Halloween is upon us again and with it the need for culturally sensitive costumes.
In an article headlined “Maybe Don’t Dress Your Kid Up as Moana This Halloween,” Cosmopolitan magazine addresses the dilemma faced by a parent whose culturally insensitive pre-teen wants to dress up as the aforementioned Disney princess:
The original article, written by Sachi Feris, discusses how her white daughter was torn between dressing as Elsa, from Frozen, or the titular character from Moana. Feris expresses concern that while an Elsa costume might reinforce notions of white privilege, dressing up as Moana is essentially cultural appropriation — the act of reducing someone’s culture to stereotypes, and thereby belittling it. Though Feris puzzles over how one might wear a Moana costume respectfully, she ultimately decides it just isn’t a good idea.
Cosmo admonishes the backward parent who might be inclined to dismiss the Moana costume issue:
At this point, you might be saying something like: “But, I dressed up as Jasmine as a child, and I’m not a racist!”, or, “It’s just a Halloween costume, please chill the f*ck out.” But one of the best things about time is that it moves forward. You should too. You can (and should) strive to be better than you were 10, 20, or 30 years ago.
If you missed the mark when you were younger, maybe think about using this Halloween as an opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of cultural sensitivity. If your child’s dream costume feels questionable, don’t just throw up your hands and hand over your credit card. You’re the parent here, and the onus of what your child wears falls on you. If your kid wears a racist costume … you’re kind of wearing it too.
The idea that you can “miss the mark” by wearing a Disney costume is, I must admit, a new one to me.
I can see that parents should be involved in the costume decision (in my day it was ghoulies or ghosties or pirates but I am sure that nowadays we don’t want to appropriate pirate culture) and some costumes are distasteful: the Ann Frank costume seems a bad choice, given Ann Frank’s tragic story.
Also, I would agree with a costume critic who railed against the geisha costume–but for a different reason. I am not worried that the costume is culturally insensitive to geishas but rather that it is culturally insensitive to little girls, who should wait a few years before dressing up as “female entertainers who act as hostesses.”
It’s a shame that Halloween has become so politicized.
But you know what’s more of a shame?
That adults take it so seriously.