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Cultural Appropriation in Costumes

The air is turning colder, the stores have stocked up on teeth-rotting candy, and your neighbor’s house looks like it bought out the entire halloween section. Spooky season has arrived, and with that so has the excitement for trick-or-treating! The time has come to discuss certain Halloween costumes, and what may or may not be offensive to some people. Though this year is definitely going to be different than the previous. With social distancing and perhaps celebrating Halloween digitally, however that will not condemn any excuses to do cultural appropriation. 

     What is cultural appropriation? It’s when cultural roots and elements, which are often from the minority, are being copied or used by others from different cultures, which are often from the majority. It’s not hard to find costumes that are culturally offensive in some way in your local Halloween shop.  For example stereotypical costumes that involve ninjas, g*ps*es, native americans, day of the dead, voodoo, and Egypt queens.  Anything that’s mocking an ethnic or racial group is not a good costume. The sad thing is, it’s not just on costumes. Cultural appropriation can be anything ranging from fashion to artifacts.

     Why are these costumes offensive?  First of all, they shouldn’t even be called costumes in the first place, that’s part of what makes it insulting! Each and every “costume” stated before have stemmed from cultures that have either been oppressed or were important to their individuals.  They are ridiculing the things people believe in.  If it wasn’t offensive enough, companies even went as far as to make sexualized versions. Since the costumes are being seen as jokes, it takes away the history and seriousness of their cultural roots.  

      If you want to appreciate instead of appropriating, lucky for you, there are ways to do that!  Dressing up in a kimono or yukata, for example.  Kimono and yukatas are usually worn during festivals and special events in Japan. You can visit places where people, like geishas, would be delighted to show you how to put one on. As long as you’re being respectful during the whole process, there doesn’t seem to be a problem with them. The big difference is that you’re wearing an outfit out of curiosity and respect for the culture, to learn instead of mock. If you were to wear a kimono or yukata, maybe one made out of cheap fabric, as a costume to a party…that would not be appreciating anything.

     The same goes with any other culture.  Educate yourself to see if what you’re wearing for trick or treating will offend someone or not. 


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