I’ve been declaring myself “too old” for Halloween for the past seven years, but somehow I still find myself eating bite sized candy out of an oversized cauldron or slipping into a costume for the peculiar holiday. It’s just too fun and delightfully eerie to ignore, but even the spookiest of holidays should still be a safe place for all involved.
Here are five tips for keeping Halloween a positive and unproblematic space for everyone.
1. Don’t use other cultures as a costume.
As illustrated by the widely shared poster campaign by Ohio University, dressing up as a “culture” such as an “Asian Geisha” or “Ghetto Fabulous” does nothing but reinforce stereotypes. When you choose one caricaturized aspect of a group of people to imitate, you fail to view the culture’s complexities or respect its people. You also risk contributing to cultural appropriation. When you put on an identity as a costume without fully understanding the significance of what you’re wearing, or participating in the struggles of the community, you at best insult, and at worst actively harm that community.
The fethishization and over-sexualization of Asian women is one example of the effect of these ethnic based Halloween costumes. There’s an infinity of amazing alternate costume ideas out there, so there’s no need to risk being racist.
2. Specifically, don’t dress up like an “American Indian.”
This sort of costume is so wide spread, and yet so problematic that it’s a tip all on its own. The “Native American costume” is based on an idealized Disney version of native peoples (think Pocahontas), and it’s often worn under the assumption that the Halloween goer is imitating a dead culture.
In actuality, Native people are still around today and are attempting to preserve their culture despite a history of unprecedented oppression. The use of their identity as a costume makes it easier to ignore their very real existence and struggles, and so they ask you to please refrain.
3. Don’t slut-shame other’s costumes…
Even if you’re in a cop costume for the night, it’s never your job to police other people’s bodies and how they want to dress them.
4. …But don’t feel pressured to wear a “sexy” costume either.
We wrote about the few costume options available to women on our blog last year. Though it’s totally fine to choose a “sexy” costume, it’s certainly a problem that those are overwhelmingly the only options available for women, teens, and even pre-teens. It speaks to our culture’s hypersexualization of the female body and can even lead to self-objectification.
Don’t give into the pressure to dress in a way you don’t want to. There’s a world of DIY costumes out there that will allow you to get creative and dress on your own terms.
5. Respect the boundaries of others and give trigger warnings.
It’s great to love scary movies, haunted houses, and intense thrills, but respect the fact that those aren’t for everyone. Many individuals with anxiety disorders or other conditions may be triggered by these seemingly harmless activities. Don’t pressure friends to engage with fears or enter situations they don’t want to, and don’t send “screamer” or creepy videos.
By following these tips Halloween can be a safer and more positive place for everyone. Do you have any other tips to share? Let us know in the comments!
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.