When a non-South Asian person wears the bindi, it is generally seen as edgy and cute. Fans and music media alike praise these celebrities for their bold “fashion” choices. But when someone like me or my mom wears the bindi out in public, we are either stared down with dirty looks, told to go back to where we came from, or exotified as having magical qualities.
For my mom and me, it’s a mark of our otherness, a reminder that we don’t belong in this country and never will — unless, of course, we assimilate and leave our cultural symbols behind. Now that is what the dream of becoming a Canadian citizen is supposed to mean: having your culture sold as fashion statements and themes for dinner parties.
Cultural appropriation is a difficult subject to discuss. I already know some people will read this and their response will be, “they should get over it.” If that is your response, fine. I’m just here to remind you that getting over it is easier said than done, and whatever feelings you might have about this issue don’t invalidate someone else’s.
And in case you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up now (which is a valid question – the article is almost a year old), the answer is Coachella. Luckily, it seems that the Hipster Headdress is out of style, but that just means more bindis.
For more reading, check out Beyond Bindis: Why Cultural Appropriation Matters. (Her response to your get over it attitude is perfect, because she acknowledges that there are many bigger problems, but that doesn’t negate the fact that
a pop star like Selena Gomez wearing one is guaranteed to be better received than I would if I were to step out of the house rocking a dot on my forehead. On her, it’s a bold new look; on me, it’s a symbol of my failure to assimilate. On her, it’s unquestionably cool; on me, it’s yet another marker of my Otherness, another thing that makes me different from other American girls. If the use of the bindi by mainstream pop stars made it easier for South Asian women to wear it, I’d be all for its proliferation — but it doesn’t.
Think about it.