halloween 101 for critical thinkers

halloween is a tricky time of year for me, and for lots of critical folks. i’ve written about it many times over the years, and for the most part it often feels like my concerns and criticisms are ignored. but! this year i’ve found myself pleasantly surprised. i’ve been spotting these interesting articles and images around poor judgement around halloween cotumes scattered across countless different social networks, but thought i might pull them all together into one useful webspace.

consider this your syllabus, and the internet your professor. welcome to halloween 101: for critical thinkers.

firstly, let us conquer the unfortunately all too familiar problem of race drag as a halloween costume:

[Image: A young Native person holding a photograph of two white people dressed offensively and appropriatively in false Native costume holding a sign that says “Me wantum piece…..not war. The text says: “We’re a culture, not a costume. This is not who I am and this is not okay.”]this is one of a series of posters put together by students teaching about racism in society (STARS).  even they seem surprised by how much attention the campaign has been receiving. it’s a clear message, clearly delivered, and i’m glad to have come across it more times than i can count.

two other good reads that go along the same vein of thinking twice before dressing as two other quite popular halloween costumes, moreso among even “progressive” folks. first, there’s Madeira‘s article, Appropriation of gypsy culture and settled privilege. in it, they address a whole host of issues that romani folks confront year round, but they pay particular attention the fact that while people are calling attention to the blantantly racist blackface/yellowface costumes, people forget about the all-too common gypsy halloween costume.

…People have commented on the problematic nature of “asian flower” and “indian princess” halloween costumes, but no one says anything about this goddamn nonsense (link to a costume called Gypsy Princess at Yandy.com). Do you fucking see that crap?  Yeah it’s called a “gypsy princess” costume. It would be one thing to call it a “fortune teller costume” but no, they went with “gypsy princess.” Not to mention that in traditional Romani culture the lower half of the body is considered unclean… no way in hell would a skirt that short ever be permissible… fuck this.

they do have a point. it is alarming the amount of time certain feminist websites have devoted to picking apart “slutty” halloween costumes (even calling it slutoween), yet paid little to no attention to this more serious issue. i’m with madeira on this one, hopefully we can begin having meaningful conversations and change attitudes around this as an acceptable halloween costume.

the second article that is aimed a bit more at “alternative” halloween costume crowd is the recent trend of white girls deciding to go as sugar skulls. Nuestra Hermana brings us that story with Dia de Los Muertos is not your Halloween:

Dia De Los Muertos developed out of over 2,500 years of indigenous ritual celebrating death and paying respects to loved ones who have passed away. Scholars state that the Aztecs originally held a month long festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the ruler of the afterlife.

After Spanish colonization and many attempts to eradicate the rituals & festival, a new merging with the Catholic holidays All Souls Day & All Saints Day developed over time to what is now Dia De Los Muertos.

the entire article is short and simple, and i recommend reading it yourself. as a general rule, if you’re wondering whether or not your costume is racist or insensitive… it probably is. and you can probably come up with something better.

and last but not least, some laughs. the ever talented jillian tamaki really struck a chord with her “have a sexy little halloween” drawings. i couldn’t choose just one, so i’m posting it here in all its glory… it starts out seeming not all that unreasonable… and gets increasingly hilarious as you scroll down.

what i particularly love about tamaki’s take on this issue is that it doesn’t fall into the all-too-well-trodden slut shaming path, and goes the hilarious route instead. personally, i have no problem with “sexy” halloween cotumes… as long as they are done in a way that is a costume, a character, as opposed to a  “sexy” version of something that isn’t on every other day of the year. especially because they tend to sexualize hard working, underpaid, under appreciated women, namely nurses. but i’m preaching to the choir here. that ends our crash course. here, have a present:

happy halloween.

