The fight against the specter of cultural appropriation continues with #ReclaimtheBindi, a social media movement that is challenging westerners to actually think about the significance of the traditional jewelry before donning it for some music festival.
Plenty of Desi women have taken to Twitter and Instagram to proudly show off their bindis over the past two weeks, which also happened to coincide with Coachella weekend, a hotbed for drunk bindi wearing western girls. What many take issue with in regards to the bindi is that westerners aren’t taking the time to actually learn the history behind it. Also, there is the oft-expressed problem that bindis aren’t considered fashionable or attractive on Desi women, but once a white girl is spied sporting one, it’s considered a cool, new trend.
Of course, any request from a certain group of people for their culture not to be hijacked in an insensitive manner is greeted by the butthurt cries of westerners who just want to ~express~ themselves without having to consider the feelings of the very people “inspiring” them. Because who cares what actual South Asians think about westerners frolicking around Coachella wearing bindis? Acknowledging their concerns would mean having to acknowledge their humanity and who wants to do that anyway? Plus, educating oneself about the cultural significance of anything is as hard as using Google, and so you know, too much of a burden for most people.
There are some who argue that white women wearing bindis can’t be classified as cultural appropriation because the religious connotations and significance have already been lost in some parts of Desi culture. As Anjali Joshi wrote for the Huffington Post last year, “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… The single red dot that once was, transformed into a multitude of colors and shapes embellished with all the glitz and glamour 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 its way to the foreheads of non-South Asians, we should accept — even celebrate — the continued evolution of this cultural symbol.”
Whichever side you stand on, we think the most important thing here is that perhaps we should start listening and educating ourselves on what these cultural symbols actually mean. Is it really so difficult to at least learn about the culture you’re so inspired by?