Cultural Appropriation Lifestyle
Bindis: Cultural Appropriation or Not?Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Meet my friend Adam. Whenever he comes over, he always cuddles Wilhelmina, and he never leaves without a bindi adorning his forehead....
Meet my friend Adam. Whenever he comes over, he always cuddles Wilhelmina, and he never leaves without a bindi adorning his forehead. Why? For one, he is fascinated by India and Indian culture, and secondly because I slap it on before he can say no!
I know the bindi's caused a little bit of controversy lately with the whole 'Cultural Appropriation' thing emanating from a bunch of celebrities wearing them at a music festival I'd never heard of (called Coachella, which sounds like a s**t name anyway) and from being sold at Topshop and Miss Selfridge amongst others. I have to say, when I first heard of this I too, was outraged. How DARE they?! Taking parts of my culture, using it to their advantage. You can't simply pick and choose parts of my culture, you haven't tasted our struggle.
There was an uproar on my Twitter feed, people from all over the world commenting on how this was 'Cultural Appropriation' and there was me joining the mob of the oppressed rising up to strike against our oppressors, bashing them for insulting Mother India, Hinduism and using our culture as a throwaway trend.
I was really, really mad. But I stepped back from the cauldron and began to think about this. Why was I so angry? Was this really an example of Cultural Appropriation? I've seen the photos of white people wearing the Native American head dress, which is quite blatantly insulting. The ancestors of foreign invaders rubbing the noses of the natives right in it. "Hey look at me, my great-great-great-great grandad stole your land and now I'm stealing your traditions too!".
But is the wearing of the bindi on the same level as that? Really? The bindi does have a deep religious significance to Hindus of course - representing concealed wisdom, but does the wearing of a decorative, ornamental version of it by uninformed non-hindu people pose a threat to or insult Hindus or Hinduism, the religion of 1.1 billion people? I'm not so sure about that.
I'm actually growing quite concerned that the quest to seek out such 'Cultural Appropriation' and vociferously shout it down is in danger of becoming too judgemental. How do you know that the person you are bashing from behind your screen has no appreciation of the culture they've borrowed from? How could you possibly know? Did you ask? What did they say?
Just by way of example, there's a photo of my white other half standing by himself wearing traditional Nepalese dress with a tikka on his forehead. If I were to post that in isolation (and if he were famous), we'd both get berated. But the fact is, it was taken at his friend's wedding who asked him to wear the clothes, and an elderly Brahmin priest came up and offered the tikka. What's he supposed to do? Say: "No I'm sorry, that'll offend you and your entire culture."
We are seeing genuinely harmless things attract huge volumes of scorn, I mean who really cares if a semi-talented singer gets a Chinese tattoo, wears a sari or a bindi when there are some really damaging acts of cultural appropriation out there. Why the need to focus on Vanessa Hudgens instead of Israel for example, a country that in an attempt to wipe out Palestinian culture and history has taken to adopting traditional Palestinian cuisine as its own. THAT is cultural appropriation, and that is worthy of anger and scorn.
And going back to Bindis, it's ironic that a significant number of people complaining, myself included at one point, are actually Muslim and therefore lay no claim to the cultural significance of a bindi anyway. When you go to a Muslim wedding and you see the bride wearing a sari, a bindi and traditional hindu-styled jewellery, do you run up to the bride and tear it all off in protest at this cultural appropriation? Bollocks.
I see Asians complain with their left hand about the bindi yet in their right hand they listen to hip hop and immerse themselves in Black culture. Certainly nothing wrong with that from my point of view, but by your own definition, are you not belittling the everyday struggles of the Black community by appropriating their culture?
In my opinion, cultural appropriation is most definitely a thing, but if you want to get angry about it, you best not be doing it yourself to someone else's culture and you'd better be directing your anger at actual appropriation, instead of using it as a way of channelling your frustration that semi-talented people can end up so mega-rich.
So yeah, whenever my friends are over, it's now become a tradition that you don't leave my gaff without a bindi on. LaaLaa Monroe can vouch for this, ha!