Halloween is still not an excuse to treat oppressed groups as costumes

Halloween is still not an excuse to treat oppressed groups as costumes

Halloween is still not an excuse to treat oppressed groups as costumes
October 16
12:00 2018

Halloween comes on the same day every year and little seems to change — except for the latest line of pop culture costumes. Some would argue Halloween just can’t be without the comedic, insensitive costumes that line the aisles.

In the women’s “classic” section, a variety of “sexy geishas” reveal a little too much skin and Mexican Día de Los Muertos-inspired dresses hang from their racks unapologetically. Offered are five different Pocahontas options and three different vague Pacific Islander outfits, insulting indigenous people all around. The men’s costumes offer a very distasteful “flasher” costume and my personal favorite, “adult Mexican man.”

“When did people start being so butthurt over everything?” people cry. I just wonder when it started being okay to mock marginalized people with costumes.

Halloween used to be about dressing as your favorite superhero or Disney character and running around the neighborhood collecting the biggest stash of candy. Entering adulthood opened the door to sexy, insensitive caricature costumes of minority groups, the punchline at the expense of decades of prejudice. Mockery dressed as mimicry.

“I understand that wearing a culture as costume is not intended to hurt most of the time,” author Terra Trevor wrote in a column for Matador Network. “However, the fact of the matter is that it does.”

Regardless of intention, these Halloween costumes stand as a statement that says “I don’t care enough to learn about the struggles of your race/ethnicity.”

It was this past September a risqué “Handmaid’s Tale” costume listing was pulled off online retailer Yandy’s website after backlash on social media.

Twitter users claimed the implications of the costume were clearly representative of women’s oppression, and the website’s oversight failed to take the rape of even fictional women seriously.

The website placed an apology in the listing’s place the following days after the controversy. However, the incredibly offensive and sexualized “Native American” costumes remained.

While the argument against the oppressive Handmaid’s Tale costume was pointed toward the company’s indifference toward fictional women’s rapes, I found the same narrative fit for the tone-deaf costumes. The online costume retailer and similar retailers failed the indigenous people of America by not caring about their historical oppression and genocide.

And of all the politically-loaded, culturally-unaware costumes is the most denounced of them all — though it still manages to sneak its way into parties and expose itself on social media: blackface, of course. It is the costume with the most history behind it, originating from a time when it was the norm to hate, ridicule and dehumanize black people.

Every year, society seems to find itself revisiting the racist past of blackface in the aftermath of Halloween. Seriously, how are we still having this conversation?

In the year of 2018, tone-deaf Halloween costumes seem so out of place and unwelcome. Why not opt for a creative costume instead of insulting a specific chunk of the American population? If you don’t want to conjure up an original idea, you could be so many recognizable pop culture icons in music, film or TV — I’m sure you can find something better than a cheap Spirit Halloween costume that makes a mockery of groups that are already treated poorly.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Christina Palomo

Christina Palomo

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1 Comment

  1. Sam K
    Sam K March 13, 08:33

    As an American with direct Mexican ancestry (great grandparents and beyond–from Zacatecas & Aguascalientes), and a person who has lived on the border, I can honestly say a “Mexican” costume has never offended me. You want to wear a sombrero and a sarape? Go for it. That’s not even what your average Mexican wears now, but they were worn in the past generally and they are still part of some costumes and traditions (like mariachis and charros). I’m more offended by people labeling every immigrant as Mexican, when most of them right now are South Americans, but they come from ALL over (including Somalia).

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