Avoid those culture-insensitive costumes this Halloween – Massachusetts Daily Collegian


Blackface has a bad history that is deeply rooted in racism. White artists from the late 19th century to the early 20th century painted their skin black with shoe polish, grease paint, or burnt cork and painted on enlarged lips to mock black features. that weren’t allowed in entertainment circles. These black-faced minstrel characters perpetuated damaging stereotypes that black people were stupid, hypersexual, lazy, and prone to crime and cowardice.

Even if your intention is to dress like your favorite black character or celebrity, blackface is an absolute no-no due to its inherent message of mockery. Whatever the intention, you would demonize the characteristics associated with black people to elevate a white supremacist agenda.

If you tend to be a character of a different race than your own, wear an accurate, non-cartoonish mask of the celebrity or character. You wouldn’t simplify a run for an exaggerated set of features if you took the time to find a specific mask of a specific person you want to disguise yourself as.

  • Native American “princess”

Wearing a costume that satirizes a marginalized community shows an overwhelming sense of ignorance on the part of the wearer of the costume. You add insult to injury by downplaying oppression and idealizing a culture that has been ravaged by resource exploitation, colonialism and violence. Taking one aspect of a culture and transforming it into a costume that can be put on and taken off is disrespectful to Aboriginal people who face the full brunt of discrimination. He delegitimizes culture as comedic and trivializes the meaning that the natives ascribed to their dress. “Sexy” Native American costumes, like the short feathered Pocahontas dress, perpetuate the imperialist narrative that Native women are hypersexual.

There is a consistent theme among Halloween costumes of marginalized communities who feel sexually objectified. It is not by chance. Sexual objection dehumanizes others and strips them of their identity, reducing them to the pleasure or entertainment of the dominant culture. Cultural appropriation often goes hand in hand with the spread of race-insensitive misinformation and harmful stereotypes.

This is illustrated by the sexualization of geishas, ​​professional Japanese artists. In 2018, popular online store Fashion Nova was making headlines for a controversial bare-skinned geisha Halloween costume. Outrage poured in when critics noticed how Fashion Nova was using an ancient tradition for profit without credit. Fashion Nova quickly removed the costume from its catalog.

It wasn’t the first time that geisha costumes had been sexualized. There is a big misconception that geishas were sex workers for Japanese royalty, yet this has been denounced by geishas themselves. This costume has contributed to the fetishization of Asian women, as it contributes to the stereotype of the Asian temptress. By refusing to learn the real story and exposing costumes that spread misinformation, Geisha’s costume designers reinforce harmful ideas about Asian women.

  • Culturally significant symbols

Aart Olivia, an Indian writer and activist, writes: “When we were colonized, we had our ornaments stolen, we made fun of our identity, cultural appropriation is not only personal; This gives a larger picture. Her article includes the most common Indian accessories that are frequently culturally appropriate, including the Bindi. Bindi is known as the third eye in Indian culture and has a multitude of important meanings, such as a symbol for gaining higher consciousness or for warding off bad luck. When a dominant culture takes a meaningful symbol from a minority culture and trending it, it never requires the dominant culture to learn the meaning of the symbol. The dominant culture both stripped the symbol’s original cultural value and made it subordinate while only validating the symbol’s value under the dominant gaze: the white gaze. A cultural symbol or tradition should not be seen as weird and ugly for the respective member of that culture, but cool and trendy for a white person.

Cultural symbols should be banned during Halloween to avoid diminishing the importance of a culture’s symbols and traditions. Skirt on the safe side, and if you have to wonder if any aspect of your costume will be race-insensitive, it’s probably best to re-evaluate your costume.

Samourra René can be contacted at [email protected].

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