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Feminspire | April 18, 2014

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Selena Gomez, What Are You Doing?

Selena Gomez, What Are You Doing?

Selena Gomez, what are you doing?

For those of you who don’t know, Selena Gomez recently came out with a new song, “Come and Get It,” where her EDM-inspired pop music is layered over traditional sounding Indian music. Her actions have sparked controversy, but only really in the South Asian community. Not only is her video filled with her hypersexualizing traditional Indian dance, but her subsequent performances of the song also involve her wearing a bindi and appropriated forms of Indian clothing.

The donning of the bindi by fair-skinned celebrities is a constant in our mainstream media where Selena Gomez is just happily following in the footsteps of Gwen Stefani and Madonna, who have become trademark cultural appropriaters. Now, there is a difference between appreciation and appropriation – a fine line that I have not seen many people tread successfully.

When Selena Gomez continues to pick and choose fragments from my culture and exotify them, that is far from appreciation, and rather a contribution to the continuing appropriation and commodification of South Asian culture.

Cultural appropriation, as perpetuated by the Western hegemonic culture, is one that continues to mark different cultures as the Other, while making a profit, in a way that doesn’t even benefit the culture something is stolen from. Because if I, an Indian-American woman with dark brown skin, leave my house wearing a bindi, it isn’t me falling into the latest styles as characterized by Western beauty standards. The bindi on my forehead is not me just wearing a “face gem,” but rather a marker of my Otherness. The bindi on Selena’s skin is a marker of her ability to exotify and further ingrain ideas that components of other cultures are better suited for beautiful, Western women, whereas the bindi on my skin is my failure to assimilate into Western and American culture.

How unfortunate is it that my parents had to literally force me to wear beautiful parts of my culture because I was afraid of being ostracized, but Selena Gomez can take aspects of the clothing I grew up with and make money off of them? How unfortunate is it that South Asian immigrants and South Asian Americans are Otherized every single day for the way they look, talk, and dress, but Urban Outfitters continues to commodify and make a profit off the sale of bindis – as made popular by American pop stars?

What’s even worse is that when asked about this song in interviews, Selena Gomez just perpetuates the grouping of all brown bodies by stating the song is “tribal” and has “Middle Eastern vibes.” Because the Middle East and South Asia are two geographical areas that are entirely interchangeable, right, Selena Gomez? And I don’t even understand what people mean when they say “tribal.” What kind of tribe? From where? What are you talking about? But, fine, I’ll give Selena Gomez the benefit of the doubt. I mean… if you’re taking parts of a culture and using them to make a trendy music video, there really is no reason for understanding where they even come from, right? There’s nothing wrong with living in a society that Otherizes any community with a different culture that can only be presented appropriately by the West. There’s nothing wrong with fair-skinned celebrities being named Bollywood queens with bindis on their skin when women in my community are mocked and ostracized for the same actions. There’s nothing wrong with the hegemonic culture we live in making a profit off the components of South Asian culture that lead to its ostracization.

It makes me even more uncomfortable that Selena Gomez, a Latina woman, has not put more effort into understanding the problematic nature of her rising fame and how it affects communities of color. It makes me uncomfortable that people of color are being exotified, Otherized, and ostracized, by other people of color. So, Selena Gomez, I ask again, what are you doing? Take the agency you have and be critical of the way you are presenting yourself and presenting South Asian culture.

My tabla is the music I grew up to and not a sample for you to pretend to understand with your “twisting the lightbulb” dance moves. My tabla is the music that has been understood at my family members’ weddings, and not in your safe place in Billboard’s top ten hits.

My bindi is not a way for you to present yourself as being friendly to South Asian culture while exotifying it. My bindi is from my mother, put in my drawer because it is another mark of my internalized Otherness, on top of my brown skin. My bindi is tainted by Western celebrities trying to be “cultural” or “bohemian” or “tribal.” My bindi is not just a piece of plastic, my bindi is not for sale, and my bindi is not for you.

