Disparaging costumes just aren’t funny

Royal Purple Staff Opinion

Oct. 27, 2015

To a lot of college students, Halloween is a magical time of year. Partygoers dress in their best costumes, taking to the streets dressed as various goblins and ghouls, celebrities and cultural icons.

It’s the one time of the year where even adults have an excuse to behave badly. After all, when you’re dressed as Donald Trump and drinking copious amounts of cheap liquor, who wouldn’t have a tendency to take things a little too far?

There’s just something about wearing costumes that separates ourselves from our actions. Even the costumes become part of the bad behavior, as choosing a costume often turns into who can come up with the most outlandish, offensive outfit.

It can be anything from a Native American headdress, to a Poncho Villa-style sombrero, to the infinitely stupid decision to don black-face makeup.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your Halloween costume says a lot about you, and if you wear a no-class, uncreative, stereotypical costume meant to shock and offend, chances are you’re a no-class, uncreative, stereotypical person who gets off on shocking and offending people. 

As students of UW-Whitewater, we ought to take pride in our culturally diverse campus and strive for a Halloween celebration where no cultures or cultural icons are unfairly stereotyped in a way intended to be offensive.

That means, although you really thought your Caitlyn Jenner costume would be a hoot, you should probably leave the dress and wig in your closet because someone who identifies as transgender might find it hurtful and offensive. Never mind when someone asks about the wig and dress in your closet … save that conversation for another holiday. 

That also means, even though you were going to kill it at the Halloween party dressed as Bill Cosby, you really shouldn’t, because victims of sexual assault probably don’t find Cosby’s allegations as funny as you do. Forget about the $30 you spent on the Cosby sweater and Jell-O packets – it’s just not funny.

The thing is, you don’t get to decide whether or not you offended someone with your insensitive costume. In fact, you have no say in it at all.

To parody someone’s culture, ethnicity, race or gender is to make fun of how they identify themselves. Dressing as a racial stereotype may seem funny to some, but to the people who identify as that particular race, the costume can have incredibly negative consequences.

How would you feel if someone made a joke of how you identify yourself?

This kind of careless borrowing from others’ cultures is called cultural appropriation. If you choose to wear a costume that’s intended to stereotype someone else’s culture, you’re essentially making a joke of how they see themselves. That’s not okay.

This isn’t to say, however, that you can’t offend anyone. If you want to parody a presidential candidate, go right ahead. There’s nothing wrong with hitting the bars dressed as Hillary, Bernie or the Trump-meister – in fact, Halloween is a great time to poke fun at cultural icons, but it’s important to keep things under control. 

Out of all the prepackaged polyester monstrosities available for purchase at stores like PartyCity and Halloween Express, we’re confident you can decide on something that won’t disparage an entire race, culture, gender or ethnicity.

Keep in mind, we’re not trying to step on anyone’s freedom of expression. If you really want to offend as many people as possible, go right ahead and dress as Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby or a member of ISIS – that’s your right. But don’t be surprised when you alienate yourself from an entire group of people in your quest to be the outrageous funny guy on Halloween.

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