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30 responses to “halloween 101 for critical thinkers

  1. I live in a city with a mostly Latino population, and I am planning on attending a festival celebrating los Día de los Muertos, which encourages members of the community to build and display their own ofrendas. I am planning on making an ofrenda and wearing sugar skull makeup, despite the fact that I’m white. I also use calavera imagery in a lot of my art. I’ve long understood and appreciated the cultural and spiritual context of the days, and continue to devour every book I can find on the subject. I don’t think of it as Halloween, and it is not on the day of Halloween. In America we don’t really have a comparable day to celebrate death and honor family and friends who have passed, so that’s the day I do it. I would hope that someone would not hijack my picture out of context and put it on display as being culturally insensitive.

    Switching gears, love the sexy little Halloween illustration… I’ll definitely never be a sexy little anything, I don’t even like to wear short sleeves, haha.

    • Oops, I meant to say the United States, not America.

    • i chose that one photo as an example because the caption is “practicing sugar skull makeup for my halloween costume!” (as opposed to for my day of the dead celebration) and because of this:
      http://lishafisha.tumblr.com/
      someone asked: You do realize your “sugar skull” makeup is incredibly racist and offensive, right?

      her response: “you do realize it’s Halloween right, and I can do whatever the fuck I want to dress up for it? I know what the culture is concerning Dia de Los Muertos and you have zero right to tell me that I’m being offensive. In fact, I’m not really sure what you find offensive about it. I think that it’s a beautiful holiday, and I happen to live in Los Angeles, not Mexico, so why is it a problem if I want to paint my face like a skull in honor of the holiday? Doing this makeup is not racist in any way and I’m terribly sorry that you are so ignorant to think that.”

      also, the reason i’m citing an article and quoting someone else in regards to this issue is because i don’t know much about it myself. if you read the article, live in LA in a mostly latino community, and feel like you are welcome and participating respectfully in a day of the dead celebration, that’s obviously your call. if, instead, you are going as a sugar skull for halloween and telling people “i can do whatever the fuck i want” when someone calls that into question, i have to say that’s pretty disrespectful. i do think it is important to put it into context and give it more than a passing thought.

      and re: the sexy costumes, personally it still surprises me how many sexy halloween costumes i see in canada, moreso because of warmth! it’s usually around the first snowfall that time of year!

      • Oh yes, that is certainly a highly disrespectful comment she made, yikes. I don’t have a problem with anything you’ve written in your post, my whole concern is that it seems as if people are lumping every white girl wearing sugar skull makeup into the category of cultural disrespect. I did a guest post on a friend’s blog where I put together a sugar skull makeup tutorial for el Día de los Muertos (not Halloween). Before the tutorial, I wrote about the history and meaning behind el Día de los Muertos. A commenter on my post simply left a link to that tumblr post. Apparently they missed the point entirely. So it almost makes me think, well gee, I really wanted to bring an altar to this festival tomorrow to honor my grandma who passed away, but am I offending people by going? When my husband and I have a child, he or she will be part Mexican, and it’s a tradition I’d like him or her to be involved with, do I need to just stay home? If that’s the case, then we should all quit celebrating any holiday that isn’t directly related to our own heritage. It’s kind of sad.

        Again, I know that totally isn’t what you were saying, it’s just that some people seem to be taking it too far some of the time.

  2. I’m mixed (hispanic/asian/white) but often pass for white. Is it racist if I wear sugar skull make up?

    • honestly it is not for me to say, and that’s not the kind of conversation i want to be having. see my response to danielle above. i’m not here to decree whether one costume is racist or not (for whomever). rather, my goal is to encourage people to make informed, critical choices about the costumes they choose to wear for halloween and have fun. i’d say that’s a call for you to make. also, if you read the article i quoted, the discussion is more around how it is often misplaced and culturally appropriative for white girls to choose to wear sugar skull makeup on halloween (when traditionally that would happen on november 2nd).

  3. Dana

    If you’re on your high horse about racial and cultural insensitivity, why don’t you focus on the origins of Halloween itself, rather than who is allowed to wear what for a single night of the year? I’m pretty sure an entire religion was appropriated and distorted just for you to argue whether “white girls” have the right to wear sugar skull makeup.