Written by Anisha Ahuja

  • Alicia V. Perez

    Bindis are a fashion choice, they don’t have religious significance anymore in India. Women, girls, men, and boys where them regardless of age or marital status (which is what their original purpose was), that’s why their not restricted in size or shape anymore. They’re made out of sequins and rhinestones and they’re typically just style choices in south asia. i don’t think someone from a different culture copying fashion styles from another culture is appropriation because we do live in a GLOBAL society now and fashion has hundreds of inspirations.

    • Maya Badmash

      As a South Asian woman, I would be extremely hesitant to speak on behalf of the opinions 1+ billion people as you have. Furthermore, as the bindi is not only a religious symbol but an ethnic one: removing it from the context on which it is based (ethnicity), removes it from itself completely. And frankly, I don’t take kindly to other people commodifying aspects of my heritage and my identity- especially when they use those items solely to create and market the “sexual and exotic,” simply because *that is what these items mean to them.* All Selena did was continue a tradition of heavily Orientalist perspectives toward the East: and that type of mentality is a source of real harm toward many of us.

    • indianbeauty

      how do you know there is no more significance? youre not even indian lol

  • Sara H.

    Alright, so, first of all… thanks to your article, I actually had to sit through that entire music video just to see what you were talking about. Thanks for that. She isn’t even wearing a bindi in it!

    Secondly, I wore a bindi for my wedding in 2008, and it was my way of feeling beautiful. I had done my forehead similar to this:

    I didn’t do it to try to steal anyone’s culture, I did it because it made me feel beautiful, and my view of beauty has always been Hindi women. I think their clothing is beautiful, their adornments, everything about them. I grew up watching Bollywood movies on late night television, and let me tell you: some of the dance scenes in those movies are just as sexualized as Selena’s music video (despite her clothing being more ratty). So you can’t turn around and blame her for sexualizing your culture; your movies and music videos do that just fine on their own.

    Also, I’m not sure if you realized this, but there has been a rising trend in microdermal piercings in the same spot as the bindi:

    People are doing it because they are beautiful, not because they’re trying to steal someone’s culture. Some people believe in the religious aspects of it, and others just find it aesthetically appealing.

    You can’t complain about Western culture stealing from other people’s cultures, when there are loads of people from other cultures who walk around in Western clothing too. So we’re supposed to share with the world, but we can’t wear clothing from those same places to make ourselves feel and look beautiful too?

    It’s a double standard and it’s highly unfair.

    • Maya Badmash

      I find it ironic that you “grew up watching Bollywood,” while you refer to South Asian women as “Hindi.” Since of course, Hindi is a language, and not a people- nor does Bollywood portray the entirety of the people of the subcontinent.

      And yes, we can blame her for sexualizing our culture. The difference is very clear: in Indian cinema, the bindi is not central, nor is it relegated to the exotic or the sensuous. In the West, and in Selena’s case, the bindi was born to *create* the sexualized/exotic imagery.

      Intent =/= impact. Your intentions do not negate the impact felt over your actions. Whether or not you intend to steal someone’s culture or offend them: the moment you are informed that you are in fact offending someone, and you do not change your ways, is the moment you intend to offend them.

      Furthermore, we can most certainly complain about cultural appropriation in the West. We wear Western clothes because it is a necessity. We do not have the privilege of wearing our traditional clothing while not facing discrimination because of it. You however, do. You are not seen as illiterate, backward, brainwashed, abused, or stupid because you wear a bindi. Many of us however, are.

      It’s not a double standard because you aren’t forced into a situation where you must judge whether or not your safety as a person is likely to be violated because you wear our clothing: we are.

      So please, have some respect for the feelings of those people who have carried our traditions forward, and who struggle to maintain their integrity in the face of capitalism and individualist desires. Instead of trying to dismiss our voices, perhaps you should try placing the needs of others above the things you simply want.

      • Sara H.

        Again, you and the OP are complaining about something that hasn’t even happened. She didn’t “create the bindi”; she wasn’t even wearing one in the video!

        Secondly, there was no need for name calling and insults. OP is allowed to express her opinion, and so am I. Its obvious I’m not the only one who disagreed with this article, so why pick on me?

        • Gwen

          You are so ignorant and I feel sorry for you.

