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October 26, 2011 8:53 AM   Subscribe

"We're a culture, not a costume." Noted... however, you are also now a meme.
posted by hermitosis (514 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Doesn't it have to be overused to death to become a meme?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:00 AM on October 26, 2011


Some of them are funny -- I like the nyan cat, and the Scream -- but a lot of the meme images seem to be trying to make the anti-racist posters "funny" by making them racist.
posted by jeather at 9:01 AM on October 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


I was going to say that the original Ohio University thing was cool, but then I saw the meme thing and that's...super not cool. WTH.
posted by sweetkid at 9:01 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is really sad to me. A totally valid message is being lost for the sake of LOLZ. Making a picture of Dracula asking you not to dress up like him lets you pretend that the whole campaign is a joke. It's not. Last year, I had to explain to my roommate why it was not OK for her to dress up like "an Indian... I mean, Native American." The co-opting of this as something funny is a bad call.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:02 AM on October 26, 2011 [40 favorites]


On Facebook one night, I peeked into the photos of a Halloween party of someone I went to high school but didn't really hang out with (for reasons that will soon become very clear.) One of the gentlemen was dressed in overalls, fake jewelery and was painted all orange with fake tanning cream. I kept seeing him in the party being all grimace-y. For a while I couldn't figure out who the hell he was. I thought it was some sort of weird haunted scarecrow/pumpkin man costume. Then it hit me.

It was Mr. T. The tanning creme was blackface. This party was Brooklyn for fuck's sake. I can only assume he either put the stuff on in the bathroom after getting there, or it was his house the party was being held at. Because holy shit.
posted by griphus at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


a lot of the meme images seem to be trying to make the anti-racist posters "funny" by making them racist.
This is a thing.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2011


Some of them are funny -- I like the nyan cat, and the Scream -- but a lot of the meme images seem to be trying to make the anti-racist posters "funny" by making them racist.

Yeah wow.
posted by sweetkid at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2011


The co-opting of this as something funny is a bad call.

So basically you're saying it's a cultural message, not a costume for dressing up unrelated jokes? That the meme is not what it truly is, and that this is not okay?
posted by RogerB at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


A totally valid message is being lost for the sake of LOLZ.

I agree that the meme page is not OK, but I don't know if I'd say the message is being lost. For one thing, someone would have to heard of this message first. And second, someone would have to visit the used-to-be-useful knowyourmeme.
posted by DU at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2011


someone would have to visit the used-to-be-useful knowyourmeme.

Not really. I've been seeing some of these (the sillier ones) popping up on FB all morning.
posted by hermitosis at 9:07 AM on October 26, 2011


Yeah…surprisingly, making image macros out of anti-racism campaign posters doesn't really make me feel lighthearted.
posted by LMGM at 9:07 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man, some of those "parodies" are pretty fucking racist.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:08 AM on October 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


There is no privilege, no matter how stupid and meaningless, that won't be immediately and vigorously defending. How dare anybody tell a white frat boy that he it's insensitive for him to wear blackface to his frat party? It's political correctness gone wild!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:08 AM on October 26, 2011 [31 favorites]


"It's so easy to use geico.com, even a caveman could do it."
posted by Nomyte at 9:08 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


And second, someone would have to visit the used-to-be-useful knowyourmeme.

Yeah these popped up on BoingBoing yesterday.
posted by griphus at 9:09 AM on October 26, 2011


I agree that the meme page is not OK, but I don't know if I'd say the message is being lost. For one thing, someone would have to heard of this message first. And second, someone would have to visit the used-to-be-useful knowyourmeme.

I didn't even know this was a thing until I saw the Avatar picture on Nerds Ruin Everything. So there's that.
posted by mysterpigg at 9:09 AM on October 26, 2011


DU, the reason I think the message will be lost is that it seems like the meme is picking up too quickly. This isn't be appropriated after the fact, it's being concurrently repurposed, and the number of fake posters already far outstrips the number of real ones. The original intent is almost certain to be buried beneath the onslaught of glib cartoons put out by unthinkingly privileged teenagers.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:09 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


One more reason why the internet is stupid. Seriously, this is not a good thing.
posted by koeselitz at 9:09 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


beING appropriated. Edit button, please.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2011


Geisha girls are really not okay for costumes? Someone explain to me how that is racist?
posted by empath at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I assume that the original Ohio University plan was to have it catch on and create a meme because then it would get a lot of coverage as opposed to fading away into obscurity. So I don't object to Daleks or Elmo, because that seems to be more a signal boost than a "racism is ironically funny amirite?" But at least half of the new ones are just racist crap which aren't funny, aren't clever, and don't do anything positive for the campaign.

It's a shame, because I thought the campaign was really clever.
posted by jeather at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I'm going to dress up as an American for Halloween, all it will take is to walk around whining ever so earnestly.
posted by atrazine at 9:12 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wearing a burkha as a costume is one thing, but a mariachi, as given in the original article, is not a race of people. In fact, a mariachi wears a specific costume. Would it be offensive to be a mime?

Some of the parodies are apt.
posted by cmoj at 9:12 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Geisha girls are really not okay for costumes? Someone explain to me how that is racist?

It's kind of like if they had a "chav" costume and called it "English Girl" or something. It sort of perpetuates the "all women from this place are like THIS".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Back off, I'm a scientist, not a costume.

But this is approximately 65% okay.
posted by cereselle at 9:15 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not a fan of those memes at all, ugh. But thank god for the original campaign and that SOMEONE is saying something about this. It seems to have gotten much worse since I was in college. It's not even limited to halloween or themed frat parties: keffiyehs and headdresses as fashion accessories, etc.

It's so hard to explain to some people that they're not being funny or "outrageous," they're just being insensitive pricks.
posted by naju at 9:15 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Geisha girls are really not okay for costumes? Someone explain to me how that is racist."

The theory of that (and the other ads) appears to be that if a stereotypical costume is only worn by a particular culture/race the somebody else wearing it is offensive.

This is why people wearing American Football gear or Revolutionary War costumes are so completely reviled in other countries.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:16 AM on October 26, 2011 [26 favorites]


empath: for starters, you should think about saying "geisha" and not "geisha girls," which is now considered a dated way to refer to them. Second: it's racist because it's an appropriation of a cultural heritage that is not your own. Geisha do not exist outside of Japanese history, and they are not the world's to latch onto and recontextualize. From outside, you're looking at, "Hey, cute outfit!" From inside, there's a lot more to unpack there than simply the make-up and kimono, and by boiling to down to just that because you need a holiday costume, you're showing that you don't know enough about the history to wear it respectfully.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:16 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is no mariachi in the original ad; the article gets it wrong. There is a caricatured Mexican in a mustache wearing a sombrero and poncho riding a donkey.

Nobody would object to somebody wearing a Mariacho's charros. I don't recall Three Amigos being protested.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:17 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


cmoj i feel like the number of cork-skulled fuckworths that i run into with LOLRACE costumes far outstrip the number of non-fuckworths dressing up in a thoughtful way. hence the campaign.
posted by beefetish at 9:17 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]



Nobody would object to somebody wearing a Mariacho's charros. I don't recall Three Amigos being protested.

Spectacular point.
posted by sweetkid at 9:18 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Zecora one is pretty lol.
posted by Spacelegoman at 9:18 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no privilege, no matter how stupid and meaningless, that won't be immediately and vigorously defending. How dare anybody tell a white frat boy that he it's insensitive for him to wear blackface to his frat party? It's political correctness gone wild!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:08 AM on 10/26
[2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


Thanks for helping me de-abstract my discomfort at all the anger these posters were generating on Tumblr a few days ago. It was an interesting experience watching the people I follow try to indignately justify the privilege they usually fight against. I guess it's not privilege if they like it.
posted by gc at 9:18 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Second: it's racist because it's an appropriation of a cultural heritage that is not your own.

I think it's kind of racist to say that Geisha's belong to the Japanese only, and that only Mexicans can be Mariachis. I mean, really. Would it be racist for a Japanese guy to wear a cowboy costume?
posted by empath at 9:18 AM on October 26, 2011 [41 favorites]


Geisha girls are really not okay for costumes? Someone explain to me how that is racist?

Yeah I had no idea. 2 years ago I was at a party where 3 different girls were dressed up as geishas. It's pretty popular since "Memoirs of a geisha", and in Kyoto doing up tourists in geisha clothing and make up is a pretty popular attraction (and based on my observation, it's often Japanese tourists). I didn't get the impression this was a controversial practice in japan.

This is why people wearing American Football gear or Revolutionary War costumes are so completely reviled in other countries.

Other countries don't really do Halloween.
posted by Hoopo at 9:18 AM on October 26, 2011


Doesn't it have to be overused to death to become a meme?

You're thinking of a memé.
posted by pracowity at 9:19 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


tell me no lies i'm pretty sure it's because the costumes are usually shit racist stereotypes of another culture, and is it really helpful to bring in an example where another country is adopting costumes of what is not generally thought of as an oppressed minority? maybe the example where british royal family dressed up as a goddamn nazi is more germane?
posted by beefetish at 9:19 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would it be racist for a Japanese guy to wear a cowboy costume?

Fine, empath, please feel free to dress up as a geisha this Halloween. Just be sure to post pictures on your profile.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:19 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Geisha's belong to the Japanese only

Are there any actual non-Japanese traditions of the Geisha? Believe it or not, the Japanese have made cowboy movies, as have the Thai people, as have Russians. It's sort of an international genre, which is probably one day worth an FPP of its own.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:20 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people run­ning about with lit matches. "


posted by cheburashka at 9:20 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fine, empath, please feel free to dress up as a geisha this Halloween

I don't do Halloween. The last time I dressed up for it, I was 12.
posted by empath at 9:20 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Believe it or not, the Japanese have made cowboy movies, as have the Thai people, as have Russians. It's sort of an international genre, which is probably one day worth an FPP of its own.

Apparently some Italian guy made a few obscure Westerns.
posted by atrazine at 9:22 AM on October 26, 2011 [23 favorites]


It's bemusing that so many people lashing out against this see themselves as defenders of free speech. Hey, you know, somebody is suggesting that mocking their culture is pretty insensitive. It's a poster. Nobody is passing any laws. You don't defend free speech by shouting down somebody else because you disagree with them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:23 AM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]




My understanding of why geisha costumes are offensive is a little different from Help, I can't stop talking!, who does have a really good point about it. My personal pet peeve about it is that very few people actually wear geisha outfits. What they do is put on a generic kimono-esque thing, put their hair in a bun, and call it a day. It's equivalent to reducing anything vaguely Japanese to "kimono girls".

I feel like there's a respectful way of dressing up as a geisha. Most people don't go that route.
posted by Phire at 9:23 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Nerds ruin anti-racism efforts.
posted by edheil at 9:23 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


tell me no lies i'm pretty sure it's because the costumes are usually shit racist stereotypes of another culture, and is it really helpful to bring in an example where another country is adopting costumes of what is not generally thought of as an oppressed minority

If so, they picked some really really lousy examples. (and a few good ones)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:24 AM on October 26, 2011


I seem to remember this happening with the "The R Word" posters which, IIRC, were from the Special Olympics organization. I definitely remember people joking in the halls of my college about them, which made me kind of sad. I bet there's an article about them on whatever is the Encyclopedia Dramatica substitute these days, but I don't want to go on a site that ugly and mean-spirited and probably loaded with spyware.

I get the euphemism treadmill and all that, re: the word "retard," but I feel the intent is what's bad, in that your comparing a person who chooses to make bad decisions and/or not think with a person who is physically disabled by no fault of their own.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:24 AM on October 26, 2011


I AM HERE TO BEING DRESSED UP IN THE GEISHA
posted by everichon at 9:25 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's bemusing that so many people lashing out against this see themselves as defenders of free speech.

I don't think the parodies should be illegal. Saying things are racist and poorly thought out and that the people who made them should have thought twice is not an attack on free speech.
posted by jeather at 9:25 AM on October 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I dunno, the geisha costume does seem a little problematic with all the china-doll subtext, but I still think there's a pretty big difference between this and this.

I see no problem with white dudes dressing up like samurai or ninjas, for example.
posted by 256 at 9:26 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Apparently some Italian guy made a few obscure Westerns.

His name is Jodorowsky and he's a Chilean Jew. Get your facts straight.
posted by griphus at 9:26 AM on October 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


It's because people see the costume and think LOL sombrero and moustache and donkey = LOL MEXICANS. And it's because people will do the geisha costume and then do a sucky Japanese accent and everyone is like LOL JAPANESE people. It's uncomfortable and the students are protesting it because it perpetuates these stereotypes -- for no reason.

It reminds me of when I was a kid and I would tell people I'm of Indian heritage, and people would say -- oh, do you mean woo-woo ( clapping hands over mouth) or (moving arms overhead, palms clasped together like a genie). Why do this.
posted by sweetkid at 9:26 AM on October 26, 2011 [33 favorites]


Now that I think about it, mariachis actually are dressed as Mexican cowboys. That's the source of the costume.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:26 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


His name is Jodorowsky and he's a Chilean Jew.

That was not a western. It was an acid trip in spurs.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:27 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think it should be illegal to be racist. That gives the state too much power, and implies that there is one correct set of beliefs. Our society benefits from diverse ideas.

But I do think it's wrong to be racist.

This is what anti-PC people never seem to get. You can be pro-free speech but still think people's words or expressions of free speech are deplorable. Not everything we don't like should be illegal.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:28 AM on October 26, 2011 [22 favorites]


I don't think the parodies should be illegal. Saying things are racist and poorly thought out and that the people who made them should have thought twice is not an attack on free speech.

I am not clear on the meaning of this, except perhaps you thought I meant the exact opposite of what I meant. The people lashing out I referred to are the ones lashing out against the anti-racism campaign.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:28 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The people lashing out I referred to are the ones lashing out against the anti-racism campaign.

Ah, yes, then we are in agreement. I did misunderstand you, sorry.
posted by jeather at 9:30 AM on October 26, 2011


You don't defend free speech by shouting down somebody else because you disagree with them.

Who is shouting anyone down?
posted by empath at 9:31 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are there any actual non-Japanese traditions of the Geisha? Believe it or not, the Japanese have made cowboy movies, as have the Thai people, as have Russians. It's sort of an international genre, which is probably one day worth an FPP of its own.

Look, if people from other countries dressed up as cowboys or whatever, it's not racist. For one thing, American culture is dominant worldwide. There's not much anyone can do to co-opt or distort the "message" of American culture.

However, wearing a geisha costume on Halloween is definitely in the realm of cultural appropriation. For one thing, it signifies "Japan". It's also sexual - geishas are supposed to be submissive etc etc etc, right? So you're kind of making a statement about Japanese/Asian women when you wear a geisha costume.

Most Japanese or Asian people would probably not call a white person wearing a "geisha" costume "racist". More likely they would say it looked "stupid".

On the other hand, it's very possible for Japanese people to act in racist ways. Actors dress up in blackface all the time. White foreigners are often depicted as having blue eyes, big noses, and talking in funny accents.

But wearing a cowboy outfit? Looks cute.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:33 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am of the opinion that converting somebody message into a mocking parody is a sort of shouting down.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:33 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wonder if the difference between the geisha costume and the samuri/ninja costumes is that there's a subtext of mockery behind the geisha, while people dressing up as a samuri or a ninja are doing so out of admiration for the samuri/ninja's qualities.

Of course, that gets murkier, as it's hard to tell intent on these things, and someone could dress up as a stereotype for their friends who don't care about inclusion, and then tell people who get offended they dressed up as the costume as they admire the role they dressed as. And then it gets really weird if someone dresses up as a racial stereotype because they see it as admirable.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:33 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure who I should be more mad at, Nerds for making racist anti-racist posters, hipsters for dressing like a caricature of a Native American, or white frat guys for wearing blackface to frat parties.

Which of these groups should I hate the most MeFi?
posted by Ad hominem at 9:34 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


White foreigners are often depicted as having blue eyes, big noses, and talking in funny accents.

That actually describes me pretty well.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:34 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Which of these groups should I hate the most MeFi?

Well, just turn to the suggesting about who to hate that have been offered in this thread OH WAIT THERE ARE NO SUGGESTIONS LIKE THAT.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:35 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I am of the opinion that converting somebody message into a mocking parody is a sort of shouting down.

Shouting someone down implies that you're preventing them from talking. You can't stop people from making fun of you. And if your message can't survive it, then it's probably not a very good message.
posted by empath at 9:35 AM on October 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


Needs more Village People.
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


We can quibble about details, but really it's objectionable if the effect is to marginalize, stereotype, caricature a fellow student who is probably pretty complex and multi-cultured, and whom has heard the same joke used maliciously many times in their life and has been wounded by it. A Chinese person seeing someone do a "ching chong"-grade crude caricature has been mocked that way before, and it ruined their day or month. It's not "wildly politically incorrect" it's just hurtful. A Japanese girl seeing a white girl dress and act like a stereotypical Geisha has heard the message before that all girls of her race are like submissive geisha dolls. Not to mention the obvious problems with exoticism and orientalism which have been written about endlessly.
posted by naju at 9:36 AM on October 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


OH WAIT THERE ARE NO SUGGESTIONS LIKE THAT.

THAT IS WHY I AM ASKING!
posted by Ad hominem at 9:37 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shouting someone down implies that you're preventing them from talking.

We have a different definition. For me, it means attempting to reduce their message. And it's true, I can't stop somebody from mocking, and my message should be able to survive this. I haven't said otherwise.

I do think the mockers are sort of jerks, though.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:38 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


For me, it means attempting to reduce their message

That's how public debate happens. This campaign is just silly. The responses are silly. Nobody will remember it 2 months from now.
posted by empath at 9:39 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


geishas are supposed to be submissive etc etc etc, right?

To be fair, in my experience the more popular "submissive" thing in Japan had to do with Japanese girls dressed as French maids

I wonder if the difference between the geisha costume and the samuri/ninja costumes is that there's a subtext of mockery behind the geisha

I don't think so. None of the women I've seen dressed as geisha were doing so in a mocking way, they all thought it was beautiful. I think it's hard for women to find costumes that are beautiful but not trampy and geisha seems to work in that context. The one in the poster is pretty cartoony though.
posted by Hoopo at 9:39 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Needs more Village People.

OK, I was telling myself I would quietly walk away from this thread, but Felipe Rose ("the Indian") mentioned on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me of all places that his outfit was actually his Lakota Sioux father's tribal regalia. Not appropriated.
posted by psoas at 9:40 AM on October 26, 2011 [27 favorites]


This campaign is just silly

You call that debate?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:40 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


This campaign is just silly. Why?
posted by sweetkid at 9:40 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


DOMO KUN IS NOT YOUR CULTURE.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:41 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


DOMO KUN IS NOT YOUR CULTURE

I discovered this summer that there's a fairly large number of nerdy white kids in Vancouver that go to the park on weekends and do anime character cosplay.
posted by Hoopo at 9:44 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This campaign is just silly. Why?

Because it's an overly serious ad campaign about a frivolous topic that nobody really cares about, even the people that are supposedly victims of it.
posted by empath at 9:45 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why do you consider it a frivolous topic? How is it different than trying to combat any other perpetuations of racial and cultural stereotypes? Just because this particular manifestation of racism happens on Hallowe'en doesn't make it more permisisble.
posted by Phire at 9:47 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a Sexy-Canadian, I'm offended by the never-ending plethora of "Sexy _______" costumes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:47 AM on October 26, 2011 [26 favorites]


a frivolous topic that nobody really cares about, even the people that are supposedly victims of it.

word, no one cares about blackface

wait, what
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:47 AM on October 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Because it's an overly serious ad campaign about a frivolous topic that nobody really cares about, even the people that are supposedly victims of it.

So, to continue my previous question, your idea of debate is to level arbitrary dismissals based on whether you think something is more serious, just serious enough, or not serious enough, and they decide if anybody cares about it, sans anything resembling fact?

I'm sorry, but you're not participating in good faith. Your not even debating. Your just telling somebody that what concerns them doesn't matter. And who are you to make those decisions?

Oh, that's right. You're a guy on the internet.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:47 AM on October 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm still trying to decide some things about this. The "cultural hegemony" stuff just rings as BS but the feelings of others who have been stereotyped rings true. Using the geisha example, would all geisha costumes be out of the question or would it be considered okay if done well and respectfully? I know a few people who like to go all out authentic in their costumes (making their own leather sandals, etc.) and wondered if there was a line to cross or if it was simply "no"?
posted by charred husk at 9:49 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think people do care rather a lot about being perceived as instances of racial stereotypes. Maybe most people aren't directly injured by the girl dressing up in blackface at Halloween, but it's symptomatic of a larger problem. I think this campaign does a good job at drawing attention towards that larger problem.
posted by 256 at 9:49 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because it's an overly serious ad campaign about a frivolous topic that nobody really cares about, even the people that are supposedly victims of it.

Racism and cultural appropriation are frivolous topics that no one cares about? And the people who thought up and created the campaign don't actually care about it, they just had some spare time?
posted by jeather at 9:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because it's an overly serious ad campaign about a frivolous topic that nobody really cares about, even the people that are supposedly victims of it.

How do you know that? I care about it. I even posted upthread about ridiculous cartoon pantomimes about my culture that have been thrown at me since childhood. I assume these students care about it as well.

Cultural appropriation isn't trivial at all. It perpetuates limiting and insulting stereotypes over and over.
posted by sweetkid at 9:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


I want to see one of these depicting a normal-looking guy in a "I <3 New Jersey" t-shirt, holding up a picture of a guy wearing a fake fake tan.

I'm not even kidding about this. I'm tired of taking crap for growing up in the whipping post of the nation. I've never had a fake tan (or, really much of a real one), my abs are only slightly chiseled, I have no connection to the mob, my hometown smelled quite nice and I have no idea where the nearest chemical factory/oil refinery was, I've never lived near an "exit," and wholeheartedly agree that jug handles are a strange and ineffective method of managing traffic.

I did have a garden, though.

And, I laugh whenever Northern Virginians make fun of me for being from Jersey. The irony is delicious.
posted by schmod at 9:51 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, this ad campaign has legs! Bruce Boxleitner just left me a pissy voicemail about my Tron costume. So I guess I'm going as "White Guilt" again this year.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:52 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


I want to see one of these depicting a normal-looking guy in a "I <3 New Jersey" t-shirt, holding up a picture of a guy wearing a fake fake tan.

I think you're absolutely right to. It's like Jersey Shore suddenly decided that Italian Americans are hilarious. And they're have been complaints about this.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:53 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I feel America has made enormous cultural strides have been made in Terra Nova, of all places, which features a British Asian actress who is neither depicting a terrorist nor formerly from Eastenders.
posted by Artw at 9:53 AM on October 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is a mish-mash of legitimate and over the top cultural protectionism. There is a line of good taste that is always going to be in dispute.

Generally speaking, "occupations" are fair game and "stereotypes" are not, but when there is overlap it can be tricky.


I have never seen anyone dressed as a Gaucho for Halloween, but I think it would be pretty cool.
posted by Winnemac at 9:54 AM on October 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


You're a guy on the internet.

If anyone is shouting people down here, it's you. You're allowed to express an opinion. I'm allowed to have one.
posted by empath at 9:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [22 favorites]


New Jersey is very pretty in parts, but it is riddled with organized crime. Has been since forever. Sandy Hook is beautiful though.

I actually think it's okay that this meme is going the way it is going. People will still think when they see these photoshops, if only for a moment. That's basically all you can ask for.
posted by Peztopiary at 9:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


How uncreative do you have to be to get pissy that a few overdone costumes are off-limits?

My father's mother's cultural background never gets appropriated for halloween, just by asshole hippies, stoners, and "artists". And yes, empath, I care. I hate it. And they at least are trying to be respectful, generally, instead of stumbling around drunk.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:57 AM on October 26, 2011


Ahh, the first world problems of invisible backpack carrying privileged college kids: other people's Halloween costumes are so very offensive to my cultural identity.
posted by cheburashka at 9:57 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


My father's mother's cultural background never gets appropriated for halloween, just by asshole hippies, stoners, and "artists"

Can you elaborate on what you're referring to?
posted by Hoopo at 9:59 AM on October 26, 2011


I was in the Sackler gallery this weekend, looking at the paintings in the Family Matters: Portraits from the Qing Court exhibit. At the end of the exhibit was a robe on display in a case. There was a description of how it was a robe to be worn over day clothes to easily display embroidered emblems which signifies the wearer's position in court. The description pointed out the painting it appeared in, as well as similar robes in other paintings and the differences in the emblems.

The robe had a really simple design (something I could actually have patterned and sewn myself), although the embroidery was complicated, and it was beautiful. For a minute or two, I thought about how easily I could make a fancy dress/masquerade/costume. Then I realized I have no costumed events in my future and moved on to a different exhibit.

I was still thinking about it later--because it really was a beautiful robe and something I could easily approximate. Then I realized someone would think it was racist to copy the painting because I'm not of Chinese descent. I'm not certain I agree.

There seems a very bright line that dressing and acting like Slowpoke Rodriguez has a racist tone that's unacceptable because it relies on a stereotype used to demean a category of persons. There's also, it seems to me, a bright line that dressing as a Dragon Lady has a racist tone that's unacceptable because it relies on a stereotype used to depersonalize a category of persons.

