When I was child, Halloween costumes rarely comprised of anything inherently insulting. The choices were easy; I could be a cat, a pumpkin, a clown, or a ghost. My neighborhood was filled with little vampires, witches and the occasional television or movie character. Some stereotyped Disney characters made an appearance, such as Pocahontas or Esmeralda, but the notion of purposefully dressing as a racial stereotype was seemingly absent.
There were few “gypsies” or “Indian princesses”. I don’t remember “ghetto” ever being a costume until I was in high school. I never happened upon a ”geisha”, “eskimo” or “muslim”. People seemed to have enough decency to not allow their children to tromp around as, and consequently on, another race or culture.
Granted, individual opinions vary as to whether it is ever respectful to use a racial or cultural costume on Halloween, but no one can deny the fact that most of these costumes are in no way accurate, often play into negative stereotypes, and for women, hypersexualize traditional attire. Those aspects of cultural and racial costumes are always offensive.
In case you have never done so, let’s take a look at how starkly different Halloween “costumes” are from the true culture & why donning these “costumes” is both racist & insulting.
Before we even get to the actual costume, first it must be pointed out that the word, “gypsy”, is actually a slur for the Romani ethnic population. Not only are these costumes more akin to pirates than actual Romani traditional dress, but they are marketed under a slur that is rife with stereotypes and negative connotations.
This is traditional Romani dress of just two regions of Europe; the Carpathians and Balkans, respectively. The Romani, like any other ethnic or racial group, are not entirely homogeneous. Though our most traditional dress is some variation of what is shown here, this is not the only type of clothing worn by the Romani.
As one can clearly see, the “gypsy” costume is wildly inaccurate in comparison to traditional Romani dress. As I will state for nearly every single “costume” here, also, one must take note of how sexualized the costume is, which has had & continues to have a direct impact on Romani women & girls. This type of stereotyping does result in sexual violence.
This is not the Indian from the subcontinent of India in South Asia. Native Americans are comprised of numerous sub ethnic populations. All of which have distinct cultures and languages. Homogenizing Native American culture in the form of a costume denies that fact. Also, the term “Indian”, like “gypsy”, was created by white Europeans who often used it in a denigrating manner.
These images depict the Navajo & Choctaw Nations, respectively. Each Nation, or sub-ethnic population of Native Americans has a distinct dress. As in many other cultures, some of what is worn has an inherently spiritual component. When such items are bastardized to be used for a “costume” it dually insults the particular culture.
Once again, the “costume” bears little resemblance to the actual traditional dress of any Native American group. As with the “gypsy” costume, it is difficult to find an “Indian” costume that is not overly sexualized & stereotyped. Once again, the sexualization of this culture has and continues to result in sexual violence & directly affects Native American women & girls. It is also my understanding that Native headdresses serve a very specific purpose & appropriating them is highly offensive.
Native Americans who inhabit Alaska & Canada also are not homogeneous. They too consist of many sub-ethnic populations all of whom have their own culture, traditions, and language. Once again, the term “eskimo” is often seen as pejorative by members of this ethnicity.
The above shows members of the Yupik (Yupiq, Yup’ik) and the Aleut sub-ethnic populations, respectively. The variances in dress are quite obvious, and to be expected as no ethnic group is entirely homogeneous.
These costumes are marketed as “eskimo”, but bear little resemblance to the true traditional dress of any of these populations. They are also sexualized and I do not believe they will provide any defense against the cold weather, so good luck with that. Are you sensing the trend here?
Mexico is a large nation state that is comprised of varying ethnic groups. Though most known as a Spanish speaking country, there are 68 indigenous languages still spoken in Mexico, which means there are likely far more than 68 varying ethnic populations, some indigenous, some not.
The above images depict Oaxacan & Otomi dress, respectively. As any individual from Central Europe can tell you, embroidery plays a large role in the identification of what sub-ethnic population one belongs to. How is this any different because these women are from Mexico? It’s not. Their embroidery is an important feature of their culture, as well.
Why is necessary that every single ethnic costume be highly sexualized? Let’s step back from the blatant inaccuracies and stereotypes for a moment. Has anyone ever stopped to think about just how damaging sexualizing a costume truly is? When such “costumes” are hyper sexualized, the culture is hyper sexualized. That means that the women and girls who belong to these cultures are reduced to mere objects. As if oppression of these ethnicities was not bad enough, why is it necessary to routinely objectify our women?
Muslim & Arab
First of all, Islam is not an ethnicity, but a religion that is practiced by persons of all ethnicities and all races. There is no “Muslim” outfit, as modest dress worn by many who practice Islam is strongly influenced by local cultures. The Middle East is also a highly diverse region of the world with many ethnic populations, cultures, and languages. If you are referring to what is commonly called the “Arab World”, well that spans two continents and contains even more diversity in terms of culture and ethnicity.
Respectively, these images are of a Kurdish girl and Berber girls, two distinct ethnic populations living within the “Arab World”.
Disney called, they want their racism back.
If you are not getting the picture by now, you have serious issues.
Stereotypes. Sexualization. Racism.
This time, of the Indian subcontinent. South Asia, here we go again, has many destinct cultures, countless languages & is highly diverse.
The first image is of Banjaran women, the latter of Bengali women.
This appears to be a relatively new Halloween trend. Equally insulting.
I would like to start with the fact that the Western world has construed and further construed the geisha for quite a long time. Once again, Japan and other countries of East Asia are quite diverse. Chances are when you buy your “Kimono costume”, it is not even a real Kimono.
I have little knowledge of Japanese cultures, so I am going to refrain from labeling these images as I do not want to present misinformation.
No labeling was necessary for you to get the idea.
Ghetto & Black
This needs no explanation.
You should know who these people are.
You should know this is racist. There is a black culture in America & this diminishes it, stereotypes it, and degrades it.
I should probably say something really insightful and representative of all the various ethnic minorities that exist in America. This should be my closing statement that is profound and urges people to be respectful, but I really only have one thing to say:
THIS HALLOWEEN, DON’T BE A RACIST DOUCHEBAG.