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5 Myths About Costumes and Themes

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This month, we’ve shared all the different ways we can live our KD values. We’ve explored how to demonstrate our confidence by trying new things, ways to make our KD values part of our daily routine, and which KD founder we are most like.  All of these are powerful and fun ways to show the world what Kappa Delta is all about. How can we continue to keep our values in mind when making the right decision isn’t as obvious?

Halloween is right around the corner, and it can be one of the most fun weekends of the year! As we celebrate this holiday, it’s important to consider how our behavior reflects who we are and how it impacts those around us. We need to be aware of how easily cultural appropriation and other insensitive actions can creep into our celebrations. Be sure to take extra care in selecting costumes and party themes.

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. In short, it means we take pieces of someone’s identity and turn it into a costume. For example, when we dress in mustaches, sombreros and ponchos for a Cinco de Mayo celebration we make light of the Mexican culture. When we dress in Native American headdresses and face paint for a Cowboys and Indians party, we perpetuate harmful stereotypes and hurt people. We might have a limited understanding of these cultures, but we turn their recognizable, physical traits into a character. While these might seem harmless, the impact can be significant. Below are five myths related to cultural appropriation that we have debunked!

1. “It’s just a costume!” While it might be just a costume to you, it is someone else’s identity. There is a lot of history behind each culture, and it isn’t fair to dress up as a part of someone’s story. Someone’s culture, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or religion is not a costume.

2. “It’s fun and shouldn’t be taken seriously.” Dressing up is fun! However, our costumes and themes do send a message, whether we want them to or not. Clever signs and inside jokes about others may seem funny in the moment, but can be offensive to other cultures, communities and groups of people. It is up to us to make sure our attire and messages are positive and inclusive.

3. “My friends of this background said it wasn’t offensive, so it’s ok.” The discussion on cultural appropriation is bigger than just our circle of friends or our campus. When we dress as someone else’s culture or race, we aren’t only impacting the people we know, we are impacting everyone who holds that identity.

4. “It wasn’t intended to be hateful.” Harmless intentions don’t change the harmful impact. We need to think through not only what we mean by dressing up in a certain costume, but also how it could be interpreted from someone on the outside.

5. “People are so sensitive over everything these days.” It is easy to view a concern as overly sensitive when it doesn’t affect us personally. However, as Kappa Deltas, we promise to try and understand those who are different from us. In all we do and say, we should send the message that we value others’ perspectives.

The Kappa Delta Creed reminds us that “through love of those within our circle, we learn to know and better understand those without our circle.” Take a moment to understand how your actions impact others, be they fellow sisters or someone you’ve never met, even if you don’t initially see the harm. Turning someone’s identity into a costume or a party theme creates an impression of who you think they are before getting to know the history or significance of their identity.

This Halloween, and as you plan your next theme party, spend some extra time thinking through your plans carefully.  Be creative and try a bit harder. When we know better, we should do better. Besides, there is no shortage of clever and fun costumes that align with our values!

For more on cultural appropriation, check out this blog post from our friends at Delta Delta Delta.

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