The line is not so bright, I think, where you are using a foreign historical costume. Or a foreign festival costume. Or a literary reference. I think in doing that, however, you can inadvertently present a racist image. Sensitivity to that is not going to harm society or ruin fancy dress parties or halloween.

But this meme? Some stuff at that link is pretty offensive and it doesn't encourage nuanced thought about something complicated and nontrivial.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:00 AM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Racism is bad. Cultural appropriation is bad. Stereotypes are bad. The Halloween costumes that this campaign was created to address are bad.

At the same time, though, the campaign addresses these issues in a simplistic fashion that's very easy to parody. It is, as the kids say, exploitable. Should the seriousness of the root issue make it off-limits to parody the response to it? Just because I'm fully in league with the 99% and the Occupy movement, am I not allowed to laugh at a picture of a carton of milk declaring "I am the 2%"?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:00 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ahh, the first world problems of invisible backpack carrying privileged college kids: other people's Halloween costumes are so very offensive to my cultural identity.

BINGO!
posted by griphus at 10:00 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


More seriously, my Japanese students were thrilled to learn that Domo Kun was a "thing" elsewhere and would have been blown away to see me in a DK costume for Halloween (which they knew about). As is, they loved my oni costume. I don't for a moment think that they wouldn't have equally loved Mrs. B in a geisha outfit.

Stop and think for a moment if you have the faintest right to speak for the people about whom you propose to speak, internet brothers-in-grar. Otherwise you're walking the offensively paternalistic line, yourselves, if not blown clear past.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:02 AM on October 26, 2011 [27 favorites]


Ahh, the first world problems of invisible backpack carrying privileged college kids: other people's Halloween costumes are so very offensive to my cultural identity.

If you don't understand that it's offensive to dress up in blackface or run around in a turban with bombs strapped to your chest just for laffs, well, I guess there is no arguing with you.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:04 AM on October 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


This thread was an eloquent reminder of why I left my Cultural Studies minor back in college.

The idea that you have to have certain phenotypic traits to wear a costume is high biological comedy.

I'm german/mexican/irish. My girlfriend is Japanese/Korean.

Please tell me, arbiters of cultural priviliege, which costumes are appropriate for our daughter:

[ ] Drunken Irishman (Her great grandfather really was a drunken irishman.
[ ] Lazy Ranchero (Ditto on the other side)
[ ] Korean comfort woman (Ditto on her mom's side)
[ ] Japanese soldier (Again)

And how about her kids, if she marries a black man? Keep in mind at this point,her kids will be only a quarter asian.

This is a ridiculous way to think, and I don't miss the cultural police at all. It's halloween. It's supposed to be silly and even mildly offensive.

What other people decide to wear for their costumes? Not my concern.
posted by mrdaneri at 10:04 AM on October 26, 2011 [62 favorites]


man, how is it an ATTACK FROM THE PC POLICE or like FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS to consider being thoughtful toward other people? is it a constitutional right to hurt minorities' feelings now?
posted by beefetish at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2011 [29 favorites]


OK, I was telling myself I would quietly walk away from this thread, but Felipe Rose ("the Indian") mentioned on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me of all places that his outfit was actually his Lakota Sioux father's tribal regalia. Not appropriated.

I actually did not know that.

Cher's excuse i find less convincing.
posted by Artw at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2011


Someone who dresses in blackface for Halloween probably would not learn from a poster about why that is offensive.

I do have to admit that when I saw the Bing Crosby movie 'Holiday Inn' a few years ago, I laughed out loud at the President's Day dance scene - not because it's funny, but because it's so achingly inappropriate and racist I really don't know what else to do.
posted by glaucon at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Since you asked:

[X] None of the above.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:09 AM on October 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm allowed to have one.

Of course you are. I apologize. I merely meant it would be nice if you offered an informed opinion.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:09 AM on October 26, 2011


However, wearing a geisha costume on Halloween is definitely in the realm of cultural appropriation. For one thing, it signifies "Japan". It's also sexual - geishas are supposed to be submissive etc etc etc, right? So you're kind of making a statement about Japanese/Asian women when you wear a geisha costume.

No, you're not, unless your costume includes a sign worn around your neck that says "ALL JAPANESE/ASIAN WOMEN ARE LIKE THIS". This is completely absurd. If you dress up as Mike Myers (the character from the Halloween movies, not the actor), are you making a statement about white men? What statement, exactly? How about if you dress up as Gandhi? Does your costume make the statement that all Indian men are into civil disobedience and mustaches?

These people are dressing up as characters. Those characters may be racist or offensive in other ways, but those characters are not a broad cultural statement. For example, the white guy in one of the original posters dressed up as a Middle Eastern suicide bomber caricature: Obviously not cool. That character, the common Western caricature of the suicide bomber, is offensive because it is a complete misapprehension and does not take into account all the difficult circumstances and cultural and religious history that bring a person to do a thing like that. It is shitty to dress up like that and say "lol guys look muhammad jihad aren't people like this crazy?".
It is not, however, a statement that all Middle Eastern people are suicide bombers. That's not where the offense goes.


Also, on preview:
Ahh, the first world problems of invisible backpack carrying privileged college kids....
This argument is always wrong. If something is wrong (such as the racist Halloween costume thing), it's wrong. It doesn't matter that it's only a little wrong and ignorant and hurtful. Things that are not THE MOST WRONGEST THING IN THE WORLD can still be wrong, and can still be addressed and fixed, and the world will still be a better place without them.
And that aside, dismissing a group of people or the problems of said group on the premise that their problems don't count because of who they are is horribly prejudiced, stupid, and kind of evil. A lot of people have been fighting for a long time to banish that kind of thinking, and it's not cool to say "Well, okay, we won't be assholes about black people anymore, but we still have to be assholes about SOMETHING, so where's the next target?"
posted by IAmUnaware at 10:10 AM on October 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


Someone who dresses in blackface for Halloween probably would not learn from a poster about why that is offensive.

Yeah, really -- do you need a humorless ad campaign to tell you that blackface is offensive--- really?
posted by empath at 10:10 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Should the seriousness of the root issue make it off-limits to parody the response to it?

Which is why people are complaining about, say, the one of the black woman complaining about blackface being photoshopped to have her holding a bucket of fried chicken (which isn't parody) and not about the mime complaining about a fake mime.
posted by jeather at 10:11 AM on October 26, 2011


I agree some of this is racist. But here's a gray area example:

One year, I dressed as a bull, and my wife dressed as a Spanish bull fighter. She's Mexican American, but we bought the parts for the toreador costume in Spain. Was that a racist thing to do? I didn't and still don't think so.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:11 AM on October 26, 2011


So I had a (minor) dilemma: my costume this year involves painting my (pasty) skin black. I am not dressing as a person of another race or even as a human, but I have wondered if it might be mis-interpreted by people. But I'm going to go for it anyways, because none of the rest of the elements look a thing like blackface (white hair, white eyebrows).

Though I did notice that I look way more interesting with dark skin - even more attractive. I wonder if one day we will have aspirational blackface, where pasty people try to look more like the rest of the world?
posted by jb at 10:13 AM on October 26, 2011


Just want to point out that there were Asians in the American West during Cowboy times.
posted by drezdn at 10:13 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can you elaborate on what you're referring to?


I'm not going to get into it seriously because it makes me really angry and sad, so I'll be flip and say that most people with kokopelli tattoos look like fools.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:14 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not dressing as a person of another race or even as a human, but I have wondered if it might be mis-interpreted by people.

Going as a Dark Elf?
posted by drezdn at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm going to go for it anyways, because none of the rest of the elements look a thing like blackface (white hair, white eyebrows).

Sr. Chang?!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think that there is a line between dressing as a particular occupation (bull-fighter, even geisha if you do it right) and dressing as a member of a certain ethnicity. But you want to try to be clear that you are dressing as the occupation, not the ethnicity - if you are blond and doing a geisha, then perhaps go with blond hair.

(There have been non-Japanese geishas, albeit working in Japan.)
posted by jb at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bah, drezdn!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2011


I was still thinking about it later--because it really was a beautiful robe and something I could easily approximate. Then I realized someone would think it was racist to copy the painting because I'm not of Chinese descent. I'm not certain I agree.
I'd be surprised if any Chinese person would mind, crush. If you visit ancient tourist sites here there will often be a chance to dress up in a very cod period costume and have your picture taken, and foreigners are encouraged to join in the fun.
posted by Abiezer at 10:16 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I usually have some friends who dress up as rednecks or WWE actors - are these also "culture" personas?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:16 AM on October 26, 2011


man, how is it an ATTACK FROM THE PC POLICE or like FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS to consider being thoughtful toward other people? is it a constitutional right to hurt minorities' feelings now?

Yeah, for real, these arguments just kind of confuse me, as my general policy is to do things that make other people feel safe and comfortable as long as doing so itself doesn't otherwise violate my principles, but I guess I'm like an overflowing fountain of empathy or something?
posted by threeants at 10:17 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


jeffo i'm pretty sure that you were not being racistly a toreador unless you were using corny-to-shitty stereotypes of spanish folks while you were at it. this is the whole thing, man, you can dress as a thing, you can dress as a hilariously shitty guy, but if you're dressing as a shitty guy using racial signifiers you might want to reconsider your shitty guy costume.
posted by beefetish at 10:17 AM on October 26, 2011


As a little kid in the 70s, I thought it was weird that some kids dressed up as hobos as well... I wanted to be Spider Man or a ghost or something... why dress up as a poor homeless person living in a rail yard?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:18 AM on October 26, 2011


I understand how some costumes are offensive, but I honestly feel like there's some leap of logic going on to assume that wearing a costume is also diminishing a culture. I don't see why a costume can't be a costume. I mean, wearing a toga is not necessarily a statement about Roman culture. Also, a geisha outfit is a costume.
posted by snofoam at 10:18 AM on October 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Which is why people are complaining about, say, the one of the black woman complaining about blackface being photoshopped to have her holding a bucket of fried chicken (which isn't parody) and not about the mime complaining about a fake mime.

I saw that one, and I agree it's awful. It's racist, it's stupid and it doesn't serve any purpose to comment on the meme itself. KnowYourMeme should take it down. Unfortunately, it's not just the ones like that that people are complaining about here:

This is really sad to me. A totally valid message is being lost for the sake of LOLZ. Making a picture of Dracula asking you not to dress up like him lets you pretend that the whole campaign is a joke.

See what I mean?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2011


One Halloween in the early 60s I went as a Swiss girl. My family were largely Swiss and we had an old dirndl that was altered to fit me.

Perhaps now I'd be accused of perpetuating a stereotype. Reality was we were trying to save on costume costs while recycling something from the family cedar chest.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2011


jeffo i think that one mainly comes from how cheap and easy bum costumes are for broke/tired parents to maek.
posted by beefetish at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2011


I usually have some friends who dress up as rednecks or WWE actors - are these also "culture" personas?

I would say that rednecks could be one. Ever heard of "white trash parties"? Ew.
posted by naoko at 10:20 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread is so curious. Identity---cultural, sexual, occupational---isn't sacrosanct.
posted by diorist at 10:20 AM on October 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Metafilter has a special ability to make me feel distaste for people I agree with.
posted by everichon at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2011 [26 favorites]


I believe there was an article that was posted on the blue at some point about a more productive way to deal with racism in every day situations, the primary message being to approach it with the phrasing 'what you said/did is kind of racist behavior' instead of the straight-up accusation 'you are a racist', which immediately puts the receiver on the defensive and therefore more inflexible. It also assumes no good will towards the person and is inflexible in itself; everyone makes mistakes, sometimes things are poorly phrased or people say things they don't really mean, perhaps not fully thinking it through. It's perfectly appropriate to call that sort of thing out. But maybe it's not always best to assume the worst in people.

I would be pretty hurt if someone were to call out some of my Halloween costumes (I went as an Inuit once in a fake-fur parka modeled off of this one; I was really proud of that costume. I tried to make it as accurate as I could.), because I care a lot and do a lot of research for any of those that are culturally based. If anyone wants to talk to me about them, I am really thrilled to do so.

At the same time, I understand and do my best to respect anyone who might be offended, and it's only through mutual good will and respect that anyone can have any benefit from these types of encounters. In fact, maybe sometimes it's better to do that sort of thing. We all learn that way.

No-one's ever expressed disapproval, though. I can only hope I'd react well to it.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


drezdn: no, but that's a good idea. I'm dressing up like a photographic negative of myself. (Black and white, because getting the right colour would be very hard and I might just look like a zombie). I wanted to do something dramatic with make-up. It was either that or one of the black-and-white cookie men from that Star Trek episode, but I couldn't decide whether to be the left one or the right one.
posted by jb at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


kinnakeet i think you do not need ot be anxious about that, unless you had another guy dressed as a nazi hiding gold and precious art objects under your dirndl as you shrugged your shoulders and made a comedic Who Me face ALL HALLOWEEN LONG


guys

GUYS IT'S NOT RACIST TO DRESS UP AS SOMETHING IT IS RACIST TO DRESS UP AS SOMETHING USING ESTABLISHED OFFENSIVE RACIAL CARICATURES that is what is up
posted by beefetish at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2011 [42 favorites]


Second: it's racist because it's an appropriation of a cultural heritage that is not your own.

That's not inherently racist. Otherwise every time I had thai food or wore paisley I'd be being racist.

Similarly I can represent my own cultural heritage (whatever the hell that means) in a racist fashion, for example deciding to dress up like an angry, thrifty to the point of cruelty Scot, or for a more modern idea, in a plaid shirt and act like a caricature of a Canadian (eh?). Or how about a molesting Catholic priest! All of these are pretty bad even if you can trace my recent heritage to say, parts of Scotland, Canada or hitorical membership in one religious institution over another.

Indeed a lot of the issue here is that it's NOT the cultural heritage of the person being represented, for example dressing up as a terrorist is not a good way to represent muslims/arabs, while say, Saladin would be fine if you were looking for a militant muslim theme. Similarly your off the rack war bonnet and fringe outfit (with plastic tomahawk) is pretty culturally insensitive, but dressing up as Glooscap is not. "Geisha Girl" can be done with taste (as a geisha) or as a giggling caricature in white face paint twirling a cheap Chinese parasol and squealing "Konichawa sakura arigato!!!"
posted by Phalene at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


beefetish- The costume was about both parts: the bull and the toreador together. Just a bull fighter wouldn't make much sense. But the cultural signifiers were plainly there - the little black hat, a bright colored waistcoat, a ruffled shirt, black tight pants and a (fake) sword. Can't look more stereotypically "Spanish" than that. Though she didn't speak with an affected Spanish accent or demand to eat chorizo all night or go on about Cervantes...

Still, there's gray areas here.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:22 AM on October 26, 2011


Also, logically speaking, if wearing a costume is always considered inappropriate appropriation of another culture, wouldn't this mean that the only appropriate costume would be to dress up as exactly what you already are? That would be no fun.
posted by snofoam at 10:22 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


More seriously, my Japanese students were thrilled to learn that Domo Kun was a "thing" elsewhere and would have been blown away to see me in a DK costume for Halloween (which they knew about). As is, they loved my oni costume

As an odd sidenote: When I married my first husband we went to Japan on a honeymoon tour to meet his family. My in-laws took me to a wedding studio to have portraits taken in all the traditional regalia: wig, wig jewelry, layered kimonos, heavy white make-up. The pictures look very odd to me as I am most definitely Caucasian so while I don't look Japanese, I don't look like myself either.

As to whether or not dressing up as a Geisha is racist? I have to say most female Halloween costumes are highly sexualized-- Kimonos at least are not revealing and they are so beautiful. I think what many women call "dressing like a Geisha" is just dressing like a Victorian era Japanese woman. I don't have a problem with that because I don't have a problem with wearing any historical costume from any culture.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:24 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, I always thought the really obviously racist costumes, like Muslim suicide bomber and illegal alien, were bafflingly uncool. I hadn't thought as much about some of the others, like geisha for example, because I only ever saw Asian girls be geishas for Halloween, personally only thought of geishas as a historical thing that isn't reflective of women today (just like ninjas, samurai, pirates, etc aren't reflective of anything today), and never saw anyone do like some obviously racist accent or whatever when wearing it. Now I can see a bit more why dressing as a geisha is sort of messed up, and that it may grate for others who have had much more uncomfortable experiences. So I'm glad for the campaign.

But now I'm trying to figure out why it doesn't seem as racist to dress up as a samurai or a ninja, and I'm not sure why? If someone did so and did some over the top Asian accent it would probably be really offensive to me, but usually when people dress up like a samurai or ninja they're really excited to be a badass, so maybe it's the position of power portrayed that makes it feel less problematic to me; geishas were prostitutes, submissive, etc, so that seems to be on target (not objectively, just in the sense of analyzing my kneejerk feelings). But to that end, being a submissive prostitute could be a really honorable awesome thing for someone really into it normally, because in a better society that wouldn't be seen as a dishonorable thing. So I found the sentiment upthread that there could probably be a respectful geisha portrayal intriguing; probably best to be avoided since outwardly it would still seem offensive, which sort of makes you realize how messed up it is that "submissive sex worker" and "submissive Asian sex worker" are so stereotypically held to be bad things that one would automatically (and reasonably) assume that's what those portrayals must mean, even if they hold the opposite view. But I'm also thinking about whether it's still not cool to be a samurai or ninja. Or an Egyptian pharoah. Or other positions of power.

I think the answer to the cowboy thing is basically that... well, perhaps two things: cowboys don't belong clearly to any ethnicity or culture, since they're both American and Mexican. But yeah, they tend to get associated with whites and America. Even still, it's different because for the most part, the people on the power side of the equation -- here, whites or Americans -- don't feel the sting like those on the powerless side. If a minority or someone in another country dresses like a cowboy, I feel nothing except maybe amused that it struck them to be a cowboy. My whole life isn't permeated by being white or American and losing out and being made fun of because of it. I don't like when foreigners associate me with rightwing ideas because I'm American, but it happens infrequently enough that it doesn't impact my life. If I traveled enough, and it went on longer, and people were seriously awful to me and denied me stuff because I was American or white, then maybe seeing someone dress as a cowboy, especially if it came with offensive American stereotypes, it would start offending me. But as it stands, I feel an important part of the argument against dressing as another culture is simply that it evokes associations with a lot of stuff that makes them feel bad and it should be respected. I can't seem to rouse those kind of feelings over a cowboy costume, and indeed the whole counter-argument there is presented as "cowboy costumes don't bother me therefore no one should be upset" and NOT "hey actually lets include cowboy costumes in this because it really does bother me." At best I can rouse detached "yeah maybe it's sort of inappropriate" feelings for a cowboy costume, not any sort of pain or trauma. I suspect most people have a similar reaction -- but if someone didn't, then it's more okay to say one would rather people not dress as cowboys than insist everyone just deal with offensive stuff.
posted by Nattie at 10:25 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


We should all dress up like this.
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on October 26, 2011


oh man, Abiezer, I have never wanted to visit an ancient Chinese tourist site more! That sounds really great.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:25 AM on October 26, 2011


In the 5th grade, I dressed up for Halloween as a "rabbi". I wore a fake Groucho Marx nose with spectacles and a mustache, some sort of floppy hat, and a black leather jacket. The two Jewish kids in my class were not impressed, and I've always felt bad about it.

I guess I should have told them they are merely experiencing a first world problem.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:30 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know, when I lived in China, my students were all "you should totally get a qipao". They thought it was hiLARious to see my in my padded jacket, and would no doubt have split their sides laughing if I'd worn any form of traditional costume. This is because when I was in China they were the majority, not white people, and the majority discourse was basically "LOLforeigners". And also, I was not "dressing up as a chinese person" or taking advantage of Chinese cultural references to make myself seem cool. I was not picking the fun things out of Chinese culture to seem "multicultural" or hip or sensitive or something while using my white privilege to escape the shitty parts of racism and ethnic identity.

Now, in the US, I don't wear traditional Chinese-style clothes, not even mandarin collars/frog knots (although I think those are pretty diluted) because I live in a place where white folks are the majority and racism is a huge problem, and because I know lots of POC who think it's annoying.

It's situational, folks. And really, it's not that difficult - I have spent many years creating Halloween costumes without once thinking "oh, I'm out of costumes unless I dress as a possibly-annoying racialized character!"

White people just have to have everything, don't we. We can't let anything alone.
posted by Frowner at 10:33 AM on October 26, 2011 [26 favorites]


Other countries don't really do Halloween.

That isn't true, Halloween is huge in Hong Kong. Pretty large in parts of Japan, Australia and Mexico. Halloween didn't even start in North America. The main difference from Halloween in the US and the rest of the world is the candy fetching. It's more costuming and parties in the other countries that celebrate.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:34 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


goddammit frowner you are condemning my quaint native folkway of being a thoughtless yell hole!
posted by beefetish at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2011


All this makes JesusWeen more appealing.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:36 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's more like, when you wear a kimono or whatever, what are you trying to say? Basically it's "Look, I'm pretending to be Japanese," or whatever, and then there's this entire primordial soup of shared cultural assumptions you're tapping into. It's important because racism still exists in North America. It's not an equal dialogue between the dominant cultures and minority cultures. As part of the dominant culture, you still get to define what somebody else ought to be, and reinforce negative stereotypes.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:36 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


jeff-o-matic, i think it is cool that you are aware of the ramifications of dressing up using costumes from someone else's culture. i am not saying this to be a dick. it is a breath of fresh air in the galaxy of internet racism discourse.
posted by beefetish at 10:37 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


All Souls' Day is HUGE in Poland. Lots of candles in colourful jars and people partying in graveyards.
posted by Artw at 10:38 AM on October 26, 2011


White trash and redneck costumes are distasteful, too, I think, because they make fun of people for being poor and uneducated or simply growing up in that culture; in that instance merely being white isn't really the issue, the oppressed signifier is "poor." And those people do have to deal with being called names and denied things and whatnot a lot, so I don't think it's appropriate to dress up that way. Having grown up poor that really does arouse some genuine disgust in me in a way a cowboy costume doesn't, for what it's worth.

I mean, generally speaking, while I have witnessed people be some of the other costumes without displaying contempt for them, I've never found that to be the case with white trash costumes; people might choose to be a geisha because it's a pretty costume, but no one dresses as a redneck because it looks cool. I think there are plenty of funny costume ideas without resorting to making fun of entire ethnic or cultural groups of people.
posted by Nattie at 10:38 AM on October 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


This thread is so curious. Identity---cultural, sexual, occupational---isn't sacrosanct.

Of course not. But perpetuating stereotypes about those identities isn't sacrosanct either.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:38 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


also now i want to dress up as an insensitive bro dinosaur but i don't even have any goddamn halloween parties to go to :(
posted by beefetish at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2011


You know who else was a culture & not a costume?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:41 AM on October 26, 2011


Hey man, don't call me an asshole when I behave like an asshole! It's my First Amendment right to be an asshole! But you're not allowed to call me an asshole. That'd be trying to crush my edgy spirit.
posted by kmz at 10:41 AM on October 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


Here's where I think this comes from: People who watch South Park or Family Guy but do not have the ability or will to try and think about the issues presented.

Both shows discuss and make jokes about contentious, inappropriate or offensive ideas. I love South Park, but it's particularly well known for doing this. I think that their satire of many of these ideas is brilliantly presented - it's shocking, but it should make you think about the greater idea behind a show about 9/11, abortion, Scientology or anything else they use as a topic.

I think too many people just see that they're talking about something offensive and then equate an offensive idea with humor. The thought is: "Oh, abortion/rape/AIDS. It MUST be funny to talk about just because it's something that makes people uncomfortable."

No, just because something is politically incorrect or uncomfortable does NOT make it funny. Especially when it's just regurgitated in a thoughtless way.

Yes, it's partially a problem with people not thinking about their actions. But it's also a failure of the imagination to just equate an offensive topic with hilarity.
posted by glaucon at 10:42 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "I think you're absolutely right to. It's like Jersey Shore suddenly decided that Italian Americans are hilarious. "

Oh. I should have mentioned that too. I'm neither Italian, Irish, Asian, Jewish, or Hispanic (all of which are apparently NJ-centric stereotypes).

That said, it doesn't help that our governor is on a crusade to try to become an American Berlusconi.

However, my family does pretend to be Italian, because their culture has better food. Matzo is also delicious. Say what you want about New Jersey and Brooklyn/Long Island; we have the best food on the planet from pretty much every culture imaginable.
posted by schmod at 10:45 AM on October 26, 2011


Pretty large in parts of Japan, Australia and Mexico.

I can't speak for Japan or Mexico, but Halloween is almost entirely nonexistent in Australia, unless by "parts of" you mean some kind of USian expat enclaves that I've never heard of.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:45 AM on October 26, 2011


Now, in the US, I don't wear traditional Chinese-style clothes, not even mandarin collars/frog knots (although I think those are pretty diluted) because I live in a place where white folks are the majority and racism is a huge problem, and because I know lots of POC who think it's annoying.

I love mandarin collars, but I'm beginning to think there's no bloody point in bringing clothing home from anywhere, because there's palpable social discomfort in wearing it even in a (clearly respectful) professional context. Mrs. B also has some lovely saris (are any saris not lovely?). But there's some special category of grar reserved for white people wearing "ethnic" dress that is, at best, unthinking assumption (oh she's got what heritage? whoops), at worst, just another form of bigotry.

