How to stay PC this Halloween

2013 American Music Awards - Show

Credit: huffingtonpost.com

Halloween is a time for having fun. It’s about dressing up and showing off, even if just for an evening. Your costume may be scary or silly, but it will still be a good laugh. Or will it?

There’s always someone who takes it too far. You know what I’m talking about. Every year, without fail, someone turns up to the party in a costume that makes you grimace and think, “Is that really appropriate?”. Recently it seems like the number of ‘politically-incorrect’ costumes has increased as it has become common knowledge that some costumes are just not okay.

Halloween has turned from a fun, chilled-out event into a potential minefield. So how can you avoid offence, yet still dress to impress? Read on…

Now there are some things that we know are going to raise eyebrows. Blacking up is never going to impress (we all know what that leads to). But then the lines get a little blurrier.

One thing to bear in mind is the idea of cultural appropriation. According to Wikipedia, this is “the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture.” To you and I, this is dressing up in the clothing or style of another culture that may cause offence.

But how can we determine if something will offend or not? I would consider myself a fully paid-up member of the PC Brigade (Can we make this a university society? They could use trumpets that they blow whenever they hear something culturally insensitive!), yet I still find it hard to tell what costume would be considered insulting.

Cultures like those of the Native Americans, who have been oppressed for hundreds of years, are a no-go area in this light. Well, if you have suffered what they have suffered, chances are you would also be annoyed if you saw a rich white teen at Coachella wearing a traditional headdress “because it looked cool.” For such a popular costume choice, most people don’t realise the offence that they may cause.

However, in some cases it seems that the term ‘cultural appropriation’ has been misused by people who believe they have been disrespected, but in reality are just a bit miffed. In September 2016 Kendall Jenner did a photo shoot for Vogue España in which she dressed up as a ballerina. No problems there. Or so you think. Before long real ballerinas were calling her out for appropriating ‘ballet culture’, as she had apparently offended those who train for years to become actual ballerinas.

Ridiculous, I know. Ballet does not have a culture like China or Scotland has a culture. It’s a hobby and a career, yes, but a culture? Surely then ballerinas everywhere would be offended by little girls who choose to dress up as a dancer this Halloween. Under this logic every person who has ever dressed as a doctor, fireman or even a princess would be appropriating its respective culture. I don’t think so.

The joy of dressing up is that it lets you live as someone else for a short while. While ordinary clothes allow you to express who are you, costumes give you the chance to express what you are not. So maybe if dressing up as another culture was seen as a celebration, rather than a slight, it would allow everyone to be more tolerant and understanding of one another’s cultures. As long as they didn’t cross the line, of course.

It can be difficult to know where to draw this line. Personally, I would not be insulted if I saw someone of another culture wearing a kilt, but each to their own. Remember folks, if you’re still unsure if your costume will produce laughs or looks of horror, think of it this way: If you wouldn’t wear it in front of your mother, chances are you shouldn’t wear it out on the town.

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