4 signs your Halloween costume may be offensive

The magic of Halloween is that we get to inhabit a new persona for the day. I always have so much fun putting together my costume because I get to showcase my creativity. You know what is not fun? Halloween costumes that mock others and display stereotypes. Are you questioning your costume choice? Here are four signs that will help you identify if your costume is offensive:

  1. You are ‘borrowing’ something from someone else’s culture
    • This problem should have been solved a long time ago, but year-after-year, Halloween merrymakers prove that it’s anything but. Another person’s culture, race or ethnicity is not a costume. This especially includes changing your skin color for a costume.
    • Related: https://www.alphasigmaalpha.org/culture-not-costume/
  2. You are mocking a religion
    •  For many people religious cassocks, veils and turbans aren’t costumes but important elements of their religious practice. When you wear someone else’s religious clothing just to get a few laughs, you are ignoring the significant meaning of the piece and often perpetuating a negative stereotype.
  3. You are trivializing human suffering and oppression
    • If you are planning on wearing tattered clothing and going around holding a sign that says “will work for candy” please drop the idea now. While the idea of this outfit may seem clever and funny, it isn’t. More than half a million people in the U.S. are homeless and imitating their misfortune is cruel, to be frank.
    • Other costumes that fall into dangerous territory: anything related to genocide (including Nazi costumes), anything that makes fun of a disability or any form of illness including mental, anything making fun a person’s sexuality or gender identity and any costume about a recent tragedy (like the Las Vegas shootings).
  4. You are body shaming
    • Body shaming can exist in costumes, especially when they make fun of different body types or promoting eating disorders. Wearing a fat suit or stuffing your butt is not funny, it is hurtful, and a skeleton costume you name “Anna Rexia” is disrespectful to anyone struggling with an eating disorder.

Ask yourself if your costume relies on a harmful stereotype or makes fun of someone. If the answer is “yes” or even “maybe,” do not wear it. You may say “It’s just a costume” but it’s not just a costume to the people you are making fun of and are affected by the negative stereotype you are reinforcing.

There are plenty of costume options that avoid sending a message that racism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, sexism, or other forms of discrimination. So get creative, but don’t do so at the expense of those who are different than you.


One response to “4 signs your Halloween costume may be offensive”

  1. […] These are silly “scary” Halloween costumes for the office. Follow that up with serious tips to help you determine if your costume might be offensive. […]

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