I wore Bindi Jewelry to Coachella. Do I regret it? Nope! I also have tribal tattoos and plan on getting one of the Ganesha and I am not Hindu. I do consider myself culturally aware but I’m guilty of cultural appropriation. Yet, I don’t regret my decisions. Cultural Appropriation has been a hot-button issue for a while, especially as it relates to music festivals. A recently posted video titled Dear White Women, We Need To Talk About Coachella sparked a lot of debate on Social Media. While I agree with the underlying message of being respectful of religious symbols and practices. There are a few things about the video that I disagreed with. For starters, singling out White Women. I wore a Bindi, but I’m a black woman, do I get a pass?
My “Third Eye” sparkling in the sunlight.
There’s a razor thin line between wearing something because you respect its beauty and culture and making light of something another considers sacred. While this video describes the Bindi as “a symbol of spirituality and awakening instead of a forehead accessory”. Anjali Joshi explains Why a Bindi Is NOT an Example of Cultural Appropriation. Joshi explains that, “Of my informal survey of 50 Hindu women, not one could accurately explain its history, religious or spiritual significance. I had to Google it myself, and I’ve been wearing one since before I could walk.” But does one South Asian’s opinion validate my decision? Another article breaks down the difference between appropriation and appreciation and wraps up the subject honestly by acknowledging that “our reaction to appropriation is also tied up in who’s doing the appropriating.”
My style inspiration for the first day of Coachella was Frida Kahlo. I’d recently written a post about how much she’s influenced me. So I wanted to pay homage to her by bringing her look to life, as a Fat Black Woman. I knew I wanted to wear a Bindi in a unique way, so I decided to channel Frida’s Third Eye piece and wear three. I couldn’t wait to share my Day #1 photos on my favorite social sites. But I was a little nervous about the possible blowback. Not only did I post on my personal and blog pages I posted in some of the Facebook travel groups I’m a member of. While most of the comments were positive and encouraging, there was some negative feedback. I also noticed that some of my “woke” friends didn’t “like” the photos of me wearing a Bindi. But “loved” and commented on photos from days two and three when I was Bindi-free.
The irony is Frida was also accused of cultural appropriation. She was known for wearing embroidered dresses of indigenous Tehuana style. Although she wasn’t of indigenous descent, she was enamored by the matriarchal society. Still, the honest truth is that while Frida had the privilege of “playing dress up” indigenous women who wore the same styles remained oppressed.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with appreciating someone else’s culture and wearing things from it in a respectful way because you find it beautiful. Still, fashion is trend driven and while some things are timeless, it’s hard to say what is sacred. Men’s suits are a western fashion staple worn for business and formal events. However, you can visit any country in the world and see business men wearing business suits. Is that cultural appropriation? What about wearing a rosary? Something that’s frowned upon in the Catholic faith. When I visited Thailand I saw signs everywhere explaining that tattoos of Buddha was not only wrong but against the law. Many people have been deported from and even imprisoned in Buddhist countries for sporting their spiritual leader as a tattoo.
Photo via Knowing Buddha
So, long story short, I made a list of fashion clichés and checked them all off in one weekend in Indio. Flower crown? Check! Bikini top? Check! Bindi? Triple check! If you’re offended by me wearing a Bindi, I do apologize because that’s not my intention. However, would I wear it again? Yes! I use fashion as an artistic outlets. I don’t dress to impress others, I dress to express myself. No approval needed.