Hanah Wyman is a Mustang News columnist and public health student. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
‘Tis the season for pumpkin spice, vibrant leaves, plaid, warm soup and cozy blankets. Oh, and of course: Halloween.
Recently, I’ve been listening to a podcast called “My Favorite Murder” (spooky) and after hearing the Halloween episode, I got to thinking: As a holiday, Halloween has it rough. It has to cater to far too many demographics.
There are the bright-eyed children who take to the streets trick-or-treating and end up sick from candy overconsumption. Trailing behind them in the shadows with the black cats are the too-cool middle schoolers stuck between worlds, debating between trick-or-treating with younger siblings or hanging out with high schoolers. Then, of course, we’ve got the college kids. We have a blast. Forget those awkward tween years. Dressing up is the thing to do. Don’t forget about the parents, either. They’re on damage control. Don’t take candy from strangers. Hold hands when you’re walking across the street. Wear reflective shoes. In the mix, someone inevitably gets too angry, too sad or too drunk.
I know you all secretly love Halloween.
However, every year, we read horror stories of cultural appropriation and questionable Halloween costumes. I feel as though Halloween costumes can’t be discussed without at least bringing up this issue. Just this year, I have seen some absolutely ridiculous outfits — from an Anne Frank costume to someone who painted their face with a Dia de los Muertos calavera.
“Anne Frank shouldn’t be someone we dress up for,” public health sophomore Emma Glozman said. “It’s like romanticizing the Holocaust. As a Jewish person, it makes me really upset.”
This same thought is the concern of many other minority groups who have their cultures appropriated at the expense of costume stores.
As a school already under the microscope for past racially-charged incidents, I would hope Cal Poly students would be extra mindful of their costumes. Halloween is no excuse for cultural appropriation and disrespect of cultures. Not only is cultural appropriation offensive, but there are plenty of other creative costumes than those that are offensive regardless. Be a superhero or something.
If you are confused whether something is cultural appropriation or not, it probably is.
“If you’re caricaturing Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, that’s fine, those are public figures,” author of “Who Owns Culture: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law” Susan Scafidi said. But according to her, there are certain costumes that must be avoided.
“When you start dressing up in something your neighbor might wear everyday — a sari, or a kimono, or hijab — then maybe that starts to cross the line,” Scafidi said.
Personally, I would always rather play it safe. Don’t wear a sombrero, don’t be a ninja, and for the love of God, please. Do. Not. Wear. Blackface.
Shamelessly, I love to dress up. Halloween is just an excuse to do that. Fun! When else can you wear a pink wig and have no one ask any questions? When else do you see a dinosaur suit around campus and just think, “Eh. This is normal.”
Heck, my stats professor is even giving us Halloween off on Wednesday to celebrate. Whether you love Halloween or hate it, Halloween is an American tradition. Keep it classy, kids.