These kid's Disney costumes are being called 'racist'
The ins-and-outs of parenting seems to be getting more and more complicated as an increasing number of rules (usually set out by over-protective parents) are imposed about what you should feed your kids, who you should let them play with and now, what you should let them dress as for Halloween.
A New York mother of two has urged parents not to let their daughters dress as two characters from recent Disney films. Sachi Feris wrote a lengthy blog post on Raising Race Conscious Children, implying it is racist to allow little girls to wear these two costumes in particular, believing it would lead to “racist cultural appropriation”.
It came after her own five-year-old daughter announced she wanted to dress up as Frozen’s Elsa this year, and Moana for Halloween next year. Feris is a white, Jewish woman of Russian, Polish, Lebanese, Syrian, and Cuban descent, and feels neither of these costumes are okay for her daughter to wear.
The mother said that she “had some reservations regarding both costume choices”. She went on to explain in the post that it could be seen as especially discriminatory against the Polynesian culture on which Moana is based on because it is based on "real history and a real group of people".
"If we are going to dress up a real person, we have to make sure we are doing it in a way that is respectful," she wrote in the blog post. “Otherwise, it is like we are making fun of someone else's culture."
In terms of Elsa, she said there were also problems with what it represents when kids dress up as the fictional princess.
"I feel like because Elsa is a White princess, and we see so many white princesses, her character sends the message that you have to be a certain way to be ‘beautiful’ or to be a ‘princess’. That you have to have white skin, long, blonde hair, and blue eyes.
“And I don’t like that message. You are White, like Elsa—if you dressed up as a character like Moana, who has brown skin, you would never change your skin colour.”
She failed to mention in her post, however, that just as Moana was inspired by Polynesian culture, Frozen was informed by traditions of Norway. Much of the costume detail, architecture, and cityscapes, as well as the finer ornamental detail in clothing and objects, reference traditional designs of Norwegian culture.
After the long essay of a post, Feris concluded that her daughter wanted to go as Mickey Mouse next year instead. The post attracted quite a lot of attention, and generated an interesting debate in the comments section. Not everyone agreed with Feris' point of view.
"As a person of color, I personally get excited when I see little white children wearing Doc Mc Stuffins, Princess Tiana & Moana apparel & costumes.
"I feel it increases acceptance and awareness of different races & cultures. I enjoy reading post of raising race conscious children and understand how this can be a fine line but if done tastefully it would not be offensive to me."
Others also pointed out that Elsa and her fantasy world are references to Norwegian culture, but it's less obvious to spot because the character is white.
"This feels murky. Is the distinction that Moana is based on a legend and Frozen based on a HCA story? I think it would be confusing for a child, and an adult, because they’re both representing different cultures. Of course, Moana’s diversity is easier to spot. I recognize the need to be sensitive, I’m just wondering how you parse the nuances for a child.
"The obvious difference feels like skin color, but would it be okay to dress up like Anna who doesn’t wear a sparkly gown and instead wears a more traditional dress? I would think no because that’s treating Norwegian dress like a costume, but it’s less blaring because she’s white."
Another said that the blog post was causing the wrong kind of conversation about the topic entirely.
"Our daughter is white and she’s obsessed with Moana the movie and character. She’s going as Moana at Halloween this year, and I’m glad that she embraces her favorite cartoon characters such as Doc McStuffins and Moana without any consideration as to the color of their skin.
"We will teach her about white privilege as those questions come up, and they will, because she’s a very sensitive and inquisitive child, but what that article is proposing is silly, and in my view, accomplishes the opposite of what it is allegedly setting out to do."
Someone suggested that the argument appeared to be coming from an overly concerned mother afraid to offend anyone.
One person with actual ties to the culture Moana was inspired by offered his input on the argument by saying it's "all good" to dress as the character as long as it is positive and respectful.
Another pointed out that the costume was more about the incredible role model Moana represents.
Actor Jordan Fisher also piped in with some strong feelings of his own. “As someone with Polynesian blood, as well as lots of other things, lemme see some white, black, Asian, mixed girl or even BOY Moana’s," he retorted on Twitter. "Let kids do what they wanna do. It’s freaking Halloween.”
While Feris may have been oversensitive in her argument, the discussion is an important one to consider when dressing in a costume that references another culture. But then again, what costume doesn't? As long as it is tasteful, with good intentions and carried out with respect, it's probably okay.