    One of my best friends was in whiteface for Halloween, and I, as one of an entire race of women who is only referred to in this blog by the color of my skin instead of my own unique ethnicity (thanks for that generalization, by the way), wasn’t the slightest bit offended.

    Furthermore, regarding sexy costumes, it’s not as if any person with half a brain in their heads is going to think, “She’s dressed like a sexy ______; that must mean that all _______ are whores/easy/etc.” I, personally, think they’re tacky and demeaning, so we do agree there, but I am pretty sure I have no right to tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do or wear for a holiday that makes light of everyone and everything possibly imaginable; it’s not an all-out attack on anyone who is still antiquated enough to consider themselves a “minority” in this day and age.

    You can claim your focus is on encouraging people to make informed decisions with their words and actions, but don’t forget to face that introspective mirror for yourself.

    • i don’t know if you actually took the time to read what i wrote or any of the articles i linked to. i just re-read your comment twice and a lot of your arguments don’t really make sense. i’m not saying that to be rude, it’s just either we’re on completely different pages, or you haven’t read what i wrote.

      i’m not claiming to speak for you, or your friend, or saying you should feel offended. i don’t think we agree on “sexy” costumes being tacky and demeaning, as i said nothing of the sort in this post or any other.

      i really feel like you’re barking up the wrong tree.
      if you’re looking for an internet comment flame war, i suggest searching elsewhere.

  4. Dana

    I’m not trying to start a flame war; I’m just not going to hesitate in disagreeing with a lot of what this post claims. I’m not “barking up the wrong tree” just because I’m taking the opposite stance on the self-righteousness of this particular article.

    People are always going to step on other peoples’ toes. I understand the well-meaning of trying to encourage people not to, but in this case, it’s Halloween. Halloween equals camp. Pure and simple. Camp has always been borderline offensive to people of all walks of life, but everyone knows it’s not a serious commentary by any educated person to try and demean an entire race, culture, or belief structure of people.

    I stand by saying we do agree on the degrading nature of certain sexy costumes, as, in your own words, they “tend to sexualize hard working, underpaid, under appreciated women.”

    It goes without saying that we are on completely different pages. That doesn’t mean that a meaningful conversation–what you are hoping to provoke with this blog–is impossible, or something to be avoided. Debate is a natural part of conversation, especially when it comes to these topics, and is something I hope to be met toe-to-toe on, not passive-aggressively glossed over.

    • i don’t see how starting off a conversation accusing someone of being on a “high-horse” about “racial and cultural insensitivity” can be a good start to any sort of meaningful conversation or debate, as you put it.

      honestly, i hesitated in posting this (what i thought) was a pretty neutral article (rather, an amassing of links to other articles) because i am personally exhausted of having arguments like this one. i don’t think it should be seen as radical to encourage people, especially white people, to think twice before wearing a racial stereotype as a halloween costume.

      i see your point about “why not look into the origins of halloween!” when writing a critique about it, and i have in the past, in the many other articles i’ve written on the topic… and if you took your own advice, you would see its history is not “camp, pure and simple.” that might be your opinion of it as it exists today. and i disagree. even if people argue they are dressing as another race as “ironic” or “campy,” it rubs me the wrong way. i just think it’s straight up fucked up for white bros to throw on a turban and say they’re a terrorist for halloween. for white girls to proudly boast on tumblr that their spirit name is “drinks with vodka.”

      you have obviously made up your mind about why i am suggesting people, particularly white people, dress up as something other than a racial stereotype for halloween – because i’m self-righteous? so i don’t really understand the point of your comments. hence, my reticence to engage in any sort of “debate” about halloween when really it just seems like you seem like you’re interested in putting words in my mouth and criticizing me, personally, rather than any of the content i wrote.

      to put it bluntly once again, i never said and am not saying now that anyone isn’t allowed to wear anything. i’m speaking specifically in the context of halloween, a time of year where people are encouraged to select a costume (at a certain point in time, a scary costume), and i’m encouraging them to think twice about wearing something that could easily be interpreted as racist or sexist (when they could easily come up with something better). that was my point.

  5. i was going to say that most mexicans are pretty much over being seen as stereotypes. well, not so much as being “over it” as having incorporated it into the mexican joke repertoire as a way of shrugging it off. but then i saw this:

    and, for some reason, it pissed me off.

  6. head

    So I guess I can’t dress as a witch, either? Whatevz.

  7. Saoirse

    It’s not ok for Dia De Los Muertos to be treated as just another cultural smorgasbord by middle class kids, I understand that.

    But is it ok for Hallowe’en, which is a legitimate ancient Irish festival, to be appropriated as a opportunity for American teenagers to flash their tits or wear borderline or full-on racist outfits? Well, American Hallowe’en is a festival onto itself now I suppose.

    Hallowe’en is still important to a lot of Irish people – it might sound sappy but it’s a day and night when I actually feel closer to nature and all those who preceded me. It’s a way to somehow celebrate the bounty of autumn and also acknowledge the reality that the winter is setting in. To have it dismissed as an irrelevant campfest is a bit hard to swallow, but again, I remind myself, your Hallowe’en is not our Hallowe’en, same as your St. Patrick’s day is not our St. Patrick’s day.

    • that’s a really good question, and one that i think should be investigated a bit more closely.

      it’s also important to note that i have been writing about halloween from a canadian perspective, which as i’ve come to understand is quite different from a number of other countries. i’ve read a few things from England that talk about how they’re importing a relatively recent Americanized tradition (like this one: http://dougbelshaw.com/blog/2010/10/31/why-we-dont-celebrate-halloween-in-our-house/).

      it doesn’t sound sappy to me! i think the link to the final harvests before winter sets in is important, especially in a culture that often separates us from farming and argriculture. it’s nice to have a reminder of the important work that goes into preparing for winter hibernation and sustaining food supplies… even if we can take it for granted today, with grocery stores that stock fresh mangoes and kiwis year round.

      thanks for your input, saoirse.

  8. timfranklin

    Don’t you think this is getting silly?
    I’m curious though – would you be upset if non-Catholics dressed up as nuns? I’ve seen that one alot this year. Maybe you’ll try to diminish it by saying ‘oh, but they’re just celebrating the progressive film The Town!!’.
    Hopefully not.

    I find it interesting that you’d be fine with “modest” slutty interpretations of absurd things (TV dinners) but become frustrated with “Dia De Los Muertos” make up.

    It just seems to me that the things you take issue with are ultimately irrelevant. So someone wants to dress up as a Native American, okay, so what?
    I have a feeling you’d cherry pick which forms of mockery are allowable and which forms are not (again – nun and priestly vestments are okay – face paint of other cultures holidays are not).
    But either way, what does it ultimately matter? Do you change hearts by admonishing them for wearing a costume? No. Do you exaggerate the occurrence for the sake of a blog post? Yes – because let’s be honest, how many people are prancing around during Halloween with Native American garb or blackface? I mean you’d really have to dig pretty deep (after you omit most small towns and residential neighborhoods) to find this wealth of ‘un-niceness’.

    • you’re getting a bit off track – nuns have very little to do with race, and i’m talking mainly about white people who chose to dress up as another race as a halloween costume. not as a character of another race (i.e. pocahontas, but rather, “indian princess”), not as a religious group, i’m talking pretty explicitly here about white people who dress up as an exagerated racial stereotype.

      i’ve been writing online for over ten years, and i’ve had many people come to tell me that yes, the things i have written have changed their opinions, or at least helped them look at an issue from a different perspective. i also wouldn’t write about it if i didn’t care, if i didn’t have numerous halloween nights ruined (yes, ruined, or marred) by exagerated racial stereotypes of my own ethnicity. i’d beg to differ that you have to dig pretty deep – this year i was sick on halloween, went to one party for about an hour with about a dozen people… and two white people were dressed as “indians.” this is in a large canadian city. all you have to do is google “racist halloween costume” and you’ll have thousands of examples of people dressed up as the kkk, or like the photos used in the poster campaign.

