Doesn’t everyone have that one friend who doesn’t dress up for Halloween, but likes to come up with ways to describe his/her costume anyway, as in “I’m dressed as a pedestrian.”
At first I declared I was dressed Brazilian, after deciding not to change my shirt in response to my 8 year old’s announcement that “I did not look good” in the Happy Halloween T-shirt I planned to wear to school as Room Parent today. While he didn’t articulate it, I’ve gained a few pounds on my already buxom figure, so the T-shirt is a little more fitted than the last time I wore it. It’s still really comfortable, completely suitable, but there’s no camouflaging the girls.
When I first went to Brazil with my American self-consciousness years ago I thought women were exploited, given the bare and form exposing clothes popuralized in advertising and media. Until I realized people are just more comfortable in their skin. This is my body…so what? So, I’m dressed as a self-confident Brazilian. I like my T-shirt. So what?
But then I stopped by Trader Joe’s this morning saw that one of the employees was dressed up as…AN ASIAN WOMAN…Eeeek! I’m shocked! I’m aghast! Isn’t that inapproprate?
Well, yes, it is inappropriate to “dress-up” as another culture. It appropriates and essentializes others by turning ‘real people’ into shallow, stereotypic objects. Even my 8 year old knew it would be racist to dress up as a “Native American” when we saw the costume, and both felt a little sick to our stomach’s at the sign for “Asian Acceccories” posted at another Halloween store.
But there was something notable about this young woman dressed as an Asian Person. She was Asian! At first I was confused, then smiled. Was she purposely making fun of the racism and stereotypes that the holiday brings out. Or did she wake up this morning and think “oh crap, it’s Halloween and I need a costume,” and just go into her closet? Is it a political statement? Is she parodying herself?
So, for now, I’m going as a Jew (I’m Jewish). And, since I’m still not changing my shirt, I guess I’m going as a Brazilian Jew.
How about you?