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OPINION: What not to wear: Halloween costume edition

halloween

A group of pumpkins. Photo by jomudo/Creative Commons (license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) 

October is in full swing and Halloween is right around the corner. At the University of Arizona, Halloween is a holiday many hold more dear than Christmas. Dressing up every night of the week and spamming your Instagram followers with countless amounts of photos is seen as a right of passage for some students on a college campus. 

A lot of us are more than excited, but let’s talk about appropriate Halloween costumes. No, I am not talking about in terms of coverage; I am talking about inappropriate Halloween costumes that are offensive. We are in 2021 and we have been given this talk about offensive costumes many times, yet every year I still tend to see costumes that are just not okay. I do not know what it is, but when Halloween rolls around people’s idea of a funny costume is not funny at all and actually pretty harmful.

Cultural appropriation

Someone’s culture is not your costume. I bet you have heard this saying before, but it is crucial in ensuring the message gets across. Dressing up as something that is deeply tied to a culture or group of people is not acceptable. We have come to a point where we have realized that the repercussions of enforcing these stereotypes through costumes are extremely harmful. 

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Google “Native American Costumes” and you will find hundreds of links leading you to sites that are trying to sell you a stereotype, some trying to make the culture “sexy.” Native Americans have been discriminated against for a large portion of history and these costumes are continuing this by painting a stereotype that dehumanizes them. They are people, not a costume. 

Cultural appropriation is not victimless. When people in a place of privilege decide to use someone’s culture as a costume, the identity of a group that has been discriminated against throughout history is made into a trendy or fun costume — cultural appropriation disregards all of this struggle. There is little to no appreciation in cultural appropriation and can even be seen as “stealing” an identity for the sake of looking good for a night. 

It’s not funny

Offensive costumes span farther than racist stereotypes; some offensive costumes tend to make fun of people of a different class or lifestyle. Chances are you have heard of the “White Trash Party” that plagues many college campuses. People at these parties can be seen dressing up in stereotypical clothing of the lower class. While these partygoers seem to find no fault in this, a group is unwillingly at the other end of your joke because of their social class, something that they have little to no control over. 

Many Halloween costumes seem to echo this sentiment by putting an entire group of people at the butt of their jokes. This is not okay. 

Be mindful

As you get ready to pick your Halloween costume, be mindful. Think about the consequences of dressing up for a night on a larger scale. Look back into history and try to think of the discrimination your costume has faced. Appreciation and appropriation are two entirely different topics that can easily get blurred, so play it on the safe side. 


Follow Payton Toomey on Twitter



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Payton Toomey (she/her) is a junior majoring in journalism and information sciences and eSociety. She loves to cook and golf in her free time.


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Updated November 24, 2021