Halloween is Not a Night For Cultural Appropriation

Due to the feminist movement, the hypersexualization Halloween costumes is a topic that is often discussed.

The discourse surrounding how costumes can be culturally appropriative is popular, though not taken seriously.Culturally appropriative costumes have been condemned by many media outlets and social critics alike; many costumes that are culturally appropriative are still highly marketed, especially to women in their “sexy” forms. Ethnically themed costumes such as “gypsy” are culturally appropriative, and the female versions of the “gypsy” costume are often hypersexualized. This produces a false depiction of the Romani women, who have been historically marginalized and persecuted.

e572212aa674622f5bdb3154a069aaca.jpg    As intersectional feminists it is crucial that we are cognizant of issues related to race and gender. We should strive to be more aware of racism, and the history of the colonization and oppression of marginalized peoples across the globe. Harmful stereotypes attributed to a culture in its generalized form erodes the rich and fascinating history of the people within those cultures and provides us with a distorted reality of their values and customs. Let us consider the Romani people to understand how popular stereotypes of a culture can distort our views of the lived reality of specific ethnic groups.

    The historical narrative of the Romani people is permeated by horrific persecutions. In World War II, Romani people were targeted by the Nazi regime in Germany; the genocide of Roma people in the Holocaust is often less known than the atrocities committed against Jewish people. As late as 2000, Romani women have been victims of forced sterilization because of their ethnicity.

These important histories are muddled by media representation of the Roma people as “mysterious thieves” and “fortune tellers.” The commodification of “gypsy” halloween costumes have created an inaccurate perception of the Roma people, especially women. Depicting the “gypsy” woman as a a one-dimensional, hypersexualized object only serves to harm women of Romani descent today. This is a problem that affects a multitude women in other cultures. In The “Gypsy” Stereotype and the Sexualization of Romani Women, Ian Hancock argues that minority women are often reduced down to their sexuality, and are depicted in the media as objects of desire. As intersectional feminists, being mindful and sensitive of utilizing false images of another culture for aesthetic purposes will help in our effort to eradicate dangerous stereotypes; in doing so, we might bring to light the true history of the ethnic minorities who are often depicted as mere “costumes.”

     Although Halloween is a lighthearted and creative holiday for one to dress up as something they are not, such as a Captain America or Hermione Granger; it is deeply insensitive for someone to appropriate the dress of a culture they are not part of.


Brenna Resnick and Sarvenaz Farzad, Women’s Museum of California Interns
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