I am starting a series on cultural appropriation, and I thought I would start with the bindi!
The bindi is commonly associated with Hinduism and it symbolises many things, including the third eye, a way to keep away bad luck and the marital status of a women. For many married couples it also symbolizes the life long commitment the partners have made to each other. It is most commonly seen in India, where the majority of the population are Hindu. The bindi is also part of south Asian cultures in general, as so is seen in countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The “classic” bindi worn by women in all the old Asian movies is a simple red dot, however as the years have gone by the style has changed and the bindi has gotten more glitzy. This wasn’t really a problem until it started to become more “trendy”, through celebrities like Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez. The bindi became part of festival culture and basically lots of white people wore it without actually realising, caring or understanding that it was actually part of religion and culture and had a lot more symbolism than just a fancy “hipster” accessory.
And whats worse is, the bindi is celebrated on white skin. There will be thousands of girls who love the “cultural vibes” Kendall Jenner creates with the bindi, but there will be barely any people who even notice when an Asian appreciates their culture and wears the bindi- they will be completely overlooked.
The problem is that so many celebrities culturally appropriate,( Iggy Azalea in’Bounce’and Beyoncé in Coldplays ‘Hymn For The Weekend’). If you are that influential then surely you should be using your voice for good rather than giving out the message that appropriation is okay.
When Beyoncé culturally appropriated many people tried to make excuses for her and called what she did “appreciation” rather than appropriation. It doesn’t really work like that. When you go to an Indian wedding, you will probably wear a sari and a bindi. I count that as appreciation because you aren’t wearing it as a Halloween costume, you are going to an Indian wedding and therefore appreciating the culture by wearing the traditional outfit.
What I hate is the abuse South Asian women in the past (and still now!) got for wearing a bindi/sari/anything vaguely to do with their culture, but as soon as a white person does it it’s cool and hip and everybody wants to wear it.
I. actually. do. not. understand.