Cultures Aren’t Costumes

By Karen Me

In the spirit of frantically searching for the perfect Halloween costume last minute, here are a couple examples of what not to wear – I suppose that may not exactly help your search, but check out Thirty Seventh’s amazing Halloween tutorials!

The thing is there is a fine line that can easily not be crossed by keeping the following considerations in mind when preparing for your Halloween night out.

1. Sexualized minorities

Think Pocahottie.  Despite what Disney may portray, Pocahontas was an underage girl sexually assaulted by white colonizers.  In general, minorities experience higher rates of assault and have difficulty accessing resources, especially when language barriers exist.  It would be ill fitting to objectify minorities into some sort of flirty tease costume idea

2.  Cultural appropriation

Black hair is beautiful – on Black people.  Of course, we can appreciate other cultures and people of other cultures, but the distinction lies in that the purposes of Halloween costumes are often comedic or creative-driven. To wear something that is not part of your culture as a costume relays a lighthearted disposition towards that culture, which leads to appropriation, especially when cultural attire is not always appreciated on people celebrating their own culture.

3. Gender bender

Transgender people, especially trans women of color, suffer acute rates of suicidality, homelessness, sexual violence, and murder.  Gender bending perpetuates the marginalization of this community by diminishing their lived realities into a costume that can be taken off the next day.  It also leads to misrepresentation of trans identity when it becomes costumed by non-trans people.

Altering cultures and identities into costumes simplifies entire groups of people into limiting and reinforced stereotypes.  The issue at hand is not personal; perfectly well-meaning people are still complicit in a system that engages in these injustices.  Let’s at least avoid that in our costume choices for Halloween.

Instead, here are several suggestions.

  1. Replicate pieces of art. image02image04
  2. Be a mundane object. image01 image00
  3. Everyone loves food.  Be something everyone loves. image03
  4. Be a dank meme. image07image06
  5. I’m going to be a plant.image05

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