      perhaps you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where you can go out on halloween and not see anyone in race drag and not feel uncomfortable, but i’m quite convinced i’m far from alone in this one. the posters i posted links to were made by an association at Ohio University, i’ve gotten positive feedback from people across North America, and even from readers in countries where Halloween isn’t celebrated.

      i think it ultimately matters because it is a question of basic respect.

      • timfranklin

        So if I understand what you’re saying – it’s just not okay if white people dress up as other races/ethnicities. I find that distinction a bit odd. And you have said numerous time “white people”. If it was simply a matter that on principle it’s wrong to dress in an exaggerated manner of another race you wouldn’t need to winnow it down to simply “white people”.
        But still, would you be fine if a white person dressed up as an observant hasidic jew?
        Say a faith free evangelical thought “I’m going to dress up as a hasidic jew and pass out challah bread”. Would that be offensive? What about a buddhist monk?
        It seems pretty evident you’d have no problem with someone dressing up as a nun or wearing a fake bishop’s miter. So I think it’s a relevant question.

        But all of that aside – what is wrong with dressing up as an indian? Isn’t the intention behind it important? Sure, you could assume that this person has the most nefarious, insultive reasons in the world …. or maybe they just really like the dress and think it would be a neat costume.

  9. timfranklin

    One last thing, alagarconniere (what’s your real name? alagarconniere is a bit laborious to have to keep typing out).

    Your picture with the frowning Native says “This is NOT who I am and this is NOT okay”.
    So, he (you, I assume) are willing to admit “Yeah, this goofy indian get up is not real Native American…. it’s some silly caricature” – so all the more power to dressing that way then, right? He’s admitting “this is not who I am”, so, he’s drawn a line distinguishing what he really is from this goofy get’up. So why is he not okay with it?

    Would that be like me holding up a picture of an elephant with me declaring “This is NOT who I am! Oh, and I’m not okay if you dress up like this thing that I am not”.

    • i think this is what we call “going over someone’s head.” this very simple poster campaign (which i’ll note again, was not made by me, but by an association at Ohio University) has gone viral largely because the message is pretty straightforward and simple: racial stereotypes are inappropriate and racist halloween costumes. if you keep wanting to subtract race and racial discrimination from the equation, of course the message won’t make sense.

      also just so you know i deleted your comment towards one of my readers because it was condescending, rude and disrespectful. i moderate comments here to maintain a respectful environment so if you have any other comments to make, please keep them on-topic and avoid name calling.

  10. timfranklin

    It wasn’t intended to be rude. It’s very clear to the point – All Souls Day is exactly what she was asking about. Heck, mexicans celebrate all souls day pretty fervently. If you really want to appreciate and understand Latino heritage – look no further than their Catholic heritage. “Vivo Cristo Rey!” was a cry that many a Latino proclaimed during the Cristero War as they sacrificed their lives for their religious heritage. “All Souls Day” is certainly relevant.

    But if I did name call, which I don’t believe I did, then I apologize.

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  12. Aubrey

    Well, hells bells. Here I was, seeing beautiful sugar skull makeup all over Pinterest and thinking, it’d be a wonderful costume, it’s so intricate, all without ever thinking, even once, I was being ignorant and racist. Plight of the Americans, right? We don’t even know when we’re being aholes.

    What exactly is white people culture though? I mean, how are white people represented? Because there really isn’t such a thing as white, is there? I’m American by nationality, but I’ve got Italian blood running through me, with a good ‘ol mishmash of everything else that America offers – because that’s what we did back in the day. We got off ships and mated with the folk who were here and all the other people who also got off boats. Now, all of that culture, everything we know and celebrate about ourselves, it’s all been boiled down to one really easy to remember term: white. Some may say that’s offensive, too. Everyone has some sort of culture/traditions to celebrate, and they should all be respected and treated with dignity.

    *sigh* I very much understand all of your points, and they are good ones. I wasn’t being sarcastic above when I said I didn’t even know I was potentially being racist by thinking of dressing up with sugar skull makeup for Halloween. After I googled a bit, it’s become pretty obvious that yeah, it’s a bad choice.

    Or maybe, right now, it’s the most popular bad choice – the one that is getting the most attention. No one cares anymore if you dress up as a Native American for Halloween – why not? Because they’ve already lost the fight. Trust me, I HATE saying that, but it’s a bit true. The biggest culture issue the US is dealing with right now is understanding Mexican culture, which is why this sugar skull makeup is such a hot topic at the moment. It’s more political based on what’s happening in the US than what’s going on with the Natives and everyone else.

    Back to costumes – I’m pretty much on both sides of the fence for this one. Most Halloween costumes are just that – costumes. I’ve seen a lot of Cleopatra’s – that’s probably racist. I’ve seen people dress up as Princess Jasmine and they aren’t Arab. That’s probably racist. Not to mention the other cultural offenses – shouldn’t I be upset, as a Catholic, that people dress up as Christmas presents, nuns, priests, or the Easter bunny?

    My argument is that holidays have been commercialized. It’s ok to dress up as something Christmas-esque for Halloween because most people think of Santa before the birth of Christ. Same with the Easter bunny. Dia de los Muertos is just the next commercialized holiday, and I think that’s where the largest issue is. It’s not that people are uneducated, or trying to be racist, or even accidentally being so – there is a belief as a whole, that any part of any holiday can be celebrated at any time of the year, and it’s all in good fun.

    I guess I feel like pointing out that if white people shouldn’t celebrate Dias de los Muertos, then maybe no one besides Irish people should celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Or that anyone who doesn’t believe the religious history behind Easter should ever eat Cadbury Eggs or those delicious Reese’s Peanut Butter Easter Eggs (which everyone knows is the best kind of the holiday varieties). The list goes on and on. Education is NEVER a bad thing, and learning about these holidays/cultures/traditions cannot, in any way, shape, or form, be harmful. Using your brain and just thinking about it couldn’t hurt, which I think was your main point. However, it’s my belief that if you try too hard to please everyone, you pretty much don’t stand for anything. You lose your own culture or feeling of self because, you never know, it might just offend somebody. We could all probably stop being so sensitive about everything. I mean, we won’t all be equal until we stop pointing out all of our differences, right?

    • i agree with some of what you have to say, and am happy you presented your arguments respectfully… but unfortunately i disagree with your fundamental point that we should all stop being so sensitive. this is not about sensitivity. it is about respect. it is about having fun without having other people’s cultures and identities be at the butt of a misguided joke or costume. it is about pushing people to think outside the box instead of buying storebought costumes with names like “gypsy princess” or “sexy squaw.” it is part of a larger system of inequities and problems that we probably should be discussing, but i’m talking very specifically in the context of halloween costumes here, not every single cultural event ever.

      as i have pointed out to many others who have commented in disagreement with the points i raise in this post, but is worth reiterating: i’m not trying to tell people what they can or cannot do. i am telling you that it makes me feel uncomfortable to see white people doing race drag as halloween costumes. it makes me angry to see people using racist stereotypes at halloween costumes. it ruins my night and makes me want to yell at people (even if it is unintentional). i’m saying if you took the time to read this, and think about whether or not your halloween costume might be offensive, you can probably take the time to think of something better that might lead to tons of people around you potentially not feeling mocked. that sounds rather simple and pleasant to me.

      i’m not saying people should try to “please everyone” as you seem to have taken away from this post, unfortunately. rather, i’m saying they should try to operate with a basic modicum of respect, and that there are so many more much better and much more creative halloween costumes available to folks. i’m not trying to tell people what they should or should not be offended by – as your example of catholicism (religion is cultural yes, but at the end of the day a choice – race is not). i’m telling people who might otherwise not realize that . this isn’t about “making everything about race,” this is about whiteness, or what whiteness is at the end of the day. it’s about being conscious of racial stereotypes (and the damage they do) and seeing how they come to light quite explicitly in many cases around halloween, and sometimes in less obvious ways.

