Some may call it the most wonderful time of year. Who wouldn’t? Dressing up in costumes so theatrical that no one recognizes you seems like an excellent excuse to eat your child’s Trick-or-Treat candy. That too, without judgment – or being caught.
However, it seems that in the midst of attempting to win the prize for best costume, enthusiasts are oftentimes seen as unintentionally – we hope – engaging in cultural appropriation. What you may see as an accurate portrayal of a Native American or Aboriginal attire is seen as racist and insensitive to someone else.
Well fear not gremlins*, we are here to help! Before picking out your costume, take these steps to ensure you have a blast without offending anyone. Already have your costume picked out? Make sure you take a peek anyways! It’s better to go as a sexy cat than “Mizz Ghetto Fabulous,” amirite?
Step 1: Do your research.
You may think that Geisha costume looks hot on you, but do you even know what a Geisha is? The cultural significance behind every country’s attire is not something that can be picked up and replicated over night. Whether it’s as simple as a dreadlocks wig or as grand as a Bollywood dream costume, knowing what is cultural appropriation and what is not can help you make the right decision when choosing an outfit for the night. Afterall, buying a $50 costume that inaccurately appropriates a culture is just a waste of money. Take off the ‘sari’ and put a cape on. Superwoman is so much more empowering. And can’t be worn wrong.
Step 2: Question what is sexy
As body positive as we’d like you all to be, there are certain boundaries on what can be considered sexy. If you want to channel your inner Britney and be a sexy school girl, you be it! Just make sure it makes sense. Therefore, suddenly deciding to don a niquab on Halloween after thousands of women are scrutinized for it on a daily basis may seem a little insensitive. Remember, it’s not a costume, it’s a religious practice. And let’s face it, you can’t wear a little black dress and call it a burqa. Now you’re just wearing a LBD with a veil. The same concept can be applied to other costumes; Sexy Native Girl, Scottie Hottie, or anything that deals with cultural practices in a promiscuous matter. By choosing a Halloween costume that promotes diversity and tolerance (think: pumpkin), you can make a difference in the cultural awareness movement!
Step 3: Look beyond culture
Now that you have educated yourself on cultural appropriation and the importance of avoiding cultural costumes, let’s look at another big issue; race. Unfortunately, the most popular costume this year has been Kanye West – shutter glasses… and blackface. Although wearing foundation 10 shades darker than your natural skin tone was probably done with the intention to be an accurate version of Kanye West; if you’re not black, you shouldn’t pretend to be black. It’s offensive. And those Caitlyn Jenner costumes? Sorry, but no. The LGBT community and visible minorities have continued to fight in an ongoing battle for freedom from all types of stereotypes and prejudices. Therefore, the best thing to do is avoid representing them in the scariest night of the year. Because the only thing scary about you donning a black face is your lack of education. Ouch.
Step 4: Educate others
Congratulations for taking the time in seeking knowledge on how to have a respectful Halloween. However, the last step can prove to be the toughest. It is now time to embark on your journey through the night and educate others on a culturally aware and socially inclusive holiday. Teach others the meaning of cultural appropriation and discuss why their costume should be considered offensive. Change can only come through educating others. Remember the true meaning of Halloween: candy.
Don’t forget to have fun! Happy Halloween! 🙂