Festival season will be upon us soon – Coachella, Osheaga, and the newly announced Way Home are just a few examples of exciting music festivals that will be taking place in the upcoming summer. But with festival season approaching, so is an onslaught of cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation is the act of taking a symbol belonging to a specific culture and making it your own for the purpose of aesthetic value, and it’s actually really, really racist. Bindis, dreads, feathered headdresses and other cultural symbols are often seen at music festivals. Bindis are a South-Asian symbol, dreads are a part of black culture, and feathered headdresses are part of the cultures of indigenous peoples. Why is this a problem? You might not know it, but often, people of the culture you’re borrowing from (and don’t belong to) experience harassment for trying to wear the same item.
Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Iggy Azalea, and Miley Cyrus are our generation’s bindi-wearing non-South Asians (past generations can recall Gwen Stefani and Madonna doing it as well.) People tried to call Vanessa Hudgens out for wearing the bindi, and she laughed it off and continued appropriating South-Asian culture. Meanwhile, South-Asian girls continued to get harassed simply for being ‘brown’. New Jersey once had a gang in it called the “Dotbusters” that targeted and harassed South-Asians. The “dot” in their name refers to the bindi. Vanessa Hudgens did nothing for improving the welfare of brown girls. Variations of the bindi also have significance in the Hindu faith; it can be hurtful to people of South-Asian culture to see something so important to them treated like an accessory.
Kylie Jenner recently got dreads (and did blackface!) but Zendaya Coleman rocked dreads and was mocked, even though dreads are a part of black culture.
Dsquared2 released a Native-themed line of clothing for FW15, while hundreds of native-Canadian girls and women from Dan and Dean’s home country are missing and murdered and nothing is being done to find them (not to mention that the collection was called #DSquaw, a literal racist slur.)
You yourself might not be racist and have nothing against people of colour, but you should know that by wearing or using cultural symbols outside of your culture, you are contributing to a huge system of hypocrisy in our society. Our society loves the things that people of colour wear, but doesn’t protect people of colour.
There are lots of other cute trends you can try out this festival season that are perfectly harmless – opt for a crop top, chunky platform sandals, jelly heels, or layer up necklaces. 70’s is huge this season – why not try a peasant dress or paisley palazzo pants?
You are welcome to appreciate other cultures, but you don’t have to wear their symbols to show your appreciation; simply comment on how beautiful bindis, dreads, henna, headdresses, etc. are, and move on.
Enjoy your festival season, and let others enjoy theirs as well by making sure that you aren’t crossing the line when it comes to your choices in fashion. Before you can think of taking it upon yourself to ‘share’ elements of another culture, think about what it means to them, how you are portraying it, and the social and moral ramifications of wearing something that may really be a lot more than ‘just a hairstyle’.
Image via @vanessahudgens