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A white girl wore a bindi at Coachella. And, then my social media feeds went berserk. Hashtagging the term “cultural appropriation” follows the outrage and seems to justify it at the same time. Except that it doesn’t.

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of a specific part of one culture by another cultural group. As I (an Indian) sit here, eating my sushi dinner (Japanese) and drinking tea (Chinese), wearing denim jeans (American), and overhearing Brahm’s Lullaby (German) from the baby’s room, I can’t help but think what’s the big deal?

The big deal with cultural appropriation is when the new adoption is void of the significance that it was supposed to have — it strips the religious, historical and cultural context of something and makes it mass-marketable. That’s pretty offensive. The truth is, I wouldn’t be on this side of the debate if we were talking about Native American headdresses, or tattoos of Polynesian tribal iconography, Chinese characters or Celtic bands.

Why shouldn’t the bindi warrant the same kind of response as the other cultural symbols I’ve listed, you ask? Because most South Asians won’t be able to tell you the religious significance of a bindi. Of my informal survey of 50 Hindu women, not one could accurately explain it’s history, religious or spiritual significance. I had to Google it myself, and I’ve been wearing one since before I could walk.

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. We did it long before Vanessa Hudgens in Coachella 2014, long before Selena Gomez at the MTV Awards in 2013, and even before Gwen Stefani in the mid-90s.

Indian statesman Rajan Zed justifies the opposing view as he explains, “[The bindi] is an auspicious religious and spiritual symbol… It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory…” If us Indians had preserved the sanctity and holiness of the bindi, Zed’s argument for cultural appropriation would have been airtight. But, the reality is, we haven’t.

The 5,000 year old tradition of adorning my forehead with kumkum just doesn’t seem to align with the current bindi collection in my dresser — the 10-pack, crystal-encrusted, multi-colored stick-on bindis that have been designed to perfectly compliment my outfit. I didn’t happen to pick up these modern-day bindis at a hyper-hipster spot near my new home in California. No. This lot was brought from the motherland itself.

And, that’s just it. Culture evolves. Indians appreciated the beauty of a bindi and brought it into the world of fashion several decades ago. The single red dot that once was, transformed into a multitude of colors and shapes embellished with all the glitz and glamor 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 it’s way to the foreheads of non-South Asians, we should accept — even celebrate — the continued evolution of this cultural symbol. Not only has it managed to transcend religion and class in a sea of one-billion brown faces, it will now adorn the faces of many more races. And that’s nothing short of amazing.

So, you won’t find this Hindu posting a flaming tweet accusing a white girl of #culturalappropriation. I will say that I’m glad you find this aspect of my culture beautiful. I do too.

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Why a Bindi Is NOT an Example of Culture Appropriation 

by Anjali Joshi

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tkyle:

TIME’s 100 Most Influential People 2014

tkyle:

TIME’s 100 Most Influential People 2014

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mikelitoriz:
sixpenceee:

Highly requested post. Once again I post these because it’s just a thrill to READ abut them even. 
I have received various messages from people who actually tried some of these games and got back horrifying, emotionally and physically scarring results. 
You have been warned over and over again not to try it. 
hide and seek: playing cat and mouse with a possessed doll
fortune: asking spirits for your entire future
things you never want to do: a collection of dare-devil activities
midnight man: summoning a demon
how to actually contact blood mary: self-explanatory
living doll: inducing a spirit to possess a doll
concentrate: a game to figure out how you will die 
kokkuri-san: summon a spirit to ask about the future 
three kings: access to another dimension 
shoe box telephone: communication with the dead
elevator game: access to another world you may or may not get out of 
bath game: summoning a ghost that will follow you around all day
cat scratch: to summon a spirit that leave claw marks on your back
sandman game: persons body feels much heavier
baby blue: to summon an evil baby spirit
light as a feather: make person’s body light enough to lift up with fingers

sixpenceee:

Highly requested post. Once again I post these because it’s just a thrill to READ abut them even. 

I have received various messages from people who actually tried some of these games and got back horrifying, emotionally and physically scarring results. 

You have been warned over and over again not to try it. 

hide and seek: playing cat and mouse with a possessed doll

fortune: asking spirits for your entire future

things you never want to do: a collection of dare-devil activities

midnight man: summoning a demon

how to actually contact blood mary: self-explanatory

living doll: inducing a spirit to possess a doll

concentrate: a game to figure out how you will die 

kokkuri-san: summon a spirit to ask about the future 

three kings: access to another dimension 

shoe box telephone: communication with the dead

elevator game: access to another world you may or may not get out of 

bath game: summoning a ghost that will follow you around all day

cat scratch: to summon a spirit that leave claw marks on your back

sandman game: persons body feels much heavier

baby blue: to summon an evil baby spirit

light as a feather: make person’s body light enough to lift up with fingers

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sophisticated-ignoranceee:

I’ve been waiting so long to find this.

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fatbellamy:

remember: you can’t spell “valentine’s Day” without “anal destiny”

image

JE SUS CHRIST NEVER lAUGHED SO MUCH OH MY GOD HELOP ME

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Katy Perry’s first and last attempt at crowd surfing

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