Too many people are taking Halloween costumes a little too seriously in the worst possible way. No one should have the right to control another’s body, including shaming them for what they wear. Halloween is fun, (it was by a wide margin the best part of moving to Canada) and most people use this Holiday to dress as someone they admire.
Unfortunately, many people are not skilled enough to design a costume or wealthy enough to afford a perfect representation, so they are limited to cheap imitations. These less exacting representations are indicative of an issue of class limitations and improper access to trade skills and education, not cultural insensitivity or racism.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery. No culture or its ideology should ever supersede the rights of an individual’s personal representation, especially in terms of what they choose to wear. In a truly equal society we deserve the rights to control our own body whether it’s an abortion, a hairstyle, or a Halloween costume; to assume one has the right to control the operation of another’s body is fascism.
There are better ways to conserve oppressed cultures than shouting at people for what they wear. In fact, this ill-focused argument of “cultural appropriation” is an enormous cop-out that detracts from real issues such as the fact many Native American reserves currently do not have potable water, have abject poverty, or suffer from a lack of true representation in government and education. Not to mention the denial of a history that predates Europeans.
Telling someone they cannot wear a Pocahontas costume at Halloween, or a feathered war bonnet to a festival is not going to end oppression or make up for our dark past. All it does is make you feel better because you’ve shouted at someone. You’ve alleviated aggression and frustration without enacting any real change. If you want to preserve that culture make a place for it to exist in this world, honour it, in fact, adopt and carry on the best parts of it.
As humans we have been adopting aspects of one another’s cultures for millennia, it’s called evolution. The best thing we can possibly do, and perhaps the only way we will survive is by adopting the best part of every culture and doing away with the worst of each. When it comes down to it so many things in culture have been repeated over and over again, throughout time and space. There is not an original idea among us, and in truth none of us own anything.
Do not judge someone for what they wear; you are not in their mind so you know naught of their intent. Start a dialogue. Ask them if they are aware of the culture and history of the items they are wearing. Perhaps they are lovingly spending a day or a night representing a culture they wish they were a part of. Perhaps they are glorifying a character from another culture that inspires them and are showing their deep respect and gratitude by spending a day or a night as that person.
Children especially are our best examples, they are not malevolent, and they choose costumes based on what they desire to be and are receptive enough to hear marvelous tidbits about the culture or person they are spending the night representing. Start a dialogue, carry on the culture by offering information to those who know little to nothing about it. This is a better way to support and help these oppressed cultures thrive rather than an ill-conceived, violent system of fascistic shaming and body control that does nothing but perpetuate hatred.