          • Guest

            Yes, because I’m the one flaming people and calling them ignorant.

        • emisc

          She wasn’t wearing one in the video, but as the article said (first paragraph), she has performed a number of live concerts wearing a bindi.

          What name-calling and insults are you even talking about…?

      • Sara H.

        It seems like you might be speaking from personal experience on how Indian people are viewed by Westerners, but I personally have never met a single person who thinks or feels that way about them. So if you’ve experienced this, I would like to apologize on behalf of my country.

        However, I wasn’t simply speaking about Western people wearing other cultures’ clothing ONLY in the west. If we go to India, we are the ones who are looked down on for dressing like ourselves. So again, it seems there’s a double-standard here.

        Don’t talk to me about my safety as a person being violated on the basis of clothing; there are plenty of articles written by folks such as myself who HAVE been violated and it had NOTHING to do with our choice of clothing. Don’t diminish other people’s suffering and abuse simply to make a point, it’s beneath you.

        Also have you ever stopped to think that Selena likely had NOTHING to do with this new “marketing campaign”? Most artists don’t have much say in their music/videos/stage performances. They are arranged by the management team.

        There has never been a time when I’ve tried to dismiss or diminish anyone, unlike you in this diatribe. I have simply pointed out that the culture is beautiful, as are many others, and there is nothing wrong with other cultures wanting to be beautiful too.

        I guess it’s a good thing I never did buy that Saree, despite being told emphatically by several of my Indian friends that I should.

        • Avis

          No one in India will look down on anyone for the way they dress as long as it isn’t revealing (although that is slowly changing due to western influence which comes out of the ‘west is best’ mindset). It’s a cultural thing and so you can’t say that you’ll dress up like ‘yourself’ and people shouldn’t react to it.

          You seem to have misunderstood what the poster meant by ‘safety as a person being violated’ due to an attire. From the comment, its clear that she meant she may be considered backward if she wears traditional clothing. That is the ‘safety violation’ she meant.

          No one knows who the management team are. And no one would pay attention to what is being said about some management team. That is why the issue has to be addressed as something Selena did. And anyway, the fact that she didn’t even bother to learn which culture she was portraying really doesn’t help her case.

          If you had bought that saree and worn it to an Indian cultural event (by which I include weddings/religious ceremonies/celebrations and even Indian theme parties), no one would have said anything about it. On the contrary, people(Indians in particular) would have appreciated it and Indians would have thanked you for it. But doing it in a pop concert would be ‘unsuitable’ to say the least. Imagine what response an Indian woman wearing traditional wear in a pop concert would elicit. That being the case, it is not appropriate for the singer to be doing it. That is the point the OP is trying to make. If you think it is beautiful and want to wear it whenever you want, do something to help Indian women get out of this predicament, like creating awareness among Americans. If you are doing/have already done it, thank you. If not, then please do try, and in the meantime stop wearing Indian clothes to places/events where an Indian woman doing the same will be viewed negatively.

          And the bindi is not the only factor here. Like another comment pointed out, the clothes (which are intended to showcase traditional Indian wear) look like they were made out of rags and random strips of cloth – which is obviously intended to make it sexy. (I am not condemning any fashion ideals here).

    • Miya

      Hi Sara,

      I hope you don’t feel like you’re
      being attacked. Your comment is the first one I saw, and there’s so much I want
      to talk to you about that I couldn’t help but respond.

      In addition, from what I know, you’re a
      contributor to this site, so I think it would be most engaging to have a
      conversation with you since your work is important to a variety of people who
      use this site.

      First, yes Gomez is not wearing a bindi in
      the video, but in the photo at the top of this article, there is a photo of her
      dancing with a bindi. The author argument still
      stands that Gomez is using various parts of Indian culture in her music.

      Second, I think the fact that this bindi was
      necessary for you to feel beautiful points out to a very problematic fact
      that media shapes our perception of
      beauty. Therefore, we should be careful when movies, clothes, and adornments
      make us feel beautiful, rather than people, love, and memories. While I, a
      Japanese American womyn, love Bollywood movies as well, I can’t get stuck on simplifying a
      culture to love it for material means. So I hope you can love Indian women for
      a bit more than just their clothes and adornments.

