“Thatz Not Okay”

30 Oct

I love the website Gawker, where I occasionally read Caity Weaver’s “Thatz Not Okay” (http://gawker.com/thatz-not-okay/), a column about–you guessed it–what is and isn’t OK.

Here’s a brief excerpt that appeared recently:

Q: I’m worried my 8-year-old daughter’s trick-or-treat costumes might be considered offensive. This year she wants to be a Native American for Halloween. Last year she was a girl from India (she wore a sari) and the year before that she was a girl from Japan (she wore a kimono). Is that okay?

A: Thatz not okay.

… The debate about whether these types of costumes are appropriate always leads to a great deal of consternation around Halloween. Some people adopt the cause as a crusade, justifying blackface, tinfoil-grille costumes with excuses that run the gamut from “I’m celebrating my love of African American music” to “Halloween is a holiday about upside down make-believe and I can dress however I want because there are NO RULES and I DO WHAT I WANT.”

… a good rule of thumb is if one of your first thoughts when planning a costume is, “Is there a way I can do this so that it won’t be offensive?” the answer is almost certainly “No.” And you shouldn’t do it.

… It’s great that your daughter is interested in other cultures. Why not encourage her to explore this interest by talking to her about why some people whose families are Native American might be upset when someone whose family is not dresses up in a generic Native American costume?

And if the issue is that she just wants to wear feathers in her hair, have her go as a bird princess.

While my advice tends towards, “It’s not about asking for permission. You can do anything. Just be willing to take responsibility for your impact,” I appreciate Weaver’s insight, humor and helpfulness.

And for more on costumes that stereotype, check out this year’s “We’re a culture, not a costume” campaign: http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/27/living/halloween-ethnic-costumes/index.html?hpt=hp_c1.

**Thanks to my colleague RG for the “not a costume” link.

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