Halloween is just around the corner and it’s time to get spooky. But among the horror movies, the darker evenings and the creepy decorations, there is the scariest thing of all: offensive costumes. Let’s take a look at some of the distasteful outfits you should try and avoid this October.
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘my culture is not your costume’ if you spend much time online. Even though it’s become a meme recently, it rings true. There are just some things you should not dress up for on Halloween. Racial stereotypes can vary but generally should be avoided. Even donning a sombrero and a poncho and drinking tequila all night is questionable. To many, it seems like a fun costume and an ode to the fun Mexican party culture, but really, it’s a watered-down take on how the west views Mexicans and shows no real understanding or appreciation of Mexico or its people.
Same goes for Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) ‘sugar skulls’. This is an important holiday in Mexico, it allows the public to reflect on their deceased family members and create a sacred and respectful relationship with death. However, the traditional makeup and decorations of this holiday have turned into an aesthetic trend for Halloween. If you aren’t Mexican and are not taking part in the holiday, give the colourful ‘sugar skulls’ a miss, there’s much more to it than some cool makeup.
Next up is a costume that you’d think no one would allow, but surprisingly it gets adorned every year, even by celebrities (we’re looking at you Prince Harry) and that is Hitler or Nazi costumes. I doubt this one needs any explaining but if you’re tempted to put on a swastika and square moustache this year, remind yourself of the atrocities committed in WW2 and choose something a little less edgy.
The next racial costume to avoid is one that has been around for centuries, and yet in 2018, it’s still being done. And that is the sinister topic of blackface. If you’re not familiar with the phrase, it is when someone who is not black, dresses up as a black person. This began as a form of entertainment back in the 19th century. Black people were seen as subhuman, and therefore white performers would dress in blackface paint, large wigs and apply overdrawn facial features, to mock and humiliate them. These performances often surrounded around slavery, creating a damaging caricature of people of colour that still, to an extent, lives on today. Now that all seems very serious for an article about Halloween costumes but understanding the history of blackface is essential. It might seem like applying layers of fake tan and overdrawing your lips to dress up as Beyoncé or Obama today is incomparable to the origins of blackface, however we must remember where it came from, and that dressing up as a different race is not fun, it’s unnecessary and outdated.
Lastly for racist costumes we have American Indians. This is always a popular Halloween costume, but like any other culture whether that is Mexican or Japanese, it should be avoided. American Indians have faced many hardships throughout history and are still oppressed widely in America today. To reduce centuries of struggle and a rich complex culture to a furry skirt and a feather headband is boring. Not to mention that often these costumes are overly sexualised and not remotely accurate. This is disrespectful to all people of these cultures, but especially the women who are often ignored in history anyway. If you want to dress sexy, go for it! But stick to your favourite fictional characters or Halloween classics like a witch or a cat.
Next, let’s talk about mental health-related costumes. World Mental Health day has just passed, and as the positive posts about checking in on your pals calm down, you might start to see a couple questionable costumes creep in. The typical MH related costume we see on Halloween is someone wearing a straitjacket aka a straight-jacket. Now, these are often used in horror movies, but in real life, they have a sinister history too. The reality is that they were used as a form of torture in Victorian times as a way to control severely mentally ill people. They are not a cool outfit to complete your ‘crazy asylum patient’ costume. Even though straight-jackets are rarely used today, they represent a time where those with mental illnesses were seen as dangerous and scary. Stereotypes and closeminded attitudes about mental health still exist today, let’s not add to them for the sake of a spooky costume.
Lastly, it’s time to discuss costumes that are just generally a bit off, such as Caitlyn Jenner, Anne Frank and Trump. Many people have no issue with these types of costumes but with a little bit of thought, it can be understood why many others would avoid them. For example, last year when Donald Trump was elected President, a surge of Trump Halloween costumes arrived. He makes for a funny, topical costume but the reality is he’s a pretty scary guy who has harmed many people in many ways. He might not affect us much over here, but before you order a MAGA hat remember that he supports separating Latino families and not allowing women to control their bodies. If that’s not enough, remember when several people accused him of sexual assault? There are definitely other costume ideas available if you want to get a few laughs.
Although these costumes might not seem that serious to you, every time we wear one, we are reducing someone’s entire life and history to nothing. There are plenty of other costumes out there, so this year have a think before you buy.