Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hipster Racism

Most of you, well probably all of you, might not know, but I am dating a member of the Sioux tribe.

Rian is a quarter Sioux and received the official recognition from the tribe a few years ago.

Anyway, Rian and I once joked that if we have children, they're going to be the ultimate hippies.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize it's true.

Both of our Indian ethnicities are considered "new age" and "sexy" in the western world. Our ancestral backgrounds have become a novelty.

Think of how many young people do yoga, consult gurus, and brag about spending a summer in an ashram, only in a desperate attempt to be cool. Or do peyote or go to rainbow gatherings, without respecting the rituals or understanding the meaning.

And then there's the fashion.

For example, just sift through photos of Coachella outfits.

While Rian's sweet little Indian grandmother spends hours carefully crafting bead work for legitimate pow wows on Sioux reservations, these 20-something girls are flaunting the native style like they own it.

And both Gwen Stefani and Lana Del Rey were called out for using Native American style to sex up their appeal in music videos.

When the videos came out, people in the Native American community were outraged. The head dress is not a fashion accessory, they cried out. It's a symbol for an entire culture. They saw the videos as a mockery of their heritage.

Meanwhile, on the other Indian side, we've had everyone from Julia Roberts to Selena Gomez wear a jeweled bindi on their forehead. And everyone from Pamela Anderson to the Pussycat Dolls waltz the red carpet in sarees.

When Selena recently wore a bindi during a seductive VMA performance, the incident received worldwide negative press and tweets from Indians who were offended. In fact, officials at the Universal Society of Hinduism insisted Selena should apologize for making a mockery of the religious symbol.

Now, I'm not saying that fashion trends or style influenced by these cultures is completely tasteless.

But I do think there's a fine line between borrowing customs for style and creating costumes as style.

I own a pair of Minnetonka moccasins. They're adorable. And I love wearing feathers in my hair.

But you wouldn't catch me going to a music festival in full headdress. I think that's disrespectful.

The same goes with the other Indian culture. I love wearing mehndi in the summer. I own a stash of decorative bindis.

But then again, I kind of cringe when I think of pop tarts using a religious symbol, such as a bindi, as a form of sexualization. Maybe I'm too critical, but that does seem culturally insensitive to me. There's a difference between making a fashion statement with respect and making a mockery of it with sex.

The same goes for any other culture.

But the line is really up to us. And unfortunately, it's located in different places for different people. What I don't find offensive might enrage a devout Hindu.

After all, nothing is black and white.

There are millions of people all over the world who genuinely adore the Native American culture and find it an inspiring influence. Just like there are millions of people all over the world who do yoga for the health benefits and pursue Hinduism because it genuinely speaks to them.

But when it comes to fashion, the line is there.

What are your thoughts on hipster racism? Is your style inspired by other cultures? Have you ever been unsure where to draw the line?


The Dainty Dolls House said...

I think there has to be a limit and a genuine interest & full knowledge of the culture your trying to incorporate into your fashion line and every day wear. I see so many people wear certain things from cultures, but don't even know how it's meant to be worn or what it's even called. And using someone's culture to get rich or get seen is not right either. Part of my family is from the Cherokee tribe and I used to know people that would wear different ethnic things but they were completely racist, so it didn't make sense to me. I just think when you use something ethnic for fashion or anything, you should talk about it with someone of that ethnicity or culture, so you have full understanding of what they mean to them. I see people in America wear kilts all the time & they prance around in them & call them skirts...but they don't even know what these kilts mean to the clans in Scotland, it's very important!! So, I think it all comes with knowledge and understanding. We need to seek that from the people to know and understand how they might feel about their heritage being used in such a manner, as some might be offended and others might not. But, to just assume that they won't or that they should just deal with it is wrong!! Have a great day doll x

Vivienne Z said...

I think small splashes of a different culture, like a bindhi or a feather ornament or an African inspired necklace are ok. As long as it doesn't make fun of or disrespect the culture, or something offensive, as in bikinis with symbols or images of cultural or religious significance, or wearing the national flag as a bikini / bikini wrap (This, strangely enough, seems to be accepted as normal by many people!)

Shannon said...

So basically - the sexiness you already have will only get sexier in your spawn?

I think you need to get breeding, gf!


I get that some people want to adapt other culture and be influenced, that's fine, but often the problem is that many people lack the research or just get lazy when it comes to digging deeper about a culture ... but not all! I remember my nan on my mother's side telling us horror stories about her tribe being made fun of, living in the suburbs, as she's Native American and that story was from the 40s! I think the best way is to be respectful and that goes for any culture. Perhaps someone one day will tell Hollywood as well! I also agree with Kizzy, one cannot assume! :-)

Kim Alston said...

One should really take into account if they're honoring that culture or making fun of it. If it's the latter, they shouldn't do it. You wouldn't want anyone to make fun of your culture and what you hold in high esteem. There's a lot of ignorance in this world. Great post Jenn!

Anonymous said...

I think using any kind of religious or cultural symbol as fashion is very stupid. Gwen Stefani also wore a bhindi to the VMAs in the 90s. Apparently she's on the Indian/Indian bandwagon.

Also, I've just decided that yours is my favorite blog. You're such a great writer (coming from an English major, so I KNOW what I'm talking about, said in my most snobbish voice).

French Girl in Seattle said...

