Halloween is Oct. 31, which means Halloween weekend, otherwise known as Halloweekend, is fast approaching. The costume parties have already started, and come Oct. 26-27, there will be flocks of partiers in disguise.
Picking a costume and making it a reality can be fun, but there is an important rule to remember.
Do not wear offensive costumes.
Just don’t do it. They’re not funny or clever. They’re lazy and reflect poorly upon those who wear them.
Even large corporations are taking notice. Disney stopped selling costumes of the character Maui from Moana last year because people took issue with them, as the costumes themselves were essentially brown skin bodysuits.
Yandy, an online retailer, took down knock-off “Brave Red Maiden” costumes, modeled after the characters from "The Handmaid's Tale," after critics said they sexualized women who are oppressed in the show. They have failed, however, to remove their “sexy Native American” line, despite years of criticism.
The company’s C.E.O. said to Cosmopolitan last year that they did not plan to pull the line unless “it gets to the point where there is, I guess, significant demonstrations or it gets to a point of contentiousness that maybe is along the lines of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
The people making and distributing offensive costumes will continue to sell them as long as they can. It’s up to party-goers to truly evaluate their options.
Cultural appropriation is the problem behind a lot of costumes and can be tricky to understand. The term refers to a dominant group taking and using aspects of a minority group’s culture, especially when those aspects have a cultural significance or history of discrimination and oppression with the minority group.
It takes something important to someone and reduces it to something to wear, but in this case, the something important is religion or race and permeates every aspect of their lives.
Susan Scafidi, author of "Who Owns Culture: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law," advises that we evaluate using the three S’s: source, significance and similarity. When considering source, we should ask ourselves if it’s a group that has experienced persecution. Significance refers to the importance of something within a culture. Does it have a specific meaning? Is it sacred to them? In regards to similarity, we need to evaluate whether we are pulling inspiration or copying something.
Knowing what is and is not offensive can be difficult for some. Different people have different ideas about what crosses the line. Generally though, we can still tell when something may be upsetting to some people. If you would feel risky or uncomfortable wearing it around a specific group of people, you should not wear it at all.
It’s not a matter of suppression of your freedom of speech, because you can still wear the costume without legal consequences. It’s a matter of decency because you shouldn’t.
If you insist on wearing a costume that could ruin someone else’s night if they so much as lay eyes on you, I beg you to reevaluate.
Stop and think before you pick your costume this year. Ask yourself if it’s offensive. If you’re questioning it, err on the side of caution. There are an infinite amount of options, and there’s no need to settle.
Offensive costumes are bad. No matter what you can or cannot come up with, you’re better off slapping on a name tag that says “Hello! My name is Jerry” and going out in a costume that won’t make anyone uncomfortable.
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