Halloween: What not to wear

As Halloween is coming up, costumes such as Native American Headresses can be considered offensive to certain cultures. Lighthearted looks such as Harry Potter wonds and bunny masks are a safe yet fun way to celebrate the spooky holiday. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Lindsey McLemore | Reporter

Halloween is one of the few times of year when it’s socially acceptable to let your imagination run wild and be somebody else for a day.

Creative costume ideas are in no short supply, as there have been viral videos and photo series on social media all month long, but somehow there are still costumes each year that cross the line between being creative and offensive.

It’s pretty widely understood that it is not okay to dress up in a costume that could potentially offend someone, but sometimes a reminder is needed.

Ramona Curtis, Baylor’s director for community engagement and initiatives, has three rules for selecting a Halloween costume:

“First, culture is not a costume,” Curtis said. There’s a movement called #ImACultureNotACostume, that aims to end cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes. “Ask yourself, ‘could this be offensive to any culture, gender, race, etc?’ If you don’t know the answer to that, you shouldn’t wear that costume,” Curtis said.

Second, a ghost is not just a ghost. The classic white sheet over your head with eyes cut out is all-too-similar to the uniform worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan. There are plenty of other low-budget, low-effort costumes available. Try one of those.

Third, don’t use blackface. Using bronzer or darker foundation to alter skin tone is considered blackface. If you don’t think you can pull off a costume without using blackface, choose a different costume.

There are always issues of cultural appropriation that occur around Halloween, and Baylor is no exception, despite having a student body comprised of students from more than 70 countries. Culturally insensitive costumes could negatively affect a large percentage of the student body.

Instead of potentially offending somebody with a Halloween costume, students can try an alternate, but similar costume.

Curtis brought up Beyoncé as an example of a popular but potentially offensive Halloween costume. Beyoncé’s visual albums lend to easily recognizable but still simple looks.

“In one incident at Baylor,” Curtis said. ”That meant putting on blackface.”

Even though the person did not intend to be offensive with their costume, using blackface made it offensive. Instead, Curtis suggested keeping it simple. A black leotard and heels looks like “Single Ladies” Beyoncé, and a yellow, floor-length ruffled gown portrays “Hold Up” Beyoncé.

Instead of a sheet ghost, comfy pajamas, a blanket and a pillow are an alternative to be the trending hashtag #IWokeUpLikeThis.

However, there are some offensive costume ideas that have no related alternative.

El Paso senior Daniela Sandoval works in Baylor’s Center for Global Engagement.

“Native American headdresses are undeniably beautiful,” Sandoval admits, “but to wear a sacred headdress for a secular purpose downplays their importance to Native American culture.”

This costume is seen as inconsiderate, and recent protests against a pipeline disrupting sacred burial grounds in North Dakota make Native American culture an even more pressing issue.

“Seeing men dressed as Caitlyn Jenner in her Vanity Fair cover is one of the most offensive things I’ve ever seen. It’s offensive to the transgender community at Baylor and in general. Don’t do it,” Mechelen, Belgium exchange student Leonie Vanstappen said.

Lastly, Baylor’s ongoing sexual assault scandal is a sensitive subject for many people in the Baylor community. Dressing as anyone involved in that scandal could be potentially harmful or triggering to others.

“If you truly don’t know if you will offend somebody, you need to be an ear of corn,” Curtis said. Curtis laughs at the idea, but is serious. “You cannot use this holiday to perpetuate stereotypes of other people or cultures.”

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