writing
CULTures are not costumes
and why zetas should care
I had the pleasure of writing ZTA's annual Halloween content in 2019. Each year, we try to educate social media followers about cultural appropriation. This started in my first year at ZTA, 2015. I'm proud of this important work.
This year, instead of giving examples of cultural appropriation, the direction was more aimed at why sorority women should care. The correlation is an easy one, to me.
Click the button to read the blog or keep scrolling to see the text (with no supporting images) below.
accompanying graphics by Kahlie Cannon
Cultures are not costumes and why Zetas should care
By Hailey Rogers, Director of Digital Media (Delta Psi alumna)
The case for caring
“Why should we care about other people?”
This question is easy for Zetas to answer. It’s in multiple lines of The Creed, and it’s taught through all our Nine Key Values. Caring for others is the foundation sisterhood is built on. Caring about others makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Heck, for many of us, we feel it’s our calling in life!
So why should we behave any differently when we’re dressing up in costume? Whether it’s Halloween, a theme party or just a hilarious Tuesday night, we are still called “to think in terms of all mankind,” “to be true to those within and without our circle” and “to seek understanding that we might gain true wisdom.”
If we truly align ourselves with those concepts, being considerate and respectful of others’ personal identities—like their backgrounds, cultures, sexual identities, religions, etc.—should come naturally.
Cultures are not costumes.
We’ve talked about this—cultures are not costumes— year after year, and by now, we’ve all heard the term “cultural appropriation” and know it can cause some big issues, especially around Halloween.
Appropriation is when someone takes something for their own use without the owner’s permission. The items you wear for one night may hold great significance for another person’s culture or religion, or they might be viewed as poking fun at someone’s situation or personal identity for which they face discrimination. Some examples include:
Wearing a sombrero and a poncho to depict a culture that is not your own
“Sexy” nun costumes that tear down a person’s religious beliefs
Stereotypical “white trash” or “homeless” attire, which often pokes fun at people who face socioeconomic disadvantages
Ultimately, even if something doesn’t offend you personally, it might make someone else uncomfortable or feel belittled, and as Zetas, that’s not how we ever want to make anyone feel.
Ideas for great, funny, impressive, epic costumes are literally endless. So why choose one costume that could hurt someone else out of thousands of possibilities?
How to #DoBetter
The first step toward doing better is simply to think about the impact of your actions. You may not intend to be offensive, but try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think about how your actions might make them feel.
Before you head out this Halloween, consider the following questions. If you can answer yes to all of them, your costume is probably good to go.
Is my costume:
not stereotypical?
a positive representation of my personal character?
something I’d send a photo of to my local or campus newspaper?
respectful of all groups of people or cultures?
representing ZTA’s values and The Creed well?
Even if you can honestly answer “yes” to all those questions, there still may be room for error; but this is a good place to start. If you’re still unsure how others may perceive your costume, maybe you should consider choosing another one.
Let’s sum it up.
We aren’t citing our values and Creed because we want to shame you or explicitly tell you how to dress. We reiterate these points because the connections between caring and not making costume-related mistakes couldn’t be clearer. Being a kind, respectful human is part of being a Zeta Tau Alpha.
Halloween is supposed to be fun, so let’s do our part to make it fun for everyone—including those “within and without our circle.”
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