What you should have learned at school: How to avoid cultural appropriation this Halloween

Claire Lenahan

Every week Perdeby takes a look at something you should have learned at school to assist you in day-to-day life. This week, we take a brief look at how to avoid cultural appropriation when getting Halloween-ready this year.

If That ‘70s Show has you thinking you’re “too old to Trick or Treat and too young to die”, Perdeby has an alternative option this year - being the perfect age for a little social awareness. To help you avoid making your costume the spookiest thing this Halloween for all the wrong reasons, here’s a list of tips that’ll keep you and your costume out of the woods:

 

1. Don’t sexualise other cultures

If your costume involves being a sexy (insert nationality or ethnicity or race here) just don’t do it.  This includes wearing classics like sombreros, Native American headdresses and Romani dress. This kind of costume only reinforces notions of dismissal and opens up the possibility of fetishising groups of people that are neither accepted nor admired for those same features in any other context.

 

2. Don’t incorporate culturally significant elements

No matter how interested you might be in another culture, Halloween isn’t the time to try to show it. Silliness and humour are key to modern Halloween celebrations so save your appreciation for a setting when it will have the effect you want it to have. You wouldn’t wear your culture’s ceremonial dress (be it a suit or a sari) on a night out so don’t wear another culture’s to the Voortrekker Monument.

 

3. Don’t wear anything that you would be uncomfortable explaining

If there’s a possibility that you’d have to make excuses for your costume should someone ask you about it, don’t wear it. Assuming you aren’t actively trying to be offensive, just think through why you’re going to wear what you are beforehand – and make sure it holds true to your actual values.

 

4. Check whether what you’re wearing embodies a stereotype

Halloween costumes are supposed to be creative so don’t settle for an over-played standard. The easiest way to avoid stereotypes is to go for something original. Choosing a costume that you like because it’s from or about something you actually enjoy is both your safest bet and your best one for enjoying yourself.

 

5. Take it as a sign if you’re unsure about your costume

If you can’t decide whether your costume could be offensive or not, take the time to look into it and see what other people have to say – whether that means asking your friends or doing some googling. If you still don’t feel comfortable, choose something else. There are endless costume possibilities so there’s no reason to feel restricted.

Halloween is the perfect opportunity to enjoy yourself during one of the most stressful times of the year. Be daring but thoughtful, and allow yourself to have a truly care-free (but not scare-free) time.

 

 

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