With Halloween less than two days away there has been a rash of photos of insensitive (at best) costumes surfacing on the Internet. Now that technology is an ever-invading part of our daily lives we are exposed to the raw naked truth that folks sometimes do things that may offend or alienate others. Personally, I am guilty of dressing up as a geisha for Halloween in college.
I had no clue of the historical, stereotypical or societal implications that went with the geisha costume. I just wanted to look hot. In retrospect, I would not be caught dead costuming as a geisha, prostitute or sex slave. In no way is this “in my youth, I made mistakes” argument, but an argument for the plausibility of sheer ignorance on my behalf.
Halloween has been a holiday where we suspend reality for one night, delve into fantasy and dress up. In the last 24 hours on social networking, I have witnessed everything from a kiddie pimp & ho costume (which the manufacturer pulled) to a young black woman costumed as a house slave. When folks are allowed to express themselves without the fear of persecution, the results can be surprising…surprisingly racist, sexist or self-loathing. One could say that I am delving too deep into the Freudian pronouncements that Halloween and costumes have, but ride with me on the idea that the subconscious is a scary place. Many may be using costumes as a vehicle for their subconscious. An outward expression of their deepest, darkest thoughts. Maybe the guy dressed as a slasher really fantasizes about cutting helpless co-eds up or maybe he’s a huge Wes Craven fan. The white guy dressed as Serena Williams maybe a tennis fan or a closeted racist. The girl dressed as a sexy cop may have a future in law enforcement or may be sex positive about her body image. The personal motivations behind costume selection may never be transparent to the audience.
Regardless if you find Halloween costumes birthed from racial stereotypes to be offensive, in poor taste or “harmless fun”, you feel some kind of way about it. We can have serious dialogue about it now or wait until next October when we will be dragged through a new batch of insensitive costumes. Colorado University-Boulder launched an ad campaign dedicated against Halloween costumes that portray racial, cultural stereotypes. This is a positive approach towards cluing folks in on how insensitive costumes can affect others. What does your Halloween costume say about you?