‘Life’s a Witch and then You Fly’: Halloween costumes: less social conflict, more candy

Roze Brooks

Regardless of one’s enthusiasm for Halloween, there is no way to avoid the onslaught of interesting, creepy and questionable costumes displayed in stores and worn by party-goers in the days leading up to Oct. 31.

Beyond the candy, horror movies and practical jokes, costumes are the primary focus for many. However, when costumes cause controversy and subject youth to tasteless clothing choices, the decision of what to wear loses its entertaining nature.

A student-run campaign called Students Against Racism in Society (STARS), has expressed concerns about Halloween costumes depicting stereotypical representations of cultural identifiers.

The group claims such costumes are offensive and inappropriate, projecting the overall message, “We’re a culture, not a costume.”

Last year, the group used an assortment of posters showing young adults holding photos of Halloween costumes that stereotype their cultures. A young girl of Asian descent held a photo of a geisha, an identifiable Asian woman with painted white skin and embroidered rope.  A Middle Eastern boy held a photo of a Halloween costume featuring a keffiyeh and plastic “bomb” strapped to his chest.  Each poster was branded with the message, “This is not who I am and this is not okay.”

This year, a variation of the campaign was launched, also using posters that contain young adults.

One poster contains a faded silhouette of a man wearing a plaid shirt and baseball cap playing a banjo.  Another depicts a woman smoking a cigarette and wearing gaudy jewelry while holding her pregnant belly. Each poster contains the text, “You wear the costume for one night, I wear the stigma for life.”

While I fully understand and agree with the overall message of not stereotyping members of different cultures and making assumptions about individuals based on their race, ethnicity or nationality,  the objective of a Halloween costume is to be playful, not malicious or insulting to a group of people.

Anyone wearing a costume wishes to be identified for what they are, proving the success of the costume.

Cultural costumes aren’t mean to poke fun at stigmas.

If someone dressed as Pocahontas, it would be unlikely that feathers, velvety brown dress material and red face paint would be excluded. This isn’t to imply that Native American females only dress in this manner, but to effectively portray the chosen costume, these additions are necessary.

I believe that the 2012 poster examples are unrealistic, to an extent.

There has never been a time where I’ve been at a costume party and someone has revealed, “I’m an Asian!” as their costume.

I think the campaign is undermining the fun and potential of the holiday, and prompting desire for political correctness drains any enjoyment in dressing up.

A larger concern needs to be focused on the suggestive and raunchy options that children are given for costumes.

As quoted from the popular movie “Mean Girls,” “In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In girl world, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”

When the “real world” and the “girl world” mesh, there is a problem.  There is no logic in marketing costumes to six year old girls that contain minimal clothing, especially when they will be outside during cool fall temperatures. Parents who take their children trick-or-treating shouldn’t be subjected to a pseudo peep-show due to the influx in age-defying costumes.

When I was younger, it was all about princesses and pirates.

I think the focus should to keep costumes for younger generations PG, not PC. And the target for this message shouldn’t be the many innocent individuals who are not consciously setting out to discomfort others this Halloween, but the marketing companies releasing and promoting these questionable costumes.

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