Samantha Gauvain is an Official CAPA’s Blogger for Fall 2014, sharing her story in weekly CAPA World posts. A Journalism major at Arizona State University, she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.
In this week’s post, Samantha thinks about diversity while choosing her Halloween costume and urges the rest of us to be culturally considerate when designing our own.
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As I cross the threshold, a bloody priest blesses my head as a ring of smoke from the werewolves drifts into the building. Six witches enter and the group of ghouls laughs as I walk by.
Halloween in Dublin is not for the faint of heart; the city was once home to Bram Stoker and there are enough fables and legends to supply a Halloween store. Griffith College is supposedly haunted, although the ghosts on this night resemble Charlie Brown more than Moaning Myrtle. The lights from Griffith’s picnic area reflect off the cold puddles in the yard and make my ornaments glimmer; for Dublin’s frightening Halloween, I am a Christmas tree. To say the least, it’s an original idea and I’ll be able to wear my ugly sweater again in two months.
After much speculation and Pinterest research, I was able to figure out how Dublin celebrates All Hallows Eve. Now, I had figured it would not compare to the madness at Salem, Mass. every year but I didn’t expect Dublin to be this holiday-crazed (which is a welcome turn of events).
The Bram Stoker festival was this past week and featured underground tours of St. Stephen’s Green, a zipline, Hollywood Horror showings and a literary death match, amongst other ghastly ghoulish things. Despite the wide availability of Irish myths, choosing a costume was surprisingly difficult (while working with a student’s budget… I have to save at least enough money to eat Cornucopia’s petrified hummus dish.) Costumes fit for parade are plentiful but let’s be realistic, no college student wants to show up at the school party looking like the Moth Man or a Banshee. So what’s left? Native American princess? Swedish milkmaid? A Geisha? A Leprechaun? Unfortunately, Halloween is riddled with harmful stereotypes, hence the Mistletoe sweater.
Prior to studying abroad, I hadn’t really considered whom my costume might affect; there just wasn’t a very diverse population in Salem, NH. Back home, it’s common to see someone dressed up in a slinky milkmaid dress or even as an “uncommon” religious figure and no one thinks twice because running into someone who is actually a part of that culture is rare, thus no one is offended and the practice continues.
After starting my costume search, I noticed I was leaning towards “easier ideas”: buy a white dress, a vest and cow plush. Done–Halloween costume complete in fifteen minutes. But then I thought of the Swedish students in my classes and thought of how they would view my costume. Would they find it amusing or think I am mocking their culture? I might not receive an overwhelming negative reaction to that idea because the Swedish population is small here, but how about a leprechaun? I doubt very many Dubliners would find that amusing and I would most likely be immediately labeled as an American. It’s the same concept and it’s inconsiderate; being ostracized at the Halloween party probably isn’t that fun either.
There’s a host of costumes that fall into this category and I’m not going to preach about being culturally considerate, but I urge you to think of your costume and whom it affects. Or put yourself in that person’s shoes; if someone dressed up as a “dumb, blonde American” I’d probably be offended (it’s not a very good example, but work with me here).
The upside to the eternal costume dilemma is that don’t have to dress up like a cat… again. Sites like Pinterest and even a lot of fashion magazines are loaded with costume ideas and most of them are either super creative or hysterical; my roommate is dressing up as Sally from “Nightmare before Christmas” and her makeup is deadly. Think imaginative Parks and Rec. meets professional looking DIY Halloween makeup and that’s basically Pinterest.
Anyways, this is the perfect time to show off your artistic – or at the very least craft scissor – skills. You’re also more likely to win some contests that way and I mean come on, would you rather look like a disheveled “Mexican” or sip pumpkin drinks for free the entire night? Personally, I’m on fall’s pumpkin spice kick and my battery-operated twinkle lights and bag full of Christmas candy should at least put me within the top twenty.