Hindu Goddess Print On Swimsuit Causes Shitstorm

Illustration for article titled Hindu Goddess Print On Swimsuit Causes Shitstorm

Australian swimwear label Lisa Blue has apologized for sending a swimsuit down the runway with an image of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. The company has halted production of the offending item, but not before members of a Hindu nationalist party burned the Australian flag alongside images of the models. Cultural appropriation can get tricky!


Word of the swimsuit spread when the Australian fashion blog Fashionising posted images from the show. The bloggers there write,

Visual representations of deities are nothing new, when applied to swimwear though, they can certainly provoke an emotional reaction. And provoke this one-piece did. Since the image ran on Fashionising.com our editors have been filtering out hundreds of comments about the piece, none of them pleasant. Largely aimed at the label and its designer Lisa Burke, they've ranged from statements of concern to mild slurs, and at the other end of the spectrum have also included curses and all out death threats.

Judging from the activity on Blue's Facebook page, there is a small but vocal group that remains unsatisfied by the apology. Rather than focusing on the easy ignorance and acquisitiveness that more plausibly lies behind the decision to use a Hindu goddess on a really ugly bathing suit, they compare it to using images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary on condoms and underwear. Someone's already been there, done that. And doubtless heard from outraged devotees.

Lisa Blue 'Lakshmi' Swimsuit Causes Outrage Among Hindus [HP]
Aussie Flag Burned Over Image Of Goddess [Daily Telegraph]
The Swimsuit That Outraged [Daily Telegraph]



I may get schooled for this, but as a non-religious person (raised by an atheist and an agnostic), I really don't have much sympathy for those who get offended by their sacred objects being used in a decorative way by non- believers. It doesn't have the same meaning for me as for you, so I'm not intentionally dissing your religion. I like my little Buddha statues, okay? You can be offended or judge me or think I have bad taste; I can live with that. But I don't see why I should feel bad about it or why you should care how I decorate.

When religious objects are truly desecrated (that is, the intention is clearly to offend), that's different. Not burning-people-in-effigy-and-rioting worthy, but clearly wrong. But trying to hurt and offend others is already kind of wrong in general, right?

When the issue becomes one of "cultural appropriation" it gets a little trickier, of course. I still think intent should be the main criteria for judging people on this, but I also think the level of the appropriation comes into it. Darkening one's skin as part of a Halloween costume=probably a bad idea. Wearing your hair in cornrows or dreads because you like those hairstyles=no one else's business. Again, you can think a white guy or an Asian girl looks like an ass rocking a hairstyle associated with people of African descent, just like you can think that my mish-mash of Eastern religious knickknacks is tacky. But if you start talking about cultural appropriation or declare that someone's hairstyle is offensive to you, I'm going to think that YOU are an ass.