March 3, 2014

Reno-based Universal Society of Hinduism prevails upon Neiman Marcus and Amazon to stop selling swimsuits depicting Lord Ganesh.

Rajan Zed, the president of the society said he got the response he wanted within 24 hours after he sent his protest saying that images of Lord Ganesh do not belong on provocative clothing.



I'll bet the designer, Mara Hoffman, assumed the image was playful and fun-loving. Perhaps it's hard for an outsider to grasp how someone could picture God with an elephant head and not have a sense of humor about it. But it really is inept to appropriate other people's religious imagery. Whether you care about sacrilege or not, it's insulting to treat other people as if they are merely colorful background scenery for your world.

I was shopping the other day, looking at clothes that had the kinds of elaborately printed designs that are possible to produce these days with computers, and I could see that there were some tiny images of Indian sculptures, perhaps Ganesh. I said to the saleslady: "Are these religious images? I'm afraid these might be offensive to some people."

She was all: "No, no, that's just the design."

47 comments:

Chuck said...

Having all of the information -- a Reno-based religious organization, a leader named Zed, the animal/God imagery -- all would make me MORE likely to appropriate it, not less. It's just too funny.

gemma said...

Have to say though... not too many people give a rat's about Christian icons. Why's that?

David said...

Not intending disrespect for their god, gotta say it was pretty ugly (as clothing of course.)

Michael Hess said...

Why try to retail religious imagery when an image of Christ in piss can get you federal funding.

Ann Althouse said...

This isn't about religion and government. This is private business doing commerce and consumers deciding how they want to present themselves in the world.

I certainly wouldn't want to display any religious image on my body unless I intended to express my own personal belief in that religion. I think most people feel the same way, but many might not quite get that the elephant on those clothes was religious to Hindus.

YoungHegelian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YoungHegelian said...

Talk about yer misunderstood symbols! There's at least one pre-war house I know of in D.C. that has swastikas carved into the front for good luck.

For the original Hindu meaning of the sign, see here.

ajf said...

I certainly wouldn't want to display any religious image on my body unless I intended to express my own personal belief in that religion.

So, you will wear nothing with a tree, the sun, cow, rock or thousand other things on it, right?

But, seriously, will you refrain from watching The Simpson's because they depicted Ganesh. How about The Avengers movie, where Loki takes out a guys eyeball with a Farvahar (you don't even know what that is, I'm sure) in the background.

Where do you draw the line?

rcommal said...

"Whether you care about sacrilege or not, it's insulting to treat other people as if they are merely colorful background scenery for your world."

That's an interesting sentence. It puts me in mind of the Gatsby project, and also the one having to do with various countries.

rhhardin said...

Elephant™

Anonymous said...

Anybody been to India? Do we know whether people there wear clothing with images of Hindu gods on them?

B said...

Putting your non-Western god on a women's skimpy swimsuit. Micro-aggression alert.

Smilin' Jack said...

But it really is inept to appropriate other people's religious imagery. Whether you care about sacrilege or not, it's insulting to treat other people as if they are merely colorful background scenery for your world.

But to do otherwise would be dishonest.

rhhardin said...

Make it an elephant in high heels to distinguish it.

Sort of a Ginger Rogers thing.

Sorun said...

Probably thought it was cool New Agey yoga kinda stuff. Ommmmmm. Who knew it was Hinduism?

Big Mike said...

You put the God of Wisdom on the chest of a swimsuit model??? What sort of a statement does that make?

kentuckyliz said...

I want that one piece bathing suit with a picture of Mohammed on it.

Birches said...

This post just reminded me of Homer Simpson:

No offense Apu, but when they were handing out religions you must have been out taking a whiz

Leit Bart said...

So now a bathing suit is worth a thousand words? And the heckler need not even heckle to get his veto pushed through?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/03/03/islamic-extremists-put-a-price-on-your-head-that-means-you-cant-give-a-speech-in-this-american-government-building/

augustus said...

Some people in our culture are very silly, taking symbols that they do not understand and adorning their bodies with them. Those who do such things should not be taken seriously.

Skyler said...

What's wrong with insulting people who have no sense of humor? Christians put up with all sorts of irreverence towards their religion every day.

Michael Hess said...

My comment was not about government and religion, but more about the means in which artists can get remuneration for their work. Art that offends will likely be punished in the market and offensive artists will not be paid for their efforts. But an artist relying on a government grant can be offensive without risk--the money is already in the artists' hands.

Lance said...

Is this disrespectful to Greeks?

traditionalguy said...

Elephants are cute. Cows are cute too. Hindu gods are mostly either elephant gods or and cow gods... like Republicans and Democrats

The Hindu gods must like cuteness. Maybe that helps draw worship to them. But that beats the insects and reptiles that Egyptian gods wanted men to fall down and worship.

mccullough said...

Those coexist bumper stickers really bother me for this reason. It reduces religious symbols to lucky charms.

James Commerford said...
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David R. Graham said...