      Third, wearing Western clothing is a big deal.
      When we talk about “sharing” in the world, we have to look at the
      West’s long history of imperialism. Why do loads of people outside of Europe
      and the US wear western clothing? Because when those countries were colonies,
      they were forced to assimilate to a Western standard of dress. There is
      Globalization, where people across the world are consuming goods from thousands
      of miles away. However, we can’t ignore the hierarchy where
      “West is Best” and like the author touched on, there’s an Othering of
      people and cultures that are not Western.

      Gomez is not credited with creating this
      standard. Like you said, this is the work of a whole team of
      producers, designers, CEOs etc who profit of the exoticizing other cultures, and sell images of Orientalism
      to a white Euro American audience. However, Gomez calling her music “tribal”
      and “Middle Eastern” is a problem because she is clumping together an
      entire continent and exoticizing these cultures.

      Finally, I want to address the idea of
      fairness and double standards. I think it is a double standard that an Indian
      American womyn is sharing her experience yet a non-Indian womyn can try to
      discredit that experience by trumping it with a narrative that is
      non-Indian. It’s unfair that People of Color’s dissatisfaction with
      how they or parts of themselves are being represented, yet get attacked for
      asking too much or being too critical. There’s limited agency for People of
      Color, and an extra invisibility for South Asian womyn.

      I hope you can continue to wrestle with these
      ideas of Western imperialism, Orientalism/ exoticizism, and womyn of color as
      you continue to write.


      • Sara H.

        Thank you for your kind comment. I was not trying to anger anyone by my original comment, I was simply trying to explain my point of view on the subject. It sucks that as a white woman, I’m not allowed to weigh in on issues like these, because then I am seen as racist or trying to incite a riot of some kind. I was merely trying to point out that some people really do find certain aspects of other cultures beautiful, and that’s all.

        I don’t believe I said that wearing the bindi was the “only” way for me to feel beautiful… I just thought the forehead decorations in Indian culture were beautiful and so I wore it too. I didn’t know it was wrong of me to do that…

        My saying that was not to imply that I don’t find Indian women beautiful as people, it was saying that I really love some of the things they get to wear! I apologize if my comments were seen as trying to downplay the author’s issue, I only wanted to weigh in with my commentary as well (since I thought we were allowed to do that). :)

        • Miya

          It’s hard for me to feel sorry for you when you’re
          using your white privilege to attack and criticize a womyn of color. I don’t
          feel sorry that you don’t understand why it’s a big deal that you exoticize and
          simplify aspects of people’s cultures. And I don’t feel sorry that sometimes your
          commentary is irrelevant. Privilege is an important concept to understand. I
          highly recommended starting with “ The
          Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.

          I think if people feel uncomfortable
          with what you are doing , the appropriate response is to sit with that for a
          little while and think why is it making people feel uncomfortable. Rather than
          being on the immediate defense for wearing a bindi, embrace that moment where
          you may have made a mistake. The fact that you wore one once is not the issue
          at hand. It is the inability to see that it hurts people that is making this
          such a We are all growing and learning.
          So please, let’s reflect on WHY this is a problem of the commodification and hypersexualization
          of Indian women’s bodies and histories.

          • M

            I don’t believe the solution to responding to someone who does not understand what you’re saying is “I’m of colour, you’re not, you don’t get it therefore you don’t have a voice”. If you want to share opinions with others, that needs to be a two way street. You can’t just tell other people what they should be thinking and mock them for attempting to understand it in their own “white privalge” way.

          • Eduardo Antonio

            My God, people! Get a life! What a stupid argument over nothing… And by all means take whatever from my culture and use it. We are only Human…seriously, I find these comments really stupid…too much ado over nothing…

            I’m not white, I’m not American and I’m not bother about useless stuff… There is real serious issues to deal with!