Now fix that, and loosen up gender roles to boot, and I'll throw on a fanstastic longyi (which is men's garb fer chrissakes, but -- well don't get me started).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:48 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Say what you want about New Jersey and Brooklyn/Long Island...

I'm sorry, "Brooklyn/Long Island"?
posted by griphus at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah 5 years ago when I was in Japan, Halloween was looked at more or less as a nuisance where drunk white English teachers dressed up in costumes and terrorized people on trains. Which unfortunately is pretty much what happened, actually. It's certainly possible there are some kinds of Halloween celebrations in parts I guess, but where I lived it was definitely a foreign concept.
posted by Hoopo at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2011


I think I'm pretty cool about not dressing up as a sterotype in a mocking, racist way as though you are poking fun at a whole nother culture. What has me flummoxed is the idea that some of you are espousing that we in America may not appropriate anything from another culture. Which I'm having trouble processing. So if, for example, I bought a Peruvian hat while traveling are you saying I can not wear my Peruvian hat this winter because I am white?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, "Brooklyn/Long Island"?

well. they are touching each other in a landmassy kind of way.
posted by elizardbits at 10:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, I, for one, can't wait for a future where this problem just goes away. A future where all of our races and cultures just blend together until we are all just a nice shade of grey and the only way to tell us apart is by the serial numbers on our matching jumpsuits.
Oh wait, did I just Godwin this thread?
Oops.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:51 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Please tell me, arbiters of cultural priviliege, which costumes are appropriate for our daughter:

[ ] Drunken Irishman (Her great grandfather really was a drunken irishman.
[ ] Lazy Ranchero (Ditto on the other side)
[ ] Korean comfort woman (Ditto on her mom's side)
[ ] Japanese soldier (Again)


I don't know if you were making this list to be facetious or something, but there was a scandal in Korea when an actress released a photography book of her with a "comfort woman" theme. She was excoriated pretty harshly mainly because the photoshoot was a little on the sexy side and obviously done provocatively. And when I say photobook, I don't mean like an art book, I mean vanity, photobooks that get published simply for sales reason, like an all-poster editions of Teen Bop or something, just better quality.

So yea it's not really "comedy" to dress up as a comfort woman for Halloween. If she was dressed like a comfort woman standing in front of the Japanese embassy protesting, not so much I suppose. I guess it'd be offensive to the Japanese consulate workers who have to deal with the protest. As for dressing up as a Japanese soldier? Again depends. In Korea, I doubt she'd get much love for that (in fact, there were some murmurs in Korea about the popularity of the cartoon Keroro since the main character frog wears a hate very similar to the military hat of the occupational forces, and the whole "alien frogs invading to colonize a planet" thing hit a little too close to home for some older folks). If she was in Japan? Probably not a big deal unless she ran into a pocket of radical right-wing nationalists who'd maybe bandy her about on their shoulders.

This is a ridiculous way to think, and I don't miss the cultural police at all. It's halloween. It's supposed to be silly and even mildly offensive.

The point is the fact that you even mention these examples specifically show that there is history and context to be acknowledged when choosing costumes that have some kind of cultural or race connotations behind them that need to be examined, which I think is weird that you'd foist political commentary upon your own kid when you yourself admit the holiday is for fun. What the hell happened to wanting your kid to dress up like a fairy or unicorn or something? Which I think a lot of people getting het up about "how dare you determine what's offensive or not" people are missing out on. These are HALLOWEEN costumes. Cultural appropriation is seriously iffy/touchy when most people are dressing up FOR FUN. Then dress for fun, why bring all this cultural baggage into it? Yea that crap is funny to you because you didn't have to go through it personally, but try trotting that costume out in front of your wife's relatives and see how they react as you fumble about how it's so ironically funny, get it? Or maybe visit your distant Irish relatives still in Ireland and show them how cute your kid is dressed as a drunken Irishman.
posted by kkokkodalk at 10:51 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


So if, for example, I bought a Peruvian hat while traveling are you saying I can not wear my Peruvian hat this winter because I am white?

I am certainly not saying this. I'm all for cultural cross-pollination. It gave us chips and curry, after all.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:52 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


So if, for example, I bought a Peruvian hat while traveling are you saying I can not wear my Peruvian hat this winter because I am white?

Are you going to wear it while carrying around a stuffed llama and speaking in a thick Quechua accent and randomly invoking the blessings of Pachamama? Presumably not.
posted by elizardbits at 10:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


well. they are touching each other in a landmassy kind of way.

Then how do you explain the fact that every time someone tries to cross the border, they wake up on a ferry to/from Staten Island? Hmm?
posted by griphus at 10:55 AM on October 26, 2011


are you saying I can not wear my Peruvian hat this winter because I am white?

I think the point is, it's insensitive to dress up in order to portray another race, culture, or ethnic group.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:55 AM on October 26, 2011


kkokkodalk Yes. That was intentional. I picked the most offensive caricatures possible to illustrate the fallacy of the whole construct 'U must be X % Y to validate this costume.'

Although, in retrospect, a Lazy Ranchero wearing a hanbok strikes me as funny enough to work.
posted by mrdaneri at 10:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess I am confused by all this talk of "appropriating" other cultures.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:56 AM on October 26, 2011


Then how do you explain the fact that every time someone tries to cross the border, they wake up on a ferry to/from Staten Island? Hmm?

vodka.
posted by elizardbits at 10:58 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wearing a costume is, by definition, an act of appropriation. However, wearing a costume does not necessarily perpetuate a stereotype or demean a culture. I think this is where the original campaign fails. A costume can invoke or utilize cultural signifiers without being a value judgement on that culture. Dressing up as Kikuchiyo from the Seven Samurai is not the same as perpetuating a stereotype about the Japanese as a whole. Cultural appropriation is not inherently evil.

Ultimately, I think the original campaign undermines the valuable message that being a demeaning stereotype is uncool by implying that all costumes that reference cultures are inherently harmful, which is untrue.
posted by snofoam at 10:59 AM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh wait, did I just Godwin this thread?

Sorry, cheburashka took care of that waaaaaaay before you. Good luck next time in the slippery slope argument sweepstakes!
posted by kmz at 11:02 AM on October 26, 2011


are you saying I can not wear my Peruvian hat this winter because I am white?

If you do it while simultaneously appropriating Pad Thai, you'll basically be Hitler.

Not to offend Germans of course! Because not all Germans are Hitler.... I- I- I'm sorry, I'll go sit in the corner now.
posted by codswallop at 11:02 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


While I get why blackface is bad (historical reasons), and why dressing up as a muslim suicide bomber is bad (negative implications), I don't really understand why something like a geisha is all that terrible.

I don't think anyone looks at a geisha costume and thinks it's meant to represent a generic Japanese person. It might not be a particularly accurate representation of an actual geisha's attire, but then, this isn't what nurses wear to work, either.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:05 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


man, how is it an ATTACK FROM THE PC POLICE or like FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS to consider being thoughtful toward other people? is it a constitutional right to hurt minorities' feelings now?

Is this really a represented assertion here? I try to follow the life maxim of "don't do things that make people feel like shit" but I'm not without some sympathy for the attitude that the original campaign is a little over-reaching with the geisha poster.

I can see the position KokuRyu asserts above about using the geisha image and I'm open to talking about it even if I'm not sure I'm convinced. I think we'd have to address in our conversation whether the conclusion "But wearing a cowboy outfit? Looks cute." undermines the point, which I think it does. But maybe the discussion is enough to change my actions (in the theoretical world where I'd ever dress up like a geisha) because it leads me to question whether something is worth that negative reaction.

But - and I know I'm going to get the 'oh tone argument' reaction to this - I think it's problematic to run a strident poster campaign that uses all caps and the language "THIS IS NOT WHO I AM" as part of it. My first thought about that, even given walking into this discussion with some context, is "wait, who was saying anything about who you are?" Then there's "NOT OKAY" used identically on that poster and the blackface poster.

I don't expect anyone to gladhand me and offer me some sort of congratulations for managing not to be a jerk most (some?) of the time, nor do I think someone being treated shitty needs to tolerate it politely and be the bigger person so they can Help Privileged Be Better. But the CNN article has a quote - ""The best way to get rid of stereotypes and racism is to have a discussion and raise awareness, which is what we want to do with this campaign," said Williams." And I'm not sure you accomplish that with the textual version of KNOCK IT OFF, JACKASS! if it's not slam-dunk obvious that something is Wrong.

I don't think I'm being unreasonable in saying that the line is less bright on the matter of cultural appropriation of non-current images - geisha - than it is reinforcing contemporary negative stereotypes - middle-eastern suicide bomber. Even a self-aware privileged person can feel a little attacked when someone surprises them with a statement that they're offending folks.

So if the goal is conversation/education I don't know that it works as well there. If the goal is just to stamp something out I'm not sure it works in those more subtle (to the privileged person) cases either - people who feel hollered at are not as likely to enter discussions as they are to just push back.
posted by phearlez at 11:06 AM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you don't understand that it's offensive to dress up in blackface or run around in a turban with bombs strapped to your chest just for laffs, well, I guess there is no arguing with you.

Okay, that's easy to agree with, but then so's this (from the Ray Bradbury essay that got linked to earlier) ...

For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangu­tan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversation­alist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule. If Mor­mons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent type-writers. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmilk teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture. If the Chicano intel­lectuals wish to re-cut my "Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" so it shapes "Zoot," may the belt unravel and the pants fall.

I guess there's some grey area here. Keep on discussing, folks.
posted by philip-random at 11:06 AM on October 26, 2011


For it is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangu­tan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversation­alist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics.

I know. The world would just go to hell if white people let non-whites make strongly worded requests about sensitivity. They all have exactly the same opportunities!

I like Bradbury, but if ever there has been the language of somebody refusing to pay attention to other people's concerns, this is it. "Allow the minorities" indeed.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:09 AM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think I'm going to dress up as an American for Halloween

I'm going as a middle-aged white guy. I'm going to wear Dockers and a Callaway Golf polo and dance awkwardly while drinking Miller Lite.
posted by MikeMc at 11:11 AM on October 26, 2011


I think that white people in white-majority countries wearing ethnic dress are just going to look silly because they look silly. If I walk out my door today wearing a sombrero, I might technically be 'allowed' or something by some standards, but I'm still going to look ridiculous, because nobody else around is wearing sombreros. Some people deliberately choose to look different to honor their faith or cultural background, but if you don't have that reason, then... you're just being weird.

As a Mexican, I don't care if you happen to like some element of my culture a lot, personally, and given that Halloween is all about dressing up, by all means, be Frida Kahlo, or even Sexy Frida Kahlo if you want. But there's a difference between dressing up as a mariachi and dressing up as a Mexican by wearing mariachi-style clothes and making jokes all night about how you don't have your papers. The latter is racist. The former is not.

These sorts of campaigns are not meant to educate the people who do things like "dressing up as a metaphor for exploitative US-Mexico relations and then telling people you're going as a Mexican-American". It's meant to educate the sort of people whose only real thought process here is basically LOLOTHERCULTURES. Those people continue to exist and continue to need educating.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:13 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


And how about her kids, if she marries a black man? Keep in mind at this point,her kids will be only a quarter asian.

The "melting pot" theory of cultural development went out of vogue sometime in the 1980's and was replaced by the "tossed salad" approach. "tossed salad" means that everyone gets mixed together but retains their own identities.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of people's identities are tied up in their birth culture and the melting pot is threatening to them.

However the tossed salad approach will fade naturally as more and more people have the experience your daughter has. In the United States in particular the balance is even now in favor of people with mixed heritage, which I think explains a lot of the heat people display over the idea that combining multiple cultures is somehow a bad thing.

Even I who grew up with merely Irish, German, and Slovenian ancestry have some trouble connecting with the outrage. Last week a co-worker from Shanghai gave me a Diwali present of a cloth hanging made by a traditional collective in the far south-west of China. Did he appropriate the culture of south-west China? Did we both appropriate the culture of Hindus by exchanging gifts at the company Diwali party?

Nobody here seems to care. Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Israeli, French, German, Vietnamese, Nigerian ... the only people to comment on the hanging are the ones who like it and want to know where I got it. Mostly the folks from Beijing.

The time when people can even pretend to have separate cultures started dying with the invention of the movie camera and the jet plane. These are just the last gasps of people who want isolated groups, and that's okay . . . better to let the whole thing die in peace.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:14 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think anyone looks at a geisha costume and thinks it's meant to represent a generic Japanese person.

I hate to disillusion you, but...there are a lot of people who do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I know. The world would just go to hell if white people let non-whites make strongly worded requests about sensitivity.

It's when the requests become demands that I take issue. That is, it's when a request for further, deeper discussion becomes a successful demand that something JUST NOT BE TALKED ABOUT AT ALL -- that's when I feel the "bad guys" are winning.

We do need to talk about this stuff.
posted by philip-random at 11:17 AM on October 26, 2011


wait you're conflating that people not dress up as racist-ass stereotypes with a demand to silence discourse on race? what the fuck? seriously?
posted by beefetish at 11:19 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's when the requests become demands that I take issue.

Would you characterize these posters, which have no force of law, as anything but forceful requests?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:19 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


These are just the last gasps of people who want isolated groups, and that's okay .

This is getting pretty far from what this conversation is about. This conversation is about, in part, people getting offended about hugely stereotypical representations of their culture that a lot of people take for facts-- like the Muslim "bomber" costume that the first kid in the slideshow is holding up.

I think some people just stopped looking at the links.
posted by sweetkid at 11:19 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is really sad to me. A totally valid message is being lost for the sake of LOLZ. Making a picture of Dracula asking you not to dress up like him lets you pretend that the whole campaign is a joke.

See what I mean?


See, if it had been a picture from Twilight or something, I would agree, but it's a picture of a vampire and someone in blackface. I understand the objections to using blackface for a joke.
posted by jeather at 11:20 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


wait you're conflating that people not dress up as racist-ass stereotypes with a demand to silence discourse on race? what the fuck? seriously?

From my previous comment:

If you don't understand that it's offensive to dress up in blackface or run around in a turban with bombs strapped to your chest just for laffs, well, I guess there is no arguing with you.

Okay, that's easy to agree with,

posted by philip-random at 11:21 AM on October 26, 2011


Also Princess Luna being pretty upset about the whole Nightmare Night thing.
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is getting pretty far from what this conversation is about.

Maybe. But it's interesting to think about why people think it's okay to dress like that. Again, I know it's because a lot of people grew up on heavy doses of Family Guy and South Park, and they just equate offensive jokes with humor.

On the other hand, a pretty low-key poster campaign isn't going to change their minds.
posted by glaucon at 11:22 AM on October 26, 2011


p-random you then quoted ray bradbury being all like IF WE LET THESE MINORITIES BE OFFENDED BY STUFF I DO THEN ITS GONNA BE CHAOS! CHAOS!!! which is still pretty trollstyle. i don't want to derail any worse than it already is about bradbury so if you wanna memail me thats cool
posted by beefetish at 11:23 AM on October 26, 2011


These sorts of campaigns are not meant to educate the people who do things like "dressing up as a metaphor for exploitative US-Mexico relations and then telling people you're going as a Mexican-American". It's meant to educate the sort of people whose only real thought process here is basically LOLOTHERCULTURES. Those people continue to exist and continue to need educating.

Of course, but the problem with the campaign is that it fails to explain why some costumes are inappropriate and insulting. The people they are trying to educate aren't going to get the message because the campaign doesn't deliver the message. They surely mean well, but it's just not a very good campaign.
posted by snofoam at 11:24 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


From personal experience the main reason you shouldn't attend a costume event dressed as any kind of paramilitary is the police take a pretty dim view of that sort of thing and ask some pretty pointed questions about that fake machinegun you're carrying.
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, that's in the UK. In the US they probably just shoot you.
posted by Artw at 11:26 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate to disillusion you, but...there are a lot of people who do.

I'm surprised by this. I've lived in big cities and small towns and I know some total racists as well as some people who aren't particularly racist but are just uneducated, and I don't think I know anybody that I'd guess is under the illusion that Japanese women wander around dressed like geishas. I know a few who seem to think they wander around dressed like Gothic Lolitas, mind you, but everyone seems pretty clear on the rough outline of geisha vs. non-geisha. (What their perceptions are of what geisha itself actually means is probably a little less nuanced.)

Is the state of understanding and education really so totally much worse in America than it is in Canada that people there legitimately think this is what Japanese women routinely dress like?
posted by jacquilynne at 11:26 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wearing a burkha as a costume is one thing, but a mariachi, as given in the original article, is not a race of people. In fact, a mariachi wears a specific costume. Would it be offensive to be a mime?

I was with you right up until that last bit, then you lost me.
posted by mazola at 11:27 AM on October 26, 2011


sweetkid: "
This is getting pretty far from what this conversation is about. This conversation is about, in part, people getting offended about hugely stereotypical representations of their culture that a lot of people take for facts-- like the Muslim "bomber" costume that the first kid in the slideshow is holding up.
"

It is also about the negative reaction to the poster campaign. Some people see the campaign as being too global - dressing as a geisha isn't bad per say, but it can easily be if not handled well. Some people see it as being totally on the mark - no cultural appropriate allowed. These two groups are arguing.

Others (who aren't in this thread and are the actual targets of the posters) are just dicks.
posted by charred husk at 11:27 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is getting pretty far from what this conversation is about.

Claim to know what a fast moving MetaFilter conversation is about at your own peril :-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:28 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Others (who aren't in this thread and are the actual targets of the posters) are just dicks.

Nice.
posted by glaucon at 11:28 AM on October 26, 2011


The powerful impact of the posters is to directly link the costume with a real person from that culture who is telling you that you're being insensitive and that it's not cool. I think it actually will make a lot of people think twice.

If the posters had an "*Exceptions may exist; use your best judgment" footnote, would that have satisfied the critics here (even though it would have dulled the impact of the message)? Do the posters have to have a nuanced three-paragraph explanation, thus losing eyeballs and interest in 99% of the people they're trying to reach?
posted by naju at 11:29 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see how Bradbury's essay applies here, and in fact I think he over-reaches in it.

First and foremost, it's not on topic because nothing in dressing up in a costume is a parallel with altering a fixed written work to suit modern sensibilities. Nobody is denying anyone's right to keep their intellectual property intact in the face of changing times. Unless you originated the geisha design it's not pertinent.

If the goal is to say "no, it's cool because this really existed" that doesn't work either. Even if I give you credit for making a perfectly accurate historical representation (which is unlikely since most of these offensive things are made worse so because they're so slapdash caricature) you still can't fall on that because you aren't a historically accurate geisha - you're some other ethnicity playing let's pretend. You're not trying to communicate something the way you would if you had dressed in this costume to be in a play where you're portraying this role, you're just wearing it while you go collect candy or bob for apples and drink crappy beer.

As far as Bradbury himself, I think he misses a major point when he kibitzes about the response from a university theater that there's no women in his work. Or at least in the way he relays the conversation to us. He doesn't say they wanted changes or implied it was inferior or inappropriate in any way, just that they couldn't do it. To which I say, good on them!

For one, there's only so sensitive you get to be about that sort of thing when you're a science fiction author writing stories set in the future. I recently read a book from the early 90s called DOOMSDAY BOOK which is predicated on a future where they have time travel. But they don't have cell phones, and many plot complications & character actions revolve around people trying to get in touch with each other. And it really took me out of the story.

So when they turned around and told Bradbury, listen bub, we're gonna pick something else that better resonates with our modern culture they weren't dismissing any possibility of ever doing Shakespeare. They were saying we're going to pick modern fiction that represented modernity. After all, Bradbury was writing this in 79 and he says "My drama premieres as an opera in Paris this autumn" so there's no indication he wrote this thirty years prior.

I met them man randomly, briefly, at Worldcon in 86 and he was a wonderfully polite and courteous person. But just two years prior Geraldine Ferraro had been the vice presidential candidate on the democratic ticket. Which was only five years after he wrote that coda and sniped at that university who suggested that maybe his updating of Moby Dick coulda managed to have a woman or two in it.

So if I question this validity of this poster campaign I will not be using his words to support my position.
posted by phearlez at 11:32 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is the state of understanding and education really so totally much worse in America than it is in Canada that people there legitimately think this is what Japanese women routinely dress like?

No, I don't think so. Maybe a couple really old people somewhere.
posted by snofoam at 11:33 AM on October 26, 2011


I think the point is, it's insensitive to dress up in order to portray another race, culture, or ethnic group.

Probably, but I still think a yamamba costume would be pretty funny.
posted by Hoopo at 11:33 AM on October 26, 2011


No, I don't think so. Maybe a couple really old people somewhere.

While I appreciate your trust in the generalized world knowledge of the average American, I don't share it, and it hasn't been consistent with my experiences.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:35 AM on October 26, 2011


I think the real problem with the campaign is not its intent, which most people would agree is earnest, or its message, which at some level most people would agree with.

The real problem is that the campaign is too earnest, and utterly devoid of nuance or humor, and also seems to seek not so much outrage as pity.

The offended parties look pouty and butthurt. It's a weak, simpering way to address an injustice, and this is an approach will never ever be respected by the internets.

If you want to address an injustice, do it in a way that uses humor to your benefit, and which show the offending party as buffoonish. This could be a more successful approach.
posted by Pliskie at 11:36 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is the state of understanding and education really so totally much worse in America than it is in Canada that people there legitimately think this is what Japanese women routinely dress like?

Dressing up in a kimono or as a geisha is not the best example here, but there are plenty of people who dress up as rappers, American Indians, and sheikhs/suicide bombers. While this ad campaign probably won't do much to directly change the habits of such knuckleheads, it may help change the attitudes of their friends, so it will become less socially acceptable.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:36 AM on October 26, 2011


I hate to disillusion you, but...there are a lot of people who do.

I'm surprised by this. I've lived in big cities and small towns and I know some total racists as well as some people who aren't particularly racist but are just uneducated, and I don't think I know anybody that I'd guess is under the illusion that Japanese women wander around dressed like geishas.


I know a man who adopted a few children from Korea about 5 years back. One was under 2 and the other a pre-teen. They live in a more rural area of Florida now, maybe 30-ish miles from Gainesville, a university town.

In her junior year of high school, two years back, one of the other students asked his adopted teenaged daughter if she did nails.

Significant ignorance still exists.
posted by phearlez at 11:37 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am curious as to what a humorous version of this campaign would look like. I can't imagine one that wouldn't dilute the message.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:38 AM on October 26, 2011


If I see any of you jokers dressed up in khakis and carrying a laptop bag, I'm gonna be pissed!
posted by diogenes at 11:40 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Um, I hate that Ray Bradbury quote a lot. A lot a lot a lot. Let me count the reasons why--

if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangu­tan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversation­alist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics.

So, what, non-white people are just like orangutans and dolphins? This kind of language mocks and dehumanizes people of color, making what they say--the experiences they speak of, the stuff of their lives--into a ridiculous carnival. They're freaks! Like dwarfs! Like talking animals!

Also as Bunny Ultramod pointed out "if we allow the minorities" is very troubling. Talk about trying to control other people's ability to speak! Here's the thing, Mr. Bradbury. Increasingly, we white people don't get to decide what minorities are allowed to do. Which I think is great. Also, you probably already know this, but "the minorities" you speak of are actually, globally, majorities.

And what's with this "aesthetics"? Is there only one? Is that singular aesthetic by chance the white, Western, male, Christian (or post-Christian), heterosexual, able-bodied, well-off one? Because I'm pretty sure there are lots of other aesthetics. I'm pretty sure the singular aesthetic you are trying to preserve, to protect from the damaging interference of "minorities" has always already been influenced by them.

But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule.

Yes, okay, write what you want. No one is going to break into your house and smear white-out on your manuscripts. But your stories don't live only inside your head. They come from somewhere, and they go somewhere else. They live in the spaces between us. They enter into our dreams, into our hearts, into the secret places inside of us where we build our selves. They have the power to heal, to open our eyes to new ways of seeing the world, to build bridges of empathy so we learn how to hear more stories. And they also have the power to hurt. They have the power to shatter. To poison. To tear down. To ostracize, to smear shit and tar. To paint targets on people's backs, to inscribe marks on faces, marks which say, "This here is a demon, this is not human, this is a freak, an animal who should not be allowed to speak." Who should not be allowed to interfere. Who should never ever be heard.

If Mor­mons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent type-writers.

And will you read those stories? Will you review them? Will you publish them in magazines, in anthologies? Nominate them for awards? Make them into movies? Tell your friends about them?

Because here's the thing--when you say, let them write their own stories, when you say "treat everyone the same" you're ignoring the vastly tilted playing field that exists in our (American) society. Because not everyone has the time to write. Not everyone has been told, over in over again, in countless daily ways that their voice is valued. Not everyone has the money to "rent a type-writer". And even if they do, all the racism and sexism and classism and homophobia and transphobia out there make damn certain that not everyone has an equal chance of getting published.
posted by overglow at 11:40 AM on October 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


For one, there's only so sensitive you get to be about that sort of thing when you're a science fiction author writing stories set in the future. I recently read a book from the early 90s called DOOMSDAY BOOK which is predicated on a future where they have time travel. But they don't have cell phones, and many plot complications & character actions revolve around people trying to get in touch with each other. And it really took me out of the story.

