One person’s costume is another’s culture

It’s that time of year again, folks: time to take your sexy cat costumes out from the back of your closet – the ones you’ve worn the last three years in a row – slap on some fishnets and stilettoes, and go drink an unnaturally blue cocktail while dancing to “The Monster Mash.”

Or maybe you’re the type who hoards all the half-priced candy at Walmart and closes yourself up at home watching scary movies with your cat. Either way, live your best spooky life. 

Let’s get one thing straight: sexy costumes are a lot of fun. It’s great to dress up like some vague mix between a vampiress and a nurse and feel cute and spooky at the same time. 

That being said, the problem with sexy costumes comes when it appropriates a specific culture in an effort to be a “sexy” native American or a geisha or some other over-done representation of someone’s personal ancestry. 

I know what you’re thinking: “Really, we’re talking about cultural appropriation, AGAIN? Haven’t we heard enough of the sensitive snowflakes getting offended at everything?”

And I get it – sometimes, the offense does seem a bit unnecessary or exaggerated. We shouldn’t get angry at a little girl dressing like Moana and call it Hawaiian cultural appropriation, especially when it’s simply a small child dressing as her favorite Disney character.

What isn’t cool is when a 22-year-old college girl dons a grass skirt and coconut bra and says she’s going as a “Hawaiian hula dancer.” Culturally, hula dancing is often considered a religious performance dedicated to or honoring a specific Hawaiian god or goddess. 

While it may not seem like a big deal to you to put on a short “Sexy Pocahontas dress” and call it a costume, it can be extremely hurtful to people whose culture is being utilized as a “costume.” 

The phrase “my culture is not a costume” emphasizes the fact that wearing someone’s history as a costume dehumanizes them, limiting them to short skirts and low-cut tops. 

Some don’t even make sense – a “sexy” Eskimo costume wouldn’t even kind of work in Alaska – which, yes, I know is not the point. 

And it’s not just the “sexy” looks that are offensive – the costumes that make someone’s culture into an overly emphasized joke are just as bad. We’ve all seen someone wearing the colorful poncho, sombrero, and mustache while using a badly done accent to call themselves “Mexican.” 

It’s OK to want to have fun at Halloween, and I’m not trying to kill that by any means. But when you’re picking your costume this year, try to consider whether what you view as funny or sexy is someone’s culture – there are plenty of cute costumes that aren’t going to hurt someone’s feelings.

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