    • KeepCalmAndSmile:D

      I agree. I think that people can wear whatever they want, as long as their intent is not to insult anyone with it. And honestly, where would we be if people had to change clothes every time somebody disagreed with their choice of fashion? Selena may indeed have taken the whole aspect too far, but as long as she is not mocking traditions, shouldn’t people try to remember that imitation (or, at least, attempted imitation) is the highest form of flattery? Without wanting to attract anybody’s hate, I would like to say that I think too big of a deal has been made of this.
      Personally, I am an atheist with predominantly atheist friends, and many of them wear crosses, just because they like the shape and find it appealing. I myself like to wear a pendant of a menorah on my necklace, because I think it is beautiful and I like what it represents, though I am neither of Jewish descent, nor Jewish religion. People wear tartan cloths all the time, without any regard for what it might mean to people of Scottish origin, and the German traditional Dirndl dress and ‘Lederhosen’ are worn all the time by tourists. My Bavarian grandmother may not approve, or feel people don’t realise that it is part of her heritage, but there is nothing she can or should do: that’s just the way it is.
      And furthermore, it is discrimination for anybody to say to you that your opinion is any less valuable because of your skin colour. That is ridiculous, and this is absolutely not the website for such comments.
      I am glad that you shared your thoughts.
      Just wanted to let you know :)

      • Jessy J

        I can’t believe you are talking about offended white europeans.

        • Saisyet

          Yeah, because only “People of Color” who are always “oppressed” can be offended.

      • Danielle

        Thank you! Personally I feel like I would feel very special that other people thought I was exotic! Why the heck not? It means people are interested and more receptive to learning about my culture. As a white woman I am always to enthralled by the beautiful baubles that come out of other cultures it sparks me to learn about them and why they might exist! Why can’t this be taken as a compliment instead of a declaration of war?

    • Bria

      Someone doesn’t get it..

  • Liane Graham

    I agree with you in regards to her blatant lack of understanding of the culture she is borrowing from artistically, but I also think that when it comes to making art (and whether or not you choose to call this art is up to you), all bets are off. The bindi, the dancing, the music: it’s all an aesthetic choice, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying the style of another culture’s art and choosing to incorporate it into one’s own work. It’s not like she’s trying to turn herself into some kind of spokesperson for the South Asian community. She probably just finds these things (as I do) aesthetically beautiful. Having an outsider find your culture beautiful and inspiring should be celebrated!
    I can’t speak for you because I haven’t personally experienced what it is to be South Asian, but if these aspects of your culture are being mocked, THAT is the problem. I love that we live in a globalized world and can travel and experience immense enjoyment of cultures that differ from our own. It’s a wonderful thing that there are so many different kinds of cultures, and the differences between peoples are amazing and beautiful and should be celebrated and enjoyed by all.

    • Jessy J

      So, all these sad and offended people actually should be grateful? Thank you for letting them know…

      • Liane Graham

        I didn’t say they should be grateful, I’m saying that people in general should enjoy sharing culture rather than excluding outsiders.

  • amanda

    i understand where the writer is coming from. we’re picking a certain section from a culture and displaying it, but that is only one side of the story that keeps getting retold. and by displaying the same story over and over we’re creating an image that may not be accurate, like selean saying ‘tribal’ and middle east’ to describe her video. by her not understanding the clothing, jewelry, and culture she was trying to portray, she is not only inaccurately producing an image of this culture, but she is also feeding the single story of this culture that american know about.

  • Steve Smith

    I thought women were suppose to be allowed to wear what they want without criticism? But as others pointed out articles of clothing from other cultures get used/borrowed all the time. In short its called fashion.

    • Jessy J

      Sure, you can borrow anything from people who are already oppressed – they can do nothing about it anyway!

      • Steve Smith

        How can the oppressed borrow from the oppressed? As according to feminists Ms Gomez here is oppressed as she is female.

        • accela

          Hey bud, before you confuse yourself further, I’d look into more literature on oppression. There’s no single axis scale of oppression in the world (a white guy can be oppressed within a majority non-white society) – Selena Gomez is simply contributing to a large scale oppression of brown ladies, so yes, she is oppressing them even if she suffers the consequences of other types of oppression.

