Repost: Top 10 Reasons Not To Wear A Culturally Appropriating Halloween Costume

Are you working on your Halloween costume, darlings?  I know you’re busy shopping for wigs and whatnot, but take a few minutes to read this terrific piece by Portland’s Freddie Fagula, co-director of  the drag-u-mentary Third Antenna:  The Radical Nature of Drag (which I love).  I’ve reposted from Angry Black-White Girl’s blog–thanks for posting, AB-WG!

While we’re talking about costumes and cultural appropriation, a few words of advice from yours truly:   for heaven’s sake, don’t piss off Screaming Lemur by dressing up as a witch!   As she says in her post Green Skin Optional, “Witches are a big part of the imagery of Halloween…. But honestly? I find it to be as stereotypical and lazy as putting on some buckskin and a feather headband and calling yourself an ‘Indian’ for Halloween. It’s othering, it’s tired, and frankly it annoys me.”

Actually it sounds to me like Freddie’s piece is indebted to Lemur’s post. If so, it’s unfortunate he didn’t give her credit or acknowledge witch costumes as a form of cultural appropriation.  For the record, that sexy witch pic in my Halloween Pin-Up Girls post is a subversive reinscription.  A-hem.

Top 10 Reasons Not To Wear A Culturally Appropriating Halloween Costume – Please Repost [by Freddie Fagula]

10. That shit is tired and you’re more creative than that. You can be anything.

9. You don’t wanna be “that guy” at the party.

8. You won’t be endorsing a history of domination, colonization, and genocide through your flippant, cartoonish, or stereotypical portrayal of cultures other than your own.

7. People of color won’t have their night ruined by your costume.

6. No one will have their night ruined by your costume, (well… unless you’re like me in fourth grade and your home made zombie make-up gets all over some girls princess dress. Sorry Christy Godwin!)

5. People who you’ve never met won’t take one look at you and decide to avoid the ignorant person who would wear THAT.

4. Your odds of getting laid will be dramatically increased because you won’t have offended half of the people at the party.

3. You aren’t an unfeeling jerk who likes to insult and hurt people.

2. You won’t be asked to leave Fruitcake’s All Homo’s Eve party because you are a white person dressed in black face or as a “native,” a Nazi*, Indian, gypsy, geisha, sheik, or hula dancer, etc.

1. You are an awesome, deep, conscientious individual who understands the importance of respecting the life, experiences, culture and ethnicity of people different from yourself.

*Yeah, I know it’s not technically “appropriating” but please, not okay.

Here is how wikipedia defines cultural appropriation: Cultural Appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It denotes acculturation or assimilation, but often connotes a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, may take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held.

Obviously, there are many ways to create an offensive costume that may not be pointed out above or fall into the cultural appropriating category. If you’re wondering whether your costume will offend someone than it probably will. If you’re still thinking about wearing it, ask your more thoughtful friends to weigh in on it. I realize this is a multi-faceted topic deserving more attention than once a year on Halloween, but this is as good a time as any to bring it up.

I believe it’s healthy for people to want to transform themselves, and Halloween encourages that. It gives people a sense of possibility. It’s a creative outlet in a culture of full rules about who can make legitimate “art.” It’s the extra nudge one may need to let go and be someone else. Even if it’s just for a laugh. It’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t want to deny anyone. What I do want is a Halloween where one persons liberating costume is not another persons insult to their life, experiences, culture, or race.

Please give it some thought and don’t be “that guy” on Halloween.


Freddie Fagula

One Response

  1. I usually pick an era and try to wear getup appropriate for that time period. It’s fun and it offends no one.

    Unless I offend someone this year by being a little *too* slutty. *heh* hopefully not. I’m trying to keep my bad girl side, tame. 😉

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