More and more costume enthusiasts are finding it amusing to appropriate another cultural group’s identity for Halloween in an effort to be well-dressed, original and, in some cases, sexy. This needs to stop.
Halloween is a great opportunity to dress up as a zombie, ghost or your favorite fictional character. Heck, if you want to go as a sexy kitty, be that sexy kitty. I’ve got a pair of cat ears you can borrow from my costume last year. Mee-ow!
However, Halloween is not an opportunity or an excuse to offend someone or an entire cultural group because you’re trying to be ironic, funny or hot.
I hate to be the perpetual Debbie Downer, but being as politically correct as possible is crucial in today’s society. After all, universities today are trying to move towards culturally inclusive methods of education. We should learn from this mentality by being culturally aware in our day-to-day lives.
The sad reality is that those who do dress up as PocaHotties, tribal warriors or geishas for Halloween are most likely totally oblivious to the fact that they are offending entire cultures and nations.
I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of us non-First Nations people don’t know the first thing about aboriginal beadwork, or what the significance is behind a First Nations headdress. The same issues can be brought forth for another culture’s outfits too.
Our society continues to make cultural items of clothing ‘cool’ for everyone to wear. Mukluks are still a popular clothing item sold in stores, but I can’t help but feel a terrible sense of misrepresentation as I see some non-First Nations woman walking around in Mukluks with her Lululemon pants on as she glides into work at a trendy coffee shop.
Mukluks are just one example, but I wonder how many people wear clothing from another culture because they know and understand the significance of it, and how many wear it just because “it looks super cute.”
Wearing these items of clothing actually oppresses the culture whose fashions are being sported around in town.
When you go as PocaHottie for Halloween, you’re saying that this is what a First Nations women should look like. When you throw on a sombrero accompanied by a poncho, you’re saying that this is what a person of Mexican-descent should look like.
There are cultural consequences for everything; before we rock a pair of Mukluks or whip out a tribal warrior costume for Halloween, let’s think about what exactly it is that we’re doing.
I’ve heard that the best writers are those who know their subjects through and through. Can’t we say the same about those who are the most fashionable? If we can apply this mentality to clothing, how can a person who presumably has very little cultural knowledge on First Nations clothing wear a beaded dress, a headdress or a pair of Mukluks? It doesn’t add up.
If you’re not from a certain cultural background, you can never fully understand the trials and tribulations of its peoples. Of course you can try. You can be empathetic. You can attend ceremonies. You can even have friends from that culture. But unless you live it, you’ll never fully get it.
This Halloween, please think twice before you decide to falsely represent another culture. After all, Halloween is a day to remember the dead, not offend the living.
The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union’s Pride Centre, the Aboriginal Students’ Centre, the Indigenous Students’ Council, the Student Teachers Anti-Racism Society and the U of S Learning Centre are launching the Is your Halloween Costume Offensive? campaign in collaboration with Take A Stand Against Racism.
Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor