A few weeks ago, I posted a question on my FB page regarding cultural costumes. It received a fair bit of discussion. Take a look.
Nerdy Apple: Doing some costume research. Are ‘geisha’ costumes not inappropriate? What about ‘senorita’ or ‘Indian princess?’ Am I thinking too hard about these things because I find them off-putting.
Commenter 1: For adults: Go for it. For kids: Hmmm….. I probably wouldn’t, for neither daughter or son. They don’t exactly represent the kind of values I’d like to pass onto my children…
Commenter 2: My daughter wants to be a mariachi ninja. I don’t think they sell those at the Halloween store
Commenter 3: not sure what would be inappropriate about any of those costumes, assuming they were done with an appropriate taste level.
Commenter 4: I’m not a fan of the geisha one, but I’m not sure what’s wrong with the others. Or maybe I’m just not “getting it”?
Nerdy Apple: I don’t know. Maybe I’m feeling they are bordering on racist?
Commenter 5: I say go for it, “dress up” is about being something different than what you are. Weather that be a dream occupation, a different gender, or race. Further more, I think I would find it somewhat flattering if someone wanted to dress up as me. But I don’t think there is a HUGE demand for the white suburban homemaker costume :D
Commenter 3: I see your concern, NAB, but I guess it all depends on context and [again] taste. but if you are worried about it, then I would probably avoid it. perhaps suggest actual characters that are similar from those cultures? an anime character instead of a generic geisha? Frida Kahlo instead of a “senorita”? Sacagawea instead of “indian princess”? then you’d be able to do some cross-cultural education in the process.
Commenter 6: I agree with Commenter 5. Cultural and historical dressup seems OK to me…
Commenter 7: I’m not loving these ideas either. Would it be horrible? No. Would anyone care? Probably not. But I would go with Mulan or Pocahantas before Geisha or Indian Princess. Off putting is the right word – it’s hard to articulate how a woman viewed in a stereotypical way of a certain cultures/ethnicities isn’t quite right or dare I say politically correct.
Commenter 4: I don’t think of it that way at all. And maybe what I think I know about geishas isn’t true, so I may be off base with that one. I just think of them as a way to celebrate a heritage…not really any different than a cowboy costume. Now, if there was a “slave” or a Nazi or terrorist costume…I would probably flip my lid!;)
Commenter 8: I agree Commenter 5 if you do it right. It would be taken as a compliment. Not seen as being disrespectful.
Commenter 9: They are stereotypes of the race being represented. As people of privledge, when we use those for our own amusement (Halloween etc) then we re-affirm racisim in covert and damaging ways. I vote no.
Commenter 9: My mother actually let me leave the house and go trick-or-treating dressed as a Playboy Bunny when I was 13 years old. No joke.
Another year (grade 3 or 4) she painted me in blackface and tied a kerchief around my head and sent me to my school Halloween party dressed as Aunt Jemima… now where does THAT fit in with all of this ‘dressing up as something different is the POINT of dressing up’? I am retroactively mortified…
Commenter 10: They’re definitely bordering on racist, in my opinion. I agreed with Kirk’s idea to dress as an actual person rather than a stereotypical caricature. The costume would likely look similar, but it would be a lot less offensive.
Commenter 11: I love 3′s suggestion. If you’re dressing as a specific person, I *think* you don’t have the issue of reinforcing stereotypes.
Commenter 12: I generally have beef with white people appropriating pieces of other cultures, esp if they’re being trotted out as “cute”. What someone else said. Most of my friends of color would be totally annoyed to see their native dress or stereotypical representations of their culture walking around on random people for Halloween.
Commenter 1: To me, it’s not so much whether they’re racist or not, it’s more how they, especially the geisha, represent a view of women that I absolutely do not want to reinforce. A Geisha costume on a child is to me about as appropriate as the little girl on Toddlers and Tiaras who was dressed up as Vivian from Pretty Woman…
Commenter 12: I agree. I also wish that there weren’t so many provocative costumes for young girls.
Commenter 13: suggestion: research a historical figure. my 8 year old was Owl Woman last year for Halloween and her costume rocked!
October 12 at 11:21am · Like
Commenter 14: Offensive – they’re meant to represent a race not a person.
Commenter 15: What I am reading is making me a little upset. What I think I’m reading from some of you is that pretending to be someone you’re not can be racist? What if you’re pretending to be a Native American in a school play? Is that so different from Halloween?
