Halloween is just one day away, and in the last few weeks, something has been on my mind. As I see photos and videos of Halloween makeup tutorials and costumes dominating the conversation within the beauty community, I can't help but feel inclined to talk about cultural appropriation.
WHAT IS CULTURAL APPROPRIATION?
I think this quote from Everyday Feminism does a great job at synthesizing it:
In short: Cultural appropriation is when somebody adopts aspects of a culture that’s not their own. But that’s only the most basic definition. A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation also refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group. That’s why cultural appropriation is not the same as cultural exchange, when people share mutually with each other – because cultural exchange lacks that systemic power dynamic. It’s also not the same as assimilation, when marginalized people adopt elements of the dominant culture in order to survive conditions that make life more of a struggle if they don’t.
So now that we know what cultural appropriation is, what the f!^% does it have to do with beauty?
CULTURAL APPROPRIATION & THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY
You may be wondering why my beauty blog has a post about cultural appropriation and what that could possibly have to do with makeup, beauty or the beauty industry.
Honestly, I don't see how makeup, beauty and the beauty industry can be separated from cultural appropriation since oftentimes, the ways in which we see cultural appropriation perpetuated is via beauty culture (think Miley Cyrus [here and here] and Kylie Jenner, for example). Halloween isn't the only time of year where the beauty industry is implicated in this issue. But it does stay stuck on my mind when I see costumes that appropriate cultures constantly each day.
This has been a trying few weeks leading up to Halloween. I have seen makeup artists and Instagram/YouTube beauty bloggers make themselves up as a calavera or sugar skull, an African American (yep), Gypsys/"Demented Fortune Tellers" (also an ableist slur), and Indians, all as "costumes."
This is precisely the type of issue that shows the ways that the beauty industry and beauty culture are inexplicably intertwined with white supremacy, and shows how they reinforce one another. This is why I feel cultural appropriation is important to highlight on this particular beauty blog. The appropriation of the cultures of marginalized peoples by the beauty community (as well as the general population) for the purposes of a "fun" costume shows the real life implications of white supremacist culture ingrained within the beauty industry. And it's a major problem.
I'm not an expert on cultural appropriation. And given the privileges that I have based on my identities (particularly as a white person), I acknowledge that my voice should by no means be heard louder than communities who experience direct harm from this issue. That is why I'm going to encourage you to focus your attention on a number of really great and educational resources I've collected that focus on cultural appropriation, white supremacy and racism.
Kat Blaque on Everyday Feminism, "Don't Be a Racist for Halloween"
Leticia, Halloween & Cultural Appropriation
Marina Watanabe, "What Is Cultural Appropriation?"
Amandla Stenberg, "Don't Cash Crop On My Corn Rows"
Everyday Feminism, "Is Your Halloween Costume Racist?"
This is definitely not everything that exists out there, but I wanted to list a few resources that I have enjoyed. By no means should people of color be expected to be a bridge to critical consciousness regarding racism or cultural appropriation. If you have questions about cultural appropriation or want to chat, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
And just in case you or someone you know need some ideas, here is a list of easy (and totally creative and original...) costumes.
- Pop Art Cartoon
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Are you heading out to a Halloween party this weekend? Will you be out Trick or Treating? Spending time with friends or family that you value?
These are inspired largely by Adrian Piper's Calling Card project as well as work done with Ann Russo called the Note Card Revolution. I invite you to print these note cards and keep them with you in case you experience any instances of harm this weekend.
This first note card is a message of support and affirmation meant for anyone who may experience the harm of offensive Halloween costumes or who might be confronted when pointing out a costume as offensive.
The second note card is an invitation message meant to call in anyone who may be wearing a culturally appropriating costume. This card invites the person to consider their costume within a larger context.
I deeply appreciate those who consider using these note cards this weekend! I believe using these note cards is a non violent and transformative act.
as always, in lipstick & solidarity,