Great post Jenny. I, French Girl in Seattle, would like to oppose the mockery the cha-cha pictured at the top of your story makes of the venerable French flag (at least I think it is a French flag...) Who does she think she is, Marie-Antoinette? :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Bunny Moreno said...

Thoughtful post Jen. I used to wear bindi's in college but a lot of my friends were Hindu or Sikh-I am sure that wouldn't surprise you. I only wore Indian wear on special occasions-usually at Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim events aka a wedding or temple. I think people need to respect a culture on the cultures terms. I also think its wonderful that people are so intrigued-I just like people using it or abusing it to make a statement or to boost their image or careers. Shame on them. I also think that one needs to have a respect and appreciation for their own culture in order to do the same for others. Many of these people you mentioned don't seem to have a grasp of their own culture. Selena is American white and Mexican-she has no connection to her Latina roots and what is American culture but taking on the cultures of others. I don't like the term hipster--I dont like how hard they try to be cool when they should just be themselves...with that and Rian would have the most beautiful babies ever!!! I expect an invitation to you shower one day heheh Muah!

Sherin said...

Hmmm, this has got me thinking for sure. I've got that south Asian background, so have never really thought about how others take style from it.

Also: that Pussycat Dolls picture: I'm pretty sure that much cleavage isn't meant to be on display while wearing a sari.

XxxLoveIsBeautyxxX said...

interesting! would you like to follow each other in gfc and bloglovin? let me know!


I think I agree with you on this one. I always admire people who try to incorporate other cultures and try to dabble into fashions of other cultures, but what bothers me is that sometimes they don't even know what it's meant to be, the signifigance of a certain object or even what it's called. That's ignorance, and some people do it just to be cool. For example, when the Turban came into fashion, I know a lot of Sikhs were pretty pissed about it. I think sacred cultural/religious items should stay off the runways. I personally was very critical of Selena wearing the bindi, because like you said, it was to 'sexualize' her image, and not because she was actually paying homage to the Indian culture. Same with the pussy cat dolls. Are they really paying homage to the Indian culture or looking for another vessel of clothing to reveal their mid-rifs and cleavages through sarees?


Chic 'n Cheap Living said...

There is definitely a limit, but hipsters in all of their ironic thievery trample all over it. I love the mixing of cultures, but it should be done with respect and sensitivity. As for those headdress wearing hipsters, seriously who made you chief?

Chic 'n Cheap Living

Vix said...

Muslim women have been wearing bindis as part of their make-up for centuries, it never causes offence in India when I wear mine, or my toe rings (worn in South India as an indication that the wearer is married) or my nose ring.
I have no objection to people wearing clothes and symbols worn by cultures or nationalities same I'm not offended by the Union Jack being worn as a print on a bikini the world over. If it encourages people to take an interest in other cultures I'm delighted. xxx

The Garage Starlets said...

Very interesting post! Love the pics!

Oh to Be a Muse said...

I totally agree with you. I think wearing a full own headdress to a rock/drug concert is more than a bit disrespectful. And I always cringed whenever people who weren't Indian wore bindis.

I think people should be more respectful of culture when they try to incorporate it with fashion.

Oh, and I really love football, but I'm still quite offended by the Washington Redskins. I have no idea why that name hasn't changed. Could you imagine the outrage if the team were called the Washington Blackies?

Enter my $500 Mother's Day Giveaway to Target & Macy's!
Shop Layered Muse

Dina's Days said...

I'm ALL about the inspiration but I think it's important that we do our research. The same goes for music, I can't tell you how many times I've heard a Jay Z or Wycleff song with a sampled beat from an old Arabic song my parents used to listen to in the 60s, and then every kid in America is like
"man, Jay Z's beat is dope!" having no clue where it came from.

It's almost impossible to know the origin of every song we listen to or every piece of clothing we wear, but I agree, if you're gonna go all out(i.e the full headpiece) least do it with taste and reason.

I love incorporating my Middle Eastern heritage into my Western life and think it's a great way for other people to learn, but I do understand your frustration when I see Forever 21 carrying an embroidered dress that was clearly ripped off of a traditional thoub and girls rocking it having NO CLUE where it came from. But then again, how would they know if they never saw a thoub before? It can be tricky sometimes!

Dina's Days said...

Also, I must add. I think the religious symbols as fashion trends are a huge no no. I can get with the traditional inspiration, like colors, textures, patterns, but when it comes to religious symbols you're just an ass hole.

Mouthwash said...

I can understand where you are coming from. As a Christian, I've been a little frustrated with the whole cross trend. Crosses on bracelets, necklaces, black lace crop top tees with white leather crosses stiched across the chest...upside down crosses... It irriates me because for many the cross marks the death, resurrection, pain and suffering of someone who many worship. It's offensive.

On the flipside, America is such a melting pot, that it is almost impossible to not offend someone, or a religion in one way or another. And, while that certainly doesn't make things okay, I think that it speaks volumes that we here have the freedom to offend. The freedom to offend is one worth having, even if at times it hurts.

Rosh S said...

Loved the post! Being Indian, I do find it offensive when they use the images of Hindu Gods on slippers and bikinis. But then what can be done to stop them?

Anonymous said...

I do yoga because it makes me feel ok psychologically and physically. Anyone who practises yoga regularly does it because it genuinely makes their lives better and makes them a happier person, not because they think it makes them cool. Yoga is basically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy mixed with physical exercise. It has changed my life by helping me cope with a pernicious anxiety disorder and insomnia. I think it is beyond ignorant to assume that North Americans practise yoga for vanity.

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