Halloween season is upon us and with that comes scary, beautiful and frankly, controversial costumes. Although many defend themselves by saying that it’s just harmless fun and that they wanted to have an “exotic” costume, in truth, there are just some outfits and makeup you just shouldn’t wear. Now it has become a common occurrence during Halloween, for people on social media to be accused of cultural appropriation based on their costumes. Don’t be one of them.
What does it mean appropriate a culture?
There are many definitions for cultural appropriation, but according to the Oxford Dictionary, Cultural Appropriation is when “The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas” – So basically, remember when Katy Perry dressed up as a Geisha girl during an award show? Cultural appropriation. A white person with dreadlocks? Cultural appropriation. Painting your skin a different colour to your own? Cultural appropriation.
However, when Japanese teens were asked about their thoughts upon seeing Katy Perry dressed as a Geisha…surprisingly they found it flattering and saw it as their culture being appreciated. Many people who have been accused of appropriation have said that their intention was not to offend, but to show off a culture that they admire.
This begs the questions, who is in the right?
Many people think that it is not right for people to dress in the fashion that’s not their own culture, as they are only nit-picking certain aspects and ignoring the others. An example of this was when Kylie Jenner was accused of appropriating and benefitting from Black culture and yet showed no support to Black causes or even voiced her opinion on any civil disturbances that happened in the last few years.
So here is some fashion do’s and don’ts to follow during Halloween to help avoid looking like a fool:
DON’T change your skin to match another person’s skin colour. Even if your intention may be to make your costume as real as possible. There is nothing more offensive than painting your skin darker or lighter, as the message could be seen as clear mockery.
DO feel free to research and wear outfits and designs from your own heritage. There are oodles of historical outfits that will look fabulous and belong to your own heritage. There is no need to borrow someone else’s.
DON’T excuse your appropriation by saying it’s a fictional character. Fictional characters have races too, even if their lives are made up, their heritage isn’t.
DO wear any outfits that are not culturally significant. Take Jimmy Fallon for example, he dressed as Luscious from Empire, and not has not faced any criticism. Be like Jimmy.
DON’T wear anything with a history you are unsure of. There will be nothing more embarrassing than being unable to (wrongly) justify your outfit.
All this being said, don’t forget to be super creative with your costumes and have a great time. Just be careful as to not hurt people’s feelings, or insult their culture.
Edited by Silva Chege