Halloween Is Not an Excuse to be Culturally Insensitive

It’s officially October, which means that everyone and their grandma can finally “just barely come-up with” the elaborate Halloween costumes they’ve been planning for a month already. And enjoy pumpkin-flavored everything and get excited about the pretty leaves and finally bust out the knee-high socks. But back to the Halloween costumes; even though it’s pretty much a given that there will be some kind of themed college party on just about any weekend of the year, I feel like none are as elaborate or as highly anticipated as those during Hallo-weekend. People go all out. There are probably entire Pinterest boards dedicated to matching “Starbucks drink” costumes for your entire squad.

While the matchy and tacky costumes are all in good fun, especially during Halloween, I think it’s important that we all stop think about whether whatever we’re planning to dress up as is offensive. And I’m not really talking about the classic lingerie-and-cat-ears costume kind of “offensive” (you do you, girl)—I’m talking about cultural appropriation.

I, for one, am guilty of this. Honestly, most of us probably have been. I dressed up as a “geisha” with a group of my friends for Halloween one year, and I still feel really bad about it. And I should feel bad about it! I treated an entire old and rich aspect of Japanese culture as little more than a bright robe and some white face paint that I called a “costume” for a night. I knew absolutely nothing about geishas, and not much more about Japanese culture in general—and I treated it in a demeaning way by dressing up as one.

It’s okay to poke a little fun during Halloween, and to wear fun and light-hearted costumes. I feel like there’s no need to get butt-hurt over silly costumes like the “Starbucks drinks”, etc. However, I do think that we should all stop and think about how hurtful it may be to dress up as a “Sexy Eskimo” or “Native American Princess” or even a geisha! It may not be intentionally hurtful, but it still is a form of cultural appropriation that shouldn’t be seen as acceptable on any day of the year. Making a costume based on another ethnicity or culture is just a line that shouldn’t be crossed in general.  Definitely have fun this coming year—but keep in mind that you can have fun and a killer outfit without being patronizing!