'Pow Wow Princess,' 'Geisha Glam' and 'Gypsy': Beware of cultural appropriation posing as a Halloween costume
Are you thinking of going to this year's Halloween party as a "sexy geisha"? You might want to think about it again. (Photo: Getty Images)
Despite the growing recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement and the oppression of the breed in general, it seems like a tradition for Halloween that it remains a tradition for many not to be - as the continued use of cultural appropriation as the basis for costumes shows.
Because of the online marketplaces, which offer a range of offensive options - including "Pow Wow Princess", "Gypsy", "Geisha Glam" and the inflatable boom box "Ghetto Blaster" - social media have even stepped in with warnings. Pinterest, which has been campaigning against cultural appropriation since 2016, has pushed its guidelines even further this year and introduced new website features that emphasize cultural sensitivity. And many Twitter users have already started to exchange culturally sensitive costume tips for the upcoming vacation.
"Halloween should be a time of inspiration - not a time of inertia," Annie Ta, Pinterest Inclusive Product Manager, told Mashable. "Costumes shouldn't be an opportunity to turn a person's identity into a stereotypical image." Ta said the company is "committed to ... keeping the platform inspiring, positive, and raising awareness that cultures are not costumes."
How well-intentioned costumes go wrong
"Cultural appropriation is important on Halloween because then we will most likely dress in a costume that is representative of another culture," explains Mia Moody-Ramirez, professor and chair of the Department of Journalism and Public Relations at Baylor University and New Media Yahoo Life.
She explains that common appropriation faux pas include "darkening one's face, wearing ethnic clothing, and / or dressing up to provoke laughter rather than showing respect for a group or person". In June, Jimmy Fallon faced backlash for an old Saturday Night Live skit in which he posed as Chris Rock with blackface. And last year, other public figures such as Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for similar crimes.
In the past, blackface was used to harass and defame the black community. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass once called those who attended "the filthy scum of white society who stole a complexion from us that was inherently denied ... to make money and deal with the corrupt tastes of theirs white fellow citizens. "
George Nicholas, a professor of archeology at Simon Fraser University, told Yahoo Life that he refuses to limit this topic to Halloween only, as cultural appropriation occurs daily and the holiday traditionally welcomes "cultural anarchy". He explains that deciding whether a costume is “honorable or awful” is “complicated” and depends heavily on the context of who wears what and why - which means that blackface is completely forbidden, other costumes and their accessories, such as as afro wigs, could be acceptable in some cases.
Ironically, blacks who actually have afros or other natural hairstyles are often discriminated against for this reason, as many people still want to wear afros as part of a Halloween costume, whether appropriately or not. This has led a handful of states to adopt and others to campaign for laws that discriminate against hair. A national CROWN bill would make black hair discrimination illegal at the national level and is currently awaiting Senate approval.
Nicholas says he reserves grace for children who simply “take up ideas from films and popular media,” but he finds it most offensive when inappropriately costumes involve adults who should know better. He notes that choosing good costumes can provide "great teaching moments for parents".
Moody-Ramirez, on the other hand, outlines clear boundaries, saying, "If you or your child are unaware of the meaning of a character's culture and ethnic clothing, it is not a good idea to wear them." She goes on to explain that "tribal markings, headgear, and turbans would be inappropriate costume attire because they are tied to a particular ceremony or religious meaning," citing Disney's Polynesian Princess Moana as a popular example to avoid when the family does not It takes time to explore the depicted culture.
Last year, Glory Ames of the White Earth Reservation and co-president of the American Indian Student Association at Minnesota State University Moorhead spoke out against these offensive ads. She told the Washington Post that people "openly and to their advantage use certain aspects of our culture, race, religion and ignore the people who live them." Adds Ames, “Non-locals can pretend to be local for one day of the year and it's all the 'cute' or 'sexy' parts of being local, but there are so many people who don't just get dressed can or take off the costume, they have to live with all the other aspects of birth as a native. "
Moody-Ramirez adds, "Children can dress in costumes that don't require them to darken their faces or change the texture of their hair."
Read more from Yahoo Life:
The "Caucasus": How a viral TikTok video reveals cultural appropriation through slang
What is black fishing? Here's why a black publication was criticized after hiring a white dating columnist
Tom Hanks' son Chet laughs at claims of cultural appropriation years after defending his use of the N-word
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