No, Beyoncé’s Indian Attire Cannot Be Labelled Cultural Appropriation
Beyoncé’s Indian attire while performing at Isha Ambani’s pre-wedding bash is being flagged as a cultural appropriation by some. The social media is abuzz with a heated discussion on whether the singer’s dress mocked or demeaned Indian culture or celebrated it. Ironically, not one of the people who found her attire as offensive was of Indian or even Asian origin. But then those who do find it offensive are accusing those who don’t of favouritism. So did we all actually turn a blind eye to what Beyoncé did because Queen B can do no wrong? Or is it a defensive reaction among people who felt accused of cultural appropriation for adapting traditions, practices and styling of people of colour?
- The social media is abuzz whether the singer’s dress demeaned Indian culture or celebrated it.
- Did we turn a blind eye to what Beyoncé did because Queen B can do no wrong?
- It shows how little people actually understand cultural appropriation.
- To celebrate someone’s identity and to reduce it to a fashion trend are two different things.
Frankly, this rash accusation does feel like an over-reaction.
As an Indian, I do not find Beyoncé decking up in a mang teeka or applying bindi as offensive. The artist was invited to perform at an Indian wedding, by Indians, in India. It only makes sense that she styled herself accordingly. It comes across as the Lemonade signer’s way of honouring those who invited her to perform. It is like going to your ethnic friend’s family gathering and dressing according to their traditions, to convey your respects to their culture.
Also, we come across so many foreigners in India who wear Indian clothes, jewellery, etc., because it fascinates them and they want to experience our culture. Does this mean they are culturally appropriating us? There is a difference between endorsing someone’s traditions for a day or two to experience them or show your respect, and “adopting” them or gradually inculcating them in your own culture for the sake of popularity or fashion.
It seems like this outrage against Beyoncé is nothing more than whataboutery in self-defence by women who have felt targeted on social media at some point. But this shows how little people actually understand cultural appropriation. How context and intent don’t matter in this discussion to many, who only see this as some kind of cultural copyright infringement. This is not about wearing a saree or mang teeka, but respect and intent.
They must ask themselves what was Beyoncé’s intent here? To show respect and celebrate Indian culture and identity.
To celebrate someone’s identity and to reduce it to a fashion trend are two different things. There is just no way we can even put them in the same category.
Unless people understand this basic difference, they will keep basing their outrage over misconceptions.
This does more harm than good to spread awareness about deliberate or unwitting cultural appropriation. It creates a conflict of interest and unnecessarily complicates a rather straightforward matter. But above everything else, it falsely labels well-intentioned acts, as offensive. Hence before getting into a debate of cultural appropriation, people should first examine why one thing offends people and other one doesn’t. There will be a much solid logic behind their stand than that since its Beyoncé, we are okay with whatever she does.
Picture Credits: BBC.com
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.