When I was about 5 years old, I dressed up as Snow White for Halloween. My parents bought me the complete set, the serial dress, the black wig and the accessories. I remember loving this costume so much that I insisted on wearing it for the next two or three years. I believe the only reason I stopped wearing the costume was because I outgrew it.
Now, thinking back to those years wearing that Snow White costume, I take a step back. Not because I wore it over and over, but because of the negative feelings I developed towards the original Disney Princesses. As I grew up and formed opinions, I realized what horrible role models these princesses were for teenagers. They show kids that it’s okay to change into a man and rely on them to save the day, which is completely inaccurate.
It’s weird to think that the things we obsessed over as kids were actually socially and culturally insensitive, like the costumes we wore as kids. When “Moana” was released in 2016, Disney marketed a Maui costume that received major backlash because it included a body costume that had colored and tattooed skin. A debate has been sparked over whether or not white children should be able to dress up as Moana and characters from the film.
Many parents have chimed in on this, with some saying it’s “just a costume,” while others acknowledging it’s cultural appropriation. A 2017 Redbook Magazine article chimed in on the subject and stated
“Pretend to be a racial, ethnic or religious minority when you haven’t shed light on their history – and reinforces a deeply problematic power dynamic, in which white people use, then reject, elements of cultures they have subjugated for decades. centuries simply because they can.
The article also spoke of the importance of teaching children cultural sensitivity, especially “towards anyone who does not have access to Choose how the world as a whole measures them.
As crucial as it is to teach our children about cultural sensitivity so they can grow up with better prospects, adults also need cultural sensitivity training, especially around Halloween.
Cultural appropriation is an ongoing battle, especially during Halloween, which is self-appropriation.
Originally called Samhain, pronounced sow-in, the Celtic holiday was celebrated more than 2,000 years ago on November 1. It was believed that on this night the boundary between the worlds became blurred and ghosts and deities could enter the land of the living, similar to Día de los Muertos, also celebrated on November 1. The Celts dressed in animal skins and sacrificed crops and livestock to these spirits by building large bonfires.
Then, when the Romans conquered the Celts, similar Roman festivals were combined with Samhain traditions. The first day commemorated the dead and the second day honored Pomona, a Roman goddess, whose symbol was the apple. This was later incorporated into Samhain.
Further down the line, a Roman pope adopted the traditions of Samhain in a new holiday, All Saints Day, a day meant to honor Christian martyrs. They appropriated the Celtic tradition of building bonfires and dressing in costumes, except this time people dressed as demons, angels and saints, instead of animals. It is an example of Christianization and appropriation of a polytheistic culture and religion.
From there, All Saints Day was imported to America, where the colonizers appropriated indigenous traditions to make it the holiday we all know now: Halloween. Over the centuries, the party has continued to grow and take on new aspects, such as sleight of hand and the tradition of watching horror movies. However, this does not erase the blatant cultural appropriation that began over 2,000 years ago.
Today, in modern times, Halloween in the town of Chico has become something new and has taken the form of Chicoween. It’s a special time for Chico residents, students, and even foreigners, who come especially to attend parties and events. Over the years I’ve seen a variety of Chicoween costumes, from sexy mice to tortillas. I also saw people dressed in sombreros and ponchos, and others in coconut bras and grassy skirts.
When it comes to choosing costumes, there’s a lot to consider, including whether a costume is culturally sensitive or not. A USA Today article from 2021 gives some examples of insensitive costumes, including blackface. It also highlights the danger of sexualizing certain costumes, such as those depicting Indigenous peoples.
The article cites the Cambridge dictionary definition of cultural appropriation.
“Cultural appropriation is when someone adopts a culture that is not their own and does not recognize or respect the culture used for their own benefit.”
Dressing as a native, especially in a place like Chico, is a very insensitive act.
Overall, Chico State does its best to educate its student population about the Mechoopda tribe, whose lands we inhabit. Dressing up as a native goes against those values and is hurtful, especially given the past battles of Chico State students against white supremacy.
Chico State Student Radio KCSC, in an effort to create a safe space for everyone, has posted costume guidelines for their Oct. 28 event, Goblin Gala: Night of the Living Bands, on their Instagram account. In addition to banning all costumes that make fun of “BIPOC, queer, transgender, physically or mentally disabled people,” they also banned those that are culturally insensitive.
Anyone wearing “racist or culturally insensitive costumes”, including but not limited to costumes outside your own culture and racist caricatures, as well as “costumes depicting a minority group as a joke”, was turned away from the event.
Organized events like those at KCSC help our society evolve to become more inclusive and responsive to all. They also help others think about how their individual actions may harm minorities and assess how they can prevent this from happening.
Maybe now that most of us are educated in cultural sensitivity, we can help educate others and stop the cycle that the Romans started, the same that costume wearers perpetuate today.
Ariana Powell can be found at [email protected].