Halloween Costumes: Boo's & Do's

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for so many reasons: the spooky theme, the fall weather, the candy, the parties and especially the costumes. I love thinking of different costume ideas, from trying to reinvent the clichés to coming up with something entirely new; picking out different pieces; planning hair and makeup; getting ready with all my friends. After all, there are only so many times when you can showcase your creativity, individual style and wild ideas without it being considered strange.

Just Google or search for "Halloween costumes" on Instagram or Pinterest and you get millions upon millions of responses with thousands of different costume ideas. There are literally so many options, so I am always shocked that every year people continue to culturally appropriate for Halloween.

Cultural appropriation is a complex topic involving racism, discrimination, privilege and historical context, but it can be boiled down to one sentence and one simple concept: don’t wear someone else’s culture. Now this isn’t to say there aren’t gray lines, fuzzy areas and places for disagreement and discussion about what cultural appropriation is and isn’t, but there are some clear set rules to follow regarding cultural appropriation and Halloween.

Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself when planning the perfect outfit:

1. Is it black face?

Don’t. Just don’t. Period. It’s as simple as that. This behavior is inexcusable and ignorant. The reasons behind why this is disgustingly offensive are infinitesimal, but it boils down to that historically, black face was used to make African Americans look stupid and inhuman and wearing black face today mocks African Americans and perpetuates those racist beliefs. This is not to say you can’t dress up as Beyoncé or Barack Obama, but don’t paint your face darker. There are so many fun and creative ways to dress as them and people of a different race than yourself respectfully; just put on your favorite yellow dress and grab a baseball bat or throw on your best suit and American flag pin.

 

 

2. Are you dressing up as a group that you’re not part of?

Don’t dress up as a group that you are not part of in a degrading and stereotypical way. Dressing up as people who exist in real life is essentially wearing that group as a costume. So, don’t dress up as someone with a mental disorder by wearing a “sexy straitjacket,” and don’t dress up as a Native American by wearing a “war chief hottie” outfit. This is disrespect, plain and simple, because you’re ignoring the hardships and discrimination that these groups have faced. Also, if your costume is a stereotype of a whole group of people, it’s probably not a good idea.

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3. Are you wearing the cultural/religious outfits of a group?

If your outfit has cultural and religious significance and it isn’t your culture, don’t wear it. You’re not respecting their culture or religion by wearing their significant clothes for your night of revelry. Bindis are popularly worn at music festivals and part of costumes, but it has a deeper meaning in Hinduism. Sugar skulls, or calaveras, are beautiful but they hold a deeper meaning for Mexican people as it is part of their Day of the Dead holiday honoring their departed loved ones. Native American headdress are incredibly culturally significant, and the feathers and bead patterns hold a lot of symbolic meaning. Buzzfeed recently produced a video where Native Americans tried on “Indian” Halloween costumes. All the Native Americans discussed how the costumes were so unrealistic they felt like they were mocking Native American culture and felt as if they were ignoring that Native Americans exist today.

Minorities in America have suffered discrimination and prejudice because of who they are and what they look like, so being able to dress up as one of them for a night for compliments and likes on your Instagram pictures and then take it off at the end of the night is a privilege they do not have. There are enough scary and spooky parts of halloween: an offensive costume should not be one of them.

About The Author

Hi, I'm a freshman at the University of Akron! I am very excited to be majoring in social work. My passions include fashion, social change, beauty, social justice and feminism, and I'm very much looking forward to sharing my thoughts with all of you.