Heh, I really could not get over the badly done faux-Britishisms of the present day, the slow as fuck pace or the oddly congenial Middle Ages. It won a Hugo and a Nebula though.
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on October 26, 2011


I think there is a line that most stereotype costumes cross, going into the racist and insensitive territories. I also think there is a line that most costume wearers cross, based on their actions in said costume. If someone dressed up in a traditional ghutra and iqal, but without the bombs strapped to their body, I would probably think he was trying to portray Lawrence of Arabia or The 13th Warrior or something. If that same person decided to strap fake bombs to their body and started screaming about jihad, that crosses the line.

The geisha "costume" doesn't strike me as bad if it's done according to what a geisha actually is, and not the post-war misinterpretation. I admit my historical knowledge of geisha is limited, but I was under the impression that geisha were more like artisans and entertainers, and the submissive/sexual aspect wasn't a part of it. Granted, it's hard for people unfamiliar with the nuances to fully grasp or apply the correct intentions of attire, but I think some do try, and for that I give them a pass.

In the same vein, if someone showed up to a costume party dressed in traditional Diné or Puyallup attire, I wouldn't necessarily think they were being racist. But if they just threw together some cheap store-bought knock-off full of inaccuracies or exaggerations, to me that crosses the line, especially if all they did was whoop and holler about, and threaten to scalp people.

Unfortunately, more costumes exist purely for the lulz and the execution of those outfits merely perpetuate the stereotypes in a lazy can't-do-the-research manner. The actions of these individuals don't help, especially when they just boil down an entire cultural identity into one blanket statement or activity.
posted by CancerMan at 11:44 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the posters had an "*Exceptions may exist; use your best judgment" footnote, would that have satisfied the critics here (even though it would have dulled the impact of the message)? Do the posters have to have a nuanced three-paragraph explanation, thus losing eyeballs and interest in 99% of the people they're trying to reach?

How about

WHEN YOU USE MY CULTURE
AND DRESS UP LIKE THIS
IT TELLS ME WHAT YOU THINK OF ME

WHAT YOU THINK IS A FUNNY COSTUME
CAN MAKE REAL PEOPLE FEEL LIKE CRAP

IS THIS WHAT YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOK AT ME?
BECAUSE THAT'S HOW IT FEELS WHEN I SEE YOU IN THIS

None of those use words that feel like an order - NOT OKAY - or assert that the reader is telling that person what their identity is - THIS IS NOT WHO I AM. That's not a disclaimer or best judgment and it makes an appeal for empathy which is more useful, culturally, than providing jerkbags with a checklist of OK, NOT OK
posted by phearlez at 11:45 AM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


As much as racism and stereotypes do still exist in the US, basically no one thinks that all Japanese women walk around in kimonos. The only people that could think that were exposed to contemporary Japanese society back in the 1980s when they were takin' all our jobs and buyin' all our buildings. I know some people like to exaggerate the ignorance of the American people, but this is just silly.
posted by snofoam at 11:45 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I guess ultimately, despite my lack of understanding of why a geisha costume is offensive, it's enough for me to know that it is to want to avoid it. I don't get to decide whether other people are entitled to be offended by something, if they are, they are (assuming 'they' are some statistically significant percentage of the target population and not just a tiny minority of offenderati).

So in that sense, the campaign works -- I didn't know Geisha costumes were offensive, and now I do. And since I don't go out of my way to offend people, I'll be sure not to dress up as a Geisha. (Not that this, given my physique, was in any way likely to happen anyway.)
posted by jacquilynne at 11:45 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


>I understand how some costumes are offensive, but I honestly feel like there's some leap of logic going on to assume that wearing a costume is also diminishing a culture. I don't see why a costume can't be a costume. I mean, wearing a toga is not necessarily a statement about Roman culture. Also, a geisha outfit is a costume.<

Agreed. I think both the original campaign and the parodies go to far, and are both wrong.

There are few things that bug me more than the "PC police" excuse for racism and assholism, but I often think in a lot of these cases the reaction of the offended reflects more of the feelings of the offended than the intentions of the "offender". I have friends who flinch when someone says "Mexican", or won’t use that word when actually talking about people from Mexico, in a totally innocent conversation. WTF? Are we going to make up a new name for them? "Mexican" is not offensive and if you think it is maybe you should question why you think that.

(Yes, I know some people use "Mexican" to mean "illegal" or anyone from any Spanish speaking country, that doesn’t make it a bad word. It means people from Mexico)

I don’t play that stupid game, from either side.
posted by bongo_x at 11:47 AM on October 26, 2011


This is a basic example of a Halloween 'geisha' costume. There are also other examples of an 'oriental princess' costume and an lotus flower costume. When most people say 'I'm going to dress up as a geisha for Halloween', chances are this is what they mean - they don't mean they're going to dress up as a geisha from Kyoto with period-specific geta, exactly applied white face make-up and a correctly tied obi with special attention paid to correct fabric details in a historical homage.

Look at the language on those costumes - 'oriental', 'princess', 'lotus flower', 'Japanese lady'. I can't speak for some of the other stereotyped costumes, but the geisha costume is a specific, stereotyped example of an occupation that was thought to be immeasurably exotic, after prostitutes in Japan caught on that calling themselves 'geisha' to visiting Western soldiers was a good way to drum up business. Ideas spread like wildfire, and a few years down the road you've got the idea that 'geisha' equals 'prostitute'.

Traditional geisha were never prostitutes. They were entertainers. They spent years being taught music clever conversation and dance, and the legitimate profession of a geisha in Japan was not of overt sexuality, not along the lines of what the common Western idea of a geisha is. But the idea clung, somehow, and when someone says geisha, the cultural perception is: Japanese, dolled-up, kimono, giggling, sex.

Is it racist? Yes, in the sense that costumes like that that're being sold - cheap, crappy lazy reproductions of a cultural practise that've ended up so removed from the actual source material - are perpetuating old, sexist ideas about Japanese history that never existed in the first place. Is wearing one of those costumes being actively racist? I don't know. If you study Japanese culture and your thesis is on the sexualisation of women within the geisha subculture and you show up wearing a kimono that a retired geisha tied for you, is that okay? I don't know. Some people care a whole lot and will think you're an asshole. Some people don't. Choose your audience wisely, and it's up to you if you want to be an asshole to some or not.

But that these costumes abound with tags like 'Japanese lady' and 'oriental princess', that says a whole lot about how stereotypes about Asian culture are still floating around. It says traditional dress is something to be aped, something to be subtly mocked, something that's only really acceptable on Halloween, and that's kind of distressing.

I once wore a handmade qipao in public - it was pretty basic, plain-looking, but my mother made it and I loved it. Five minutes in and someone said, "It's not Halloween". That sucked.
posted by zennish at 11:48 AM on October 26, 2011 [19 favorites]


So if, for example, I bought a Peruvian hat while traveling are you saying I can not wear my Peruvian hat this winter because I am white?

See, this is where people have to use their judgement and also act in good faith. Personally, I would not wear a hat that was some sort of ultra-identifiable South American mountain peasant hat (like with bobbles or something) because [I would feel like some kind of clueless new age white lady] because it would suggest that I was on some level saying "oh look at this quaint artifact produced by authentic peasants in a far away land! Look at me and my exotic multicultural travels and sensibilities!", which would be embarrassing. Also, we in the global north shouldn't be able to cherry pick "cool" things from the global south to make us look fashionable while being deeply implicated in the horrible exploitation (by mining companies, by agricultural companies, by US-supported military projects) of the global south.

It's like saying "it's not enough that I get cheap metals from toxic mining projects in your country, and I get cheap bananas from union-busting and peasant-murdering corporations, but I also want your traditional hat."

Seriously, white people are famous for never leaving anything alone. We always have to take every last thing and get incredibly pissy when anyone suggests otherwise. There's no "I'm going to be a little bit humble and simply not do this thing because POC have asked me not to, rather than get into some giant argument about the first amendment and reverse-racism and "can I eat spaghetti even though I'm not italian LOL"" with us.

And that's another thing - white people are famous for a lot of stuff and most of it isn't very good. Just from sheer personal vanity I would rather do what I can to avoid being one of those crass, cold-hearted white people that folks talk about.

Also, white people often get "coolness" and "exotic" points for wearing things that POC wear in their daily life and that are disregarded or considered sloppy when they wear them. Consider Krea-Shawn (or whatever her name is). It's edgy and kicky and hipsterish for her to wear clothes that are "ghetto" or "trashy" when girls of color wear them.

To return to the matter of the hat - I'd go with it if it's fairly anonymous, like those roll-up brim felted wool ones I used to see around. I had one in college, lost it on the bus.

Again, this is a lot about trying to be humble, act in good faith, use your judgement. If an Indian friend invited me to a traditional wedding and asked me to wear a sari, I'd wear a sari, for example. If a Chinese friend gave me one of those carved jade pendants as a present, I'd wear it because it was a present. But I wouldn't wear something whose point was to make a big fashion statement out of "I am wearing exotic garments".
posted by Frowner at 11:48 AM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry but if Geisha are not allowed as costumes, then you have to rule out other cultural stereotypes as well. So no cowboys unless you are from the Wild West, no fighting Irish unless you are from Ireland, No Bob and Doug McKenzie unless you are from Canada, and no sexy dirndles unless you are Bavarian.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:48 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


While the parodies that photoshop racist props onto the original posters come across as a racist backlash against the original message, most of these, like Skeletor and and Elmo seem at least neutral toward and maybe even supporting the original message.

Because the butt of the Skeletor joke is the guy wearing a lame Skeletor costume. "Look at the fool in the half-assed Skeletor costume" is not that far off from "Look at the fool in the racist Mexican costume."
posted by straight at 11:49 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, I don't think so. Maybe a couple really old people somewhere.

Before I moved to Japan, my stepmother who was in her early 50s at the time recommended that I pack toilet paper. Seriously.
posted by Hoopo at 11:49 AM on October 26, 2011


I wonder how many people in this thread saying such costumes are no big deal are actually visible minorities.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


a lot of these cases the reaction of the offended reflects more of the feelings of the offended than the intentions of the "offender".

Well, yes. I cannot magically deduce whether someone is just ignorant about offensive stereotypes or a jerk who delights in being offensive (including the subset of jerks who like to pretend they didn't know, again and again, or keep "forgetting"). Just like my foot hurts whether you accidentally stepped on it or you did it deliberately.

"Oh I didn't know" isn't, on its own, some magical "get out of having said something offensive" free card.
posted by jeather at 11:52 AM on October 26, 2011


Five minutes in and someone said, "It's not Halloween". That sucked.

I think we've pretty clearly established that this is Halloween.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:52 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This has gone far enough. As an Expert, I officially cancel Halloween this year.
posted by 200burritos at 11:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Also, if folks want to be able to dress up as whatever they please, perhaps they should work on ending racial inequality, so that someday they really can wear a geisha costume and not have it be part of this global rhetoric of racism and exotification of Asian women. This stuff isn't neutral right now, because we live in an immensely racist and unequal world. If you don't like that, let's fix the world. )
posted by Frowner at 11:56 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder how many people in this thread saying such costumes are no big deal are actually visible minorities.

I was wondering the same thing about the people objecting to geisha costumes (not the costumes zennish linked to) being Japanese.
posted by Hoopo at 11:57 AM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I like your version, Phearlez.
posted by naju at 11:58 AM on October 26, 2011


The problem with the campaign is that rather than making a good point, like costumes that mock people are lame, they make a totally different point, which is that costumes must not incorporate elements from other cultures. By choosing to make a silly and unsupported point, they basically guarantee that their campaign will be ignored and/or mocked.
posted by snofoam at 11:59 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I do not belong to a visible minority, but my kids do, as does my wife. Like I said earlier, you want to dress up as a geisha, go ahead, but instead of outrage, the typical Japanese person (eg, my wife) would probably think you were an idiot. But, then again, people who insist on dressing up as other cultures are usually lacking basic common sense.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:59 AM on October 26, 2011


> This campaign is just silly.
>
> Why?

Because cowboy cosplay and cowboy cosplay. (Fifth one down. Cute!) And Classical Euro cosplay. Look, cultural appropriation!

Also this one. Scroll down to Julia Chang, the last one, for some hot Indian cosplay action. And I don't mean from-India Indian. And there's this guy, who I won't try to describe, but he's worth a look, maybe two.

Party costumes--that's the level of seriousness we have here. Correcting people's tacky party-costume choices is a leisure activity of the pathologically oversensitive .00001 percent with no larger problems to address.
posted by jfuller at 12:01 PM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


One of my colleagues recently described to me a third colleague who grew up in the rural Midwest as "you know, that Asian girl who actually speaks English". So really, if you don't understand why people see essentialist costumes as the microaggressions that they are, I'd think more about the daily experiences of people who are expressing offense.

The appropriation argument is a red herring because while appropriation is a real issue, it's not what this particular problem is about. This is about using costumes to dress "as" a particular demographic of people who don't appreciate being someone's _____face. Dressing as a geisha may be considered offensive where dressing as, say, a Japanese postal employee might not be, because the former is widely recognized shorthand in our culture for "caricature of a generic Japanese woman". I know it would be easier to have a rule like "It is never/always okay to dress as anyone from another culture" than to have to actually critically think, but sorry, don't be so damn lazy.
posted by threeants at 12:01 PM on October 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Correcting people's tacky party-costume choices is a leisure activity of the pathologically oversensitive .00001 percent with no larger problems to address.

Now that we know what you think about us, without ever having met us, can we make similar assumptions about you?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:03 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


And what's with this "aesthetics"? Is there only one?

I think that the very fact that it's presented as a plural suggests there's more than one. Or as the wiki puts it ...

aesthetics: Aesthetics (also spelled æsthetics or esthetics) is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty.[1]

This has certainly always been my operating definition of aesthetics. Beauty being exulted, raised high, an end unto itself (which I know can sound creepy when you think of certain commodifications of "Beauty" -- the extremes of the fashion biz etc), but in the context of art, I have no quarrel with it.

Yes, okay, write what you want. No one is going to break into your house and smear white-out on your manuscripts. But your stories don't live only inside your head. They come from somewhere, and they go somewhere else. They live in the spaces between us. They enter into our dreams, into our hearts, into the secret places inside of us where we build our selves.

Nicely put. I think that's exactly what artistic expression is, and what scares the hell out of me is when some try to suppress it, because it is, I think, the purest form of communication we humans ever accomplish. Not when it's one dimensionally hateful, racist, bigoted, ignorant -- there's no beauty in that anyway. No, it's when there's a grey area -- when my sensibility comes up against your sensitivity. This is where we must discuss, not shout down. This is where there's all kinds of opportunity for growth and we're foolish to not embrace it.
posted by philip-random at 12:03 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I totally agree that zennish's links are a total stereotype and are in my class of "sexy" costumes that people wear. You know those costumes... sexy nurse, sexy french maid, sexy pauli girl, sexy geisha. But what if your costume is a carefully researched aspect of a culture that you seek to get right? I ask this as a personal question because I am going to a trick or treat event dressed as Saraswati, the hindu goddess of knowledge. I mean, I've put some research into getting this right; will not be doing this campy in any way. Is it patently offensive to delve into a culture that is not your own? Is it only ok if you don't try to participate in that culture at all and only read about it in books? I mean, what if I find the clothes of a geisha beautiful and would like to wear them on the only day of the year that won't get me stared at?
posted by Foam Pants at 12:06 PM on October 26, 2011


the typical Japanese person (eg, my wife) would probably think you were an idiot.

Yeah I got used to that, not being able to read or converse in Japanese past a 2nd grade level and all. But if it's not particularly offensive, then being thought of as an idiot isn't really that big a concern. Dressing up in a Halloween costume isn't exactly an intellectual pursuit, is it?
posted by Hoopo at 12:07 PM on October 26, 2011


> Now that we know what you think about us, without ever having met us, can we make
> similar assumptions about you?
> posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:03 PM on October 26 [+] [!]

I held up a shoe that might fit anybody. If you put it on and announce that it fits you, that's entirely your doing.

However, make any assumptions about me that you like. I'm unoffendable.
posted by jfuller at 12:07 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


>I wonder how many people in this thread saying such costumes are no big deal are actually visible minorities.

I was wondering the same thing about the people objecting to geisha costumes (not the costumes zennish linked to) being Japanese.<

Also, the "I need to protect the little helpless people" attitude is pretty offensive to me. They’re not stray dogs.
posted by bongo_x at 12:08 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I held up a shoe that might fit anybody. If you put it on and announce that it fits you, that's entirely your doing.

You really did not.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:09 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are we suddenly so deficient in ideas for being imaginary creatures, asshole celebrities, and abstract concepts that we even need the Sterotypical Person of a Culture Not My Own as a costume option?

C'mon, America. Use your imagination, fer cryin' out loud. Or just be a mermaid again. Whatever. Leave the rest of the world alone.
posted by emjaybee at 12:10 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, cowboys do not equal geishas. Why? Because you're not going to be hurting anyone's feelings by wearing a cowboy hat and boots.

That's really what this boils down to, in my opinion. Do you care more about not hurting other people or more about your freedom to do whatever you want?
posted by overglow at 12:11 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Before I moved to Japan, my stepmother who was in her early 50s at the time recommended that I pack toilet paper. Seriously.

American toilet paper is superior to Japanese toilet paper.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:13 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can a Japanese person dress up as a redneck? Rednecks are pretty popular Halloween costumes.
posted by metl_lord at 12:13 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's it: if you've made more than two comments defending the abstract right to dress as a geisha, you'd better actually be dressing as a geisha this Halloween. Put your money where your mouth is, white, middle-aged dudes on the internet. You want it so bad? GO GET IT.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:14 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a basic example of a Halloween 'geisha' costume.

"Adult Japanese Lady"? Well yeah, that's one example, for sure. Here's another. And another. And another. None as sexualized as the three you chose, but I'm sure you didn't mean to put your finger on the scale. (and note they're all actually called "Geisha" -- one is even "adult geisha")

the former is widely recognized shorthand in our culture for "caricature of a generic Japanese woman"

Honestly, I don't know what to think at this point. Different countries, yours and mine? Different circles? There is no one I know that, if asked, would look at someone in geisha garb with whiteface and say "Japanese person". It's a profession. You may as well look at a mime and think "French". A matador? Spanish. I dressed up as a viking one year, with long brdided hair and a horned helmet. This is one kid's interpretation of it: "opera singer". You don't control other people's perceptions. So long as you participate in respectful good faith, that's where your responsibility ends.

on preview:

That's really what this boils down to, in my opinion. Do you care more about not hurting other people or more about your freedom to do whatever you want?

Well that's really the high card, isn't it. You play that and you've basically won any argument, because I have to do what: find a sufficient number of ethnicity X to proclaim loudly that they are not offended, in order for it to be ok? Which is not going to happen. Meanwhile, you get to claim any thoughts or feelings you want on their behalf, and that's not supposed to be offensive?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:15 PM on October 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


Skimming over this thread has made me reflect on the fact that "racist" isn't an absolute category into which patterns of speech, stereotypes, costumes, etc. clearly belong; rather, it's dependent on multiple contexts and therefore requires constant rethinking and renegotiation.

Obviously, by "renegotiation" I mean the type of careful thinking that many people are trying to do here, not the parody posters, many of which are disrespectful and downright assholish in addition to being racist, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm still not convinced that a geisha costume is inherently racist. I suppose it would depend on the quality of the costume and the costume wearer's knowledge of and attitude towards Japanese culture. However, a rickshaw driver costume worn by a Caucasian does seem racist to me. And I'm still trying to suss the difference.
posted by duvatney at 12:15 PM on October 26, 2011


I'm half-Japanese and I don't mind if someone wants to wear a geisha costume. I don't own Japanese culture.

The ad campaign implies that if a non-Chinese person went to a pirate-themed party dressed as Madame Cheng, the most successful pirate of all time, it would be wrong because an asian person might see them and be offended. This is silly, and totally misses the point that some costumes actually really are in poor taste.
posted by snofoam at 12:16 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]



Party costumes--that's the level of seriousness we have here. Correcting people's tacky party-costume choices is a leisure activity of the pathologically oversensitive .00001 percent with no larger problems to address.

No it isn't. It's not just about costumes, it's about entirely caricaturing a culture for LOLZ. Like I said earlier, it's the same behavior that makes people think it's ok to ask a child if they're WOO-WOO Indian or GENIE/SWAMI Indian.
posted by sweetkid at 12:16 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


man it is really disconcerting to see people arguing basically for the right for them to do shit without thinking of how it affects other people

MAN IT IS MY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BE FUCKIN' RUDE

JESUS CHRIST
posted by beefetish at 12:17 PM on October 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Nicely put.

Thanks!

I feel like maybe what appears to you to be attempts to suppress discussion appears to me to be the opening up of dialogue? Or at least voices that have been suppressed rising up to speak, which is a chance for dialogue. I'm not sure exactly what you mean though.
posted by overglow at 12:17 PM on October 26, 2011


Ok geishas are not a cultural stereotype. They are a distinct profession. An offensive stereotype would be the Japanese landlord from Breakfast at Tiffanys. I think we can all agree that is offensive.

The problem isn't that people don't know this is offensive. They know they are being offensive, they revel in it. They get off on offending people then saying "oh, lighten up."
posted by Ad hominem at 12:17 PM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yes that's right, brdided hair. If you don't know what that is, you're probably a closet racist.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:18 PM on October 26, 2011


also man the geisha hill to die on is weird. that particular costume has a lot of gross subtext woven into it about asian ladies and submissive sexuality that dressing up as a cowboy or ninja does not.

just... just thinkin about it

just thinkin about it there
posted by beefetish at 12:18 PM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


One of the fun side effects of being a minority is Explaining Fucking Everything, that not everything in cultural or social life has a white culture parallel.
posted by girlmightlive at 12:21 PM on October 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


American toilet paper is superior to Japanese toilet paper.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:13 PM on October 26 [+] [!]


EPONYSTERICAL.

No, my step mom is just a naive lady about these things

That's it: if you've made more than two comments defending the abstract right to dress as a geisha, you'd better actually be dressing as a geisha this Halloween. Put your money where your mouth is, white, middle-aged dudes on the internet

the geisha hill to die on is weird

My wife dressed as one 2 years ago, using a bunch of souvenirs she bought while visiting me in Japan. There were 2 other people at the party wearing geisha costumes, non of which were "sexified." No one was playing on any kind of assumptions of "submissive sexuality." I gather some people here think they're all idiots.
posted by Hoopo at 12:22 PM on October 26, 2011


man it is really disconcerting to see people arguing basically for the right for them to do shit without thinking of how it affects other people

I don't even do Halloween, as I said up thread. And if I did, I wouldn't be a Geisha. So, yeah, I don't know where you're going with this, other than being an asshole.
posted by empath at 12:23 PM on October 26, 2011


chips and curry are (one of the ) best things that cultural mixing has produced.

And in the meantime, I will continue to wear clothes from other culture that I think are more comfortable/attractive than modern western clothing - and you can pry my kameez out of my cold, dead hand.
posted by jb at 12:24 PM on October 26, 2011


empath, you realize that the rest of us aren't engaging in theoretical wankery, right? Like, these aren't imaginary costumes for everyone else. We're talking about real people reinforcing real stereotypes and the real impacts they have on real minorities. If this is all just a mind game to you, then why are you so involved?
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


aw crap link fail. My super funny joke was that there's a brand of toilet paper in Japan called "naive lady"
posted by Hoopo at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


...first world problems...

[offtopic] Can I just say: I am sick to death of this expression?

Oh, I just did. Carry on.

posted by quin at 12:26 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure exactly what you mean though.

Well, as the Bradbury-derail seems to have mostly faded by now, I won't belabor the point. But the point of confusion, I think, is that I was referring back to his original essay, where he was speaking to those who would choose to censor his work to alleviate their concerns, rather than engage with it by writing/sharing work of their own that communicated these concerns.
posted by philip-random at 12:28 PM on October 26, 2011


The campaign might be a reaction to people wearing their costumes while touting cultural stereotypes, but the pictures on the posters lack that context. I do not see a suicide bomber as connected to Arabs in general, so from my point of view it is the poster itself that makes that offensive connection. Thus it appears to decry its own prejudice, making it easy to create absurd variations.
posted by Ruodlieb at 12:29 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's it: if you've made more than two comments defending the abstract right to dress as a geisha, you'd better actually be dressing as a geisha this Halloween. Put your money where your mouth is, white, middle-aged dudes on the internet</em

I'm actually dressed as Lady Snowblood.

posted by Artw at 12:29 PM on October 26, 2011


I wonder how many people in this thread saying such costumes are no big deal are actually visible minorities.

I wonder how many people writing passive-aggressive questions that aren't really questions should just have the courage of their convictions to say what they mean?

No wait, I don't want to say it that way. That reads really obnoxious.

If you want to say that people don't have a legitimate position to say something is or isn't offensive, say it. The passive aggressive not-really-a-question is trite.

also man the geisha hill to die on is weird.