  13. Larissa

    I apologize for butting in, and I didn’t read ALL of Aubrey’s comment, but one thing stood out that I have to agree with her on.

    When she said hypothetically that people with a non-Irish background shouldn’t be able to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t about getting drunk and kissing random girls who are Irish (I find it funny that people of all races buy “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” merchandise). Somehow, the United States has warped that holiday into some “It’s St. Patrick’s Day, let’s go to the bar and get drunk off our asses holiday”. I’m not saying I get offended by it, because I don’t, and I find that odd because I am mostly Irish, but that’s pretty disrespectful too, if you ask me.

    The United States is a melting pot of cultures. I myself am a quarter Hispanic. And it is for this reason I must ask this question: Are we not allowed to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos just because of the color of our skin? What if we find the celebration and holiday beautiful as well? I don’t think it’s fair that just because we are not fully or half Latina/Latino we can’t honor those who have died in our family during Dia de Los Muertos. Halloween is the day before Dia de Los Muertos. If we have the mindset that we are honoring those who have died while wearing skullcandy makeup, and we sincerely are, then why can’t we?

    I mean no disrespect.

    • this isn’t about creating gatekeepers who can say who is or isn’t allowed to dress as what or whichever. you can ask me what i think about this but this post (and this blog) is not an attempt at doling out permission slips for people who have moral quandries about dressing up and celebrating cultures other than their own. when you ask “If we have the mindset that we are honoring those who have died while wearing skullcandy makeup, and we sincerely are, then why can’t we? ” i can’t give you an answer. i am not mexican. i imagine there are many mexicans who think that’s great, others (like the person whose post i link to) not so much.

      what i am saying is think critically. what would your reaction be if someone asked, what are you dressed as? and you answered “dia de los meurtos sugar skull” and someone asked you if you were hispanic, someone asked you why, someone told you it bothered them. would you react defensively? would you take it into consideration and actually try and think up a different costume?

      saying “happy day of the dead!” is one thing, dressing up as something you do not know much about under the guise of “honoring” on a different day and different context is quite another.

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  15. Yeah, I hate when people take parts of a culture and use them for their own personal gain when they don’t care about the culture as a whole. Sugar Skulls look “cool” to them, so they just go with that. You see this with white pin up girls a lot. Or when companies take parts of Native American or Asian culture, create some mass production of novelty products or clothing articles to make money off of. They have no legit interest in the culture of others….their only reason is to make money. That’s when stuff like this becomes a problem.

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    Many thanks for sharing!

  17. Pandora

    Last year, during Halloween in New Orleans, I saw face painters doing sugar skull makeup for people a fee. I knew a little about what they were and thought they were really beautiful, so I filed the idea away for a future Halloween. Like Aubrey, I was looking up some ideas and ran across the debate about cultural / racial stereotypes. So, not ever wanting to be offensive, I started to dig (and ended up here). In the process, have really learned about the the Dia de Los Muertos, which I think is a beautiful celebration. I wish that it was more widely celebrated here in the US. So while I understand that many go about the sugar skull “trend” without thinking about the cultural and emotional significance it has for so many, it can also lead to more awareness and appreciation of the culture and the holiday. I suppose I associate the sugar skulls more specifically with the Day of the Dead holiday than a racial stereotype. I think they are different than the blatantly disrespectful Terrorist or Hombre or Sqaw costumes. No one would ever say “I chose this costume because it’s really beautiful” about any of those. And I completely agree that those sort of costumes are hurtful and should be avoided. Thanks for the post!

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