Halloween: Perpetuating Prejudices?
October 28, 2011
As featured on “Freshly Pressed,” there is a wonderful blog, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which discussed some recent posters created by a student organization. The posters are aimed at stopping stereotypes and prejudices and are as such:
“We are a Culture, NOT a Costume” is a great slogan, and I commend this tiny students organization at Ohio State for doing such a great job. Racism is something that simply should not exist, and yet it still does, very much so, today.
Considering the last time I dressed up for Halloween (2 years ago; ironically enough, I did a quasi-Ancient Egypt outfit. Prophecy? You decide), my mind thought back to the STARS posters. Had I been stereotyping Egyptians by dressing up as the first thing that (probably) comes to mind when one thinks ‘Egyptian?’ (i.e., Cleopatra/Ancient Egypt?) Was I being prejudiced? Was I perpetuating a stereotype?
In my case, I don’t think I was. I wasn’t trying to be insulting to Egyptians; I wasn’t trying to make a caricature of them. I was simply going to put on a costume, aka wear something that I would never, ever normally wear because it’s not me. The whole point of dressing up for Halloween is to be somebody that you are NOT.
So, if dressing like an ancient Egyptian is “bad,” then it goes by logic that dressing up in general for Halloween is biased and prejudiced, unless you’re dressing up as a “magical person” (i.e., a ghost or goblin), an animal or an inanimate object (one year, I was a pumpkin). By applying the same logic as these posters, wouldn’t, say, a real cowgirl get offended by seeing girls in belly-baring outfits that a real cowgirl could never wear while doing her job? Wouldn’t a maid or housekeeper be offended by the women who dress in sexy-short maid costumes, which no maid could likewise do her job in?
Certainly, I believe there are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed when styling yourself for Halloween. The thought of somebody going as an Arab terrorist is appalling and disgusting and wouldn’t be offensive solely to Arabs or Muslims but also to any decent human being. There is nothing cool about that outfit! Going in Blackface would be okay, perhaps, if one was dressing as a specific person (Oprah Winfrey? Kanye West?) but I wouldn’t otherwise condone it.
Hence, I believe that everyone should exercise some caution/respect but also remember: relax! Halloween is a caricature: after all, ghosts don’t wear white sheets! The whole point is to dress as someone you’re not. If I choose to dress as a Japanese geisha, I’m not saying that all Japanese women are prostitutes: I’m saying that I like the costume. If I choose to dress as an Ancient Egyptian or a bellydancer, I’m not saying that modern Egyptians are only special because of what happened on their land 2000 years ago or that all Arab women are bellydancing prostitutes: I’m simply saying that I find Ancient Egypt cool, and that bellydancing outfits are sexy and I’d love to learn the dance. Someone want to teach me?