  • Jennifer Elford

    As a Caucasian Tribal Fusion Belly dancer, I can see where you’re coming from. There are many who take pieces of different cultures without fully understanding them and end up misrepresenting them (not just in dance but in all aspects). While you can certainly take parts of an aesthetic you find pleasing, you should make an attempt to be well educated on what it is you’re trying to wear. Yay, cultural appreciation!

  • Usha

    I think you just need to calm down. No big deal. I don’t take offense to it. People are so touchy nowadays!

  • hpat

    YES YES YES! This is exactly how I feel and what I’ve been telling others! She doesn’t appreciate Indian culture, she exoticizes it–HUGE DIFFERENCE!

  • npatel1232

    everyone needs to calm down. I am indian and i dont even see a problem with this! yes bindis used to be a big religious act and youre only supposed to wear them when after youre married. but i have been wearing them since i was like 10 .. im clearly not married. and second.. her outfit covered more than a lot of the actresses lol did you see what the actress wore in Radha ( student of the year) lol yea it was annoying that she called the song middle eastern and that was ignorant of her, but thats pretty much it. She made a music video. its not that big of a deal.

    • Danielle


  • zeron

    Give it a rest. You wouldn’t complain if an Indian pop artist made a song with French-inspired song and wore French-type clothing.

    • accela

      Popping in to say that I think they wouldn’t complain because French people aren’t generally oppressed by Indian people within society. People usually don’t generally complain about these things if it didn’t actually cause an issue or problem; if every culture had equal standing in the eyes of everyone and stereotyping had no actual effect past fashion statements, then I don’t think this would be remotely seen as a problem but lauded and celebrated. That’s why those who are directly unaffected seem to be the only ones who claim that it isn’t a problem, while those directly affected claim that it is. If it wasn’t a problem for anyone at all, then nobody would complain you see what I’m getting at? French folks are unaffected by mainstream Indian pop influence, so of course nobody would complain about that.

  • jeeeenuuu

    How can you have a problem with Selena Gomez doing something like this when our own Indian girls do it themselves? before pointing fingers at others, please take a long hard look at our culture and see what it has become. She’s not sexualising our culture, our own Indian girls do exactly the same thing, if not worse, I’M AN INDIAN girl so I can talk on behalf of other girls because I SEE this in my own culture. It is filled with ignorance of our own people. Fix that first.

    • accela

      I think you did not quite grasp the exact point the author of the article was making. I am not arguing that Indian women are not hypersexualized within Indian pop culture, as they definitely are, but that was not the statement or point that the author was making. She is referring to the problem that cultural appropriation poses to people of those culture.

  • Sevika Balachandra

    As a Hindu, I agree that the gopi dots and bindis are problematic in this context, but I find Selena and the backup dancers being dressed in what appears to be cholis and lehengas made of strips of rags more disturbing…..

  • Sevika Balachandra

    Also–I make a distinction between the tilak and the bindi…The bindi is ornamental and enhances beauty; the tilak is a religious mark….

  • Deejay

    I think it’s great when people want to learn about other cultures, but it’s clear to see that Selena is only wearing a bindi because it’s the latest trend.

  • jo

    I think you are being overly sensitive. Unlike some horrific Muslim-themed “terrorist costumes” (that should never exist on this planet), the Indian element is presented in a positive light, unless you consider sexuality and beauty are something women should be ashamed and embarrassed about. Pop stars within my culture (I’m half Chinese and Japanese) often appropriate our own traditional clothing for performance. Why be furious with a foreigner but put a blind eye to our own people?

  • Kim

    “hypersexualizing traditional Indian dance” – if thats the case, do you take offense to the hundreds of Bollywood/Kollywood/Tollywood films that do the same??? Also, it’s pretty cool that she used the Tabla to add to her song – its just another instrument, who says its only place is at Indian weddings?
    As for the ‘tribal’ and ‘middle eastern’ comments, I’ll give you that – she should have known better -( Although she’s Selena Gomez, so who really cares/who really expected anything more?)

    This entire post of yours was a really silly rant. Calm down! Elements of different cultures have always been taken and used in entertainment/fashion, it’s actually more interesting than offensive, I wish you’d look at it in a more positive way.

