Proud2Bme | Offensive Halloween Costumes to Never (Ever) Wear…and What to Wear Instead

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Offensive Halloween Costumes to Never (Ever) Wear…and What to Wear Instead

By Catherine Mhloyi--It’s that time of year again. The temperature is going down, carved pumpkins are coming out and families across America are settling in to watch Hocus Pocus on repeat. For many of us, this is our favorite time of year for one reason and one reason alone: Halloween. Unfortunately, many of us have trouble enjoying all the fall festivities because this season of masquerading manifests many deeply-rooted racial prejudices. This is done in many ways—some creative and some not so creative.

Trigger warning: Sexualized imagery. 

Here are some examples of costumes that are bound to ruin many of our nights:

A costume that disregards the fact that the Native American population is now a minority due to their genocide at the hands of European colonizers is not “just a costume.” It’s an assertion of privilege and a declaration of racist insensitivity. In general, Native Americans don’t appreciate people parading around in inaccurate representations of their culture when the right for them to practice and express that culture freely has been taken away.

In case anyone doesn’t know, “Eskimo” is a slur. The Inuit prefer to be called as such and prefer for you not to wear their culture as a costume.

Instead, try a pirate costume, loosely based on medieval dress but with a fun and rebellious twist.

Since September 11th, Muslims, Sikhs and non-Muslim Arabs and South Asians have been the targets of islamaphobic hate crimes at an alarming rate. This is not a joke. There is a body count attached to this stigma. And come on, a burka mini dress? That’s just plain disrespectful to the Muslim women who often have to fight to defend their belief in modesty and their right to wear things such as hijabs, niqabs and burkas in the western world.

Instead, try dressing up as a Greek/Roman god or goddesses. Who says togas are only for frat parties?

What’s the joke? A group of gringas perpetuating anti-Mexican racism and xenophobia by making of fun of people who try to come to America to build a better life for themselves and their kids and forgetting that much of America was Mexico before it was the United States? Oh yeah, totally funny.

For the first time, we might look to our favorite comic book villains to save us this Halloween.

What better way to introduce the topic of blackface than to introduce its origins? These Halloween partygoers are enjoying a reference to minstrelsy where black people were ridiculed for white American entertainment by way of mocking their features (e.g., big lips) and having white actors perform caricatures of African-American stereotypes/archetypes.

However, if you have the burning desire to paint your face, there’s no end to the inoffensive possibilities.

Blackface is not okay. Making fun of domestic violence is not okay. Being a grown adult and not understanding these things is not okay.

Also not okay: making fun of victims of hate crimes. RIP Trayvon Martin. #BlackLivesMatter

As an alternative, try just dressing up as candy or an athlete without reference to any crimes or social injustices.

Asians are often the punchlines of jokes in and out of the fall season. The costumes are often homogenizing of Asian cultures, because yes, there is a difference between the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans and so on, and they are misrepresentative at that. Asian people are more than the people you order takeout from, and their physical features are not for your entertainment. And in 2017, we never ever ever use “oriental” to describe Asian people.

Other racist and culturally insensitive costumes include but are not limited to:

  • Belly dancers
  • Romani people (gypsies)
  • African people
  • Cholos/Cholas
  • Anything involving blackface, redface, yellowface, etc.
  • Racist historical figures (e.g., Hitler)
  • Caricatures based on racist stereotypes
  • Rabbis, Sheiks and other religious figures
  • Gang members
  • Members of hate groups

If you love Japanese culture, maybe try dressing up as your favorite anime/manga characters. The best part is that it works for both Halloween and ComicCon.

Halloween is also riddled with sexism. Women who wish to be more covered up (and if you live in colder areas like I do, be dressed appropriately for the weather) are going to have a really hard time finding anything suitable because so many costumes are unnecessarily sexualized, as you saw above. Even worse than that is that women who do dress more revealingly by choice or by default are constantly slut-shamed. Oftentimes the word “slut” or “ho” are part of the costume’s title. And don’t even get me started on trying to find costumes for plus-sizes.

What does it mean for a costume to be “unnecessarily sexualized” you ask?


This is what I mean.

They even do it to little girls.

But not all the sexism in this holiday is so subtle. Female body parts are not suitable options for costumes either, people. If society’s over-sexualization of the female body has made it taboo for people with breasts to breastfeed in public, or even walk down the street in a tight sweater, then it’s not okay to wear breasts as a costume.

And in discussing sexism, we can’t forget cissexim or transmisogyny. Call me sensitive, but trans* women, especially transgender women of color, are targets for countless hate crimes on a daily basis.


Also not funny: ableism, fatphobia, and shaming sex workers. In case anyone is wondering what the skeleton costume is doing there, the costume’s name is “Anna Rexia.” Enough said.

Other sexist, ableist, fatphobic, etc. costumes are:

  • Bloody pads/tampons
  • Straitjackets/ mental patients
  • Fat suits
  • Rape victims/anything alluding to sexual assault
  • Wheelchairs/canes/crutches

However, for actual plus-size people, there are a bunch of great ideas out there.

There is no shortage of inoffensive Halloween costume ideas: comic book characters, cult-classic movie characters, politicians, foods, video game characters, good old-fashioned horror movie staples, historical icons and more. The possibilities are endless. Steer clear of people’s cultures and marginalized groups and you should be fine. If you ever have trouble figuring out if something is offensive, just ask yourselves, “What is this costume trying to say?”

Happy Halloween!

What other costumes would you add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!


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