Culture

Don't Even Think of Wearing These 14 Costumes for Halloween

We shouldn't have to repeat this every year, yet here we go again.

Remember Halloween 2013? That was the year this picture was taken, and went viral, all over the Internet.


 

The person who posted it is Caitlin Cimeno, the delighted-looking woman in the middle. William Filene, the guy on the left, dressed up as Trayvon Martin, complete with a bloody bullet hole in his hoodie and full blackface. Greg Cimeno, on the right—the guy making a gun with his hand and pointing it at the other guy’s head—is supposed to be George Zimmerman. These three people thought this was so uproariously funny that they didn’t just put on these costumes, they took a picture and posted it on social media for the world to see. The Internet rightfully responded by treating them as the callous jerks they obviously are. 

They weren't the first people, nor will they be the last, to have their awfulness proved by their choice of Halloween costume. Last year, these two people thought it would be high-larious to paint on blackface and bruises and be Ray and Janay Rice, because why choose between racism and domestic violence when you can have both? That same year, and every single year before and always, someone inevitably decides it’s a good idea to dress up as an entire race for the day. Still others drag their kids into this whole mess: this little suicide bomber and tiny Hitler can’t be held accountable for what they’re wearing. Also, there's a Sexy Donald Trump costume? Which isn’t even offensive, really. It’s just so ridiculous I wanted to be sure you knew about it.

So here’s a list of costumes you should be sure to avoid this year, with brief insights on why. I know someone will complain they’re tired of all this “PC stuff” being shoved down their throat, blah, blah, but remember—no one is stopping you from doing or wearing anything. If you insist on being an asshole, be an asshole! Just don’t pretend not to know you’re doing it.

1. Native American.

So many problems here. As a general rule, treating an entire race of people or a culture—particularly from marginalized groups, but just in general—as a costume you can put on and take off is reductive, offensive and dumb. Reducing people to stereotypes and caricatures, which is what this kind of costume is all about, is pretty much the textbook definition of racism. It’s never okay to appropriate Native American icons and signifiers without regard to context or history, whether it’s for Halloween or Coachella. What you consider a costume may be sacred or deeply meaningful to someone else. Hopefully, you’d rather not be party to continuing our long history of devaluing Native American traditions and beliefs.

 

As a capper, here’s a video of Native American people trying on “Indian” costumes and explaining why it’s always a terrible idea.

2. Mexican.

It was difficult to choose an example here, with so many ridiculous choices. Like this one, or this one, or for god’s sake this one. My only question is, who came up with these costumes and how soon can they start working for the Trump campaign?

3. “Arab.”

Actually, this is listed as a “Sexy Arab” costume, which somehow makes it worse. Anyway, don’t.

4. Geisha.

The official name of this costume is “Dragon Lady Geisha.” Who knew before this moment that so many offensive and damaging cultural stereotypes could be sandwiched into one offensive and damaging costume name? (I’m almost impressed, in the worst way.) Putting a dragon on a child’s satin robe, belting it and then calling it anything but “Lazy Orientalism With Stilettos” should be punishable by fine.

5. Blackface.

There’s no one who doesn’t know blackface is offensive at this point. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing some old-school Al Jolson style blackface or some modern-day blackface you think is an homage to a black actor or musician or character you love from TV. It’s offensive and denigrating, and you shouldn’t do it. There have been a million articles and a trillion discussions about why this is true, and if you’re actually confused at this point, I’d like to direct you to Google. But that seems improbable in 2015. So basically, if you insist on wearing blackface, you’re an asshole. If you persist in arguing that you should be able to wear blackface because it isn’t racist when you wear it, you're also an asshole. If you wear blackface and pretend not to get it: asshole. There are no more options. (Also, nods to blackface, like this or this, count.)

6. Therefore.  

Just no. To all of this.

7. Caitlyn Jenner.

Caitlyn Jenner herself has said she thinks the costumes that appeared online (on the off chance you missed it, there’s one here and another here) a few months ago are “great.” The Internet largely disagreed, vocally, and retailers pulled one version from virtual shelves. But there are still a few variations of it floating here and there, most of them, like the one below, modeled by men. It’s a way of mocking Jenner’s gender identity and calling into question her femininity. It fuels transphobia and privileges cisgenderism. The costume is predicated on the idea that Caitlyn Jenner, and trans people, are somehow funny, and that we should all laugh at her together. Do you really want to indulge in any of that? Are you so uncreative that of the many costume options this year, this was all you could come up with? Be better.

8. Anyone who died this year.

Yes, you’re right! It is, indeed, too soon.

9. Anyone this year who made news just for being awful, from Bill Cosby to that dentist who killed Cecil the Lion to pharma CEO Martin Shkreli.

The world does not need more of these people. Even for one night.

10. Homeless.

1) On any given night, there are nearly 600,000 people living on the street, and more than 200,000 of them are in families, which strikes me as incredibly unfunny. 2) You don’t want to get to the party and realize you and Martin Shkreli are wearing the same costume.

11. Confederate Soldier.

Couldn’t find the Dylann Roof costume you really wanted?

12. Rachel Dolezal.

Maybe there’s some “meta” kind of irony, since Dolezal was herself wearing a costume, but the answer is still no. 

13. Pimp.

This costume should be renamed “racist frat boy.” Which can then be shortened to just “frat boy."

14. What even is this?

Stop it. 

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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