  • Kat

    This is an easily comparable situation with much of the rest of this website: when (and if) men comment on articles centered on struggles that affect women (trans*women included), and some of the comments are one-sided, it’s because they are the “outsiders”. They don’t experience the problems women do, so they can express their opinions and, knowingly or unknowingly, offend or step out of bounds. As long as someone who does experience it tells them of their offense, and they commenter apologizes, all is well.
    Sara, it seems that you are the “outsider” in this situation, seeing as you made it very clear that you are not of Indian descent. Where it is obvious that your initial comment (at least) sparked a bit of crossfire and touched upon subjects you yourself weren’t fully aware of, all you had to do was apologize for your actions. Then, you could have even asked questions to better understand the subjects of the article and discussion. It was totally unnecessary to continue. Totally and completely. If you do not experience the situation you are commenting on first-hand, and you are defending your actions that are seen as offensive, you need to take a step back.
    I don’t mean for this to seem totally directed at you; I know you did apologize for something in that whole bunch of comments, and this is for anyone and everyone that “doesn’t get” something, and argues over it. This goes for people of different races, sexes, sexual orientations, backgrounds (like family life, etc.), and more. It’s not hard to just give a little and acknowledge that you may not realize as much as you think you do.

  • Marianna Roberg

    While I’m obviously white, and “Western”, I agree with you. I think bindis are pretty, but I wouldn’t wear one because it’s not *my* cultural thing and not my place. I’ve always thought people who pick and choose things to appropriate from other cultures were really pretentious, and I’m sorry that you’ve been made to feel “other”. I don’t think you should have to “assimilate” or blend in, or be anyone but yourself. I think the world is richer for variety. As for those telling you to stop freaking out, well, you’re entitled to your “freak out” as much as they are to not find things offensive. We’re all different, and it obviously means something different to you than it does to them, and that’s okay. I like that you’ve stood up for something that means a lot to you.

  • realTho

    as an Indian to all offended: ever seen any Bollywood songs/videos these days? cant say its much different

    • accela

      So you’re telling me all the stars of Bollywood videos are non-Indian American people who’ve never lived in India a day of their lives?? This is news to me

  • Christine

    Let’s divide these comments into two sections:
    1) comments from people who understand oppression
    2) comments from people who don’t understand oppression

  • Danielle

    I get the frustration, but I don’t think the purpose of the video was to make it feel like a bindi was more special because a white/Latino/Indian/Asian/Russian/Native chick was wearing it. I will concede that some people feel this way but not all. I figure the celebrities are after two things, attention and money. I agree with 95% of what is on this site but as a white girl myself, why is it that it is automatically assumed that because I(And other unlucky people with the unfortunate distinction of being pale or “Western”) am from the west and am a super pale white person that I “Otherize/Ostracize” People for being different and apparently try to make other people feel ugly by admiring their culture and wanting to emulate? Who said everyone western wanted to ‘fix’ you for being darker skinned and for being your own person? How about someone writes about how fun it is to get lumped in as a racist white person when you aren’t? I’m sick of getting otherized myself when someone complains because they met a few bad apples in an orchard of over 6 billion. How about instead of each and every one of us complaining about how a different culture or group is treating us like crap we stop complaining and start trying to mingle and be friends? Too much work I guess. This is why I rarely watch music videos and read comments, too much “OMG, She is personally attacking my beliefs!” Happens and ruins it for everyone else who don’t care and are only in it to listen to music.

  • Danielle

    To weigh in on this: The Issue I have with your statement is that I am not the one who oppressed them into wearing any particular type of clothing, and I believe for the most part we are past needlessly forcing others to wear our garments (I believe as a society, us evil oppressive westerners for the most part aren’t doing this anymore) So yeah, as they are no longer oppressed anyone can wear whatever they want, all it takes is a change of clothing.

