Without question, fall has always been my favorite season. I love the smell of fall candles and a cup of hot spiced apple cider paired with my favorite horror movies. But here’s what I don’t like about the season: the offensive Halloween costumes that exist disguised as “scary” or “sexy”. The reduction of people to stereotypes for a night of temporary fun isn’t what I would call a good idea.
Before you shop for face paint, outfits and spooky accessories, let’s establish one guideline for costumes this year: just don’t be racist. I feel like that should go without saying, but every year people don’t listen and I can’t face palm hard enough. Just because it’s Halloween and you can hide behind a costume, doesn’t mean you should.
The holiday may be weeks away still, but an online petition with thousands of signatures is gaining steam in its opposition against Yandy’s “sexy Native American” costumes like “Hot on the Hunt” and “Chief’s Desire.” The costume company previously pulled its “sexy” “Handmaid’s Tale” costume following protests concerning women’s oppression.
It released a statement saying that triggering offense was “not our intention on any level.” When enough white women complained, the company apologized, but when people in and out of Native communities complain the company stays quiet. Native American costumes are bestsellers at many shops all over the United States. That is the reality for many minority groups, and Halloween costumes cheapen the experiences and histories of people and hurt people by normalizing the dehumanization of their cultures.
When I see the phrase “cultural appropriation,” I know many people roll their eyes. How can a costume hurt someone? I can begin by saying that Native women are three and a half times more likely to be victims of violent crime than other women. The rate of sexual assault is more than twice the national average, highlighting the point that dressing up and perpetuating Native women as sex objects is especially harmful. Plenty of people believe that Native groups don’t even exist anymore and that their culture is up for grabs. By disregarding the role costumes play in this, you are only perpetuating further harm.
Leave headdresses and fake regalia out of your Ferris Halloween parties and music festivals like Coachella. It’s in bad taste. While you might wear a costume for one night, someone else lives with the stigma their entire life. While some offensive costumes are not as obvious as blackface, their presence is harmful. Though many don’t pick their costumes maliciously, society needs to understand the historic context and oppression of other people.
You can appreciate another’s culture without trying to imitate it into a mockery of what it really is. Even still, some people dress up as someone or somethings from another’s culture to honor it, like Katy Perry dressed up as a geisha for a song performance. Even if you have good intentions, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.
When this subject comes up every year, I think of every episode of Scooby-Doo where the creatures are unmasked and 9/10 times, the villain is an old white man. Don’t be that guy. It’s not that difficult to check out whether your costume is racist or not. The older I have gotten, the more I try to raise awareness and bring attention to Halloween costumes that are frankly unnecessary. Costumes aren’t just innocent
fun, and we can’t have a good scare when you add things like racism to the equation.
Go out and buy your Halloween costume and have fun at parties across Ferris and Big Rapids this month, but consider the story behind what you’re wearing. There are countless costume options that don’t hurt anyone and are so much fun to wear.