That's a little hyperbolic don't you think? The geisha costume obviously doesn't feel the same way to some of us as the other costumes do and discussing it is interesting and potentially illuminating. The number of people here who have taken an extreme "hill to die on" dismissive position about it is tiny.
posted by phearlez at 12:30 PM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


If this is all just a mind game to you, then why are you so involved?

Because I have a lot of downtime at work and the topic interests me. There's a lot of just telling people to shut up and ad hominem attacks and mischaracterisation of arguments going on here and its almost entirely from one side of the aisle.
posted by empath at 12:30 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


The campaign might be a reaction to people wearing their costumes while touting cultural stereotypes, but the pictures on the posters lack that context. I do not see a suicide bomber as connected to Arabs in general, so from my point of view it is the poster itself that makes that offensive connection.

Even if you do not think that Arabs are generally suicide bombers or that suicide bombers are generally Arabs (which are two separate statements), can you really deny that this is a very common representation in the media and that a lot of people do believe one or both of those statements? The poster is making reference to that offensive connection, not creating it.
posted by jeather at 12:33 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a lot of just telling people to shut up and ad hominem attacks and mischaracterisation of arguments going on here and its almost entirely from one side of the aisle.

You're really not reading carefully enough; there has been an exceptional amount of effort put into explaining why these types of racial caricatures are problematic. If all you're seeing is "shut up" then you're skimming and cherry-picking pretty aggressively.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:34 PM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


[offtopic] Can I just say: I am sick to death of this expression?

It's such a first world problem to be sick of mere expressions. In the majority world, people are sick from malaria, malnutrition, dirty drinking water, HIV/AIDS, and working all day as ragpickers on garbage dumps.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:35 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You play that and you've basically won any argument, because I have to do what: find a sufficient number of ethnicity X to proclaim loudly that they are not offended, in order for it to be ok? Which is not going to happen.

Why is that not going to happen? If the costumes you're defending are so innocuous, why wouldn't people readily and happily say so?

Meanwhile, you get to claim any thoughts or feelings you want on their behalf, and that's not supposed to be offensive?

I didn't come up with the idea that the images of geishas circulated in pop culture are offensive and harmful. I became aware that many Asians and Asians-Americans consider them to be offensive by listening to what they have to say about it. For example, in this essay, Atlasien (who describes herself as "mixed-race Japanese-American") writes:
But a lot of people, especially white people, are invested in defending geisha, in putting them on a pedestal. And when they do that, it does harm to Japanese-American women and to all Asian-American women. Appropriation is almost too mild of a word. It’s not just theft, it’s domination. Imagine a young girl, on the verge of understanding herself as a sexual being, looking deeply in the mirror… and seeing her mirror image controlled by puppet masters.

I’ll try to explain further. The geisha figure is one end of a continuum of stereotypes of Asian woman sexuality. The continuum is inanimate. Other races have different sexual stereotypes: for example, “animalistic”. But Asian women are neither animal nor human. They’re inanimate things. They’re so passive that they barely even move. On the high end, they’re beautiful clockwork dolls, to be petted and treasured and collected and shown off. The most expensive ones can’t even be bought for money; instead, you have to win them through your superior knowledge of authentic Asian culture. On the low end, they’re doormats, sperm receptacles, happy ending massage girls, completely impersonal and interchangeable, existing for nothing more than a moment’s pleasure.
posted by overglow at 12:37 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, as the Bradbury-derail seems to have mostly faded by now, I won't belabor the point. But the point of confusion, I think, is that I was referring back to his original essay, where he was speaking to those who would choose to censor his work to alleviate their concerns, rather than engage with it by writing/sharing work of their own that communicated these concerns.

The problem is that he's not really walking that walk. He starts with the very reasonable point that what he has written is fixed and it's his and not up to others to alter to fit their mission. But then he diverts and specifically calls out the theater department who says they're not going to select his piece.

And rather than address the nature of their concern, or question why he's writing a far-future piece of fiction with no females in positions of authority, he compares it to not doing classic literature or works that have only a single gender as part of the point. If he even just said "there's no women because I was making an effort at a perfect Melville parallel" he'd have defended his position better.

Instead he says well, just do something with chicks next week you baby. Missing the OTHER point that the theater company has a highly limited number of slots to fill but can pick from a near infinite number of works, any number of which might better exemplify the diversity they seek.

By so completely missing their point in his response he does an excellent job of making it for them.
posted by phearlez at 12:39 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The easy separation point here might be: is it a uniform in the country of origin? Then you may adopt and display it. If it is nothing but a half-hearted attempt to jokingly call attention to stereotypes about the members of a country or race, don't do it.

I equate Geisha with Airline Stewardess, back when Airline Stewardess meant you were trained to make your civilized paying guests comfortable, entertain them in a professional manner, and make sure you look like a million dollars doing it. Also applies to Purser or Steward.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 12:42 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well that's really the high card, isn't it. You play that and you've basically won any argument, because I have to do what: find a sufficient number of ethnicity X to proclaim loudly that they are not offended, in order for it to be ok? Which is not going to happen. Meanwhile, you get to claim any thoughts or feelings you want on their behalf, and that's not supposed to be offensive?

Did you look at the original link? There's a poster of, for instance, a Mexican dude saying, "Hey, this kind of costume hurts my feelings. It makes me think that's how you see me."

So your response to that is, "If I can find 10 other Mexican dudes who say it's no big deal, then can I go ahead and hurt your feelings? 'Cause I look really great in this sombrero, and that's way more important to me."
posted by straight at 12:44 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reddit thread on the topic.

The top post.
posted by futz at 12:45 PM on October 26, 2011


You're really not reading carefully enough; there has been an exceptional amount of effort put into explaining why these types of racial caricatures are problematic.

Yes, and also a lot of just telling people to shut up.
posted by empath at 12:45 PM on October 26, 2011


Nobody has told you to shut up.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:46 PM on October 26, 2011


Yes, and also a lot of just telling people to shut up.

And gosh if those aren't 100% easier to respond to than the real points, huh?
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:47 PM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


there has been an exceptional amount of effort put into explaining why these types of racial caricatures are problematic

A cartoonish mustachioed Mexican in a sombrero and poncho with a donkey is a negative racial caricature that's been around for ages and we would all be better off if it didn't exist. A cartoonish Arab with a bomb strapped to his chest is a negative racial caricature and politically loaded and insensitive. I guess I don't see geisha in the same class as the others on display in the campaign. You might, but I don't think an understanding that sees geisha as a negative racial caricature rather than...a geisha, is necessarily the correct understanding.
posted by Hoopo at 12:47 PM on October 26, 2011


I understand how some costumes are offensive, but I honestly feel like there's some leap of logic going on to assume that wearing a costume is also diminishing a culture.

Talk to me when there's an ongoing trend of frat boys dressing up like Martin Luther King for halloween.

There's no hard and clear line defining when something is racist or offensive. There's a lot of very complicated social and cultural math involved in every single instance. Chances are if you're in the minority in this country, you're so used to doing this math that it's second nature. The hilarious part is when trying to discuss this with some members of the dominant culture, the idea that they might have to burn a single calorie unpacking this stuff is just too much to bear.

If a person can't figure out the territory between how humiliating it is to be a Black man at a party and some white asshole shows up in blackface dressed as a "pimp", and a costume from another culture that may not be offensive, then that person is failing at figuring out some very basic principles that some of us have been able to grasp since we were very small children.

And it's not our job to do that work for you. If someone tells you you stink, you have to take your own shower. Or choose to continue stinking. That's your right. But if you choose the latter don't be surprised if noone wants to stand next to you.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:47 PM on October 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why is that not going to happen? If the costumes you're defending are so innocuous, why wouldn't people readily and happily say so?

Because people tend to not write essays about not being offended.

What's funny is that you have second-hand reports in this very thread, but you choose to quote someone who, unsurprisingly, felt differently. Are there white dudes who "put geisha on a pedestal"? I'm sure. And they may react to a geisha costume in as ugly a manner as this person suspects. But that's not the culture I know -- not the Japanese culture nor of my peers who I'm going to see at some Halloween bash.

As for the "hill to die on" nonsense, I'm sticking to what I know. Though I suspect if I asked my Indian-heritage friends about wearing a sari, they would say it is "ok for an outfit; not as a costume" which (if I'm right about that -- I would like to see) would put it in stark contrast to geisha, as one is pretending to be an ethnicity; the other a job. jb made a good suggestion a long ways back about, if blonde, dressing as a geisha and leaving the blond hair, which would indicate just what you are and are not pretending to be, but the reasonable comments always get lost in the bluster.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:48 PM on October 26, 2011


If anyone wants to dress up as a dutch milkmaid, sexy or not, you've got this dutchman's blessing.
posted by Sourisnoire at 12:50 PM on October 26, 2011


That's it: if you've made more than two comments defending the abstract right to dress as a geisha, you'd better actually be dressing as a geisha this Halloween

Costumes. Meh. My idea of dressing up for Halloween is plastering myself with 2 or 3 boxes of band aids. However I do find this sub-theme of "Westerners should not appropriate any other culture" is an eye-opener:
Personally, I would not wear a hat that was some sort of ultra-identifiable South American mountain peasant hat (like with bobbles or something) because [I would feel like some kind of clueless new age white lady] because it would suggest that I was on some level saying "oh look at this quaint artifact produced by authentic peasants in a far away land! Look at me and my exotic multicultural travels and sensibilities!", which would be embarrassing. Also, we in the global north shouldn't be able to cherry pick "cool" things from the global south to make us look fashionable while being deeply implicated in the horrible exploitation (by mining companies, by agricultural companies, by US-supported military projects) of the global south.
So I go on vacation. I choose Lima, Peru. I find a small market with a lovely old lady making beautiful knitwear and (being a knitter myself) I stop to admire her handiwork. I'm smiling, she's smiling. I haltingly tell her how much I love her work and I pay for a hat. A hat with bobbles.

Now I go home. Oh look, Snow! Still have to walk the dog, though. Hey, a chance to wear my new hat. Which I paid for. But Sorry! I'm not allowed to, because I'm exploiting all of South America. Damn.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:50 PM on October 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


> Can a Japanese person dress up as a redneck? Rednecks are pretty popular Halloween costumes.
> posted by metl_lord at 3:13 PM on October 26 [2 favorites +] [!]

Why on earth not? Go for it.


> there has been an exceptional amount of effort put into explaining why these types of racial
> caricatures are problematic.

Heh. Yes, it's been like watching a dozen elephants trying to pick up a pea. Any idea that requires that much heavy breathing to put into words is an idea that very likely is just not substantial enough to be communicable in words. In which case the effort could more usefully be directed toward some other issue.
posted by jfuller at 12:51 PM on October 26, 2011


God, one day I'm totally going to have to explain to someone how their Pride Parade costume isn't OK, and he's going to be like, "But dudes at the Pride Parade wear pink and boas! I've seen them!" and someone else will be like, "WHY CAN'T I WEAR SEQUINS AS A STRAIGHT MAN?" and then everyone will say that I'm just being overly sensitive and I'll feel awesome, just awesome about the whole thing.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:54 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh look, Snow! Still have to walk the dog, though. Hey, a chance to wear my new hat. Which I paid for. But Sorry! I'm not allowed to, because I'm exploiting all of South America. Damn.

This shouldn't be extrapolated to be the viewpoint of people who have issue with the costumes. I think it really only becomes an issue when people make use of symbols of other cultures that have meaning within that culture, without being aware of the meaning. So a Peruvian hat is a hat, but a Palestinian kaffiyeh sends a real message, and you should be aware of the message it sends before you wear it. Orthodox Jewish men wear a tallis kattan, an undershirt that has braids, and this has a specific cultural context, and isn't just a cool undershirt.

I mean, if you want, go ahead and wear them. But you may be sending messages you're not even aware of, and the people who see these as specific cultural expressions may not like those messages.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:54 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not allowed to, because I'm exploiting all of South America. Damn.

As an indigenous person of the Andes I hereby bestow upon you my permission to wear your hat while walking the dog.
posted by elizardbits at 12:55 PM on October 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


However, make any assumptions about me that you like. I'm unoffendable.

Yes, you have that privilege.
posted by kmz at 12:55 PM on October 26, 2011


I feel like we should all be able to agree that it's ridiculous to try and draw a hard and fast line here. I mean if you're at a house party with your friends aren't going to be offended by anything, wear your pimp costume. You aren't hurting anybody. If you're at a party where you aren't going to know everybody, then maybe be a little more cautious.

I've been to parties where people dressed as giant penises or bloody tampons, so I think that dressing as a mexican bandit or whatever is pretty tame in comparison. There's a time and a place for everything.
posted by empath at 12:56 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


a Palestinian kaffiyeh sends a real message

I have a keffiyeh. It's from Egypt. The street vendor said its social meaning is tied inextricably to Sadat. Who is wrong? Who is projecting?

I think I'll stay home with my dog.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:57 PM on October 26, 2011


there has been an exceptional amount of effort put into explaining why these types of racial caricatures are problematic.

The debate seems less to be between those who see racial caricatures as "problematic" and those who don't and more between those who see all culturally-specific dress as "racial caricature" and those who don't. Haven't noticed anyone defending blackface or bomb-sporting terrorist costumes, but lots of people who don't think that these are on the same register as geishas or matadors or whatever.

I mean, if you want, go ahead and wear them. But you may be sending messages you're not even aware of, and the people who see these as specific cultural expressions may not like those messages.

This is another crux issue - is the fact that someone is offended at what you are wearing your problem or theirs? Under what circumstances should the onus be on one side or the other?

I feel like we should all be able to agree that it's ridiculous to try and draw a hard and fast line here.

I'd like a unicorn, while we're wishing.
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:58 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


That was snide. I agree with the sentiment, empath, but it's not a popular solution to things like this, on or off the Internet.
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:59 PM on October 26, 2011


This is another crux issue - is the fact that someone is offended at what you are wearing your problem or theirs?

Well, you asked the question -- what do you think? I'd say it's you're problem if you don't want to come off as an insensitive clod who has no problem upsetting other.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:01 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


your problem and others, rather.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:02 PM on October 26, 2011


empath: "I feel like we should all be able to agree that it's ridiculous to try and draw a hard and fast line here."

A LOT of people have put forth the idea that, "It is really a judgement call". But there isn't really much to argue about so it just sort of gets passed by.
posted by charred husk at 1:03 PM on October 26, 2011


> Yes, you have that privilege.

It's not like a trust fund. As privileges go, it's one that anyone who wants it can have.
posted by jfuller at 1:04 PM on October 26, 2011


It's not like a trust fund. As privileges go, it's one that anyone who wants it can have.

No, it's really not.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 1:06 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is another crux issue - is the fact that someone is offended at what you are wearing your problem or theirs?

This doesn't seem mutually exclusive.

On one hand people are offended by all sorts of things, but what they do about it is their choice.

On the other hand offending people isn't very polite.

There's a middle ground on most offensive issues. It's almost never binary.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:12 PM on October 26, 2011


Reddit thread on the topic.

That thread contained this comment about the Mexican poster, which is pretty funny:

"He doesn't look Mexican enough."

"Just put one of those Catholic saint necklaces on him!"

"Right! Over his shirt!"

posted by Hoopo at 1:13 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno, if a white drag performer can get all madeup to look like Donna Summer without people caring, I think that a white girl should be allowed to dress up like Lil Wayne without people caring. The girl used in the ad campaign isn't just dressed up as some generic black person, her (really spot on) costume is of a specific person. That seems a little different from the other examples shown.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:15 PM on October 26, 2011


How do people feel about the Wu-Tang Clan's appropriation of shaolin culture?
posted by snofoam at 1:17 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, you asked the question -- what do you think? I'd say it's you're problem if you don't want to come off as an insensitive clod who has no problem upsetting other.

If you happened to read the next sentence, that pretty much sums up my view - it's a highly circumstantial question. We've already had people point out that there is a difference (to them, at least) between using offensive stereotypes of the dominant culture vs. those of non-dominant/minority cultures, so it's not just a matter of "coming off as an insensitive clod" - it's who you are offending that seems to count most for some, not the fact that you are offending someone.

Others have suggested that as long as no one is around who will be offended, offensive costumes are acceptable - but then you've got people saying that you'll still be "reinforcing stereotypes", so now we're talking less about offending discrete individuals and more about how you are affecting society.

Being someone who hasn't dressed up as anything since the age of ten or so, I don't have quite such a personal interest in this issue. And I don't see anything wrong, fundamentally, with either the campaign itself or people poking fun at it. As someone else put it way back at the beginning of the thread, if your statement can't survive that, it's not worth much and certainly won't survive long enough to make a difference. And both these things - activism and mockery - are free speech, not its surpression.

I think one of the nastier developments in recent years is the attempt to label other people's expression of their point of view as a transgression of your to do the same. It's something I've particularly noticed in the response of religious people to atheists putting up billboards and such in the area where I live, but it's present in a lot of other debates, including this one.

On the other hand offending people isn't very polite.

True. But there is no way to avoid offending people, frankly - seriously, you can be Christian or Muslim or atheist, feminist or libertarian or conservative or liberal or Leftist, black or white or brown - and someone will be offended at your views, appearance, taste in music, or very existence. And so you should probably give some thought to what forms of offense are actually wrong, rather than impolite (which most of us Mefites seem to view as an outright virtue anyway), and concentrate your effort there. Which leads back to the same question, of where the middle ground you speak of precisely is.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


If I, a white lady, experience the thrill and excitement of dressing up as a racial stereotype for one night, the next day I can take off that costume. Everyone who saw me dressed up like Sexy Squaw thought about how awesome it was that Indian Princesses are sexy. I relegated Native culture to some imaginary realm with witches and sexy nurses and unicorns. This is way more problematic than the sexy nurse, or sexy police officer, or whatever, because American culture is saturated with information about nurses, or police officers, or whatever. But Native Americans are almost NEVER represented in popular culture in any way beyond the stereotypes we see in these Halloween costumes, or sighing about how terrible it is that they're all alcoholic. When there is more than one way to be Mexican, or Muslim, or Native American, in American popular culture, maybe then we can move towards "race" costumes?
posted by ChuraChura at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2011 [20 favorites]


I dunno, if a white drag performer can get all madeup to look like Donna Summer without people caring, I think that a white girl should be allowed to dress up like Lil Wayne without people caring.

Not to extrapolate the motives of the drag community, but I always felt that this was a different scenario because they are kind of honoring the person they're impersonating, as an homage to their well-known public persona, not simply exploiting a stereotype for the lulz.

It is entirely possible that I pulled this whole idea out my ass and am totally wrong, though.
posted by elizardbits at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


How do people feel about the Wu-Tang Clan's appropriation of shaolin culture?

The wutang were the enemies of the shaolin. Do you do any research at all?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I hope people will read comments like ChuraChura's as the "let's not do this" point that's trying to be made here and not skip over it and keep insisting that they're being told to shut up. Because there are people trying to discuss this here.
posted by sweetkid at 1:24 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to extrapolate the motives of the drag community, but I always felt that this was a different scenario because they are kind of honoring the person they're impersonating, as an homage to their well-known public persona, not simply exploiting a stereotype for the lulz.

1) Lil Wayne is not a stereotype, he's a well-known public persona.

2) There's no way to know how honorable the girl in the Lil Wayne costume is being from one still photograph.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:24 PM on October 26, 2011


...if a white drag performer can get all madeup to look like Donna Summer...

Cite?
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 1:24 PM on October 26, 2011


She's in blackface.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:25 PM on October 26, 2011


I'd say it's you're problem if you don't want to come off as an insensitive clod who has no problem upsetting others.

Some christians get upset by people dressing up like demons, or by the entire holiday of Halloween, for that matter. Dressing as Satan and going to church would probably be offensive, and you'd be a jerk for doing it. But if they went to a halloween party and got upset by it? It's their problem, not yours.

The same guys with 'sexy' costumes of all kinds.

Halloween is one of those holidays where people wear things that would normally be completely socially unacceptable.

Some people throw Halloween parties where it's expected that people are going to be trashy and offensive. If you went to one of those parties and got upset by it, that's your problem.
posted by empath at 1:25 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some christians get upset by people dressing up like demons, or by the entire holiday of Halloween, for that matter.

I feel certain you can understand that is I dress as a demon, I am not dressing in a way that denigrates a minority group by using historically insulting images of that group.

It's not about whether or not somebody is offended. It's about not perpetrating stereotypes.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:27 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I dunno, if a white drag performer can get all madeup to look like Donna Summer without people caring, I think that a white girl should be allowed to dress up like Lil Wayne without people caring. The girl used in the ad campaign isn't just dressed up as some generic black person, her (really spot on) costume is of a specific person. That seems a little different from the other examples shown.

Adding to what elizardbits said, I'd like to also point out that not many white drag performers I can think of would think of doing this, or if they did it wouldn't be about approximating Summer's ethnic characteristics -- it would be about her hair and makeup and performance style and unique gender expression. THEIR performance would mimic HER performance. I have seen so few "_____-face" drag performances that I could maybe count them on one hand.

That girl could do the same thing to dress up as Lil Wayne, but just as in classic blackface performances, the "entertainment value" of her costume lies almost 100% in her temporarily defacing her own whiteness. She has focused almost entirely on the ethnic aspect. It's not just different from the other examples shown -- it's WORSE.
posted by hermitosis at 1:27 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


perpetrating AND perpetuating imeantboth
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:28 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno, if a white drag performer can get all madeup to look like Donna Summer without people caring, I think that a white girl should be allowed to dress up like Lil Wayne without people caring. The girl used in the ad campaign isn't just dressed up as some generic black person, her (really spot on) costume is of a specific person. That seems a little different from the other examples shown.

Yeah, it's different in that blackface has a long and hideous history. You can feel that it's unfair that an awful period in history has made wearing blackface pretty much unacceptable forever. Just like you can feel bad that Hitler turned an ancient symbol into a something synonymous with bigotry and genocide. But it's still true.
posted by phearlez at 1:29 PM on October 26, 2011


It's not about whether or not somebody is offended. It's about not perpetrating stereotypes.

You were making an argument about hurting people's feelings, which is what I was responding to.
posted by empath at 1:29 PM on October 26, 2011


She's in blackface.

She's wearing makeup to look black, but she's not trying to look like a caricature of a black person. She's trying to look like Lil Wayne.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:29 PM on October 26, 2011


She's wearing makeup to look black, but she's not trying to look like a caricature of a black person. She's trying to look like Lil Wayne.

Yeah, personally, growing up in a really racist part of the country, i wouldn't wear that costume in a million years. But I do get your point. Whether that costume is okay or not is really going to depend heavily on context.
posted by empath at 1:32 PM on October 26, 2011


But by painting herself black, she's focusing primarily -- one might say ONLY -- on the ethnic aspects of that personality, and everything beyond is practically drowned out by that.
posted by hermitosis at 1:32 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I find it telling that just about the only poster anyone discusses in this thread and the Reddit one is the Geisha one. Does anyone want to defend the costumes in the other posters -- that is, the 'Arab' terrorist, the "Me Wantum 'Piece'" 'Native American' duo, the 'Mexican' man riding a burro with a sombrero, or the girl in blackface?
posted by flatluigi at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


You were making an argument about hurting people's feelings, which is what I was responding to.

I have not made an argument that this shouldn't be done because it hurts people's feelings. AdamCSnider asked about offending people, which I responded to. My argument was, and remains, that we should avoid participating in activities that furthers stereotypes.

She's wearing makeup to look black, but she's not trying to look like a caricature of a black person. She's trying to look like Lil Wayne.

With blackface, that doesn't matter. Seriously. The moment a while person blacks up, they are participating in a historically vile activity, regardless of whether they are wearing blackface to be one person or represent an entire race. It's a historic tradition of racist mockery, and cannot be divorced from history merely because somebody is dressing like Li'l Wayne.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


That girl's not in blackface. She's dressed up as Lil Wayne.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:36 PM on October 26, 2011


I find it telling that just about the only poster anyone discusses in this thread and the Reddit one is the Geisha one.

It's because early on empath commented: "Geisha girls are really not okay for costumes? Someone explain to me how that is racist?" And people started responding to that, mistakenly thinking that he was actually asking in earnest and would actually consider their responses.
posted by hermitosis at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That girl's not in blackface.

You don't know what blackface is, do you?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


23skidoo, are you simply not reading the responses to the point you're making? The girl is in blackface. The fact that she is not actively booked in a vaudeville act does not change the underlying intent, purpose, or outcome of her costume.
posted by hermitosis at 1:39 PM on October 26, 2011


The fact that she is not actively booked in a vaudeville act does not change the underlying intent, purpose, or outcome of her costume.

You know what's going on in her mind?
posted by empath at 1:40 PM on October 26, 2011


You don't know what blackface is, do you?

Not everyone is going to agree that "blackface" should be defined as "any time as person who is not black puts on makeup to appear black".
posted by 23skidoo at 1:40 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


And people started responding to that, mistakenly thinking that he was actually asking in earnest and would actually consider their responses.

Oh come off it.
posted by empath at 1:41 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not everyone is going to agree that "blackface" should be defined as "any time as person who is not black puts on makeup to appear black".

