With Halloween right around the corner, it is essential to discuss the importance of being culturally appropriate when choosing an outfit for the big weekend. Choosing to appropriate the culture of a marginalized or historically oppressed community can be very damaging to that community, even when the intent isn’t to hurt someone.
According to the Ohio University website, OU originally created a campaign in 2011 titled “My Culture is not a Costume.” The campaign was started by the group OHIO-STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society). The page included the dictionary definition of cultural appropriation, why it is important to steer clear of appropriation and different examples of what appropriation may look like. TVs around campus displaying different OU-endorsed messages have been showing posters about the importance of being sensitive to other cultures when picking costumes for Halloween.
Sofia Davis, a junior studying astrophysics, said for her costumes this year, she will dress up as George Washington to be the Founding Fathers with her friends and will also dress up as Pikachu from Pokémon for a couples costume.
She said that although she believed there were different degrees to how offensive certain costumes were, she understood the importance of being culturally appropriate when it came to deciding what Halloween costume to wear.
“I think there’s a line between appreciating and appropriating it, but on Halloween, it’s generally appropriating, so I would get why people would be offended by that,” she said.
She said she thought OU was doing a good job of reminding people to be culturally appropriate as she had seen the campaign with different signs around Baker University Center.
Emily Rothwell, a junior studying astrophysics, said she was planning on going as Sukuna, a character from “Jujutsu Kaisen,” as well as doing a historical figure-inspired partner costume.
She said Halloween should not be used as an excuse to wear something that could be considered offensive.
“I think a big part of it is making sure that people are comfortable with being out and about,” she said. “Halloween is not an excuse to perpetuate bad stereotypes about anything. If you would not wear certain things out on a daily basis, Halloween is not an excuse to do that.”
Adan Rivas-Casarrubias, a freshman studying theater, said because of his Hispanic heritage, cultural appropriation is something he has had to deal with his whole life. He said students at his high school would sometimes dress up in stereotypical Hispanic outfits and make fun of his heritage. He discussed how his school not being diverse made it worse because he was often the sole target of these stereotypes.
Rivas-Casarrubias said that although cultures should be appreciated, it is important to take time to research them before making certain assumptions based on stereotypes.
“It’s important to explore different cultures, but it’s important to do that in a place of respect,” he said. “I do believe that other cultures need to be shared within people who aren’t necessarily Hispanic per se. More research needs to be done before someone jumps into it.”