#reclaimthebindi: It’s something I’ve seen called attention to for years, but now that there’s a hashtag people are finally taking notice thanks to its trending popularity on Twitter. I hate to blame Coachella for everything, but the only sudden added effort seems to be attributed to the massive amounts of offensive cultural appropriation that happens at this music festival, along with plenty of other festivals and fashion statements. Don’t get me started on the multiple “Native American headdresses” and Muslim shawls I’ve seen women wear at festivals. And no, often time these are not “to get the sun out of their faces.”
To me, the bindi seems the most offensive, and it’s incredibly shocking that so many people who practice this form of cultural appropriation are clueless as to what it’s actually in reference to; in Indian culture, married women wear this bindi, a red spot, in the middle of their forehead. They only remove this once their husbands have died. Can someone explain to me who’s terrible idea this was to turn this into a fashion statement? We already use henna obnoxiously as an artistic temporary tattoo movement, but to go so far as using paints with religious purpose behind them? There’s so much ignorance in fashion sometimes, give me a break.
Honestly, the music festivals seem to be the catalyst for the increase in cultural appropriation, but I think a lot of it has to also be attributed to high fashion. Designers try to think allegedly outside of the box when creating a line of clothes for a season; it seems, that by including pieces of clothing or practices from other cultures, it will exotify that line of clothing. Instead, to me, this seems to tokenize a culture.
Instead of showing respect to these traditions they become a trendy way to stand out from a crowd. Once that fashion picks up, however, it reversibly becomes basic, a sign of ignorance from the fashionistas who wear it, and the cultural fashion statement then becomes devalued, a sign of last season’s fashion woes.
It’s hard to find a way to embrace clothing and practices from another culture in such a way that isn’t offensive because often times that culture isn’t even giving the authority to wear or practice these things! I think if people do decide to appreciate a culture’s values and pieces, it must be done IN that culture’s surroundings. For example, I’ll introduce another fashion statement that has become tokenized — the kimono. How about we stick to wearing those if we’re in Little Tokyo during Japanese Culture Day or if we are visiting a temple? As for henna, why don’t we wear henna if we’re going to an Indian wedding? I think that if you find the appropriate time and place to wear a culture’s attire it will then be considered appreciative and not appropriation for a fashion statement. And if there’s one place that you shouldn’t be wearing a headdress, a bindi or a Muslim shawl, it’s a music festival. Just don’t be basic, please. (Vanessa Hudgens, take note.)
Katrina Yentch is a fourth-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.