Wear a Costume, Not a Culture

Photo by Ann Li

Halloweekend is finally here! This means lots of candy and scary films but it also means costumes. Since Halloweekend is a yearly Penn State event, many of you have hopefully figured out your costume(s) for the lively weekend.

Recently, some costumes have been deemed to be a part of “culture appropriation,” which is when you use elements of a culture that isn’t your own and make it offensive to the culture you are adapting from.

Kelly McNeice, a junior journalism major and avid Halloween fanatic, tries to avoid cultural appropriation during this time of year because she knows that feelings do get hurt because of the usage of culture as a costume trope.

“Cultural appropriation is offensive because people use someone else’s life and their culture as essentially a joke. They get to take the costume off at the end of the night but the culture they are emanating doesn’t get to escape the stereotype that is imposed upon them,” said McNeice.

Social media has played a big part in the spread of this term because celebrities participate in culture appropriation very often without even noticing it.

“Social media and celebrities definitely advance the idea that cultural appropriation isn’t as as bad as it is. When people see their friends dressed up as ‘sexy Pocahontas’ all they see is the costume and they think it’s cute but they forget about the culture behind it. It’s promoting a blasé attitude regarding cultural appropriation,” says McNeice.

To avoid creating backlash on your “sexy Pocahontas” selfies, Valley has some tips to use this Halloweekend.


Khloé Kardashian has been a target for cultural appropriation in the past and one of her most memorable moments actually ended up in an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Her Instagram caption for her all black outfit with a lace veil offended many people over social media and at the time she didn’t understand why. Later on in the episode, she asked two Muslim women if they thought what she wrote was offensive and they explained that the caption sexualized their culture.


If you are ever in doubt, be a mermaid or another fictional creature. You will receive nothing but compliments with your unicorn hair or a cute fairy tutu. No one’s feelings get hurt and you get to enjoy a night out without a debate.

Halloween is meant for candy and friends bonding over scary movies, don’t let offensive comments block up your mentions or offend someone while you’re at a party. If you have to think twice about whether or not it will offend anyone, chances are that it will. So ditch it for a mermaid costume or stay warm in your Darth Vader onesie. But whichever costume you choose, make sure it’s not a culture.