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Avoid being the wrong kind of scary this Halloween

October 24, 2018

By Natalie Irwin

Dressing up + Playing Pretend + Too Much Candy = Pure Happiness.

As a child, Halloween is the result of the perfect equation. I remember counting down the days until I could dress up as my favourite superhero or TV character, and dreaming of the pile of candy I’d gather from trick-or-treating.

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When you’re young, Halloween simply seems like dressing up and eating too much sugar. As an adult though, it’s important to become mindful of what you choose to dress as during the holiday that often becomes a platform for cultural appropriation. Halloween can be a lot of fun, even for adults like us! Just don’t let the “scare factor” of your costume be that you didn’t consider how it might appropriate another culture... maybe stick to some fake blood? That never gets old.

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Sometimes it’s tricky to know what you should “be” for Halloween, but making a costume of another culture or racial group is never okay. Essentially, this ignores the significance of a culture’s practices and attire and often reiterates power imbalances between dominant and non-dominant cultures.

A common example of this is wearing mockeries of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples’ traditional attire. You might not consider it when you pick up that costume for $24.99 at Walmart, but costumes like these ignore Canada’s history of mistreatment towards, and manipulation of, Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.

If you’re not sure whether your costume displays cultural appropriation, just ask yourself: “where did this costume originate?” If the Bollywood dancer costume you were considering actually trails back to traditional Indian dress (which it does), leave it on the rack and keep searching. If you aren’t sure, don’t hesitate to do some research. Education is the best way to improve your knowledge of cultural appropriation and how to ensure your Halloween attire is actually a costume, and not a mockery of a minority culture.

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There are so many other “things you can be” for Halloween that you don’t even need to consider using other cultural and racial groups’ attire. For example, when you pick up a unicorn, space alien, or superhero costume and ask yourself “where did it originate?”, you will find that these all came from someone’s imagination. Imagination is a safe place to start when looking for a Halloween costume. Get creative!

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Again, just remain mindful. For example, characters like Moana and Princess Jasmine are actually created as part of marginalized groups, so dressing as those (even though they’re animated characters) isn’t ideal if you are not part of those marginalized groups.

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Halloween is a ton of fun and the best excuse to get your sweet tooth on! At the same time, we all have to be considerate of what we wear and keep those in mind that may often be marginalized. Don’t be a trickster, be a treat, and wear something creative, fun, or maybe even scary- but keep cultural appropriation out! If we can make Halloween a safe, fun, mindful, sugar-filled holiday on our University campus, that would be spook-tacular! (Sorry, too much?)

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