Nov 022011
 
Authors: Lydia Jorden

I never really had an affinity for Halloween. But when my friends wanted to go out with me, I had no choice but to succumb to the Halloween ritual of searching through slutty costumes and giving advice to others on which outfit made them look the best.

It wasn’t a positive experience. My strong ties to Native American culture made the Halloween costume shopping trip one of eye opening proportions, and I am repulsed by what I found.

How is it that in such an advanced society, such as ours, human beings continue to ostracize one another through demeaning and demoralizing costumes?

Upon walking into the first store, my eyes scanned the wall for a costume that would encompass the all too familiar on Halloween slut look. Slutty flight attendant, slutty police officer, slutty Lady Gaga, slutty Native American, slutty…wait, what?

When I walked back to the dressing room area with my friend, the “Indian Princess” costume had already been pulled multiple times for both kids and adults.

The costume consists of a short hem line, low top, fringe and of course, the headdress.

I question whether people are aware of the Native American culture and if they comprehend what the sacred headdress means to a Native American community. Are the individuals who choose to pose as a culture really too naïve to understand that dressing up like this is offensive because the holiness of a culture is mocked for the world to laugh at, or do they just not care?

The University of Ohio recently started a campaign to stop the nonsense of dressing up as a culture with their, “We are a culture, not a costume” tagline.

In a frightening study of 1,338 Halloween participants’ results follow:

222 voted, “Yes. A costume depicting an entire ethnic group is offensive.”

282 voted, “Yes, most of the time. It’s wrong to wear a costume perpetuating negative stereotypes, but some costumes aren’t negative.”

398 voted, “No, most of the time. People are being overly sensitive. Blackface is going too far, but I don’t have much of a problem with most such costumes.”

436 voted, “No. Halloween is a time for fun. Anything and everything goes.”

Maybe the 436 people who voted that “anything goes” aren’t aware of the religiousness of the headdress they put on to imitate that culture.

The Indian headdress was a way that the Native Americans could cling to their culture. The feathers represent acts of bravery that a warrior earned through courageous acts, almost, at times, signally adulthood.

The act of receiving a feather for a headdress was a long process. The warrior had to undergo fasting and meditation to prepare for such an event. An eagle feather was even more sacred and difficult to earn.

Native Americans saw the eagle as a messenger of God, and thus receiving a feather of such proportions was only possible in times of facing great hardships.

Some argue that by dressing up as these cultures they are honoring the Native Americans.

However, it’s difficult to see how being completely unaware of the culture and fulfilling unauthentic stereotypes is anything honorable.

Maybe the 436 people who voted that anything goes aren’t aware of the incorrect stereotypes they are trying to imitate.

Running around, as I see so many people in these costumes do, chanting and pounding on their chest is no way to honor a culture.

This issue is important to understanding that it is not OK to dress up as a culture and completely mock someone’s traditions.

The easiest thing you can do is to talk to children about these types of costumes. Teach them about other cultures. Once a child can make the choice to dress up as something other than an ethnicity, the choice will continue throughout life and trickle down to the people that individual associates with.

The time has come for human beings to embrace each other’s differences, not artificially simulate them.

It’s not about being uptight or sensitive; it’s about doing the right thing.

Lydia Jorden is a junior business major. Her column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:29 pm

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