Appropriation or Appreciation
How Culture Endures in Melting Pot Nation
As I child, I remember my mom getting ready for Diwali celebrations. She carefully would pick out a salwar kameez and then promptly choose a matching bindi, which she would place in between her eyebrows. For me, these traditions have accumulated into what I consider to be beautiful. However, recently, the bindi has become a common accessory at music festival, and red carpets alike. The bindi and its importance dates back hundreds of years. Its roots in indian culture has lead to the outrage of many, and some remain unsure whether the use of the bindi by those of non-south asian descent is appropriation, or appreciation. The root of the disagreement resides in whether the bindi is a symbol of religious and cultural values, or whether it is a decorative accessory.
The bindi is a traditionally worn by women of South Asian descent. The bindi is placed between a woman’s eyebrows, which is thought to be the location of the sixth chakra, ajna, which is thought to be the sight of withheld wisdom. In hinduism, this also referred to the sight of one’s third eye. By focusing on one’s third eye, it is believed that higher levels of enlightenment can be achieved. These roots within the hindu religion has lead many people to feel that the use of bindis by people of non-South Asian descent is disrespectful, and a form of cultural appropriation.
The bindi’s presence in western culture can be traced back to the early 1990’s. Gwen stefani appeared in multiple of her music videos bearing a bindi. The bindi then made a resurgence when Selena Gomez appeared in her “Come and Get It” music video wearing a bindi, and again in her MTV performance of the same song. With the popularity of music festivals such as Coachella, to burning man, the bindi quickly became a pivotal part of “festival fashion”. Though the bindi does have a history based in religious values, the bindi has become more of a fashion choice is South Asian countries as well. Additionally, Priyanka Chopra, a woman of Indian descent, commented saying that Selena Gomez’s use of the bindi helped bring attention to Indian cultures, while others felt the use to be disrespectful.
So what quantifies appropriation versus appropriation. And, as a member of a minority group, who has the authority to state whether it is true. The line between appropriation and appreciation is very fine, and in our current political climate, where we know are more vocal about the respect of the cultural traditions of various groups, it has become increasingly important to discuss the parameters of which we share our cultures, and how they are translated to our country as a whole.