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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:

One of the STARS posters, image found at Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind wordpress blog

“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?
Links:
http://lissawriting.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/racism-think/
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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2011 5:19 PM

    Belly dancing is supposed to be great exercise. I think you will have an awesome Halloween. 🙂

  2. Bella permalink
    October 29, 2011 1:43 AM

    Totally agree with what you have to say…

    If one wants to argue bias towards ethnicity, and so on, I think they should leave Halloween out of the picture. This is a one time a year to try and be someone you are not. A geisha costume sounds good, as does being Pocahontas. A person could dress up as an Italian pizza maker with a long moustache, or wear a fez and be a Turk for the day. I don’t think anyone gets harmed unless the one wearing the outfit intentionally tries to slam that particular culture.

    I really do think people shall be more open minded when it comes to Halloween. Does this mean if I dress up as a cop I am making fun of the entire police force? If I dress up as a whore, am I making advocating prostitution? What about if I am a witch for Halloween? Witches are real, contemporary people, who in fact practice the Wicca religion. But I am not bashing witches! Wow, let Halloween be Halloween, and have fun!

    • October 30, 2011 10:39 PM

      Bella–it’s like you read my mind 🙂 Rightly said–unless someone is intentionally “slamming” the culture they’re costuming, it shouldn’t insult anybody.

  3. Knudsens permalink
    November 11, 2011 7:42 PM

    Good and thought provoking article. Racism is unfortunately all over the earth. I see it in my little country too, almost no one is free from racism.

    • November 11, 2011 8:23 PM

      Thank you! And no, no one is ever free from racism. And for those who think that racism only comes from “white” people, think again, because it most definitely happens both ways. *sigh* Everyone just needs to get along.

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