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For many people, it's the time of year for Halloween costume planning. What you might not be aware of is that some Halloween costumes that a lot of folks take for granted as acceptable are actually pretty problematic, appropriative, and/or insulting. Before you head out to your Halloween festivities this year, we invite you to check out these links that will help you avoid choosing a costume that may be hurtful to others.
(This image is from the 2011 "We are a Culture, Not a Costume poster campaign. This one features an image of an Asian woman holding a picture of a woman in a geisha costume, and the text reads "This is not who I am, and this is not okay.")
First, a piece from a Native American woman on how using her identity as a costume feels to her: My identity is not a costume for you to wear
Next, here are a couple of links illustrating the scope of racist Halloween costumes available for sale...clearly, this is not a major concern for many costume manufacturers and retailers, so it's up to the consumer to change things!
Halloween costume shopping: a sampling of the racism for sale
And more over here!
(These are a few of the 2012 series of "We are a Culture, Not A Costume" campaign posters, featuring people of various races next to photos of folks dressed in stereotyped versions of their race or culture for Halloween. The text on each reads "You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life.")
For many people, at least some of these types of costumes have never really been questioned or examined as problematic. Also, there is obviously a lot of mainstream acceptance for many of these kinds of costumes. If you're feeling uncertain and would like some specific pointers as to how to avoid a costume that may be hurtful, you may want to check out this article. It's pretty basic, but it does address some popular broad Halloween costume concepts to avoid. Some probably very incomplete, but simple, guidelines: don't use blackface, aim for representing a specific person rather than a broad representation of an entire race or culture, don't dress as any kind of hate group member, and don't fetishize a culture with a "sexy _____" costume.
And if you need a costume idea, you might want to check out Take Back Halloween.
Do you have questions or experiences to share? You are invited to do so in the comments! It's fine if you don't fully understand and want to know more, but please remember to check your privilege as you discuss this issue, and be respectful. Thanks, superstars! And happy Halloween. :)