Last week, Selena Gomez found herself in a bit of a pickle when she wore a bindi on stage at the MTV awards. Gomez has been asked to give an apology for repping a bindi, an ornament sacred in the Hindu religion, while performing her fairly sexualised single Come and Get It.
After reading this article, I found myself pondering a subject I’d thought so little about beforehand.
The morning of Summafieldayze festival, I turned up to my friend’s house in a plain shirt paired with some denim shorts. I thought this was completely appropriate for what was to be a sweltering day spent budged up against steroid-dudes in moshpits and girls drunk fist-pumping to MIA while they knock back another drink. (You must agree with me – festivals are great but the people suck...)
Instead my friend instantly ripped me out of this outfit deciding some boho crop top that constantly forced nipple slips would be better suited. She finished by sticking a bindi between my brows. The day turned into a success, but I couldn’t help but noticing the dozens of drunken ladies also wearing a bindi. So considering this, is it disrespectful if we are completely ignoring a bindi’s religious significance?
Culture Appropriation has been dubbed as the term. Basically describing when the western world subconsciously believes white entitlement gives us the grounds to make something sacred, from another culture or religion, into a commercialised fad or fashion trend.
I went to straight to Wikipedia for some Bindi facts.
“Wearing a bindi or mangalsutra is a sign of Hindu women. Traditionally, the area between the eyebrows (where the bindi is placed) is said to be the sixth chakra, ajna, the seat of "concealed wisdom". This chakra is the exit point for kundalini energy. The bindi is said to retain energy, strengthen concentration and protect against demons or bad luck. The bindi also represents the third eye. The traditional red bindi still represents and preserves the symbolic significance that is integrated into Indian mythology in many parts of India. Red represents honor, love and prosperity, hence it was worn traditionally by women to symbolize this.”
Anyone from India would say that bindis became a worldwide fashion accessory a long time ago, and many Hindus even wear them with no spiritual intent. Bindis aren’t a new ‘fad’ either. Gwen Stefani looked absolutely amazing in the No Doubt days.
So what’s the problem then, you may ask?
When the Indian religion and history is completely forgotten by the western world to create some hipster-hyped, out-of-place aesthetic.
Something we consider so small, that we just peel from the ten-pack and stick on our foreheads, is an iconic religious statement for Indian woman throughout history. But if an Indian woman wore a shirt mocking an American company, it would NOT be the same thing. Cultural Appropriation is a product of centuries of imperialism, capitalism and colonisation, which caused oppression for nations like India.
I don’t intend to bore you with history. And really, it’s not just bindis either. Wearing feather head pieces to be so boho, wearing crosses when you aren’t attached to the Christian religion, or wearing pentacle necklaces when you aren’t Wiccan, all raise the same sort of issues.
I’m all for embracing individuality. But wearing bindis and whatnot isn’t indie at all. Centuries of history hide behind something so small, so before adorning ourselves with these symbols, we must have an open-mind and most importantly, respect for its origin. The answer is simple, it’s culture – not 'cool'.
If you’d like to read more on this topic, this site is fantastic: http://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/cultural-appreciation-or-cultural-appropriation/Written By Natalie Lane