Earlier this month, there was much controversy surrounding hoop earrings. For those who missed it, the controversy was surrounding a Pitzer College Resident Assistant (RA) named Alegria Martinez, who demanded, “white girl, take off your hoops!” She sited cultural appropriation of “Latinx” culture as her reasoning for this. Now, you can add septum rings to the list of things for white girls to take off.
Recently, a movement has begun asking that those who do not come from cultures that traditional wear septum rings, to refrain from wearing them. This movement is mainly being led by Indians, but also has some Native American members. They say that the trend, which has recently become more mainstream, is insensitive to the roll that the piercing plays in their cultures.
The claim that septum piercings are culturally appropriative actually has much stronger historical backing than the claim for hoop earrings. Contrary to the claim that hoop earrings originated in Latin culture, hoop earring actually originated in Minoan culture, sometimes called “the first link in the European chain”. Since then, they have been a prominent piece of many cultures around the world. Septum piercings, on the other hand, are a traditional piece of South Asian culture. In India, the septum piercing is called a ‘Nathori’. Images of Krishna frequently depict the nathori. In Bangladesh, it is traditional for women to wear the nathori as a sign of marriage. The septum piercing is also traditionally worn by some Native American tribes, such as the the Shawnee, Tecumseh, and Tenskwatawa.
The septum piercing was extremely uncommon in western culture until the 80’s and 90’s. The spread of Indian culture lead to members of counterculture groups adopting the practice. Up until recently, septum piercings were not seen as an acceptable thing to wear in the workplace. However, there has been a recent trend of these piercings being more widely accepted in culture. This is why action is being taken now, before it is to late. It will be interesting to see if these wishes are respected, or if the propagation of the piercing will continue with disregard to its symbolic origins.