I open my email.
Another year, another bombardment of “festival wear” catalogs and “lookbooks” from clothing store websites in anticipation for the summer staple music festivals. Always anxious to check new trends, I am not surprised to see the same “boho-chic” attire dotting my computer screen.
There’s the fringe vests, the frayed cut-off jean shorts, the flower crowns, oh yeah, and the Native American headdress. Great.
It’s not enough to look cute and put together while camping in a field for three days without a shower or running water anymore – festival culture demands at least a small population of people also manage to disrespect, homogenize, and trivialize oppressed cultures and religions.
Rightfully, the people of the appropriated cultures are pissed off.
In retaliation of bindi appropriation, activists started a movement on social media called #ReclaimTheBindi. The movement centers on Hindu, South and South-East Asian women posting pictures of themselves wearing bindis with pride. Many participants express frustration at being mocked or discriminated against because of their culture, their religion and their race while those of white descent appropriate cultural attire as accessories to their fashion ensembles.
— anam (@uhnam) April 10, 2015
In a similar fashion, feather headdresses are another hotly contested festival issue.
If the extreme summer heat isn’t enough to make wearers take off their so-called fashion accessory, maybe their homogenization and disrespect of several extremely marginalized cultures will convince them to remove the headgear.
Festivals feel like their own world is disconnected from reality, and, in turn, festival-goers feel like they are exempt of consequences or rational thought.
But that doesn’t mean their actions aren’t extremely harmful.
Wearing details of a religion or culture you don’t understand trivializes importance of the object. Since the victims of appropriation already are marginalized and discriminated against because of their cultures, the insensitive and thoughtless act of donning significant cultural artifacts perpetuates racism and oppression.
A few music festivals have taken steps towards protecting religions and cultures. The UK’s Glastonbury announced it will not sell headdresses on its premises and Canada’s Bass Coast festival banned the adornment of Native American headdresses altogether.
That being said, festival fashion is just as much a part of the festival as the music and the art. People wait all year to debut their new look.
At bigger name festivals like Coachella, celebrities are guaranteed to be decked out in expensive and edgy fashion statements. Fashion companies will even open tents at some of the festivals to promote their brand and insert their influence into the art scene.
Even if you’re not a wealthy celebrity or a fashion blogger, dressing for festivals is still fun and exciting. The more bizarre, the more likely you are to be photographed for a website – although, to be fair, some of the clothing choices seem questionable in terms of comfort and convenience when your only bathroom options for the weekend are a port-o-potty or a tree.
Whatever you end up wearing this summer, however, just make sure you stay hydrated and do not mock someone’s identity for the sake of your aesthetic.
Hanna Greenblott is a sophomore English language and literature major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.