Professor, thank you for the sympathetic treatment of this matter. Personally, as a Christian (I hope), I think the objector was thin-skinned. As pointed out above, Christianity and her symbols are unremarkably calumniated by the second in the so-called tolerant USA. American Indians are not yet so tough, generally. However, that the objector in this case is free to object and the object of their objection is free to accept their objection is bed-rock morality demanded by the virtue of forbearance. And thank you for maintaining that standard.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Some people in our culture are very silly, taking symbols that they do not understand and adorning their bodies with them. Those who do such things should not be taken seriously.

3/3/14, 9:31

This. It's the height of hipster doucheosity to appropriate the religious images of other people's faith for your trivial shit. Actually, it's very rare to see ordinary people disrespect Christian symbols outside the douchey hipster enclaves.
Naturally, none of this sensitivity need be observed in regard to Muzzies. Screw those guys.

Christy said...

Ganesh, isn't he the Lord of auspicious beginnings? I found a cloud in his shape oddly comforting when trying to land unsuccessfully (twice) during a bad storm in New Orleans. Not me doing the actual flying, you understand. Is appropriating the God of another culture for my own comfort douchey?

boinky said...

I don't like religious imagery on clothing, yet I know Catholics who wear the Virgin of Guadalupe tee shirt as a faith statement, or to celebrate their Mexican heritage.

Yet this image has been caricatured and misused by hipsters several times in the recent past, and that angers me greatly. Don't those who do this know what they are ridiculing?

Same thing for Ganesh, who in Hindu mythology is a "good guy" hero, and now a god best know for helping ordinary folks.

Do I support Censorship? No: But I'm old enough to remember when ordinary politeness should stop such things. Guess that makes me an old lady.

Fen said...

"Guess that makes me an old lady."

Doesn't make you old, its simply because you have moral values.

I'm beginning to realize I've given people too much credit - I assumed they had some sense of morality. But no, their behavior is more easily understood when you consider they are mere animals.

Fen said...

I mean, who the fuck purse snatches (recent news) from a pregnant lady who's gone into labor?

We shouldn't waste money imprisoning such cretins. Just put them down like you would a rabid dog.

surfed said...

I'm reviving the religion of the Voice of the Atom first promulgated by a Wisconsinite and one of the most famous surfers in history Tom Blake. All pictures of Atoms will now be sacrosanct and unavailable for use anywhere but in our religious ceremonies. Since Atoms make up everything, everything is off limits unless you get our permission to not hurt our feelings. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VE-MGlMvgZc
Addendum - Tom Blake invented the modern surfer lifestyle back in the 1920's and 30's.

surfed said...

Addendum to the addendum - If it's not to gay to say Mr. Blake was one good looking guy in a modern way. probably had to do with the haircut not all slicked down. What say the Professor as a woman? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VE-MGlMvgZc

Mark said...

Traditional guy, read up a little more before you go off about cow headed gods. Better yet, visit India and see for yourself that there are none.

This was mindless cultural appropriation, glad it got noted. Acting like boors about others religion only asks for the same treatment back.

Rusty said...

I once shot an elephant in Reno.
Just , you know, for the symbolism.

jazzizhep said...

I found the qualifier "provocative clothing" rather interesting considering the fact that extant ancient Hindu temples contain relief carvings depicting sex acts, and don't forget, they are the culture that gave us the Kama Sutra.

Neiman Marcus made the correct decision, I just giggled a bit at provocative being the reason for the complaint.

The Crack Emcee said...

The fewer religious anythings, I have to be confronted with, the better.

Especially Christians,…they don't keep their word.

traditionalguy said...

@Mark...You are wrong. Cows are symbols of a main god in India and elephants are too.

Large temples are dedicated to those spirits. The Cow god's new temples must be initiated by use of live cows running loose inside and cow dung self smearing ceremonies upon the worshipers as submission to attract the Cow god's spirit.

jazzizhep said...

@Lance

I don't see why a Thor t-shirt would be disrespectful to Greeks. Thor was/is a Norse god. :)

The Cracker Emcee said...

"I once shot an elephant in Reno.
Just , you know, for the symbolism."

Krishna on a cracker, that's funny! Thanks!


Anglelyne said...

...treat other people as if they are merely colorful background scenery for your world.

That's a nice succinct description of what SWPLs think "multiculturalism" is.

jazzizhep said...

While we are on eastern religions.

Saw on the news last week that the Dalai Lama walked into a pizza joint and asked "can you make me one with everything?"

Think about it, it is pretty funny.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

Do we know it's not just a decorated elephant? How do we know? Could this just be one of those Allah in an ice cream cone type of things?

Patrick O said...

Lance, oddly enough I own that very shirt. Though, maybe I have a special dispensation. It's a family thing.

"I certainly wouldn't want to display any religious image on my body unless I intended to express my own personal belief in that religion. I think most people feel the same way,"

I think religious images are often co-opted. Crosses are ubiquitous, necklaces, earrings, tattoos. So you might feel that way, but most people don't seem to.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

Do we know it's not just a decorated elephant? How do we know? Could this just be one of those Allah in an ice cream cone type of things?

Mark said...

Ok, traditional guy, tell me all about the Hindu cow god. You know, the cow headed one. The one as important as Ganesh.

Yes, cows are sacred. Their byproducts are important for puja. Even the dung. But that does not mean that cow imagery is equivalent to Ganesh.