No. It's also a sort of typeface.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:42 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can you actually say you're participating in this conversation in good faith, empath? Didn't you already say you were just bored at work? Perhaps you can tell me why I'm so lucky that you chose to spend so much time turning this thread into a response to your willfully obtuse opinionating, because right now I don't really get it.
posted by hermitosis at 1:44 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]



23skidoo, are you simply not reading the responses to the point you're making? The girl is in blackface. The fact that she is not actively booked in a vaudeville act does not change the underlying intent, purpose, or outcome of her costume.


No, I think that people aren't reading what I'M saying. Drag performers dress up as black people and no one calls that black face. People on Saturday Night Live dress up as famous black people, and that doesn't get called blackface. To pretend that EVERY time a person puts on makeup so that they look black is beyond the pale simply ignores all the times that happens and people don't care.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:44 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also I never thought in posting this thread that people would show up to defend the people in the original campaign's negative examples -- especially sexy Lil Wayne blackface sorority woman.
posted by hermitosis at 1:45 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Drag performers dress up as black people...

Again, you really need to back this up with proof that white drag performers regularly use black make-up in their acts. I have never seen this.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 1:45 PM on October 26, 2011


I find it telling that just about the only poster anyone discusses in this thread and the Reddit one is the Geisha one. Does anyone want to defend the costumes in the other posters -- that is, the 'Arab' terrorist, the "Me Wantum 'Piece'" 'Native American' duo, the 'Mexican' man riding a burro with a sombrero, or the girl in blackface?

No I don't think many people would try to defend the other ones, because as has been explained time and time again on this thread they seem to be openly mocking people on negative racial stereotypes.
posted by Hoopo at 1:46 PM on October 26, 2011


Drag performers dress up as black people and no one calls that black face.

What drag performers? I can think of one.

Yes, people call that blackface.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:46 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I first saw this thread, I thought it would be about the punk rocker who says "You think this is a fuckin' costume?! This is a way of life!" in Return of the Living Dead.

I was sorely disappointed.
posted by brundlefly at 1:47 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Drag performers dress up as black people and no one calls that black face.

Again, this almost never happens, and if one does dress up in the style or character of a well-known person of another ethnicity, they almost never go to the trouble of concealing their own ethnicity.
posted by hermitosis at 1:47 PM on October 26, 2011


It's because early on empath commented: "Geisha girls are really not okay for costumes? Someone explain to me how that is racist?" And people started responding to that, mistakenly thinking that he was actually asking in earnest and would actually consider their responses.

I don't really see the point in speculating about empath's intentions, but I also don't see how a geisha costume is racist. I think the reason why it is being discussed is that, along with the copy of the ads, the geisha one illustrates that the campaign itself seems to be conflating derogatory stereotypes with any sort of cultural appropriation.

I'm more offended by the girl holding the geisha picture. She's not even assertive enough to look you in the eye.
posted by snofoam at 1:48 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps you can tell me why I'm so lucky that you chose to spend so much time turning this thread into a response to your willfully obtuse opinionating, because right now I don't really get it.

Either take it to metatalk or stop telling me to shut up in the thread, please.
posted by empath at 1:48 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


NO ONE IS TELLING YOU TO SHUT UP. We're simply asking you to participate productively. If that's not an option that appeals to you, then too bad, but the "silenced all my life" act is pretty tough to defend when you're one of the most active commenters in this thread.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 1:50 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


In fairness, we shouldn't make this thread about one person, or a back and forth about one person's participation, because I am likely to be that person.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:51 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it telling that just about the only poster anyone discusses in this thread and the Reddit one is the Geisha one.

Because it's the one which, to many people here, strikes a "one of these things is not like the others" chord?
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:51 PM on October 26, 2011


Bunny Ultramod: Nobody would object to somebody wearing a Mariacho's charros.

I would certainly object to somebody wearing a Mariacho's charros. First of all it is Mariachi, and Mariachis are the bands that play a particular style of french influenced traditional music in the state of Jalisco.

Second of all, if your idea of Mariachi includes trumpets or any other brass, you are thinking of a piece of culture that has already been co-opted, stolen from poor rural mestizo Jalisqueños by the rich white owners of the media in Mexico City in the 50's (ethnically Basque, I am not completely sure if Basque people were considered white in Mexico during the 50s or not).

But most importantly, a Charro is a Mexican cowboy from the state of Jalisco. Mariachis wear a stylized form of the charro's outfit. While a working charro will wear plain clothes with thread embroidery, a charro in a competition will wear heavily embroidered pants, jacket, hat, belt and saddle. These items will sometimes be embroidered with silver and gold thread, and the buttons will be made of precious metals. The hat that charros use is called a sombrero charro.

Somebody wearing a Mariacho's charros would be very bad. First you would need a wealthy maricahi, wealthy enough to employ several charros. Then you would need somebody to steal these charros, incapacitate them, and wear them like a hat. This is wrong.




Being completely serious, I can see the difference between wearing a costume and owning it, and wearing a costume to mock someone else and perpetuate a stereotype. I just can't agree with the part were only people of certain ethnicities can wear certain costumes. I would be more pissed off at Mexicans wearing the burro and tequila costume than at anyone else.

As a mostly white Mexican, with ancestors mostly from Spain and Southern England, but with also some indians on my mother's side, I've always wanted to dress up as an assimilated conquistador. Pieces of steel armor mixed with some prehispanic warrior's regalia. I just would not feel very safe walking down mission street dressed like that.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 1:51 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does anyone want to defend the costumes in the other posters -- that is, the 'Arab' terrorist, the "Me Wantum 'Piece'" 'Native American' duo, the 'Mexican' man riding a burro with a sombrero, or the girl in blackface?

Because the geisha costume is an interesting edge case and because I think the other ones I wouldn't particularly want to defend, though I can imagine a case could be made that they are okay, depending on where you wear the costume.
posted by empath at 1:52 PM on October 26, 2011


Metafilter: we still have to be assholes about SOMETHING, so where's the next target?
posted by John Cohen at 1:52 PM on October 26, 2011


First of all it is Mariachi,

I have other typos in this thread if you'd like to state objections to those too.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:54 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm all for sensitivity, and for that matter, taste. But having a campaign to promote this is just overkill and smacks of "overprivileged liberal do-gooder meddlers trying to harsh our buzz, mang."

Whatever happened to people politely denouncing their friends' tastelessness? Why do we need some sort of confused campaign to do this? The very fact this campaign exists turns the issue into a joke.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:56 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I find it telling that just about the only poster anyone discusses in this thread and the Reddit one is the Geisha one.

It's because early on empath commented: "Geisha girls are really not okay for costumes? Someone explain to me how that is racist?" And people started responding to that, mistakenly thinking that he was actually asking in earnest and would actually consider their responses.


Yes, I'm sure that's also the reason why that's a big part of the discussion on reddit too. Because of empath. Were you "earnestly" trying to address the statement you quoted or were you just merely firing a spitball at empath?

To actually address that statement seriously, I imagine it's because, as others have suggested, many people in the U.S. don't see a geisha costume as intended to make fun of a racial group in a stereotypical manner the way that, say, blackface has historically done. As another example, there is unfortunately a very, very large group in the U.S. that actively believe Muslim = terrorist, whereas the percentage who think Japanese = geisha is relatively very small. There's always going to be a gray area when it comes to something like this; there is no perfect dividing line.
posted by the other side at 1:57 PM on October 26, 2011


MeTa.
posted by hermitosis at 1:57 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have other typos in this thread if you'd like to state objections to those too.

No need, that is the only one that offends me. And if you read the rest of my comment, you will se that your typo is just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 1:58 PM on October 26, 2011


As this is not a thread about mariachi, you are free to feel about it as you will. As mariachi is not an ethnic group, any additional discussions about the subject should probably go into a thread on that topic.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:59 PM on October 26, 2011


Wow. This was a bullshit pile-on in thread and it's ten times as much bullshit dragged into meta. Maybe YOU should step away?
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


As mariachi is not an ethnic group

SRSLY? The crazy pills. They are finally kicking in.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:04 PM on October 26, 2011


This isn't a case of over-priveleged liberal do-gooders - this was a set of fliers made by a minority-issues student group at Ohio University reminding people, in anticipation of the craziness that is Halloween in Athens, that when you dress up like a racial stereotype, it has negative consequences for people you interact with at school on a day-to-day basis!
posted by ChuraChura at 2:07 PM on October 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


mariachi is not an ethnic group

Neither is geisha. I thought the whole point was that these things are culture specific and that they therefore advanced cultural/ethnic stereotypes.
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:08 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it wasn't an ad campaign, people. It's a college student's group trying to raise awareness.
posted by sweetkid at 2:08 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the other hand offending people isn't very polite.
True. But there is no way to avoid offending people, frankly.


I agree. In fact there is a large contingent of people on MetaFilter who are offended1 by people being offended.

Which leads back to the same question, of where the middle ground you speak of precisely is.

What I was trying to talk about is the middle ground between blowing offended people off entirely and kowtowing to their every whim. These days my responses range from purposely offending them to being indifferent to not bringing things up casually to complete avoidance of certain topics.

For me people clinging tightly to one culture or another largely falls into category 3. There's no reason to poke them on the topic, but if I have something important to say I'm going to err on the side of offending them.

YMMV.



1 They don't call it that of course. They say instead that offended people annoy them and they resent their presence in a sensible world.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:09 PM on October 26, 2011


Non-Germans wearing Lederhosen: OK or not OK?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:09 PM on October 26, 2011


I certainly hope this isn't the best of the web.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:10 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


ChuraChura: "this was a set of fliers made by a minority-issues student group at Ohio University reminding people, in anticipation of the craziness that is Halloween in Athens"

The Athens part of this just clicked. This probably gets handed out with, "Don't flip over any cars and light them on fire" fliers.
posted by charred husk at 2:12 PM on October 26, 2011


Non-Germans wearing Lederhosen: OK or not OK?

Only OK if they aren't being oppressed by anybody.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:13 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't a case of over-priveleged liberal do-gooders - this was a set of fliers made by a minority-issues student group at Ohio University reminding people, in anticipation of the craziness that is Halloween in Athens , that when you dress up like a racial stereotype, it has negative consequences for people you interact with at school on a day-to-day basis!

I'm still sure that there are more effective ways to condemn this. Every time there's a blackface party, news networks cover them. It's not as if people aren't aware that costume parties are getting more and more racist and outrageous.

This misguided campaign isn't going to help the situation, if anything it's going to create a situation of "prudes vs. people having a good time", and further embolden people to act shockingly offensive. What happened to public shame? People shaking their heads at their friends' outrageousness? Condemning this sort of thing on a private and personal level has to be more effective than a public student association making finger-wagging posters. This just opens up the topic to ridicule.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:13 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Neither is geisha.

I have not weighed in on the geisha. I think that one is problematic, but not in the same way the others are -- it's not self evident what the problem is, and would take considerable explaining about a sort of ongoing sexualization of Asian women based on a specific set of stereotypes of submissiveness that are also linked to the gesiha, in large part because Japanese prostitutes played up the gesiha angle.

If you have to pass out a pamphlet to explain why a certain association is troubling, it may not be the best idea for a poster, which must communicate its point very quickly.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:14 PM on October 26, 2011


This isn't a case of over-priveleged liberal do-gooders - this was a set of fliers made by a minority-issues student group at Ohio University.

Uh . . . you're making a significant assumption about the lack of overlap there.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:15 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Condemning this sort of thing on a private and personal level has to be more effective than a public student association making finger-wagging posters.

Does it? I mean, I'm not sure how effective this campaign is/will be, but private finger-wagging has never struck me as particularly effective when I've observed it, and most friends won't even bother to do that much because, hey, these are their friends doing this. There's a certain pressure to not make waves. Campaigns like this aspire to sort of bring the issue public and thus stiffen the spines of people who disapprove but feel like the lone person who does.
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:16 PM on October 26, 2011


^ the implication in this thread seems to be that the only people offended by racial stereotyped Halloween costumes are liberal-guilty white folks. That is not the case.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:17 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


For the record, I think it would totally be okay for a white girl to be Lil' Wayne if she didn't use blackface. I think it could work, doing his tattoos, outfit, etc. and maybe walking around with that cough syrup and gin stuff that he drinks. Blackface has a ton of racist baggage attached, but dressing up as a specific person from another race isn't necessarily problematic. Like, a non-black person could wear an Obama mask, right?
posted by snofoam at 2:18 PM on October 26, 2011


I call the campaign "confused" because while the target is ostensibly careless or douchebaggy people in homemade oil sheik suicide bomber costumes, you also have those atrocious geisha and Mexican on burro costumes. Those Spirit store-type costumes are not only dumb but overpriced and I doubt anyone bothers shelling out the money to make those instead of crafting their own offensive costume. In any case, the inclusion of those costumes seem to suggest that Halloween costume corporations should be more sensitive about different cultures, which is a different arena to fight.

Or maybe they didn't have examples of students in offensive Asian or Hispanic caricature costumes.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:19 PM on October 26, 2011


think it would totally be okay for a white girl to be Lil' Wayne if she didn't use blackface

I absolutely agree with this.

Like, a non-black person could wear an Obama mask, right?

I think yes, although it probably depends on the mask, as I imagine the Tea {arty has produced a few that nobody should wear.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:20 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If Geisha costumes are squicky in the way that Slave Leia costumes a squicky then that would seem to be an entirely separate angle.
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on October 26, 2011


Like, a non-black person could wear an Obama mask, right?

Oh God tell me they're not re-booting Point Break
posted by Hoopo at 2:21 PM on October 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Campaigns like this aspire to sort of bring the issue public and thus stiffen the spines of people who disapprove but feel like the lone person who does.

I guess so, but I'm fairly certain most people already disapprove of this. People are largely aware of kids getting into more offensive and shocking costumes- remember Prince Harry's Nazi getup? And people who see these stories are not going to side with the racist costumes. But what are we expecting here, that all of the people in non-offensive costumes will get together and have a march in solidarity to shame those in offensive costumes and chase them out of town? It should be an unspoken rule of society that these costumes are not okay.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:23 PM on October 26, 2011


For the record, I meant an Obama mask that is stylistically equivalent to any other US President mask, not some crazy racist mask.
posted by snofoam at 2:23 PM on October 26, 2011


There was that stage version where they selected a random audience member to play Keanu and just stuck a script in their hand.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:23 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


There was that stage version where they selected a random audience member to play Keanu and just stuck a script in their hand.
I SO wish I had seen that.
posted by sweetkid at 2:25 PM on October 26, 2011


Isn't it still running? Or it was, as of a few weeks ago.
posted by hermitosis at 2:28 PM on October 26, 2011


I absolutely agree with this.

Why do you agree with that? It's still stereotyped costuming as much as the geisha and mexican on a burro is.
posted by empath at 2:28 PM on October 26, 2011


I am a woman of Japanese descent. Let me state for the record: white girls dressing up as geisha make me uncomfortable, although I think it's a complicated issue related to sexism as much as to racism. Geisha outfits carry very particular associations in Western culture, associations which get applied to East Asian women in general. "Geisha" are seen as exotic, submissive, delicate, demure, but also sexually available and basically interchangeable. It's the ideal whore/madonna complex, and if you haven't encountered people who believe these things of Asian women, consider yourself very lucky.

Even if you personally don't feel that way about geisha or Asian women and have instead dedicated your time and resources to recreating an authentic geisha outfit and have nothing but the utmost respect for Japanese culture, you still need to understand that the people around you may not. When you go out dressed in an appropriated ethnic costume, it emphasizes the "otherness" of your attire. You don't just set yourself apart, but you set apart an entire group. White girls in kimono on Halloween or at conventions make me feel uncomfortable, because it feels like, despite being an actual Japanese woman, I am either too exotic to be considered acceptable for everyday use or somehow not living up to my prescribed "exotic" role.

For what it's worth, I have never and probably will never dress up like a geisha for Halloween, even if it is socially acceptable for me to do so. I think it only perpetuates stereotypes I'd rather let die. The closest thing I've ever worn to an ethnically inspired outfit was when I was determined to dress up like Judge Lance Ito during the height of the O.J. Simpson trial, which was a pretty avantgarde costume idea for a little 10-year old girl, but I rocked the hell out of it.
posted by Diagonalize at 2:28 PM on October 26, 2011 [46 favorites]


It's still stereotyped costuming as much as the geisha and mexican on a burro is.

Li'l Wayne is not a stereotype.

My issue in that image is with the blackface, not with the young woman dressing up as a celebrity.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:30 PM on October 26, 2011


It's still stereotyped costuming as much as the geisha and mexican on a burro is.

I think stereotyping is to use one image to represent a group of people. Using the image of Lil' Wayne to represent Lil' Wayne is different. If someone sees it and assumes that it is a costume stereotyping black people, then they could be offended, but it would be misguided.
posted by snofoam at 2:33 PM on October 26, 2011


if you haven't encountered people who believe these things of Asian women, consider yourself very lucky.

I'm always surprised when I encounter it here in Vancouver, this City has such a large Asian population that you'd think just living and working here for a while would get you past those beliefs over time. Sadly, no.
posted by Hoopo at 2:37 PM on October 26, 2011


White girls in kimono on Halloween or at conventions make me feel uncomfortable,

Serious question: what about drag queens? Because I've seen some pretty impressive geisha outfits on them.

I get that for me it's completely inappropriate, but I always wonder if it's just as frustrating for people when it's other minorities doing it. I would guess so (maybe even more so, like they should know better?) but I don't know.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:50 PM on October 26, 2011


USian

This is not me and this is not okay.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:51 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Somebody wearing a Mariacho's charros would be very bad. First you would need a wealthy maricahi, wealthy enough to employ several charros. Then you would need somebody to steal these charros, incapacitate them, and wear them like a hat. This is wrong.


No offense Bunny Ultramod, but I lol'd and lol'd.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:56 PM on October 26, 2011


I am not like a drag spokesperson or anything, but I do think that the sort of geisha drag costumes I've seen have been played very slyly and subversively (and almost always by people of actual Asian descent). Part of the intrigue of drag is playing on stereotypes about women and sexuality, and a decent queen will almost always have something more going on in her performance than "Hey look, IMA GEISHA."

It's come up several times on RuPaul's Drag Race, with attendant conversations about how being an established comedic performer may (or may not) change the way your schtick will be received.
posted by hermitosis at 2:56 PM on October 26, 2011


No offense Bunny Ultramod, but I lol'd and lol'd.

Oh, it was good sport. What ho!

(Don's monocle and tricorn hat, cried out cheerio, rides off)
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:58 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would it be racist for a Japanese guy to wear a cowboy costume?

Part of what would make this hard to be racist is that there probably isn't a nationality on the planet that wasn't represented in the old west. Cowboys came from everywhere.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:58 PM on October 26, 2011


Who cares. If you don't think it's funny, ignore it. All you overly-PC whiners are the reason this kind of thing has power. Why do you think the frat boys do this shit in the first place?
posted by hellslinger at 3:00 PM on October 26, 2011


Why do you think the frat boys do this shit in the first place?

Actually, I was a fratboy, and so I think I can speak to this with some authority, at leas in the most egregious cases.

Because they are entitled assholes who think casual racism is hilarious.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:01 PM on October 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


Because they are entitled assholes who think casual racism is hilarious.


And why do they think it's funny, exactly? Could it be that they use their power in numbers as protection for them to be able to bully a certain group of people through the use of racist stereotypes? No of course not, because the right person on metafilter hasn't educated them on how much of an asshole they're being yet because they're too stupid to know that, of course.
posted by hellslinger at 3:05 PM on October 26, 2011


And why do they think it's funny, exactly?

Yes, it's because they have not yet been here to learn how much of an asshole they are. Actually, all racism is a response to whiny people who make to much noise about being treated with respect. Finally it can be said.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:07 PM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


It must be noted that Halloween has become a State Holiday for Entitled Assholes, so the casual racism isn't even the central issue about what's wrong with Halloween, it's a symptom.

The worst thing about this controversy is that it distracts from the even worse (IMO) domination of "Sexy whatever" costumes being all-but-required for women. But then, that's just another symptom.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:08 PM on October 26, 2011


Right, and anything that is even slightly offensive is ABSOLUTELY-NOT-FUCKING-FUNNY territory on this site.
posted by hellslinger at 3:10 PM on October 26, 2011


Actually, that's pretty much every holiday.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:10 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is an open meta thread is you want to discuss why Mefites are such humorless scolds.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:11 PM on October 26, 2011


There is an open meta thread is you want to discuss why Mefites are such humorless scolds.

Oh yeah? Can you link me? I have gotten rather tired of how metafilter threads often turn into sanctimonious and self-righteous circle jerks.
posted by hellslinger at 3:14 PM on October 26, 2011


(Don's monocle and tricorn hat, cried out cheerio, rides off)

What, my monocle and hat? DAMMIT!

You have some grammar/punctuation issue there btw.
posted by phearlez at 3:14 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


man there is nothing i love more than people telling me what i am and am not permitted to find offensive. i fuckin' love it. love it.
posted by beefetish at 3:16 PM on October 26, 2011


Oh yeah? Can you link me?

There you go. Consider your indignation at being told to show a little sensitivity noted.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:17 PM on October 26, 2011


Consider your indignation at being told to show a little sensitivity noted.


Where?
posted by hellslinger at 3:21 PM on October 26, 2011


Here. It's the metatalk thread in question. If you want to continue beefing about metafilter qua metafilter, that is definitely the place to take it. Thank you.
posted by cortex at 3:25 PM on October 26, 2011


Where?

Maybe I misinterpreted "I have gotten rather tired of how metafilter threads often turn into sanctimonious and self-righteous circle jerks", but it sounds like you're taking issue with others asking that people think a bit about what they choose to wear for Halloween. We already covered the entire "your taking offense feeds the trolls" thing, but I'll just say that the reason why this argument fails is that taken to its logical conclusion, the assertion is that speaking up against racism and insensitivity is wrong, and that ignorance is best addressed by paying it no attention. History disagrees.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:28 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hoopo: I don't think an understanding that sees geisha as a negative racial caricature rather than...a geisha, is necessarily the correct understanding.

Unfortunately, such negative racial caricatures still commonly circulate in North American society.

Bunny Ultramod: a sort of ongoing sexualization of Asian women based on a specific set of stereotypes of submissiveness that are also linked to the gesiha, in large part because Japanese prostitutes played up the gesiha angle.


Exactly. I would guess that most people who aren't aware that this is an ongoing and common problem, haven't repeatedly experienced "Oh God here's another complete stranger who's determined to interact with me based on the group phenotype they want to categorize me into." (For that extra dimension of ongoing sexualization and submissiveness, amend to "based on the group phenotype + historical and current occupational stereotype" [ie, supposed "loose morals," voluntary or involuntary sex worker].) Such costumes were once dominant representations in mainstream culture of certain demographics. Even though they're not any more, they're still popular, and not in a fringe way either. Associations of negativity and concrete effects like Othering carry forward in the behaviour of the many many people who either don't know or don't care about historical and ongoing denigrations and dehumanizations. If you've never had to get used to them plastering their assumptions all over you, then you're lucky.

Some people seem to be arguing that a thoughtful respectful geisha costume stands apart from this larger context. If I'm interpreting you correctly...then I'd say, actually, it can easily contribute to that context, unless it stimulates thoughtful conversations about reasons why many of us object to a lot of ethnic and racial costumes. Because otherwise, how is any casual observer to know what separates it from the asshole LOL costumes that legitimize and help perpetuate denigrating attitudes?

When I see someone in a Hallowe'en geisha costume, I'm not going to automatically assume "Asshole," but it primes me to have my defenses up. Why? Because for every respectful, meticulously researched, thoughtfully-crafted costume worn by someone who (bonus!) is also aware of Othering-type complexities, there are more "generic LOL ethnic / racial stereotype" counterparts.

And way more people who insist that "My idea of "honouring" people who look like you involves 1. sporting superficial clothing and accoutrements of this culture that you have some personal connection with, while 2. remaining ignorant of past and present injustices against people who look like you, 3. and arguing aggressively for my right to do this without incurring critique."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:40 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've got to admit, I have a pretty broad experience of drag both wonderful and awful, and I've never encountered anyone in (any definition of) blackface. Certainly in a number of venues, if anyone tried it I suspect all you'd see of them is a pair of smoking silver size 11s.

And that is literally the only part of this I feel qualified to talk about. Unless a-quarter-Inuit costumes get really big. And it were easy to separate them from just sensible winter attire.
posted by emmtee at 3:54 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The only issue I have with this campaign is that it seems to be created in a tone and style that is almost certain to get mocked and ridiculed by the exact same sort of person who it is ostensibly meant to persuade.

I think that's obvious in how it was received and turned into a meme.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:57 PM on October 26, 2011


Serious question: what about drag queens? Because I've seen some pretty impressive geisha outfits on them.

I don't have a problem with drag queens in geisha wear for the primary reason that drag performers, when they're doing a good job, specifically aren't playing up the "delicate lotus blossom" stereotypes; instead they're making bold statements about women and sexuality in general.

But in a similar vein, I'd have problems with white transvestites or transsexuals dressing up as a geisha for the same reasons I have a problem with the average white sorority girl doing it. I try to be very LGBTQ friendly, but I don't like my appearance or my culture being used as a generic shorthand for exotic sexuality.
posted by Diagonalize at 3:57 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unless a-quarter-Inuit costumes get really big.

