Themed parties can be quite the tricky subject. This past weekend East Quad saw the annual “Around the World” party scene. This consists of various six-man suites holding parties themed from different countries.
Not only are themed parties exclusive, but they also tend to be disrespectful to the different cultures they tend to “represent.” Not only is America one of the only countries that throw culturally themed parties, but they generally are thrown by certain organizations affiliated with Greek life. Specifically, Greek life that is not multicultural in nature nor diverse in membership.
For example, last year for around the world, there was a Colombian-themed party. The party relied on stereotypes and offensive costumes/decorations. This perpetuates the same ideologies on different cultures, instead of actually taking the time to learn about each culture.
This past weekend, a certain fraternity threw an “Iceland” themed party. It would be hard to argue that this might have offended many people (although maybe there are Icelandic students who were offended). Another creative, not offensive idea was “Texas the Sovereign State,” featured in last year’s round of parties.
Part of this is attributed to the fact that a country like Iceland is a white Western European nation. The same applies to a party whose theme was France and incorporated props like striped shirts and baguettes. While these are stereotypes, they are far less offensive because Western European countries cannot truly be appropriated as the history of colonialism made the colonizers. In addition, those throwing these parties are mostly white, European students.
The difference between celebrating Iceland and dressing up like the Nordic country, and dressing up like say a Latin American country is due to the fact that it can be seen as mocking for these cultures. In a world that has been white-dominated for centuries, dressing up like a culture that is non-white is offensive.
There’s a fine line between celebrating a culture and cultural appropriation, and it’s easy for students throwing these themed parties to portray these cultures and countries as offensive caricatures that diminish their vast identities.
With Halloween a month away, it is best to be conscious of avoiding offensive costumes – just don’t dress up like other cultures. It isn’t creative, and it is hurtful to the students who were raised up with the culture.
For Greek life, remaining conscious about things like this has become increasingly important. With Around the World this past weekend, there was much discussion about what country different fraternities and other social groups would be, and even some disagreement around who would get what country.
So, we should all be mindful of the ways we party. Do your best to not offend others. We want Denison to be a place where we can learn and have a good time, but also create a comfortable environment open to diversity and inclusion. Keep this in mind the next time you partake in social events.