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
our hundred and seventy-six people were aboard the Sewol, which tragically capsized on Wednesday — one of them was 22-year-old Park Ji-young. She worked in the cafeteria, not as part of the crew. The ship’s communication officer announced to passengers that it was “more dangerous to move” than to risk a disorderly evacuation. Frigid water was filling the ferry’s lower levels, causing it to list hard to one side.
The crew didn’t stick around to help anyone else. It was Park who stayed behind to calm down frightened children and pass out life jackets. She didn’t save one for herself, and she told passengers that she wouldn’t leave the boat until every passenger was safely off and accounted for. "After saving you, I will get out," she reportedly said. "The crew goes out last."
"Park pushed shocked passengers toward the exit even when the water was up to her chest," said one witness.
I AM MAKIN’ MY TUMBLR A HAPPY PLACE! It’s my lighthearted get away. Serious issues might come up every once in a while, but I have to take a step back from some of them because I was kinda dreading logging on because it always left me feeling crappy. There’s just a difference between reading about heavy issues sporadically and being bombarded by them all the time. I know I posted about doing this before, but there were a couple of people/blogs I didn’t want to stop following because I like them so much, but in the end I had to. I’ll be useless if I allow Tumblr to make me hate myself. It already does a GREAT job at making me feel guilty for parts of me that cannot be changed—and with that being said, it’s done a great job at helping me become more open and accepting of certain issues, so it’s not all bad. I’m just stressed and my head hurts and I need a vacation from negativity. ANYONE WANT TO BE A HAPPY, POSITIVE INFLUENCE IN MY LIFE? I keep letting the negativity drag me down and I don’t want to be like that anymore. It used to be easier for me to be happier, so I just gotta work harder for now.
This includes my Once Upon a Time episodes being spoiled by a west coast OUaT group I unfollowed. (I still hold that if you’re going to run a group for a tv show in the US and post things about the episodes the same night they air, you ought to wait until after it airs on ALL coasts before posting photos. You are not a random person who loves OUaT. You are running a group about a particular show and are now ruining it for everyone except who is on the East Coast. If you are making it all about that one show, wait until the show airs everyone before posting about it, be it late that night or the following day. Because if you don’t, what is the point of anyone outside of the East Coast following your Tumblr, and now you’re losing followers, because I guarantee I ain’t specifically hunting down your blog after the episode airs just to be able to reblog gifs. I’m just going to find someone else who blogs them after the episode airs on the West Coast, otherwise I have to stay off Tumblr from 5pm to 9 pm until the episode is over, and that just ain’t happening.
There are these little tiny fuzzy bugs that are flying around my pear tree and I kind of want to call them cute but I feel like the second I do someone’s gonna tell me they’re like the spawns of satan and they sting people and kill my trees
I would not be able to angry at an infestation of little fairies in my fruit.