Presumably this would just involve walking around in a parka with a large book labeled "Dictionary of Snow Words".
posted by cortex at 4:06 PM on October 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've got the parka and I know at least two words for snow. I'm down with my heritage. I am given to understand I'm also owed a Husky.

Actually maybe not a whole Husky. I will settle for one of those Husky-Corgis.
posted by emmtee at 4:09 PM on October 26, 2011


Good god, this thread got long.

""Adult Japanese Lady"? Well yeah, that's one example, for sure. Here's another. And another. And another. None as sexualized as the three you chose, but I'm sure you didn't mean to put your finger on the scale. (and note they're all actually called "Geisha" -- one is even "adult geisha")"

Well, I guess you're calling me out? To be honest, I didn't even have to explicitly search out for sexy geisha costumes - I put in 'halloween costume geisha' into google, went to the first hit and linked the first three costumes under 'asian costumes' I saw on the costume site. I wasn't trying to 'put my finger on the scale' - the sad part is I didn't have to. Which is kind of the point I was trying to make (probably poorly) - the stupid sexualised geisha/sexy Asian costume idea is so endemic that I didn't have to really 'find' them, really. They're already so easily available out there.

"There is no one I know that, if asked, would look at someone in geisha garb with whiteface and say "Japanese person". It's a profession. "

Depressingly, I know people and have known people who would, and even more depressingly I suspect that there are more people who would then there are people who wouldn't. And respectfully, the problematic thing here is that even though geisha is a profession, it's inextricably tied with Japanese culture. You can't divorce geisha from Japan, which is where you get into the tricky area of the whole sexualised Orientalist aspect of geisha and creepy ideas about Asian women (Diagonialize's comment here is much better phrased than mine). It's not a profession like police officer or firefighter - it's a profession with an abundance of historical and social context (often negative, within the Western sphere) already loaded on it.

As to the respectful costume idea: look. If you like the idea, you've researched it, you're doing it in good faith - go for it. But what I think people are saying (and why I'm trying, badly, to say) is that don't be surprised if some stranger at the party you're at takes offense, and don't expect everyone to absolve your choice in costume.
posted by zennish at 4:14 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is also a certain amount of raw whale skin eating involved, I believe.
posted by elizardbits at 4:15 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stereotype != Racism
"I'm offended" != "they are racist"

Racism is ignorance. You can argue some of these costumes propagate racism intentionally or unintentionally, but remember that the whole point of being PC is to raise awareness in others. That being said, I want to live in a world where your race/heritage doesn't matter when picking a costume.

Clearly, we're in the "too soon" zone for a lot of these costumes and for a lot of cultural sensitivities. But if that's not the ultimate goal for you, I'm going to go ahead and call you a PCist. And I'll going to dress up as a PCist for Halloween. And I'll be buying my "costume" at the Gap.
posted by lubujackson at 4:18 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with you, zennish. It is inextricably tied to Japanese culture, yet people persist in trying to somehow equate it to "eastern prostitute". My only issue is to what extent this is the problem of the costume-wearer vs. the ignorant passerby. If someone is ignorant of the cultural context, are they likely to be of the affected group, or some ig'nant asshole, and what exactly do you owe them?

I liked the comment some ways back about "racial" costumes perhaps working out better when there is more than just one way to depict someone from that country. Japan, though, has a plethora of these pop culture figures: geisha, ninja, samurai, salaryman, schoolgirl, yakuza, about 1001 anime icons, and more, I'm sure. So it's difficult for me to believe that the geisha is somehow every Japanese woman to Westerners, but if it is for some, I question how much of that ignorance is on you or I to own.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:21 PM on October 26, 2011


Sorry to impute bad intent where there was none, though, z.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:21 PM on October 26, 2011


I want to live in a world where your race/heritage doesn't matter when picking a costume.

People always say this, but they first need to understand that we need to live in a world where people can understand why race/heritage does matter in certain contexts.

(I'm not saying you don't understand this, lubujackson, but a lot of people don't).
posted by sweetkid at 4:21 PM on October 26, 2011


So, to extend some of the above comments, how about asian women dressing as Sexy French Maids? Similarly to Geisha, it's a problematic depiction of female power-- with a role deeply rooted in poverty and sexual abuse by the powerful-- and also similarly, it's a role with deep roots in cinematic portrayals and literature. Note also how it falls on the servile/sexual spectrum in an analagous place...and I've seen it a few times, and it really works for me.

Am I failing to prevent THOUGHTCRIME?
posted by mrdaneri at 4:27 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


What you jerk off to is your business.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:28 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


mrdaneri, are French women regularly subjected to other people's assumptions that they must be Domestic Workers, reducing their individuality to projections of the usual Domestic Worker stereotypes?

Judging from conversations with my friends who are Quebecois French and from-France French, I'd say, "No."

Therefore, no, you are not "failing to prevent THOUGHTCRIME." Has anyone here said anything about anybody's THOUGHTS = CRIMINAL ? If not, why bring it up?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:37 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh wait, I misinterpreted. Yeah, Bunny Ultramod has it. Consensual bedroom practices are nobody else's business.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:38 PM on October 26, 2011


I kind of think transvestites are pretty far into co-opting the concept of the French maid. If you were to somehow collate all the French maids on the Internet and turn them upside down, I bet you'd find more outies than innies. For whatever reason it just seems to be much more universally shorthand for 'sexy' there. How long before the costume connotes sexy crossdresser rather than sexy lady, I wonder?
posted by emmtee at 4:41 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


NOT SOON ENOUGH.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:43 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


WORKING ON IT.
posted by emmtee at 4:46 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, to extend some of the above comments, how about asian women dressing as Sexy French Maids?

Are you talking about maid cafes, or something that happens in North America? Cuz having been to a maid cafe for a very uncomfortable couple of drinks, I can tell you those places would not really go over well in a North American context.
posted by Hoopo at 5:12 PM on October 26, 2011


I have to say most female Halloween costumes are highly sexualized

They are? Only if you buy a pre-made costume or have zero creativity.
posted by agregoli at 5:17 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well it's also the one day of the year when I can wear something highly sexual in public and get less grief for it from either puritans or "Hey Baby!" harassers, so yeah, I've done the highly sexual Hallowe'en costume thing.

But, having read since then about jocelmeow's brilliant transgressively Sexy Goat costume, I'm more interested in trying out her kind of Weird People Right The Fuck Out Sexy costume.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:26 PM on October 26, 2011


Less grief for it...what a reward. I don't understand the sexy costume thing, but that's not the topic here.

I don't understand when people revel in being offensive racially for Halloween. I guess it is scary, in a different way.
posted by agregoli at 5:37 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a half Chinese, half Scottish person, I personally give you my stamp of approval to dress up in a kilt and silly red wig or as a shaolin monk all you want. It's not who I am, and this is okay.

I'm not defined by what other people wear.

This is not say that people can't get offended if they'd like - go right ahead. If you wear something that really offends me, I'll probably just avoid you at the party and not invite you to hang out any time soon, but I certainly won't tell you what to wear.

When I was young and living in New Zealand I looked much more "Chinese" than I do now (something to do with the collection of freckles I'm working on). I remember being called chink, gook and having "ching chong china man" sung at me plenty of times. It was a good litmus test of which kids to avoid; if we went and banned those kids from saying things like that a) it wouldn't work, they'd just find other ways of being jerks, b) I might have made the mistake of trying to strike up a conversation with them. If assholes want to wear their attitudes on their sleeves, I'll thank them for leaving a road sign up for us.
posted by dazed_one at 5:41 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, cowboys do not equal geishas. Why? Because you're not going to be hurting anyone's feelings by wearing a cowboy hat and boots.
If you're going to walk around spitting and saying dumb stuff and acting stupid, yes, it's offensive. But wearing tori and a kimono is the same as wearing chaps and spurs.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:47 PM on October 26, 2011


stamp of approval to dress up in a kilt and silly red wig or as a shaolin monk

Can I dress up as a shaolin monk with a claymore? 'Cuz that would be AWESOME.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:49 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Up until reading this thread, I'd have thought geisha was okay - it was a job (like cowboy), not a specific minority. But mostly because I like pretty clothes and dressing up in them. Of course, my mind's eye never envisions the tawdry store bought "sexy" versions of any costume.

Whatever happened to witches, ghosts, demons, etc as costumes?
posted by _paegan_ at 5:54 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


We dressed up as mathematical objects for Halloween in undergrad at Georgia Tech, like once I went as a long exact sequence. I later realized that might be just slightly too dorky though.

Yet what should we dress up as if we cannot dress up as like pirates or gisha or anything? Are we all supposed to buy mass supplies of town shirts, white face paint, black eye shadow, and fake blood to dress up as zombies?

Alright, I grant that everyone dressing up like a zombie one halloween would actually rock hardcore. You'll need to lay off this political correctness mess after one or two years of zombieism. Infections aren't supposed to last forever!
posted by jeffburdges at 5:56 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Come to think of it the worst part of being Slovenian is that there *are* no stereotypes.

So I guess you have my approval to dress in Lederhosen, wield a Shillelagh, and uh ... engage in small border conflicts with Croatia. Have at it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:57 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know this has, probably as it should be, become a broader discussion about racism and whatnot, but can someone explain to me what's up with this (apparently real) poster? The supposedly damning picture has two costumes easily discernable: A dude dressed as a vampire, and a girl in a typical halloween costume: normal party attire (trucker hat, fake bling, etc) plus generous amounts of fake blood and presumably a latex wound or two. I honestly don't understand what is wrong, but I guess it must be the over-the-top fake diamond necklace? What am I missing?
posted by LiteOpera at 5:57 PM on October 26, 2011


This is blackface; it's a caricature, and was used to mock African-Americans.

Is this racist? I tend to think it's a bizarre and sad reflection on the many ways people literally of color are taught to hate their skin, features, and hair.

Halloween is for dressing up and wearing costumes. Is it offensive for someone to own costumes from other cultures? If my son dresses up as Braveheart again, will it matter that my family heritage is Scottish?

You know what reduces hate? including racism, sexism, nationalism, and all the other ugly -isms? Respect, and listening respectfully to what others have to say. Trying to really listen and understand, instead of assuming a lack of good faith. Not a lot of that going on here.
posted by theora55 at 5:58 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I guess you have my approval to dress in Lederhosen, wield a Shillelagh

I'm gonna dress up as Anze Kopitar, stereotypes that Slovenians are good at hockey be damned
posted by Hoopo at 5:59 PM on October 26, 2011


Is this racist?

Is what racist -- MJ's transformation, or your posting of the image, or someone else's juxtaposing of those two photos? Regardless, any definition of "racism" that you're working from which would include that transformation doesn't apply in any meaningful sense. First of all, that's not a Halloween costume, that was basically his expression of his identity. Second, what power does he draw from co-opting a more caucasion appearance? What white stereotypes is he playing off of? I really don't understand your point. Whatever psychological issues may have been at work there in the surgeries, it's generally understood that he had a skin pigment disorder and that he used makeup to even out the appearance of his skin.

If my son dresses up as Braveheart again, will it matter that my family heritage is Scottish?

Is his costume specific enough to be recognizable without resorting to ethnic stereotypes and generalizations? Does he plan to significantly alter his appearance to reflect the physical features of another ethnicity in order to do this? Were you asking that question for real?
posted by hermitosis at 6:15 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


LiteOpera, I think what you are missing is the woman is white and wearing brown makeup to look black.
posted by Hoopo at 6:20 PM on October 26, 2011


theora55, MJ stated in interviews that as he grew up, he looked in the mirror and began to see his father. He didn't want to. Thus the plastic surgery.

And he suffered from vitaligo, which causes depigmentation. A dear friend of mine suffers - no, suffered, she's over it - from this. Over the years I've watched the patches creep down her face from her forehead and creep up her arms from her hands. And then on to her neck and chest. Lemme tellya, she turned from dark-skinned to seeming burn victim to palest of the pale. She used to use makeup to even out the tone. Going paler looked somewhat more natural than restoring color. Now no longer necessary, it's vampire! all over the publicly viewable parts of her body.
posted by likeso at 6:29 PM on October 26, 2011


Foo. Vitiligo.
posted by likeso at 6:34 PM on October 26, 2011


Ya'a'teeh, Dine' hastiin nishli. Hi, universe, I am a Navajo man.

I saw this posted before I left for work earlier and I just couldn't shake it off my mind.

Indigenous/Native American people in what's currently called the United States make up just slightly over 1% of the total U.S. population. We have to fight for everything and anything that helps us maintain the integrity of our culture because there's so very few of us left.

Before I get too loud on this soapbox, PLEASE READ THIS:

Open Letter to the PocaHotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween

I don't have not much to add to Adrienne K's blog entry, but I will try anyway. When was the last time you met an indigenous person? When was the last time your daughter or son met one? How would they expect an indigenous person to dress or behave if they met one? I ask because if you're part of the dominant culture/society we live in today, the chances are you are the only person who will be able to directly educate your daughters and sons on who indigenous people are. No matter your politics, there's no excuse for perpetuating ignorance.
posted by nataaniinez at 6:39 PM on October 26, 2011 [32 favorites]


Also there are hundreds, if not thousands, of costumes out there that you could wear that aren't culturally appropriative at all. Why are people saying that they have no choice in the matter?
posted by flatluigi at 6:47 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


so I went back and read some of the CNN comments, and one said about the kid holding the "terrorist" costume picture (slight paraphrase)-- "LOL Maybe he's not one now, but after he goes to a liberal studies program and goes on a pilgrimage to Mecca - - HE WILL BE."

To those who feel there are "better things" to worry about -- This is a silly, harmless, frivolous, invisible backpack thing to be upset about?
posted by sweetkid at 7:02 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, hoopo. I really need a new glasses prescription.
posted by LiteOpera at 7:25 PM on October 26, 2011


I think for halloween I am going to dress as one of the people who I think most missed the boat in this thread.

you don't know who you are.
posted by davejay at 9:02 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


davejay: who, me?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:19 PM on October 26, 2011




wow, that's hateful. Even in jest, the National Review, really?
posted by sweetkid at 10:07 PM on October 26, 2011


You know what reduces hate? including racism, sexism, nationalism, and all the other ugly -isms? Respect, and listening respectfully to what others have to say. Trying to really listen and understand, instead of assuming a lack of good faith. Not a lot of that going on here.

I agree with this, because the insensitive Halloween costumes being targeted seem to thoroughly lack this respect and good faith and understanding, hence perpetuating the ugly -isms. And that I think is really what our main gripe is about.
posted by CancerMan at 11:41 PM on October 26, 2011


Durn Bronzefist: Thanks.

And now, off to MeTa to feed my pony.
posted by zennish at 11:49 PM on October 26, 2011


If you read reddit, you'd see that people were actually offended by these posters, and this is almost certainly a reaction against that.

I'm no fan of racism, but I don't see why anyone should be prohibited from dressing in a certain costume because it's not a part of their 'culture'. The idea that cultural appropriation is somehow bad makes no sense to me all, I mean shouldn't culture be something all humans can share? In fact, it's kind of a weird racism itself, saying people can only dress up as things from their own 'culture' Are black people not allowed to dress up as Cowboys of Vikings? It's preposterous.

When you take this stuff to far there's a backlash that undermines the attempt to address real racism. I would rather people pay attention to things like imbalances in incarceration rates or draconian immigration laws then worrying about what people dress as on Halloween.
posted by delmoi at 2:06 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know this has, probably as it should be, become a broader discussion about racism and whatnot, but can someone explain to me what's up with this (apparently real) poster? The supposedly damning picture has two costumes easily discernable: A dude dressed as a vampire, and a girl in a typical halloween costume: normal party attire (trucker hat, fake bling, etc) plus generous amounts of fake blood and presumably a latex wound or two. I honestly don't understand what is wrong, but I guess it must be the over-the-top fake diamond necklace? What am I missing?
She's wearing black-face and dressed like a gangbanger. Since when is that a "normal Halloween costume"?
posted by delmoi at 2:13 AM on October 27, 2011


I think I'll just not show up to any halloween parties and hope the conversation afterwards goes like this:

"Why weren't you at my Halloween party?"

"I was there. I dressed as a ninja? Didn't you see me?"

"No."

"Mmmm."
posted by chillmost at 4:11 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


In fact, it's kind of a weird racism itself, saying people can only dress up as things from their own 'culture' Are black people not allowed to dress up as Cowboys of Vikings? It's preposterous.

You know, it's interesting, but why does everybody keep bringing up 'cowboy' as something only white people did?

Between 5,000 and 8,000 black cowboys, mostly ex-slaves, are believed to have ridden the cattle trails between 1866-1896, about a fourth of the total number of cowboys.
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:05 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm no fan of racism, but I don't see why anyone should be prohibited from dressing in a certain costume because it's not a part of their 'culture'.

I don't see many people complaining about "you're dressing up in something that's part of my culture." It's more like "you're dressing up like something that is A NEGATIVE STEREOTYPE of my culture."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:18 AM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Whatever happened to witches, ghosts, demons, etc as costumes?
posted by _paegan_ at 8:54 PM on October 26 [+] [!]

Do you have to ask? deprecated, considered harmful.
posted by jfuller at 6:49 AM on October 27, 2011


Frowner: "So if, for example, I bought a Peruvian hat while traveling are you saying I can not wear my Peruvian hat this winter because I am white?

See, this is where people have to use their judgement and also act in good faith. Personally, I would not wear a hat that was some sort of ultra-identifiable South American mountain peasant hat (like with bobbles or something) because [I would feel like some kind of clueless new age white lady] because it would suggest that I was on some level saying "oh look at this quaint artifact produced by authentic peasants in a far away land! Look at me and my exotic multicultural travels and sensibilities!", which would be embarrassing. Also, we in the global north shouldn't be able to cherry pick "cool" things from the global south to make us look fashionable while being deeply implicated in the horrible exploitation (by mining companies, by agricultural companies, by US-supported military projects) of the global south.
"

I agree with the general sentiments that you should be culturally sensitive when dressing up in a costume. But I don't agree with this statement.

I think it has to do with intent. Most of the clothing we wear today happened because different cultures came up with clever ways of dealing with the environment, and those clever solutions were "appropriated", if you will, by other cultures. When you're in the desert, it isn't disrespectful to take a piece of cloth or t-shirt or whatever and wrap it around your head to keep cool and out of the sun, because that is a very practical way to deal with the situation. Similarly, a hat that keeps your head warm (or cool, or whatever) is a great idea. A sombrero in October isn't.

Also, unless you are buying your clothes from union labor in the US, or from companies that you know make a policy of treating their workers well and giving them a living wage, your clothing is still exploiting people even if the style clothing does not represent cultural exploitation. So I don't agree with the argument that because we are exploiting the global South we can't make use of items indigenous to that region. I didn't buy a galabeya while in Egypt (it was hell finding one that fit me and looked right) but if I did I would totally wear it, probably mostly for shuffling around the house -- but not as a costume while saying, "Hey, check me out, I am an Egyptian/Arab". I do have a shirt from a shop that sold saris/traditional Indian wear and I do wear it to nice occasions. I look great in it and it's generic enough that I'm not making a cultural statement.

I think that a good analogy would be to look at this as one would look at food. Occasionally people hold potlucks which feature "food from around the world". Invariably, there's someone who does a half-assed, overly sweet stir fry and says, "I made Chinese food!" No, you didn't. It's not exactly offensive the way that costumes are but it does show the same lack of effort to understand the intricacies and nuances of a culture.

There was a recent Louie episode where one of his daughters decided to dress up as Frederick Douglass, including blackface. It's odd, because it's a fictional storyline so clearly Louis CK decided it would be funny or provoking to have a character in blackface for Halloween. At the same time, in the storyline his daughter is so earnest about it that it almost seems okay. Her daughter isn't dressed up as "some black guy", she is making a statement about someone she admires and making an effort to respect that distinction. When the daughter grows up, if she continues to be interested in the rights of the disenfranchised, no doubt she wouldn't dress up in blackface because she'd understand the context of it.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:13 AM on October 27, 2011


She's wearing black-face and dressed like a gangbanger. Since when is that a "normal Halloween costume"?

delmoi, not far upthread it was pretty clear that LiteOpera didn't notice the woman wasn't actually black.
posted by Hoopo at 8:42 AM on October 27, 2011


You know, it's interesting, but why does everybody keep bringing up 'cowboy' as something only white people did?

This thread began with a group of Ohio University students claiming to speak for millions of people each. You don't think we're going to let a few thousand inconveniently racial cowboys slow us down, do you?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:18 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would love to see you point to that claim, which never happened.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:32 AM on October 27, 2011


I have a cautionary tale for those making the "but are you saying I can't wear my Peruvian hat to go get the groceries" argument. It concerns a woman who was traveling in one of the African nations (a woman of color, natch), and on one day she visited a smaller town, and browsed in a local market. One stall had a bunch of gorgeous strings of beads, and she got a couple strands.

A couple days later, she was going to a dinner party near her hotel, and decided to wear one of those strands of beads with her dress that night. But all through the party she was getting some really odd looks and a few snickers. She wasn't sure what was wrong -- did she have spinach in her teeth or something? What?

Finally someone at the party took her aside and told her about the beads she was wearing; they were part of the traditional dress of one of the ethnic groups in that nation. What's more -- they were part of the UNDERWEAR of the traditional dress. So, in essence, she'd turned up at a party with a pair of panties around her neck.

The moral is: sometimes the people who wear an element of a traditional pattern of dress are innocent, and do mean well. However, total innocence can sometimes bite you in the ass.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:46 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Are you talking about maid cafes, or something that happens in North America? Cuz having been to a maid cafe for a very uncomfortable couple of drinks, I can tell you those places would not really go over well in a North American context.

Depends, North America's a big place. There are Vietnamese Cafe's in conservative OC.
posted by FJT at 9:49 AM on October 27, 2011


Actually, let me clarify what I took as the moral of the panties/beads story.

* Maybe you're wearing that Peruvian hat because "someone gave it to me, and I needed a hat so fuck it". Might still be a good idea to make sure you're not inadvertently wearing a hat traditionally worn by Peruvian women left widowed by vampires or something weird like that.

* Maybe you're wearing that Peruvian hat because "lo, I have always admired the hardy Peruvian people and I shall wear this hat in salute to their hardiness." All the more reason to learn about that hat -- because won't you look like an ass if you find out that that picturesque hat is actually worn by dictators or something?

* Maybe you're wearing that Peruvian hat because "lookit, it's a stupid looking hat and I felt like looking stupid." If that's the case, you're not going to listen to any of us anyway, so hell with it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


because won't you look like an ass if you find out that that picturesque hat is actually worn by dictators or something?

Actually, knowing it was worn by certain dictators would make it especially fashionable. Particularly if it has something to do with Mao or Castro.
posted by FJT at 9:56 AM on October 27, 2011


Actually, knowing it was worn by certain dictators would make it especially fashionable. Particularly if it has something to do with Mao or Castro.

I would assume that people who are all "yay, Castro wore a hat like this!" are kind of in their own category.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on October 27, 2011


I went on to YouTube and found the longest videos I could of last year's Halloween Athens party (what I do for you, Metafilter! Shaky cams, bad lighting and worse sound).

Here's what I saw: NO costumes of people in blackface, geisha costumes, terrorist bomber costumes, anyone whatsoever wearing lederhosen, no kilts...I could go on, but the point is, I didn't see any of these offensive stereotypes on camera. Which, I realize, doesn't mean there weren't any! I'm just saying that I could not find even one example, so I don't see this being a rampant problem on campus.

I was looking hard for them, too. I saw a lot of furries, and many, many men dressed as women in dresses and heels, and some of the "sexy" outfits for women, a Waldo from where's Waldo, Buzz Lightyear--but no racial or even cultural appropriation.

Here's what I saw that bothered me, if anyone cares: lots of costumed people being stopped or yelled at by proselytizing religious types who wanted them to ask Jesus to "take over their lives." Interestingly, they seemed to stop the women in the sexy outfits the most. People were smoking pot, drinking and stumbling around stupid-drunk (one girl passed out), one girl was arrested--but it was the wearing of the sexy outfits they targeted. Or, you know, the religious guys wanted an excuse to talk to the girls in sexy outfits. I find using religion to shame people who are just having fun offensive.

Back to the Halloween costumes, though: I have never, ever seen anyone in blackface, dressed up as a terrorist, or a geisha at a Halloween event of any kind I've ever been to--although I have seen TV shows where a woman was in a kimono, for a wedding (!).

On Halloween people wear costumes they think are silly, sexy or badass. They don't put much more thought into it than that, in my experience.

So I don't get the cultural appropriation aspect, I really don't. They are costumes. A guy dressed as a woman is not trying to make any kind of statement about women. He's trying to look silly, walking around in heels and clothes he isn't used to, to go for the laugh. A guy dressed as a stereotypical Native American isn't going to offend me even though, like many people in America today, I have some Native American heritage. He thinks it looks badass. So do ninjas, samurai, Boba Fetts and Darth Vaders. I'd be more annoyed by some macho guy in cowboy boots and hat with toy six-shooters strutting around thinking he's badass than someone wearing a cheap approximation of my native address. There's movies and books all over the place portraying cowboys as good guys and Indians as bad guys. Shouldn't I be bothered that he wants to emulate the cowboy? Maybe I *should* want people wearing the fake Indian garb.

