The Color Red.

A couple of days ago I mentioned on my facebook timeline I would dress in red on Queensday. I meant that as a counterpoint to the royalist orange that many people wear that day. I am not a royalist and I love red. It is my favorite color ever since my travels to Nepal and India where the red is deeper and stronger than anywhere in the world. I have a red sari here that is flaming compared to the poor red of the west.

Anyway, someone responded with a humorous remark ‘slutty‘. Obviously made out of western thinking where as one might know red and black are associated with whores.

It was, seen from my perspective, a stupid and out of place remark. First of all, I’m not slutty and especially when I’m dressed in red I am far from that, but that wasn’t my objection. My objection to the one-word-statement was that is was typical western thinking showing off. So I countered and stated that the remark was ‘bollocks’. As it obviously was.

This resulted in a somewhat heated debate started of by the initial respondent about feminism, femininity, modern thinking, social and cultural color coding and a whole lot of other thoughts and ideas that she obviously wanted to vent. The reason why she decided to start of that debate is still beyond me as I only stated to dress in red in stead of orange… Things really are far less complicated than some people tend to think.

To cut it short, the discussion ended with one lady becoming moralistic towards me and the one who started it all off becoming like a preacher or tutor assuming all kinds of things about how I think and to what extend I conform to ‘traditional western’ ideas. Off course, in the end I deleted the discussion. It had gotten out of hand and to be quite frank I felt offended by it. Question is of course: why did I feel offended?

There are a few answers to that.

I guess I felt offended because someone stated that I would dress conformistic to western cultural ideas. Which is in it own right complete bollocks. Because I don’t. I tend to dress like I tend to dress and that involves frequently being dressed in Nepali clothes in stead of western clothes. They suit me and define me just as much as western clothes do. And the other obviously has no idea about my associations about this color. I wear for instance a small red bead around my left wrist (I write with my left hand). It is an old Hindu custom to have a bead tied around the wrist by a friend for protection and blessing. And only true friends are allowed to tie it around my wrist and it must be red. In the accompanying text later this is explained in more detail.

Secondly I felt offended because my interpretation and ideas concerning color (in this case red) where shoved aside without responding to my arguments. Red for me is a color of passion and that should be translated into values like courage, strength, determination and self confidence. Not into cheap western words like slutty, whorish or anything like that. I denounce that type of western over sexualized coding of common concepts like color (or art).

Thirdly, I felt offended because – and that is quite funny I think – I felt that barging in on a simple facebook statement felt like invading privacy. Which is of course total crap on my side because facebook and privacy of ones timeline are opposites.

I suppose it’s good I got rid of that crazy discussion on facebook. It was nothing more than an outlet of someone else trying to push ideas on my timeline that are beyond me. No offence Anne, I still think you’re responses are non sense. From my perspective.

Alice © 2012

For anyone interested, this is a good text about the color red in Hindu culture, it describes pretty much mu associations with red. It was written by Kate Smith who maintains the interesting website which is quite edcuational concerning color an culture.

The color of love, seduction and power, red has been symbolic in many a culture. A dynamism innately aligned with the color has been interpreted and followed across the globe.
The devilish connotations of red in the west are amusingly juxtaposed by the traditional bearings of red in the east.
The color red has played an instrumental role in Hindu customs and beliefs, perhaps the most ceremonious one being in the life of a married woman. A girl’s arrival into her role as the married woman is symbolized by the almost red henna on her hands and is sealed with the pinch of red powder sindoor on her head. Matrimonial bliss and a promise of togetherness are all sealed by the warmth and binding power of the red drape and red accessories. The bride’s first step into her new home is characterized by the ritual of her having to dip her feet in red water and walk bare feet on the floor of the house to symbolize the beginning of her new role.

Cinema in India reflects this home grown custom of Indian brides bedecked in red bangles and saris, and the ceremonial kiosk showered with red roses. It’s almost the most powerful symbol of leaving behind one’s adolescence and stepping into womanhood and, eventually, motherhood.

The red vermillion is also used as a ritual mark while greeting guests or family members at a festival or simply into your home. The red tilak while sometimes used as a symbol of ‘blessing’ from an elderly to a youngster is also used in many customary functions. The customs include traditional Indian festivals such as Raksha Bandhan (the festival that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters) and Durga Puja.

The tika, in theory, has to do with the third eye of Lord Shiva, the destroyer, one of the most revered Indian gods and part of the Trinity. The third eye is in tandem with Lord Shiva’s third eye opening to beckon the end of the world. However its customary significance is that of the all-seeing, all-pervading power that protects the inner wisdom of those that it’s applied on.
The red tika is replaced by a tiny red dot on the foreheads of married women who place this ‘bindi’ between the brows to symbolize spirituality. The bindi in particular is a symbol of feminine energy and supposed to protect both the wife and the husband. Although bindis have gone far from the traditional red circle, tradition and customs keep it alive at many places.

It is also a part of Indian custom to tie a long red string around the wrist of loved ones during prayer as a mark of protection and to safeguard against the evil eye. Individuals wear it for a month till the thread wears off.
Red in mythology denotes bravery, protection and strength. Red powder is often showered on deities at temples during prayer. The colored powder therefore has become a hugely intrinsic part of Indian culture.
Indian customs and culture are often described as riots of colors with almost every desirable color thrown in for good measure. But red truly remains the core symbol of power and spirituality, of protection and commitment. It is a color that has not faded the trials of time and stands alone as the most powerful.

The sexual denotations of the red in the West are replaced by the simplicity, purity and ritualistic candor of the color in the east. The dynamism of red has always led it to command power and awe. It’s interesting however to see how different cultures utilized the color in their daily lives. Red in India is considered holy and is symbolic of a certain time, place and action in one’s personal life. While castes, beliefs and rituals may differ across religious sects in India, the overall implications of the color are universal.