Washington Square News

Costumes Are Just Costumes

By Mert Erenel, Staff Writer

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Halloween is the only time of the year where you can be who you wish to be. We dress up in our costumes and accessories to become a version of our fantastical selves. It’s incredible that people would spend so much time and money in order to pretend to be something they’re not, just for one night. The very idea of Halloween makes people wish to be something more than themselves, and they represent this desire through costumes and props. But what if someone decides to turn a culture that isn’t theirs into a costume — or, culturally appropriates through their costume?

In today’s globalized world, though, it is ridiculous to claim a monopoly on your culture. Everyone is exposed to a culture one way or another. And if you’re in a thriving city like New York City, it’s impossible to not see, learn and sometimes imitate other cultures and customs. Why should you be scared of sharing or imitating a culture if the sole intent is to celebrate the virtues and qualities of that culture? Misrepresentation? Offending? Accidentally stereotyping? Well if that is the case, instead of having an honest discussion, the best way to move forward is clearly by not allowing people to interact with other cultures, right? Never mind the fact that even people from my own Turkish culture continuously misrepresent it as well.

Two years ago a Yale University professor was forced to resign for going against the Yale administration’s tendency to advise undergraduate students on what type of Halloween costumes not to wear. In her letter she said, “I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.” This is an excellent point.

If someone wants to avoid cultural appropriation, empathy is key. One must not be so self-asserted to think that Halloween costumes can in no way offend others. They definitely can, and this is important to keep in mind when picking out a costume. However, if someone feels as though their culture is being appropriated, they must understand that their identity is not shattered nor destroyed. We are adults who I hope are mature enough to handle a holiday meant for children.

Happy Halloween.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Mert Erenel at [email protected]

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1 Comment

One Response to “Costumes Are Just Costumes”

  1. Sulayman F on October 31st, 2017 1:29 am

    I respectfully disagree.

    Let’s face it, plenty of people are ignorant and Halloween is the time when it really shows. “Hey I’ll dress like a Moslem and joke about blowing everyone up!” Or “I’ll dress in blackface and chug liquor all night because I’m a thug!” Or “I’ll dress like a belly dancer because that’s what Arab women are like!”

    It’s just not cool, and it winds up putting the racism we deal with as minorities on full display once again. The author above claims that since my identity is not destroyed then I should have no complaint. That completely misses the issue; you’re perpetrating the ignorant stereotypes against us. It’s not easy being Muslim in America, so you think I want to see people reminding me that they think I’m a Muslim barbarian? Putting on a turban and fake dynamite around your waist and saying your costume is you’re a “Palestinian” IS grossly offensive, and there’s no excuse. There’s plenty of better costumes yet we put up with this garbage every year.

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