Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Beyonce Accused of Cultural Appropriation, Reflects Millennial Cultural Mores

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Last Friday, Jan. 29, Coldplay released a new music video for their song, "Hymn for the Weekend." In more important news, said video features Beyoncé. Beyhive members everywhere rejoice.

As a long-time Beyoncé fan myself, I too rejoiced. I was elated to learn Bey would make her first video appearance since "Feeling Myself" with Nicki Minaj. But when I realized a sari, henna tattoos and traditional Indian jewelry made up her "Hymn" look, my excitement quickly dwindled. Vanity Fair described her costuming that of "a Bollywood princess," but I couldn't help but wonder: 

Could Beyoncé, a self-proclaimed feminist and social justice advocate, be appropriating Indian culture? 

I'm not one to say yes or no, obviously—I'm a white girl from Scottsdale. I know it's not my place to speak for other cultures. But Indian and non-Indian people alike have voiced their opinions regarding Beyoncé's getup on Twitter.

Some condemning her, 
And some defending her. 
Cultural appropriation, defined by Wikipedia as "the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture," isn't really a new concept. It has been a hot-button topic of debate on Tumblr and Twitter ever since the online social justice movement took off a few years ago. Essentially, people get really heated about cultural appropriation because white people take aspects from disadvantaged cultures that have historically stigmatized them without trying to understand why said aspects condemned them. 

In the past, the Twitter and Tumblr-verses have ridiculed celebrities including Vanessa Hudgens, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, as well as Khloé Kardashian for appropriating South Asian and Native American cultures through their Coachella outfits, wearing bindis and henna, just as Beyoncé does in "Hymn." Kylie Jenner was even accused of appropriating African culture by wearing blackface in a photoshoot last April. 

The concept has gone hand-in-hand with the national discussion on whether millennials are overly sensitive and/or coddling regarding political correctness, trigger warnings, microaggressions and so on. 

Only time and (more) debate will tell if Coldplay and Beyoncé's Mumbai video was culturally insensitive or appreciative. In the meantime—maybe just be a good person and leave the bindi, henna and and any other appropriative trends at home this festival season. 

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