How to tell if your Halloween costume is cultural appropriation

Culture is not a costume


It's almost that time of year again. While everyone loves to dress up and have fun for Halloween, sometimes this fun comes at the expense of others, with offensive costumes being so common, that not everyone realises they are even offensive. It's 2017 and the issue of cultural appropriation still needs to be sorted.

What is cultural appropriation?

Cultural appropriation is taking elements from a culture that you don't belong to, and without permission. This is harmful as these elements may have a deep meaning in the original culture, and the people adopting these elements are reducing their importance by making them into something just to look 'fun', 'exotic' or 'fashionable'.

Some costumes to stay away from:

Native American

Yes they look beautiful, but Native American headdresses are traditionally reserved for male leaders who have earned a position of respect in their tribe, giving them the honour to wear one. It takes away this importance when companies turn this into a costume meant to look fashionable or sexy.


Another costume taking a rich culture and misrepresenting it through stereotypes. Some people may find these costumes funny but those who deal with prejudice because of their ethnicity everyday will probably not feel the same way.


Another type of highly sexualised costume, some examples being "Asian Persuasion", "Golden Geisha Girl" and "Tokyo Tease". When in reality Geisha are traditionally highly respected artists and very well educated.

Black face

This obviously goes without saying, black face is just racist.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)


Pretty much every single fancy dress company sells 'Arabian' costumes, some examples being 'Arab Sheik', 'Arabian Prince' and 'Sexy Belly Dancer'.

Overall ask yourself these questions:

1. Is your costume based on an ethnicity, race or culture that is not your own?

2. Do you know the history behind your costume?

3. If your costume is supposed to be funny – why is it funny?

3. Would you wear this around the people you're dressing up as?

'But it's just for fun?'

Some people will be reading this and rolling their eyes, saying 'it's just a costume' but while you get to take off your costume at the end of the night, the people you're dressing up as often have to face discrimination for their whole lives because of their ethnicity or culture. Dressing up like this may seem like its just for fun, but it's supporting harmful stereotypes that are already present in our society and therefore perpetuating racism.

Halloween is supposed to be fun! And there's so many other things you can go as without taking it too far, just go as your favourite GoT character and have a great time.

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