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Dear White Women

Oct 16, 2019

On today’s episode, Sara and Misasha hash out why a sexy Pocahontas is never a good idea for a Halloween costume. 

If you and/or your children are planning to participate in any school, work, or community events related to Halloween this year, you may want to take a moment and consider the concept of cultural appropriation while you’re picking out that costume. Listen in to hear their takeaway on this deeply delicate subject.

Show Highlights:

  • Sara and Misasha discuss the "I Am Not A Costume" campaign put together by the Laurier Students' Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG).
  • Most people do not pick out a costume with the intention of being racist or transphobic.
  • Regardless of our intentions, costumes that appropriate other cultures still perpetuate harmful stereotypes and justify more aggressive and violent situations.
  • Cultural appropriation is taking significant elements, such as symbols, dress, words, or practices from one culture and removing it from the original context or meaning. 
  • Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wore “brownface” during an “Arabian Nights” - themed party in 2001. 
  • Brownface and blackface are never acceptable, especially in the United States, because of the history of blackface in this country. It has historically been used as a tool by white people to mock black people, to remind them of the history, slavery, and oppression of black people. 
  • Although Canada does not have the same history as that of the US, the context may be different, but the action is still unacceptable.
  • Sara shares a personal story involving an Indian headdress, and a Native American friend.
  • What if a white kid who loves history wants to dress up as Martin Luther King, Jr.? Misasha provides the answer!
  • Tips on what NOT to do for Halloween:
    • Never use blackface.
    • Do not wear Fulani braids. Fulani braids are more commonly known as “cornrows”.
    • If you’re considering dreadlocks, ask yourself ‘why’, because it is significantly emotional for a segment of the population.
    • Do not dress up as someone whose race is different than your own.
    • Do not wear a hijab, niqab, or burka.
    • Do not wear any other traditional costumes of an ethnicity other than your own.
    • Do not wear a bindi.
    • Do not wear an Indian headdress or a geisha costume.
    • Do not wear a sexy version of anything mentioned above.
    • Disney characters are not an exception. 
    • Do not dress up as anyone who has ever suffered from colonialism, oppression, or genocide. A gypsy is a good example of this.
  • Have a conversation with your kid about what’s acceptable and not, and why. There are many great, creative costumes that don’t involve the above-mentioned “Don'ts”.
  • If you’ve been guilty in the past of culture appropriation, where do you go from here? 
    • Most importantly, do not sit in guilt. We need to do better, by being accountable and educating ourselves
    • Start the conversation with someone who is engaging in appropriation. Ask them why they chose that costume, and if they’ve considered that it might not be appropriate and may be offensive. 
    • If you choose to use cultural appropriation in your costume, you may be confronted with anger by others you are offending, and it’s not reasonable to think they will comfort you for their reaction. Again, don’t sit in guilt, but learn from this.
  • If you’re thinking twice about what you were going to wear, share your doubts with your circle of friends and open up that conversation. Share your vulnerability.
  • Continue to assess how you’re moving forward. 
  • To those listeners who are on the other side of cultural appropriation, you have every right to be hurt and angry. Even if you choose not to say anything about it, just know that your feelings are valid. You are not responsible for the action of appropriators, and you are not responsible for being the spokesperson for the offended culture. 
  • Sara and Misasha go over some tips for ensuring it’s an equitable party if you’re the one hosting this year.

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Suggested Podcast - Episode 3, The Women’s Movement and Societal Systems 

Suggested Reading

"I Am Not A Costume”, Plus Online Resources!