But see, either way I wouldn't be offended. I just can't take Halloween costumes that seriously.

Think back to the last time you saw anyone acting in a racist or culturally insensitive manner. Was it at a Halloween function you attended? I'd be curious to know, because I honestly think this may be more a case of the people you choose to associate with and the functions you attend.

When I see a zombie I don't feel the dead are being disrespected, when I see a witch with a pointy black hat I certainly don't think it represents any kind of Wiccan OR any of the poor women actually accused of witchcraft and put to death in the past, and if I actually saw someone in that cowboy outfit I'd probably think, honestly, that it was lame, not offensive.
posted by misha at 10:08 AM on October 27, 2011


Excuse me while I go throw a bucket of fake eyeliner on a drag queen.
posted by longsleeves at 10:17 AM on October 27, 2011


I'm just saying that I could not find even one example, so I don't see this being a rampant problem on campus.

On the campus at Athens? I don't know. But it's a problem nationwide, and has been for a decade or more, as the stories I link to show.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:36 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd have to agree with misha. I've been to a few Halloween parties, and I've done a lot of trick or treating, with my kids and without. We live in an extremely racist area - and I've never seen anyone dressed as geishas, as Native Americans or in blackface.

The geisha thing actually surprises me, because I used to manage a talent agency that focused on providing models & actors in costume for the convention industry. I dressed more elves, Mardi Gras royalty, fairies, Elviras, Napoleons, 60s mod squad chicks and sexy guy pirates than I can count. I even painted some body builders gold - six times.* We never got a call for a geisha, though, but we had the costume in stock.

Also, I get nataaniinez's point, but I didn't know it was that severe. And that scrabble costume is awesome.



*When my daughter gets old enough to hear about this, I am going to talk her ear off about my glory days.

posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 10:40 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread began with a group of Ohio University students claiming to speak for millions of people each.
I would love to see you point to that claim, which never happened.


I'm making the assumption that was directed at me, and I must admit I'm a little confused.

How do you interpret a picture of a single person saying "We are ..."? I'm honestly having trouble interpreting that as something other that a single person attempting to speak for a group.

Or is it the scope of the "we" that we disagree on...

No snark here; We seem to have interpreted the original posters very differently.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:51 AM on October 27, 2011


....Okay, if people haven't seen other people dressed as geishas or etc. in their neighborhoods, or don't do it themselves, then what's wrong with just shrugging and saying "I guess I'm not the person that needs to hear this message then, good for me" and just going about your damn day?

What is honestly the point of this "well, I didn't see anyone doing this in my neighborhood, so clearly there's no need to make this announcement" kind of thing?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:51 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


How do you interpret a picture of a single person saying "We are ..."? I'm honestly having trouble interpreting that as something other that a single person attempting to speak for a group.

That's an extremely literal reading of the poster, and an ungenerous one. You might also notice that the posters are made up of individuals, who are saying "This is not who I am."

It's quite a stretch to take the use of the word "we" and insist that means the creators of the posters had decided they were speaking for all people of color everywhere, although a useful stretch if you want to just ignore the issue, rather than address it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:57 AM on October 27, 2011


That's an extremely literal reading of the poster, and an ungenerous one.

Okay, that's where we disagree then. Thanks.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:03 AM on October 27, 2011


We never got a call for a geisha, though, but we had the costume in stock

Yeah, but then there was this movie a couple years ago.
posted by Hoopo at 11:10 AM on October 27, 2011


What is honestly the point of this "well, I didn't see anyone doing this in my neighborhood, so clearly there's no need to make this announcement" kind of thing?

I didn't say there was no need for the post. Honestly, I was just surprised, because I didn't think geisha costumes were so popular that you can expect to be offended by them just because it's Halloween.

Why do you think it's wrong that those of us who haven't seen this are saying so? It seems like hearing that would actually be better, because if some of us aren't seeing it, then at least it's not everywhere. I said it because I thought this was a discussion. The point of the original campaign was to get the message out there to people that were dressing offensively, and to those that weren't aware of it. I wasn't aware of it, and now I am. This is why I come to MetaFilter: to find interesting things and read what mostly intelligent people think about them. Hopefully, at the end of the day, I'll have learned something. Maybe you will too.

Yeah, but then there was this movie a couple years ago.

Dude, I'm not that old. My last day there was three years ago, the movie came out in 2005.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 11:14 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know if geishas are that common or not. Or Tijuana Taxicab Mexican stereotypes. I suspect the people who created the posters were trying to be inclusive, but it seems to have backfired a bit, because people are fixating on the geisha. From what I have read on the new, the biggest issue is Halloween parties with slyly racist themes that then end up with 25 people in Afro wigs and blackface holding buckets of chicken and joking about prison.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:17 AM on October 27, 2011


I think the point for me, EmpressCallipygos, was to point out that these kind of costumes are not popular at all in my experience; just because a costume exists doesn't mean that anyone is buying it and wearing it. And also that while racism definitely is completely unacceptable to me, 'cultural appropriation' is a grey area. People are offended by different things, and I guess I would draw the line here: if I don't see deliberate mocking or derision, I don't feel offended.

Which is why I AM appalled by the frat party links, and I appreciate them, because obviously this is a thing on some college campuses. I am not a big fan of fraternities in general. I know some wonderful people who also happened to belong to fraternities, but they seem to attract more than their share of douchebaggery, and I think a big part of that is the code of silence among "brothers" that keeps anyone from stepping forward when people do stupid, even harmful things. So if anyone makes a post about fraternities being offensive, I'm with you on that argument, anyway.

And this is the Best. Halloween. Costume. EVER!
posted by misha at 11:37 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


trying to be inclusive, but it seems to have backfired a bit, because people are fixating on the geisha

I wish they hadn't. The geisha caught my eye too, and made me think, "aww, c'mon, that's np worse than wearing a Ren Faire outfit or a Civil War Uniform." I didn't comment, because I though the geisha was just an edge case, not central to the point, and that one bit of over-reaching didn't invalidate the message. But I do wish they'd stuck with cases where there is broad agreement. I don't think most people -- and certainly not anyone here -- would be standing up for blackface and KFC buckets.
posted by tyllwin at 11:40 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do you think it's wrong that those of us who haven't seen this are saying so? It seems like hearing that would actually be better, because if some of us aren't seeing it, then at least it's not everywhere.

---

I think the point for me, EmpressCallipygos, was to point out that these kind of costumes are not popular at all in my experience; just because a costume exists doesn't mean that anyone is buying it and wearing it. And also that while racism definitely is completely unacceptable to me, 'cultural appropriation' is a grey area. People are offended by different things, and I guess I would draw the line here: if I don't see deliberate mocking or derision, I don't feel offended.

Which is why I AM appalled by the frat party links, and I appreciate them, because obviously this is a thing on some college campuses.


What I was seeing, from both of you -- and I now understand it wasn't intentional -- wasn't that you were saying "well, I'm not seeing it, so maybe it's on the downswing, which is good" or anything like that. Rather, it was coming across as "I'm not seeing it, so it MUST not be as much of a problem so I don't know why they're complaining".

So thank you for clearing that up, misha - but do you know who I am, perhaps before getting all "maybe you'll LEAAARRN something" condescending with me, perhaps you may want to take a look at how you're coming across yourself to make sure you're not giving the wrong impression about what YOU'RE saying in the discussion you say you're taking part in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:43 AM on October 27, 2011


Dude, I'm not that old. My last day there was three years ago, the movie came out in 2005.

I am that old, wanna fight about it?
posted by Hoopo at 11:49 AM on October 27, 2011


But I do wish they'd stuck with cases where there is broad agreement. I don't think most people -- and certainly not anyone here -- would be standing up for blackface and KFC buckets.

That's the problem. MOST people know what costumes are considered obviously racist by white-people standards. FEWER people think twice about wearing some of these more ambiguous costumes -- geisha, jihadist, etc. -- out in public, or consider how it makes people from other ethnic groups feel.

Limiting the PSA to the most obvious examples doesn't make people think, it just invites them to pat themselves on the back for already getting the point.
posted by hermitosis at 11:52 AM on October 27, 2011


My thing about people saying, "I don't see this in my neighborhood (and my neighborhood is racist!) so I don't understand why this is an issue" is (aside from the fact that yes, it happens lots of places despite your not seeing it -- is that if you're not seeing it, that's good. That's good that you don't see it. Wouldn't you like to keep on not seeing it? I think campaigns to raise awareness and let people know it's not cool can only serve to help keep people from seeing blackface and other harmful stereotypes on Halloween. As anyone who's worked on causes like racism knows, there's never an "all done now! we're done talking about blackface now, problem solved." You have to keep talking about it.
posted by sweetkid at 11:53 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure "jihadist" is an obvious no-no too.
posted by Hoopo at 11:54 AM on October 27, 2011


It seems like hearing that would actually be better, because if some of us aren't seeing it, then at least it's not everywhere.

You not seeing it does not mean that it's not everywhere. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Me seeing it doesn't mean that it is everywhere, either. But if there's one thing to take away from most of these conversations, it's that all kinds of things happen that you or I don't see, and they don't cease to exist because we're unaware of them.
posted by Errant at 11:59 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


FEWER people think twice about wearing some of these more ambiguous costumes

Then it becomes a question of what your goal is. If your primary goal is to reduce the worst cases then bringing out the geisha is a questionable strategy. If the goal is to start start a debate over whether "geisha" and "blackface + watermelon" are moral equivalents, it's done an excellent job. The organizers may believe that they are equivalent. They're clearly entitled to that opinion. But they're not entitled to the assumption that it is a universally held belief.
posted by tyllwin at 12:04 PM on October 27, 2011


Dude, I'm not that old. My last day there was three years ago, the movie came out in 2005.

I am that old, wanna fight about it?


Me too. Pin him down with your walker and I'll thump him with my cane.

2005... "I'm not that old".... I almost teared up.
posted by phearlez at 12:08 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos, I wasn't trying to be condescending - I'm sorry if I was. What I took from your question was that someone shouldn't comment without agreeing or disagreeing; that any comments outside of those two options are a waste of time. I was saying that I live in an extremely racist area, and I haven't seen it, so maybe this horrible thing isn't happening everywhere. That's good news, right?

they don't cease to exist because we're unaware of them.

I know. Completely agree with you.

I am that old, wanna fight about it?

I'm a lover, not a fighter.

Me too. Pin him down with your walker and I'll thump him with my cane.

Him?

On preview: everything sweetkid said.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 12:17 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I took from your question was that someone shouldn't comment without agreeing or disagreeing; that any comments outside of those two options are a waste of time. I was saying that I live in an extremely racist area, and I haven't seen it, so maybe this horrible thing isn't happening everywhere. That's good news, right?

That's fair. That wasn't clear initially, though; as I said, it looked like your argument was more like "I haven't seen it, so it must not be that big a problem and they're making a mountain out of a molehill."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:21 PM on October 27, 2011


I'm not sure what to do when someone says that this kind of campaign is a buzzkill, or that they've never seen these costumes before so this isn't a big problem, or maybe someone in a geisha costume just thought it was beautiful, etc. That type of reasoning doesn't really address the message behind the campaign: a large share of these costumes uphold negative stereotypes about groups that have dealt with them all their lives, and that's going to come through regardless of one's intent or whether it happens to show up in your neighborhood. You can argue all day over whether a specific image used in the campaign was appropriate, or whether it's culturally-specific dress or just outright racist caricatures should be avoided, but I think it's generally a good idea to listen first when this kind of stuff is brought up. After all, if it doesn't affect you and you've never had reason to think about it before, you're lucky. And you don't have to think about it again if you don't feel like it.

I cut campaigns like this some slack because in general, it's been my experience that people don't make these kinds of statements for fun. It's emphatically not fun. Bringing up -isms deserves some kind of special mention as one of the least rewarding things to do ever, whether in person or on the internet. Most of the time you'll be dismissed with the Greatest Hit Variations on WHY SO SERIOUS, told you're oversensitive, and that you should find more important issues to worry about. Now imagine getting hit with this again, and maybe 10 more times, and by the time you've hit a hundred it just doesn't seem worth it to engage with people who refuse to believe there could be anything harmful about their inalienable right to act however they goddamn please. Trust me, most people who don't want to see delicate lotus flowers or hipster headdresses or buckets of fried chicken are not hunting in crevices with a microscope for things that makes them angry. That's an invitation to way too many fruitless hours trying to make the point that even seemingly minor things like Halloween costumes contribute to a shitty whole, or at the very least, a thorny topic like cultural appropriation deserves more consideration than "...this is stupid. I'm not racist."

Sure, Halloween costumes aren't the most pressing issue OF ALL TIME. I doubt anyone in this thread who supports the poster campaign or the students behind it would say that. But they're symptomatic of a much larger problem that informs the stereotypes that have saturated American media for decades (assuming it's a good year and they're bothering to include minorities in any thoughtful way at all). Those portrayals have reflected and fed into dominant cultural attitudes, and in many ways play a role in how actual people get treated - some of whom have showed up in this thread, and a few others I'm guessing stayed away because they've had this argument one too many times. That or they're not offended, which is perfectly fine. But I think you'd have a harder time arguing that society doesn't have a long way to go when it comes to portraying minorities as more than one (or two) ideas or characteristics or types of cuisine, and calling to mind some of those stereotypes is what makes wearing these costumes different from dressing up as a profession, a milk carton, or Batman. The geisha costume may be in more ambiguous territory than blackface, but I don't believe the point of the campaign is to say they're exactly the same. They have the potential to reinforce the kind of thinking that pigeonholes an entire group into a tired role. The next time someone tries to pick me up with "love you long time," forgive me if I'm tempted to redirect some of my anger towards that geisha costume and hope people feel like it's enough to have one million other outfits they could wear that don't have any influence on how they're seen the other 364 days of the year.
posted by Cue the Strings at 12:23 PM on October 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wasn't trying to be condescending - I'm sorry if I was. What I took from your question was that someone shouldn't comment without agreeing or disagreeing; that any comments outside of those two options are a waste of time. I was saying that I live in an extremely racist area, and I haven't seen it, so maybe this horrible thing isn't happening everywhere. That's good news, right?

That's a great clarification, thanks for that.
posted by sweetkid at 12:24 PM on October 27, 2011




Um, what the fuck? Why would anyone be offended by that?

/does not doubt there will be some explanation.
posted by Artw at 1:35 PM on October 27, 2011


Apparently a great many people are unaware of the fact that British children were evacuated to the country during the war, and assumed that 'evacuee' was code for 'concentration camp victim'.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:40 PM on October 27, 2011


That article is purposely trying to stir the pot for Americans ( like me) who haven't heard of "evacuee day," see that girl and think "Anne Frank." Once I read it and saw that it's something kids wear to school, I don't think it's offensive no. Stay classy HuffPo!
posted by sweetkid at 1:42 PM on October 27, 2011


I meant to say "something kids wear to school for educational purposes for evacuee day."
posted by sweetkid at 1:43 PM on October 27, 2011


It's a bit....odd, but it also strikes me as something that's never going to really be...popular anyway.

Hell, even the kid modelling it thinks it's lame. You can tell.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:45 PM on October 27, 2011


Even accepting profound historical ignorance, why in the fuck would you leap to 'concentration camp victim'? Was Anne Frank part of some kind of organized evacuation effort that I was unaware of?
posted by Artw at 1:45 PM on October 27, 2011


Halloween Costume Shopping: A sampling of the racism for sale

The author of the first link I posted has followed up with another entry due to the comments she received on the "Open Letter" entry. As an indigenous person, it's extremely frustrating to read some of the comments in this thread but also in almost every link or story regarding indigenous people because the conversation devolves into unchecked privilege and latent racism.

It starts with having to explain that I'm indigenous person, then I also have to explain that I am part of just one of over 500 federally recognized tribes/nations in the United States and that each of our customs and cultural identities differ from the next either minutely or completely. Do you know how tiring and difficult that is? Our lack of representation to confront these stereotypes due to our population size leaves us open to be delegated to a mythical or fantasy status rather than a group of human beings struggling and fighting to retain our identities. The story the dominant society is most likely to read about indigenous people is being told with appropriations such as Halloween costumes before actual indigenous people even get a chance to tell it. When the chance does arrive, it's almost always too late because most people choose to not confront their privilege status and fail to see how their lack of critical thinking could offend someone.

I'm tired, so so tired of explaining this every time and but I vigorously do it because when's the next time you're going to read or listen to a real indigenous person try explain this to you? I've got work to do, I have to wear the dominant soceity's costume almost every day of the year. Also, the next person who asks me if I have night vision like an elf will get punched in the...I mean, a stern and sincere talking-to.
posted by nataaniinez at 2:02 PM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Me too. Pin him down with your walker and I'll thump him with my cane.

Him?


I was tempted to respond to this with:

Choose your own adventure!

Page 8: Nickname gag, "well, apparently the answer to the question that your username asks is 'no.'"

Page 12: Age gag, "At my age the eyes go too and checking by feel is inappropriate and liable to get me punched & sued."

But then I realized that CYOA books were my and Hoopo's childhood entertainments, not yours.
posted by phearlez at 2:04 PM on October 27, 2011


I'm not all that young, either. I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books.
posted by doyouknowwhoIam? at 2:42 PM on October 27, 2011


Also, the next person who asks me if I have night vision like an elf will get punched in the...I mean, a stern and sincere talking-to.

I cannot believe this happens. By which I mean, I absolutely believe that this happens to you, but I can't fucking believe this happens.
posted by Errant at 3:42 PM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


So I, dear random-probably-racist-internet-not-friend, am happy to oblige. Because, as a person of color, that's my job, right? To prove to you that racism exists? To teach you why these things are wrong? To offer evidence of such wrong-doings? What fun it must be to never have to worry about such things! What a privilege!

I like this person. Thanks, nataaniinez.

now suddenly rethinking my enjoyment of that blue-skinned Smurfette drag queen I saw at the local club a few years back
posted by mediareport at 5:32 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a recent Louie episode where one of his daughters decided to dress up as Frederick Douglass, including blackface. It's odd, because it's a fictional storyline so clearly Louis CK decided it would be funny or provoking to have a character in blackface for Halloween. At the same time, in the storyline his daughter is so earnest about it that it almost seems okay. Her daughter isn't dressed up as "some black guy", she is making a statement about someone she admires and making an effort to respect that distinction. When the daughter grows up, if she continues to be interested in the rights of the disenfranchised, no doubt she wouldn't dress up in blackface because she'd understand the context of it.

I don't think what she did in that episode was offensive. Her intentions, as you stated, were to be Frederick Douglass for Halloween because she admires him. I don't see a problem with that. Maybe I'm insensitive? Is it simply because someone in that position chose to wear makeup to make them appear black? Offensive because of the historical context of 'blackface'? Do people find a choice like hers more offensive than if a non-white male earnestly chose to dress as Susan B. Anthony? I don't know... maybe that would never happen.

I do see, however, that just because I don't think someone earnestly wearing black makeup to dress up as a black historical figure is offensive (whom they admire), doesn't mean another person might not find it offensive.
posted by czytm at 6:31 PM on October 27, 2011


I'm not all that young, either. I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books.

No kidding? I had it in my head those were pretty much gone from the landscape by 95 and were pretty exclusively a genX thing.
posted by phearlez at 8:30 AM on October 28, 2011


The meme made it to The Chive. Many views.

I like this one: Ninja.
posted by Perplexity at 9:28 AM on October 28, 2011


nerds ruined my balls

"nerds ruin everything" is of a genre and it is a genre i am burnt out on
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:59 AM on October 28, 2011




Jesus, how about a SAN Loss warning on that thing? Aiie!
posted by Artw at 10:44 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The meme made it to The Chive. Many views.

Wow. I'm hoping people are just being jerks on the Internet and wouldn't act like this in real life. I cant even look at comments sections on this anymore.
posted by sweetkid at 12:28 PM on October 28, 2011


I had it in my head those were pretty much gone from the landscape by 95 and were pretty exclusively a genX thing.

When the landscape is a elementary/junior high school library, they're practically the latest Dan Brown novel.
posted by griphus at 12:45 PM on October 28, 2011


Well, the thread looks pretty dead so probably nobody is going to see this comment (if anyone does, and doesn't care for it, memail me.) But I did want to allow as much time as possible for someone else to notice the following. As it proved to be invisible, I'll mention it now.

The educational posters are directed at caucasians. Period. No other racial or ethnic group needs educating.

In the CNN slideshow linked in the fpp the images of the posters are too small to be certain who it is wearing the costumes that are NOT OK. But larger images are out there. Angry Asian Man has several. The people wearing the NOT OK racist costumes are depicted as white, every last one of 'em.

As I hoped to make clear (but clearly did not) in my earlier post with all the image links (East Asian "cowboys," an East Asian, uh, First American, Black guy with cowboy hat, rifle, and leather Buffalo Bill jacket patches, all filtered through a Japanese anime,) anyone doing the briefest google image search will find individuals of all races and all cultures--not just people of Euro descent, as tendentiously depicted by the educational posters--wearing party costumes presenting themselves as The Other, using stereotyped ideas of The Other to do so, for fun. Party fun.

Go for it, folks. Any kind of mammal you please, insightful or cliched. Speaking as a mammal, I will not be offended and you will not be offensive.

But if you, like this Ohio U poster group, really believe either that a) only gaijin do the nasty this way, or that b) it's only wrong when gaijin do it, then I have to say I'm, like, I think I'll go see what's for lunch. Children, children, what a display of stereotypical thinking. I got over that in seventh grade. And if you're shocked shocked that your notion attracts satirical responses from all over (as it did) then I guess you better learn to do a bit more pre-release testing. I recommend it, it could be educational.
posted by jfuller at 8:21 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


What, exactly, is your point?
posted by flatluigi at 10:11 PM on October 28, 2011


jfuller: I'm not sure I'm parsing your comment correctly because the second half seems to be a really detached series of phrases and mocking, but I extremely doubt the posters are targeted at white people, just that white people happen to be the people wearing the given culturally appropriative and/or racist costumes pictured in the posters.

Past that, saying that non-white people can be racist is stating the obvious and certainly true, but your post about cowboys is not an example of that at all (as other people have refuted). Hell, there were thousands of black cowboys settling the west and insisting that a black man dressing as a cowboy is comparable to a white woman in blackface is, frankly, completely wrong.

Also seriously what the hell does the second half of your comment even mean?
posted by flatluigi at 10:31 PM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


if you, like this Ohio U poster group, really believe either that a) only gaijin do the nasty this way, or that b) it's only wrong when gaijin do it

I've only looked at a couple of the original posters but if I had looked at them all... most (though of course not all) incidences of thought-free racial mockery or stereotype fixation that I've witnessed, growing up and living in Canada and the US, have been performed by white people, possibly because white people have outnumbered everyone else. Simple demographics. Obviously YMMV if you live in different demographic distributions. So the original campaign's exclusive focus on white people might not have struck me as disproportionate. To leap from that to "whites are the only ones that do it and it's only wrong when white people do it" is nonsensical. I gather from comments above that the original campaign could have been improved in various ways. Perhaps future ones will fine tune by taking into account objections such as yours.

And yeah, the idea that Nonwhite Cowboys somehow make white people into The Other is... inaccurate on a bunch of levels. For example, Othering generally involves nuances of denigration and making one group into Individuality-Free Bad Aliens. If you have support for your Nonwhite Cowboy = Othering interpretation, I'm all ears.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:08 AM on October 29, 2011


Won't somebody think of the white people?

Those poor, put-upon white people.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:31 AM on October 29, 2011


So, I'm at the office today and noticed a lot of co-workers dressing up as gypsies. To ask fellow mefites: Is it offensive to dress up as gypsies and fortune tellers, particularly in the US? They are stereotypically associated with Romani people, an ethnicity found primarily in Europe that have historically been widely persecuted and specifically targetted by Nazi's during World War 2.
posted by FJT at 9:24 AM on October 31, 2011


As someone descended from the Romani, yes. It's shocking to me how few people even know that little about their history as you do, FJT.

(related: saying someone 'gypped' you out of something is comparable to saying you were 'jewed' out of something, so don't use either)
posted by flatluigi at 11:47 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's shocking to me how few people even know that little about their history as you do, FJT.

That "an ethnicity found primarily in Europe" may have something to do with that, to be fair. I see you're in the U.S., and I'm not certain there's ever really been a visibly large wave of Romani immigration to the U.S. at any point; there have been Roma coming here, but they may have been perceived as being from some vaguely Eastern European area, or "From" whatever country they had been residing in before.

Without a big enough group of "these are actual Roma" people, that may have meant that nearly every one in the U.S. thinks "gypsies" are only a fairy-tale thing, or a group that only does live in Europe.

(Personally, I'm getting a little uneasy about the "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" shows that are running on TLC now; while it does tell people "hey, Roma actually exist," it feels...tacky and exploitative.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:10 AM on November 1, 2011


DCentric - the local NPR blog on race & class issues - takes up the "is dressing as a specific person OK" question.

(The response, as almost always, is near silence.)
posted by psoas at 1:05 PM on November 3, 2011




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