Like a pap smear or tax season, it happens every year: People wear racist and sexist costumes on Halloween. Hell, maybe you’ve done it yourself! You didn’t know what to be for that one party so you jammed some feathers in a headband and called yourself Pocahontas. Or you grabbed a toy donkey and a poncho and went as a cartoonish Mexican. We’ve all made mistakes and hopefully learned something from them, like how not to be the offensive asshole hanging out by the pumpkin keg. Because seriously, you really shouldn’t wear that stuff.
Dressing up as a stereotype reinforces it, plain and simple. Think about it: The “joke” that is a racist/sexist/culturally appropriative/homophobic/transphobic costume hinges on other people knowing what you’re dressed as and why it’s “funny” (it isn’t though, actually). In order for me to understand that you are a “gangsta” I have to see your bandana and fake braids—and possibly blackface—and do the racist math. This costume decoding happens dozens of times over on Halloween night, and by the time the sun comes up on All Hallows’ Day you’ve reinforced the hell out of harmful, tired stereotypes among countless friends and acquaintances. You’ve also probably alienated and offended countless others who didn’t laugh at your “white trash” beer belly or your Chop Suey specs. It’s a problem.
Who ordered the spandex burger?
Also a problem: sexist costumes, as anyone who’s been advised to dress like a total slut for Halloween is well aware. Don’t get me wrong, I fully condone Halloween hotness for people of all genders, but when the women’s sexy hamburger getup (which is sold out, btw) involves a formfitting bandeau and miniskirt and the men’s version involves, well, a giant foam hamburger, something sexist this way comes.
Lucky for us, lots of smart people are calling bullshit on these Halloween shenanigans and offering suggestions for alternative, less stunningly problematic outfits. Take, for example, this excellent poster series from STARS on why cultures are not costumes:
Friends don’t let friends wear these costumes.
Adrienne at Native Appropriations has a great response to Spirit Halloween Superstore’s sale of “traditional” Native American costumes along with an archive of posts from Halloweens past, and the Root has a roundup of racist Halloween costumes that will blow your mind. (Bonus: Bitch has covered offensive costumes as well.)
A great resource for venting sexist Halloween frustrations is the Fuck No Sexist Halloween Costumes Tumblr, which lines men’s and women’s costumes up side by side (see: above burger platter) and lets the double standard speak for itself. On at least one occasion they’ve photoshopped a reverse-sexist costume scenario too. Behold, the sexy watermelon:
At least, I *think* it’s photoshopped. Unless Michael Phelps is going seedless this year?
Rethinking that newly purchased Geisha costume and and want to replace it before the Halloween parties start this weekend? First of all: good for you! Second: There are tons of places you can go for fun suggestions! Like right here at Bitch! Also, the Mary Sue has a list of 10 Awesome Ladies to Dress Up As, and Take Back Halloween is a site dedicated to helping you find an amazing historical figure and becoming her via costume. Taking kids trick-or-treating this year? Check out Everyday Feminism’s tips for avoiding sexist Halloween costumes for the younger set.
If you’re dressing up for Halloween this year, avoid stereotypes, and tell your friends to do the same. I’m sure you’ve got a great idea for a feminist costume anyway, right? So share it in the comments and let’s tap that pumpkin keg already!