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About Those Bindis

A new accessory is having its moment in the Indio sun. Across foreheads at Coachella and on a number of celebrities, the bindi — a forehead decoration worn in South Asia — was all the rage between eyebrows. I like the idea of opening up a whole new category of jewelry just as much as the next girl with an inclination for fashion experimentation (and all things sparkly), but when I heard that some representatives from the Hindu community were none too pleased about the symbol’s sudden following—specifically on Selena Gomez during her sultry MTV Movie Awards performance—I thought the trend and its implications called for a little analysis.

Traditionally, the bindi is a religious symbol in Hinduism meant to represent the third eye and is sometimes used to mark a woman as married. But in the past decades, bindis have gained popularity amongst all Indian women as an accessory — more gems and colors than red dots painted with saffron. The bindi, it seems, went through a lot of secularization before it landed on Vanessa Hudgens’ festival face.

Still, the bindi was—and still is—near and dear to many’s spirituality, and I can’t help but wonder what the reaction to a nun habit or priest collar trend would be. As much as I’d love to witness hoards of Silver Lake hipsters in glitzed-up yamakas, I’m pretty sure a lot of people wouldn’t find it as laughable. What does get my fashion morals stirring is this: meaningful emblems get lifted from American minorities, become the music festival accessory of the season, and just like that, they’re more associated with white hipster girls than their culture of origin. If you google “bindi,” the third image is Katy Perry, and a few rows down are Miley Cyrus and Gwen Stefani, who rocked the fashion bindi in the ‘90s way before she had her Harajuku Girls following her around like pets. The bindi seems doomed for eventual so-last-season status, and it feels a little unfair.

Still, at the end of the day, telling people they can’t wear something doesn’t sit entirely right with me (though maybe I’m a little biased because I totally dig the idea of matching my eyeshadow to a teardrop gem on my face). But in a city as diverse as Los Angeles, I do think we owe it to ourselves and to the cultures that inspire us to preserve our understanding of where the bindi—along with the hamsa, the mohawk and other trends—came from.