Music festival season is one of the biggest times of year for today’s youth and music lovers. Coachella, the biggest music festival of the year, kicked it all off last weekend and will be continuing this weekend. Amongst the blinding sunshine, exuberant crowds, dozens of famous artists, and excessive ticket prices, Coachella is also known for its unique fashion trends.
Unfortunately, Coachella’s fashion trends can often take a negative turn as festival-goers establish an ongoing pattern of cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation involves people exploiting other cultures without proper understanding of a group’s history, experience, or traditions. Though exposure to other cultures to better understand and appreciate them is important, there is a fine line between cultural appreciation and appropriation.
Music festival outfits are increasingly guilty of cultural appropriation as many people adopt Desi and Native American accessories, simply because they are fashionable, without realizing the cultural or religious significance they hold. Even without malicious intent, wearing the outfits and accessories directly disrespects the cultures appropriated.
There has been growing outrage at the common cultural appropriation of the bindi, either a simplistic red dot or jeweled dot applied between the eyebrows of Hindu women. Desis – the encompassing term for Indian, South Asian, South East Asian, and Hindu people – have started a movement on Twitter and Tumblr to reclaim their culture using the hashtag #ReclaimTheBindi.
Desi women are posting pictures of themselves in their cultural outfits with the hashtag, while also pointing out that they were previously bullied or insulted for their ethnic clothes and bindis as children or teenagers. Quickly becoming a global trend, the movement empowers Desi women to reclaim the culture for which they were once bullied for. The movement is rooted in promoting cultural appreciation, self-love, and self-confidence to show that Desi culture cannot be reduced to just the latest fashion statement.
Similarly, but much more blatantly, is the fashion trend of non-Native American Coachella attendees wearing traditional Native feather headdresses. In a country where Natives have been constantly stereotyped and dehumanized for centuries, the adoption of wearing headdresses with deep spiritual significance like costumes brings back old wounds.
Though Native headdresses has been a trend for a few years even outside of music festivals, Coachella also takes place on land that was stolen from Native Americans in a genocide centuries ago. To add to the wounds of appropriating Native culture on their stolen land, Coachella attendees can also rent traditional teepees to sleep in for the weekend.
The terms “boho” and “hipster” have become a big part of this generation’s pop and fashion culture, but these fashion trends should not extend to become racist and discriminating. People must stop wearing accessories simply because they look “exotic” or “hipster” and stop reducing other cultures to nothing more than fleeting fashion trends.