Saturday, April 13Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Whose Life Will You Wear?

Watch What You Wear This Halloween.

It’s coming up to that time of year again, where we have an excuse to get dressed up in a range of costumes, go out, and have a great time. House parties will be thrown and alcohol will be drunk. And let’s hope that this year, no one will be offended by what you choose to wear.

Cultural appropriation gets talked about more and more each year. It’s the practice of taking parts of other people’s culture, usually less privileged groups, and exploiting them. For example, the headdress has become a popular adornment to wear at festivals this year with few people understanding its significance in Native American society. The headdress is a piece of attire that men earnt throughout their life, that is restricted to people who have the honour of having achieved it.

By wearing it we are not only trivialising an important part of Native American culture, but stereotyping them into people who can be thought of as only a piece of clothing, when really few of them wore this. If you blacked up or wore a turban for Halloween, you’d expect people to call you out. So think before you bring out your festival headdress, hoping to reuse it for Halloween. Reconsider the geisha costume you thought was such a brilliant idea. Create a fancy dress that does not rely on other people’s cultures.

It’s not just cultural appropriation, either, it’s taking aspects of peoples lives and wearing them as a costume. You might think of wearing a straight jacket and going as someone insane. But, although straight jackets are now considered quite an old form of restraint and aren’t used often, the fact that you are associating mentally ill people with Halloween and something to be scared of can be very harmful to people who actually do suffer from a mental illness; think about what you’re saying to them by dressing in this way.

There are many other Halloween costumes that are racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic and sexist. I’m not about to list them and all the ways they are offensive in this article; hopefully that’s something you’ll think about yourself.. Yes, Halloween is all about dressing up as something different, but going as a Zombie is incredibly different to going as someone’s way of life.

So when you’re planning your Halloween costume this year, think to yourself; would someone be offended by what I’m wearing?

If you’re struggling to think of an answer, it’s probably yes.