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Here’s your (not so) friendly reminder that my culture will never, ever be your Halloween costume

I've seen "Indian Woman" costumes for sale. Does that mean you think I'm just a costume for you to wear?

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Growing up, all I ever witnessed of Halloween was what I saw in Hollywood – a fun, adventurous festival full of candy, costumes, and general happiness. It wasn’t until I was an educated, knowledgeable teenager that I noticed the strangeness in some of these costumes and the behavior.

Some of them were downright offensive and disrespectful. I used to see photos of people (primarily white people) donning my traditional attires on Halloween – as if my culture was nothing more than a costume to them?

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This pissed me off to no end, and it still does.

I used to see photos of people (primarily white people) donning my traditional attires on Halloween. Click To Tweet

Because when I see people of a privileged social class wearing a “costume”, it’s not hilarious to me – it’s offensive.

This “costume” will include something I wear for cultural importance and significance in my society, this costume means more than just “a night of fun” to the people whose culture it has been so blatantly stolen from.  It is a sacred part of someone’s culture and people being ignorant about it isn’t cool at all.

This costume really isn’t even a costume; it’s a sacred part of someone’s culture. Click To Tweet

Remember Julianne Hough’s blackface Halloween costume? That wasn’t funny – it was racist as fuck!

NY Daily News

She supposedly dressed up as “Crazy Eyes” from Orange Is The New Black. It was so derogatory and insulting.

Also, let’s not forget that time Heidi Klum casually decided to dress up as the Hindu Goddess, Kali on Halloween.

The Telegraph

Goddess Kali is a force of time and her symbolical importance is so sacred in Hindu culture. She represents Mother Nature in her divine, creative, nurturing and devouring aspects – and this was beyond Heidi Klum, obviously.

The list of celebrities who have culturally appropriated on Halloween is never-ending. (And that is shameful.)

But even amongst non-celebrities, I’ve seen an abundance of appropriation this time of the year on social media.

“Sexy Indian Woman” is a costume I have seen floating around on twitter where white women wear sarees, bindi’s (another culturally significant piece of ornament in many Asian cultures), and other jewelry items with “Mehendi” on their palms.

Mehendi, something my own mother and grandmother would wear regularly, is supposedly a “costume” to them.

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Native American culture is also grossly appropriated on Halloween and objectified to the fullest, along with people sporting cornrows, geisha costumes, hijabs, and various other culturally significant clothes and accessories of marginalized cultures.

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Here’s the deal: You cannot be Mulan on Halloween if you aren’t Chinese. You also cannot be Princess Jasmine if you aren’t Arab. And you definitely cannot be an “Egyptian” for Halloween unless you are Egyptian.

You cannot be Mulan on Halloween if you aren’t Chinese. Click To Tweet

Making an honest mistake without having enough information is one thing, but nowadays, we all have the internet in the palm of our hands. We all have access to countless articles about cultural appropriation and what is offensive and what is not.

All it’ll take is one click, some amount of reading and understanding, and you’ll know if the costume you wish to wear this Halloween is disrespectful to marginalized cultures or not.

It really won’t hurt to respect the sentiments of those who don’t have the same privilege and entitlement as you do. Respecting someone’s existence takes a minute of your time – do it. 

It really won’t hurt to respect the sentiments of those who don't have the same privilege and entitlement as you do. Click To Tweet

And it’s more than just about not being ignorant. It’s about understanding that the reason why cultural appropriation is more than just offensive and an emotional trigger is that it has a deep history of internalized racism, colonialism, and oppression behind it.

This is not just a stab in the dark. It’s genuinely incorrect… and extremely ridiculous too.

Don’t tell us we can’t take a joke, don’t tell us to just go with it, and definitely don’t tell us to stop being such feminists about it. We all need to understand the role we play in today’s society and make fully sure of the fact that we aren’t disrespecting anyone’s sentiments in any way.

Enjoy your Halloween to the absolute fullest, just don’t make my culture your costume because it’s not.

Arushi Tandon

Arushi Tandon

Arushi is a graduate in sociology honours from the University of Delhi. She is mostly found writing, drinking tea, reading a copious amount of books, collecting lipsticks and rambling about an abundance of things. If she isn’t writing or brainstorming about destroying systematic forms of oppression then she can often be found fangirling an unhealthy amount over her favourite K-Pop groups or binge-watching the Harry Potter series and/or Gilmore Girls and the like a bit too often. Or she can be found obsessing over dogs and cats. She’s a pantheist Hindu who lives in New Delhi, India. (she/her) (infj)

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