Costumes Are Just Costumes
October 31, 2017
Halloween is the only time of the year where you can be who you wish to be. We dress up in our costumes and accessories to become a version of our fantastical selves. It’s incredible that people would spend so much time and money in order to pretend to be something they’re not, just for one night. The very idea of Halloween makes people wish to be something more than themselves, and they represent this desire through costumes and props. But what if someone decides to turn a culture that isn’t theirs into a costume — or, culturally appropriates through their costume?
In today’s globalized world, though, it is ridiculous to claim a monopoly on your culture. Everyone is exposed to a culture one way or another. And if you’re in a thriving city like New York City, it’s impossible to not see, learn and sometimes imitate other cultures and customs. Why should you be scared of sharing or imitating a culture if the sole intent is to celebrate the virtues and qualities of that culture? Misrepresentation? Offending? Accidentally stereotyping? Well if that is the case, instead of having an honest discussion, the best way to move forward is clearly by not allowing people to interact with other cultures, right? Never mind the fact that even people from my own Turkish culture continuously misrepresent it as well.
Two years ago a Yale University professor was forced to resign for going against the Yale administration’s tendency to advise undergraduate students on what type of Halloween costumes not to wear. In her letter she said, “I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.” This is an excellent point.
If someone wants to avoid cultural appropriation, empathy is key. One must not be so self-asserted to think that Halloween costumes can in no way offend others. They definitely can, and this is important to keep in mind when picking out a costume. However, if someone feels as though their culture is being appropriated, they must understand that their identity is not shattered nor destroyed. We are adults who I hope are mature enough to handle a holiday meant for children.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Mert Erenel at [email protected]