Culture

It’s Not Okay To ‘Dress Up As’ Anyone or Anything for Halloween — It’s All Appropriation

No -- animals and objects are not okay, either.

I am sick of articles telling people how to choose what to “be” for Halloween without being insensitive . . . because the truth is, dressing up as anyone or anything other than yourself is always offensive.

Let me say it again: It’s all appropriation, it’s never okay, and there are no exceptions. You may think that I’m being extreme, but if you follow the very same logic that people use to explain why costumes like “Pocahontas” or “geisha” are offensive, you will realize that my conclusion is the only one you can possibly draw.

In an article on the social-justice blog Everyday Feminism, the author advises that people picking out Halloween costumes should ask themselves, “Do You Belong to That Group of People?” in order to avoid appropriation:

“If your answer is no, remember that you can’t just borrow someone else’s culture or race for a day,” the author, Kat Lazo, writes. “It doesn’t work like that.”

“Perhaps unlike yourself, you don’t have to live with the stereotypes and stigmas associated with that ‘costume,’” she continues. “Because you can take it off.”

Any reasonable person should be able to see that Lazo’s suggestion that a costume can be classified as “appropriation” only if it has something to do with race is in itself a form of prejudice. After all, borrowing things from another identity only when it’s convenient for you is the definition of appropriation, and appropriation is never, ever okay.

Every year, I see incredibly problematic costume choices being accepted as okay. For example, all of those young people who wear spandex and side ponytails and say that they’re dressed up as women from the ’80s. They think it’s cute, but it’s just not okay to claim the identity of a woman in the ’80s for your little night of fun without ever having had to face the horrors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic or sitting on a heinous overstuffed couch. (Note: It is perfectly fine for older women to dress up as women from the ’80s, because they have been women in the ’80s. I’m a reasonable person, and understand that dressing up as a former version of yourself is totally acceptable.)

Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter whether the person you want to dress up as is ‘real’ or not.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter whether the person you want to dress up as is “real” or not. After all, what each individual chooses to identify as is his or her personal choice, and dressing up as Superman is simply not fair to anyone in the world who might identify as Superman. In cause you think I’m taking this too far, just consider how hard it would be to identify as Superman. People would probably make fun of you for walking around in a cape and man-leggings, but you’d have to do it anyway in order to stay true to your identity. Identifying as Superman only when it’s socially acceptable to identify as Superman, and then just taking that costume off when it’s not acceptable anymore is blatantly insensitive. You think no one out there actually identifies that way? Well, there are already documented cases of people who identify as vampires and dragons, and it is more than possible that any fictional character you could imagine is the actual, real identity of someone somewhere out there, and giving that person’s identity the respect it deserves is far more important than your stupid little costume.

It’s not just about avoiding appropriation of human identities, either; all of this applies to animal identities as well. It isn’t fair for you to spend one night claiming the identity of a puppy, having fun drinking and barking around the bar and then getting to take that costume off without ever having to know what it’s like to live your life on a leash. Dressing up as a dog for Halloween is about as bad as being not vegan, which, as we all know, is the clear sign of an unfeeling, sick sociopath.

#related#I shouldn’t even have to say this, but the same goes for inanimate objects. You might be tempted to claim that objects such as a forks or spoons or refrigerators do not have the consciousness to form identities, but that would be an incredibly arrogant assumption. Have you ever been a refrigerator? No, so then you actually have no idea what it’s like to be one. Maybe it’s really hard. Maybe refrigerators do have thoughts and feelings, just like the rest of us. How would you know? The point is, dressing up as anything, even an inanimate object, is appropriating its experience for one night of fun without having to deal with it the rest of the year — and that is about as sick as it gets.

Please understand that I am not saying that you can’t go out and have fun on Halloween. It’s perfectly okay to go out and dress differently than you normally would, like maybe put some sparkly pipe cleaners in your hair or something. That’s fun, right? Just make sure, if anyone asks, “Who are you?” that you say “I am not ‘dressed up’ as anyone, because conveniently claiming another identity for one night only without having to deal with that identity the rest of the year is appropriation. This is just my fun, festive outfit because I am a fun person” and everything will be just fine.

– Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online. 

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