  • Goods On Demand

    What’s the big deal? She’s a performer and an artist. She’s performing with an artistic impression of the Indian culture. You should be grateful that she’s identifying herself with that culture. Grant it, it’s a bit over the top and sexually suggestive, but does that mean that the women in the Indian culture don’t have fantasies of their own, and that other cultures have been impressed upon as well. I don’t think it was harmful that she is profiting from the identity of another culture. That’s how she makes her living, by performing artistically. Why don’t you do the same with your own dance piece and put it on YouTube? I think you’re just jealous that Selena Gomez has talent and is using it wisely. Besides, Selena is involved in a lot of great charitable causes that help many people. She UNICEF’S youngest ever Goodwill Ambassador. Get with it…

  • alex r

    So because you think bindis and tablas and whatever else are “your” culture, other people aren’t allowed to use them in their work? THIS is the barrier to progress, not Selena Gomez. The sooner people like you can get over the fact that just because you associate with something, doesn’t mean you own it or have any damn right to tell people how to wear it or how to dance in it, or whatever else. It’s this sort of hypersensitivity that creates turmoil because everyone always has to go and get “offended” by stupid shit like this.

  • Pablo

    I agree with you 100%, and being Latino it makes me sad to see her appropriating such cultures instead of appreciating her own.

    Honest question though, if an artist were to appreciate your culture instead of appropriating it, how would they go about doing so? I’m really curious. Thanks!

    • Avis

      For starters he/she would have to know WHICH culture they are portraying. Then, do it properly – if Selena had worn a proper Indian dress instead of one which was modified to fit American fashion standards and/or look sexy, that would have been a step towards appreciation.

  • Divya

    Bless this article.

    And furthermore, it’s entertaining to read well-meaning comments from people who don’t understand the effects of imperialism on our culture, where exotification is the turning of our bodies into products that we’re not permitted to have for free anymore. Please be humble, read about the history of white imperialism in South Asia before, during, and after the British empire, read about the violence against South Asians after 9/11–Hindu and Muslim alike, because yes, there are Muslims in South Asia–understand our struggles respectfully, and perhaps also research critical race theory. None of this is new. We’ve been fighting this fight for ages. It is not pseudo-intellectualism, it is not up for debate, it is not a minor anger. These are our bodies that are policed and turned into fashion statements, all identity stripped from them, in ways they have been throughout imperialist rule. There is always more to a story than what you can reason out with merely your logic and your own experiences.

  • D

    I’m uncomfortable even referring to Selena as Latina. She has no connection to my culture.

  • matt

    I don’t understand why the author includes this statement:

    It makes me uncomfortable that people of color are being exotified, Otherized, and ostracized, by other people of color.

    Why does it matter that it’s “other people of color” that are taking a cultural symbol out of context to leverage it to their own material advantage? Is it that white people are expected to do this, but not “other people of color”? Honestly, when I think of people in American pop culture (and America in general), they are American first, then whatever other ethnicity they choose to identify themselves with. I would think that the behavior that the author is upset about is much more about the attitudes of the American pop music industry and Selena Gomez. The statement also projects that there is some kind of divide between white people and everyone else, and that “people of color” in general are on the same side….or something.

    In general, I totally understand the authors grievances and agree that Selena Gomez and other American pop music stars have taken revered customs and traditions, bindi included, from around the world and trampled all over them to snag a quick buck, which is insensitive and reprehensible. But in my opinion she unnecessarily dragged other facets of race/ethnicity into the picture, which ultimately diluted the otherwise focused narrative of the rest of the essay.

  • Jules

    While I agree with the article and believe making a profit off of someone else’s culture is wrong, let me ask you this: is there ever a time where borrowing from another culture is okay? What if Western me travelled to India to make a record, learned about the lifestyles, met with some Indian musicians who were willing to play tablas for my record, and learned about the cultural significance the tabla holds, and brought all of that over to the West to teach others that India is not an ‘other’ and should not be grouped into the term ‘world music’? Would that be wrong?

  • Becky

    If a Western woman who took time to learn and fully appreciate your culture, and never personally held any beliefs that you were ‘Other’ so to speak, would it still be problematic if she wore a bindi? If her wearing of a bindi was genuinely a mark of respect for your culture, a culture she fully understood? Or is the problem that she would be adopting one aspect of a culture, instead of fully submerging herself in it?