
And, that’s just it. Culture evolves. Indians appreciated the beauty of a bindi and brought it into the world of fashion several decades ago. The single red dot that once was, transformed into a multitude of colors and shapes embellished with all the glitz and glamor that is inherent in Bollywood. I don’t recall an uproar when Indian actress Madhuri Dixit’s bindi was no longer a traditional one. Hindus accepted the evolution of this cultural symbol then. And, as the bindi makes it’s way to the foreheads of non-South Asians, we should accept — even celebrate — the continued evolution of this cultural symbol. Not only has it managed to transcend religion and class in a sea of one-billion brown faces, it will now adorn the faces of many more races. And that’s nothing short of amazing.
So, you won’t find this Hindu posting a flaming tweet accusing a white girl of #culturalappropriation. I will say that I’m glad you find this aspect of my culture beautiful. I do too.
Why a Bindi Is NOT an Example of Culture Appropriation
by Anjali Joshi
I have just ordered some Indian sweets. They are the best and as much as I distance myself from that side of the family, the pride of my ethnicity shines through when I’ve got some of those sweets. Oh god, they’re just so good.
My mum’s are the best but she hasn’t made any for years :( and I’m far too scared to make any myself because I know I’ll never do them justice.
Chocolate barfi has to be my favourite with semolina a close second. None of this gloopy porridge-like semolina how the English have it though.
i think it’s a universal truth that everyone in our generation takes pluto’s losing its planetary status as a personal offense
pluto is smaller than russia. why did we ever even consider it a planet?
BECAUSE IT’S A PART OF OUR SOLAR SYSTEM
OHANA MEANS FAMILY
FAMILY MEANS NO ONE IS LEFT BEHIND
akkipanda thankfully we haven’t yet. It’s been a problem with guarantors because we’re still technically students. But I think things are now being resolved so we can sign the contract, pay the deposit and first lot of rent, and get the keys on Thursday! *crosses everything*
Saying Hello to the Dragon.
That is a fucking forest spirit and nobody will make me believe otherwise.
Full image here
Meerkats make the best photographer’s assistants EVER.
It’s been nearly 2 weeks since we were supposed to get the keys to our new place and it looks like there are even more complications…
I honestly don’t know what we’d have done if we didn’t still have this house.
I could do without this stress on top of everything else right now.
- upset stomach and vomiting
- muscle aches
- chronic fatigue
- hormonal problems
- irregular menstrual cycles
- lowered immune system
- shortness of breath
- heart palpitations
it is a lot more than just “feeling anxious “