Hey, Rihanna? Your new tattoo is really pretty, but we won’t be surprised if some people find it offensive. In fact, we’ll be on their side.
After an 11-hour session with famous tat artist Bang Bang McCurdy, Rihanna acquired a black ink tattoo on her hand, wrist, and arm, about which McCurdy tells E! News, “The inspiration was henna art, and we wanted something really decorative, feminine and sexy.”
But what does henna mean in Rihanna’s life? Is it okay for the Barbadian singer to permanently wear a symbol of a culture she doesn’t belong to? Some South Asian bloggers say no.
Tumblr user feministilicious wrote in 2011, “You are completely erasing the cultural significance of henna by saying you are expressing your femininity or spirituality or whatever. Henna is a very sacred part of Hindu weddings.” She later added, “I, an Indian girl, feel oppressed by you appropriating henna. Why do you feel compelled to pick and choose what parts of the South Asian culture to take and create new meaning for?”
In the same discussion, Tumblr user jhameia wrote, “It’s not so much about political correctness as it is the thoughtlessness of the more powerful in using something that marks a less-powerful culture as inferior. I personally adore henna, but I wouldn’t just use it for kicks when, even across different cultures, it serves specific purposes.”
Rihanna is certainly not the first celebrity guilty of cultural appropriation. Kim Kardashian received a lot of flak for trying on a full burka in Dubai, Karlie Kloss walked the Victoria’s Secret runway in a headdress, and Vanessa Hudgens has been criticized for donning items from every culture under the sun. Luckily, though, it seems like people are consistently fighting back and educating the perpetrators about the harm they cause when they play dress-up in another culture’s things.
Maybe look into getting that one lasered off, RiRi.