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Cultural appropriate costumes

October 27, 2017

Photo Courtesy of everydayfeminism

College students are gearing up for Halloween and deciding on a costume can be tricky. One may juggle between a provocative pizza costume or an oversized shirt, tall socks, and no pants look. Luckily, Shopko has some outfits to choose from or you can make your own. Let me make your decision easier by filtering out some of the ideas that blur the line between fun and cultural appropriation.

According to Maisha Z. Johnson, the term cultural appropriation is defined as the act of adopting aspects of a culture that is not your own. Costumes that borrow ideas from another culture are problematic regardless of the intentions one may have. Many people may think that it is isn’t a big deal and that they aren’t wearing the costume to be offensive or to poke fun at anyone’s culture. “I’m wearing it because I think it’s cute.” Regardless of that intent, another person’s culture is still not a costume.

A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation can be gained from Johnson, who addresses a “power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.” If something is seen as “weird” or “exotic” when worn by a less dominant group of people, but then becomes “fun” and “trendy” when it is worn by a dominant group of people, cultural appropriation is taking place. If you have even the slightest bit of doubt on whether or not your costume might be offensive to some, it probably is.

Instead of trying to defend why the costume does not display cultural appropriation, do some research. There are numerous articles that explain the reasons as to why certain costumes appropriate a culture. Despite growing up in a small town, where there are very few cultures, resulting in a lack of knowledge about cultural appropriation, I was able to learn. By doing my own research and talking to students on campus I was able to learn, as do others.

Dressing up as a “sexy” Native American or wearing decorative bindis may seem like a harmless idea but one shouldn’t. Headdresses may look cute or cool to you, but they carry special meaning to members of another community. Therefore, stealing an important aspect of someone else’s culture by incorporating it into a costume is considered offensive. It is perpetuating the systematic oppression of a group of people. There are plenty of costumes that can achieve a particular look for Halloween. The holiday should be fun for everyone; whether that means staying in watching scary movies or going out and partying with your friends. Just remember to be respectful to other cultures.

Katie Walker
Contributing Writer

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