By Danielle Hogan – 1851 Staff
During Halloween, it’s important to remember to be respectful to all cultures. Cultural appropriation is a problem everyone, especially those in the fashion industry, needs to be aware of.
Jesse Tauriac, Ph.D., Director of the Donahue Institute for Ethics, Diversity, and Inclusion and Associate Professor of Psychology, has led numerous discussions surrounding this topic. He describes cultural appropriation as “taking aspects of somebody else’s culture, particularly a group that has been socio-historically marginalized in some way, and then using those aspects in a different way, without giving credit to the culture of origin; but also in some aspects using them in a way where there are no negative consequences, even though there may be consequences for the culture of origin.”
To provide examples, Pocahontas and other Native American costumes are a prime example of cultural appropriation. When thinking about the background on specifically Pocahontas, she was a 13-year-old girl who was raped and exploited by older men. Considering Native people and their background, mass homicide, rape, and oppression should be taken into account before dressing as a sexy Indian.
In response to a defense of celebrating the culture, Tauriac says, “It depends on the purpose of how you’re using it and how you’re doing it. I don’t think it’s one size fits all. I think in terms of the idea of a Halloween costume that is very much rough terrain… What you’re doing is you’re using something as a costume in a way that is very trite or superficial for something that has great meaning. I heard one Native American activist make a comparison. He said, ‘Well imagine if we were playing a football game and at halftime, I went out there and I was dressed as the pope. And I was walking around and doing a little pope dance and I took communion crackers and communion and I broke all of those over the field. There would be this huge outrage and people wouldn’t tolerate that.’ And so, I think a lot of it depends on how it’s used.”
At Lasell specifically, students are aware of Lasell College Radio’s Annual Creeps and Ghouls dance. There is a list of costume criteria that may prohibit a student from the event. The guidelines are as follows: costumes that mock gender identity; costumes that attempt to represent an entire culture or ethnicity; costumes that mock cultural ceremonial symbols; costumes that trivialize human suffering or oppression
The main idea behind cultural appropriation is considering how another person would feel, and thinking critically about how a person would feel in reaction to one’s actions. Tauriac said, “Nobody needs to feel guilty or feel any kind of shame if they didn’t know about these things or if in the past they may have worn costumes that they recognize now were inappropriate or even offensive. It’s not our fault, we live, unfortunately, in society and are exposed to fashion industries and to other kinds of industries that push these things on us to make money. Unfortunately, it’s done without any education and without really providing context… And, having said that, now that we do know, there’s a responsibility that I hope people will take for the choices they make.”