How to Dress for Halloween Without Offending People

Posted: October 5, 2014 in Living and Life, Reflections
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s October. The month where my powers of evil are at their greatest. Don’t be too terrified, the chances that I’ll terrorize your city on the 31st are actually pretty slim. Unless you live in Canada, because I’m planning on creating some Samhain mayhem up there this year. Honestly, you Canadians have had it too good for too long. You need a little tragedy and horror for once.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, it’s October. Many of you are thinking of your Halloween costumes. Personally, I’m thinking of the Eleventh Doctor, a gas-mask zombie, or Hannibal Lecter. Of course, there’s a lot of other choices out there. And if you plan to get creative with your costume, well, the sky’s the limit. You can literally dress any way you want.

Doesn’t mean you should though. Last year, I read several disturbing articles or saw several upsetting photos of what people chose to wear for Halloween, including:

  • Two guys going as George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, complete with bloody hoodie. Can you say, horrible and not funny?
  • A couple of people in Australia donned KKK robes for a Halloween party. If this were Spain and they were actual priests, I might accept it, but anywhere else…it’s more than a little insensitive.
  • A mom in Virginia sent her son in KKK robes to school, trying to pass it off as “a family tradition”. Lady, no one believes that for a second. And if it is a family tradition, then that’s one sick family (I feel sorry for the kid. Unless he’s already been brainwashed and knew what the robes were, he probably thought he was a ghost).
  • Julianne Hough went as a character from Orange is the New Black, and put on blackface to do it. I’m only going to say two words to this one: oy gevalt.

So many things wrong with this picture.

Listen people, I love Halloween. I love dressing up as something scary when I can afford a new costume and going around being scary without people thinking I’m weirder than I actually am. But there’s a limit to what you can wear without hurting people and an idea we have for a costume may seem funny and original, but it might not turn out that way in the end.

So while we still have 26 days till Halloween, I’m asking people who are planning on creating their own costumes to examine your ideas and make sure they won’t cause offense or seriously upset someone. And I know some people get offended just by the very concept of Halloween, but I don’t mean them. I’m talking about the people who are thinking of going as an Ebola victim, dressing up as Michael Brown and the cop who shot him, or perhaps as a stereotypical Islamic terrorist or Jew (I’m looking at you, Macklemore. That was not cool!).

Often we don’t consider how our actions can affect people. Sadly, it’s still common for people, including many young people who are raised in a “tolerant” atmosphere to say “That’s so gay” or insult someone by calling them a faggot. Saying that may seem small, but in reality they can cause serious psychological harm, because implied in their utterance is that being gay or thought of as gay is bad. For an actual LGBT person such as myself, hearing this is hurtful and makes me feel like less of a person. Such words and actions are known as microaggressions, and they can have as much of a psychological impact on a person as being mugged or some other traumatic incident if they continue consistently over time.

Now imagine that harm in the form of a Halloween costume, out on the streets where so many people can see it, where it can be photographed and uploaded onto social media for the whole world to see forever and ever.

Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? So please be considerate of others when you decide a costume. You can be scary or funny or cute or even sexy, if you’d like. But if your costume idea has the potential to cause distress, offense, or insult to someone of a different religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or even socioeconomic status, perhaps it’s better to come up with a different costume.

  1. Angela Misri says:

    This is SO true Rami. You can be scary and fun without offending, just people! I’m going as Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy because he is my character of the year. My son is going as Dr. Fate, which is actually a fun costume to make (we’re using felt so he can sew it himself, so the house is full of little yellow squares of felt ; )

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