Why Cultural Appropriation Isn’t Cute

How not to dress like an offensive asshole this Halloween.

cultural appropriation halloween

Halloweekend is quickly approaching, threatening to take Syracuse by storm. For some, this season means pumpkin carving and apple picking or sneaking into ZBT’s halloween party through the fire escape. But unfortunately it is also accompanied by a slew of culturally insensitive outfits. We know Halloween is a time of questionable choices, just don’t make your costume one of them. Here’s what cultural appropriation looks like, why it’s an issue, and how we as a campus can avoid it.

What does cultural appropriation even mean? 

Cultural appropriation generally occurs when individuals decide to “… pick and choose the ‘cool’ parts of any given minority culture and adopt them for the night, only to toss that culture back into society’s margins the next day.” Typically, appropriation stems from a lack of knowledge or blatant ignorance about a culture and its values. It also involves harmful stereotyping and fetishizing that can be easily avoided if we start to acknowledge what types of behaviors are and are not acceptable. So if you’re confused about whether your costume is offensive in this regard, we’ve provided some guidelines to ensure that your night is as fun-filled and PC as possible.   

Sexy Native American  

Generally speaking, if your costume represents an entire culture and attempts to make it seem “sexy” it’s probably not the best choice. This is especially true when you’re dressing like an indigenous group that experienced mass genocide and continues to be largely marginalized and discriminated against in modern times. In cases like these, we suggest you consider a different, less offensive, alternative.  

What you can do instead: There are so many other sexy options. Sexy vampire. Sexy animal. Victoria’s Secret Angel. Its 2017 you could literally tape fidget spinners to your nipples and call it a day.

Japanese Geisha  

Photo from julbie.com

Photo from julbie.com

Again with the sexualization of an entire culture. It doesn’t matter how cute you think the kimono is, it’s not worth offending and sexualizing a group whose actual culture you know nothing about. Bottom line is, if it’s gonna be sexy, stick with subjects that don’t represent actual people and their communities (and if you gotta be a cat, for God’s sake just be a damn cat).  

What you can do instead: If you really love Japanese culture, dress up as something from your favorite anime or manga (Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Studio Ghibli). Even a bowl of ramen would be better.

Anything That Pokes Fun at Another Culture 

Photo from Amazon.com

Photo from Amazon.com

Not sure who decided “Illegal Alien” was a good option for a Halloween costume, but likening actual immigrants to extraterrestrials is extremely problematic at best. Costumes that aim for humor at the expense of a whole culture dehumanize and humiliate actual individuals. That’s not what Halloween is about. Again, just be a damn cat if “Illegal Alien” is literally the only idea you can come up with.  

PS: Yes this is real, AND it’s sold out.

What you can do instead: Idk maybe just a regular alien?????

Anything Involving Other People’s Hair   

Photo from partycity.com

Photo from partycity.com

It doesn’t matter how much you admire the look, if a person of color cannot wear their hair a certain way without being labeled “ghetto” or “dirty,” then it’s not an appropriate choice for a costume. Just because you’re a stoner doesn’t mean you get to don dreads. Embrace your own culture and allow others to celebrate theirs.   

What you can do instead: If you really want to do something different with your hair, wear a colorful crazy wig and you’ll be completely transformed.

Anything Perpetuating Offensive Stereotypes  

Photo from brandonsale.com

Photo from brandonsale.com

At the end of the day, dressing like a “drunken Mexican” or a “dangerous terrorist” furthers hateful representations of multiple different cultures and communities, and honestly, no one with brain cells is laughing. We suggest trying to come up with something a little more creative, because at the end of the day, it is absolutely possible to dress up and have a good time without appropriating, sexualizing, or supporting problematic stereotypes.  

What you can do instead: Dress up as your favorite high school stereotype. Jerk’s favorite is horse girl. 

Chandler Plante
About Chandler Plante (7 Articles)
Chandler Plante is a freshman magazine major from Tucson, Arizona, who hasn’t owned a coat in over four years. In her spare time, she enjoys checking up on her Webkinz from 2008 and trying to convince people to read her long-winded rants and ramblings. Help a gal out and just read her articles instead.

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