How to tell if your Halloween costume is cultural appropriation

Be original not offensive

Fall is finally here. The leaves are turning colors, the air is getting cooler, and Halloween is just around the corner. This holiday is one widely celebrated, especially by college students. Who doesn’t love pretending to be someone you’re not and getting drunk in the process of doing so.

With this holiday comes an increasing issue: cultural appropriation. This problem is constantly surrounding us, but at this time of year it only heightens.

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. It is seen as a sign of oppression and stripping the culture of minority away from its identity.

It is also defined as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission.” This can include fashion, dance, language, symbols, etc.

do not dress up as a "Native American princess" because you aren't one

do not dress up as a “Native American princess” because you aren’t one

Another problem commonly associated with cultural appropriation is the hypersexualization of women from said culture. By making these costumes “sexy” you are sexualizing women of that origin, furthering their oppression.

Not sure if your costume is racist? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it based on a culture you don’t belong to?
  2. Why is it funny?
  3. Would you wear this costume around the group of people who dress this way?

Your sombrero is offensive

This year, do not culturally appropriate. Be original and dress up as Steve Irwin or Leela from Futurama, or be basic and dress up as Rosie the Riveter or a banana.

Be whatever you want but please, please do not dress up as someone else’s culture. You shouldn’t have to be asked.

University of Wisconsin