When my kids dress in costume, it’s never to make fun, but because it’s what they appreciate. Unless, of course, it’s an actual clown. Lol. But it would still be out of some kind of appreciation.
My daughter is part Asian, part Native American and a couple other mixed in, but she looks caucasian. Is someone going to be offended if she were dressed in a traditional costume but didn’t “look” the part? Likewise, my son is part Asian and will be a Ninja, yet again, this year. He is nine and still thinks he can grow up to be one;) He hardly looks Asian. I don’t think it’s offensive. If anything, he respects what that culture has to offer.
I think children want to actually be these characters, people, parts of culture, etc, when they dress up.
To be clear, I would not like to see a cowboy/Native Am combo or plantation owner/slave combo, etc.
Were my child to make fun of another culture or race, not only would I prob MAKE them wear the costume, but we’d also do an entire unit on that culture and another unit on tolerance!
Also, for those that don’t know, there is an entirely respectful side to Geisha.
Lastly, I am offended by very few costumes. Every culture, genre, gender etc can have a silly side. That’s how I see it anyway; not to be taken too seriously, especially when it’s a child, especially when it’s for fun, and most especially on one of my very favorite holidays of the year. Halloween, baby.
Commenter 16: A costume is just a costume. It doesn’t ‘make’ you behave or think any particular way. Witches or zombies included. It its only what you behave like when you are in it. ….if you even do.
October 12 at 2:01pm · Like · 1 person
Commenter 15: Lol, . I just reread Commenter 9′s comment. Unbelievable. Did your mom just totally not know what she was doing? Bless your heart. Now those are costumes that would make me squeamish. Playboy bunny child? Yikes.
Commenter 6: When all is said and done the fact is…you’ll never make everyone happy all of the time
Commenter 16: Halloween is a very good time to recognize the thoughts we project onto people just because of how they look…and not the content of their heart. Thank you, Sam.
Commenter 10: I’m surprised by the amount of people in this thread who think these costumes aren’t offensive. Maybe they’re not explicitly racist…but they are certainly culturally insensitive. Here’s a link that might help explain why: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114199552
Commenter 10: Also: http://www.blogher.com/what-not-wearfor-halloween
Commenter 16: t Thanks for sharng the links, 10. I stanrrd by my position, even though there will always be people who are dressing to intentionally be provocative. The main problem with Halloween costumes is that you can’t discern the intention and you are left to fill in the blank in your head with your own life experiences and personal prejudices. At one time, Halloween costumes were meant to be scary. Now they are meant to be scary, or funny, or cute, or representative, or hey…just participatory. How is one to tell? I still think it is all about intention. And I’m not able to judge people quickly enough or severly enough at a one-time event that is presumably meant to be entertaining, at the very least.
Commenter 10: Well, like I said, they’re not necessarily racist… perhaps ‘ignorant’ would be a better word to use. You can have the best intentions, but if your costume is culturally insensitive and/or misappropriates someone else’s culture in an inappropriate way – it’s still offensive.
One more link: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/
Commenter 10: Sorry to revive this old convo, but just found this and thought I’d share it. (I think it puts the issue in real life perspective.) http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/10/in_the_immortal_words_of.html
Then there was this post that kept me thinking about it.
I had a conversation with some friends about this same subject. One is one of the above commenters. She was all for these costumes being just fine. When I discussing whether or not to take into consideration if others were offended by the costume, she pointed out that many people were offended by Boo’s costume last year. Which is true. Unfortunately, but yes, true. The difference there though is I don’t think Daphne was offended by it. Which might be a technicality, but it makes a difference to me.
Am I overthinking it? I mean, obviously if I am uncomfortable with a costume for a reason that seemed important, I wouldn’t let my kids wear it. I am sure some with find this rich coming from a woman that let her son where a feminine costume, but I do find these cases to be distinct.
Anyway, I think I’m siding on the ‘Senorita,’ ‘Native American,’ ‘Eskimo Princess,’ etc costumes are culturally insensitive.
And don’t get me started on the inappropriateness of 90% of costumes for sale out there. Really, are my daughter’s choices limited to slutty firefighter, skanky kitty, and whorish genie? Thankfully, she just dressed as a nerd this year, to my heart’s delight.
P.S. Why did I go to all the trouble of changing the names to numbers on these comments when they are splashed all over the FB page?