Tuesday, October 30, 2007
What's wrong with this costume?
A lot! According to wrong www.tolerance.com "the "Indian" get-up prevails each year as culture-turned-costume. But did you know few Native Americans wore buckskin and headbands and even fewer wore them together? Did you know "war paint" and feathers carry religious meaning and were never worn by Native American children?"
Wow! Who knew?
My daughter left the house the other night in high spirits dressed as Hannah Montana...and she looked great and she thought so, too. By the time she came home, however, she wasn't so thrilled to be Hannah Montana. Someone at the party told her she didn't look like Hannah Montana (like anyone but Hannah Montana would look like Hannah Montana).
She asked if she could have another costume for her school "Halloween Runway" and I agreed. Then we sat down and looked at costumes online. As we were looking, I would make suggestions-and she would say, "no, I don't think so." It finally dawned on me that the models in the costumes were mostly BLONDE-like Hannah Montana-and my daughter knew she 'didn't look like that'.
She would stop and consider costumes modeled by brunettes-"Indian Princesses" were consistently dark haired-but she knows that Native Americans rarely if ever dressed like the costumes displayed and she thought that was "making fun" of Native Americans (YEAH!).
At the end of the day, she settled on a Renaissance period costume (modeled by a dark-haired girl, of course).
The entire episode made me realize that something a 'simple' and fun-spirited thing like a Halloween costume can send messages we aren't even aware that we send. And unfortunately, the messages aren't always positive.
They ask you to consider the difference between 'scary' costumes and violent ones. They ask you to consider whether or not your 'historical' costume, like the "Indian Princess" furthers mis-information about historical figures. They ask you to consider if the costume furthers the notion in our culture that 'blonde is beautiful', which makes a statement about who/what is beautiful and what isn't. It was not a coincidence that the majority of costume models we looked at were blonde.
These things may seem a bit silly or overly politically correct-but unless you have experienced bias, racism (or any other ism)it really isn't our call.
So when you are out trick-or-treating, take a look at the costumes and judge for yourself. Then, when things settle down talk to your kids about what you observed and ask them how they would feel is they were Native American and no one understood their culture or traditions. Ask them about the "Mental Patient" or Hannibal Lecter costume effect on reinforcing our fears of people who struggle with mental illness.
By asking them about how they would feel in another person's place, you open the door to conversations and actions that show how you are combating 'isms' one at a time. As always, you are the best example.