With Halloween right around the corner, it seems appropriate to talk about some costumes which may be in poor taste to wear out this year.
Many people unintentionally wear costumes that promote racism. They simply saw a costume in the store, bought it and didn’t think of the implications wearing it could or would have. On the flipside of that though, some people understand the issues involved with wearing such costumes and chose to do so anyways which causes anger amongst people who are part of the culture that are being mocked.
First up on the list is a costume that seems to have gained popularity in the last few years — dressing up as a Native American (or Native Indigenous Person) for Halloween. However, this is not only culturally insensitive; it is highly offensive to Native People, as their culture is being mocked or dismissed.
Kali Holloway states, “Reducing people to stereotypes and caricatures, which is what this kind of costume is all about, is pretty much the textbook definition of racism. What you consider a costume may be sacred or deeply meaningful to someone else.”
Anything to do with a person’s culture should not be worn as a costume. This includes, but is not limited too, Geisha costumes; Dashiki costumes and thobes, which is the robe-like garments worn by Arabs.
Wearing blackface is also incredibly offensive — and it’s somewhat hard to believe people would consider that a ‘costume’ yet they do. A general rule of thumb — just stick to your own skin color.
Eskimo costumes are something that are also frowned upon. Not only is the word “Eskimo” actually very offensive to Inuit people; we shouldn’t be diminishing a group and their historical past in a simplistic costume which demeans them.
Moving on down the costume list, we all know that we are fortunate to live in a country that grants us religious freedom to either worship what we wish or not worship at all. With many deeply spiritual people in our country, religiously offensive costumes, such as the sexy nun or pregnant nun costumes, should be avoided as they can spark high emotions and feelings in some people.
Costumes portraying domestic violence in any way should really just be burned. Domestic violence is in no way funny and should not be ‘celebrated’ as a costume. About 20% of college students report experiencing dating violence and college aged women having the highest rates of dating violence. Making light of the situation in a costume is in no way helping solve the issue. In fact, it belittles survivors and makes the problem seem less important. We should be helping to solve the domestic violence problem, not making and wearing costumes celebrating it.
Costumes making fun of eating disorders, such as the “Anna Rexia” costume which has been going around for a few years now is disgusting. Mental illnesses are serious medical conditions, and attempting to make them appear any less serious than they are is an insult to anyone who’s had to battle, or is currently battling, one such as an eating disorder.
Dressing as a clown this year is also most likely in poor taste due to the recent clown craze around the US. People dressing as clowns, even as a joke, are being attacked; shot; killed or even brutally beaten by groups of people. So if you’re thinking of dressing as a clown, you may want to think again as it could also lead you to being seriously injured.
Some universities this year are even putting bans on offensive Halloween costumes at campus parties. Certain costumes are strictly prohibited in order to make this season fun for all and to stop putting down marginalized groups.
Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG) based at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Waterloo campus, reminds us to remember that people are not costumes through their “I Am Not A Costume” campaign.
LSPIRG states that the mission of this campaign is “to start conversations over what is and what is not a costume.”
They do this through reminding people about Cultural Appropriation, “To take parts (symbols, dress, words, practices, etc) from one culture when they are not part of that culture. This can happen in a variety of forms but often around Halloween it involves wearing ‘costumes’ that rely on specific cultural signifiers. Dressing up as a ethnicity, race or culture that is not your own is problematic and racist.”
Many people don’t understand how these costumes can anger people and how a costume can have such far-reaching implications. LSPIRG states, “If you’ve been thinking that – maybe acknowledge that it is because these implications don’t affect you. Your culture and/or identity has not be historically and currently trivialized, mocked and viewed as “funny” or “scary” to dress in.”
This Halloween – just be smart. Ask yourself if the costume could be offensive to anyone. Be wise in picking a costume, be safe and have a Happy Halloween!
Photo courtesy of Grand River Media Collective