But when you're a marginalized person in America, being told you can't do things is a day-to-day reality.
Halloween is a time to say yes to many things, like going into haunted houses, watching the most horrifying movies, and wearing the most monstrous masks. But there is a difference between giving someone a scare and denying them basic respect. So, in order to ensure that October 31 is inclusive to every kind of person (and ghoul) we've rounded up some offensive costumes to avoid.
While President Donald Trump may retire his use of the racist slur "Pocahontas" against Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the racism against Native Americans and indigenous tribes across the world is still on the tips of many tongues. Putting on sacred clothing that was stripped from natives by European colonizers is not a casual costume. It encourages the dehumanization of tribal peoples and reduces them to mascots rather than an ethnic group that endures in the wake of genocide.
As terrifying as a man accused of sexually abusing countless women is, it's not the right kind of scary for Halloween. Yet, several stores are selling Harvey Weinstein masks for the season. Dressing up as someone's rapist makes light of their rape. Even though it may seem like enough time has passed for us to make light of the horrors expressed in the #MeToo movement, the disgraced mogul is still not behind bars and his lawyers are putting salt in the wounds of accusers, whom they call "quintessential non-victims."
Although the hit Spike Lee movie is a vibrant piece of American cinema, putting on a hood that's symbolic of murdering minorities is inexcusable. Why would you want to emulate an enduring cause of trauma for so many of our most persecuted citizens? Save some time, show some respect, and just turn your white sheet into a classic ghost look.
Megyn Kelly might not find wearing blackface offensive, but it didn't get her trending on Twitter for the right reasons.
It doesn't matter how much you like dressing up as your favorite African-American celebrity, don't paint your skin black. Historically, painting white people's faces black was a technique used to portray people of color as dumb clowns, incapable of feeling humiliation – and giving white people an entertaining way to humiliate them. Even if your costume is meant to show your respect for the person you're playing, blackface is automatically a sign of repugnance. If you want to go to Halloween as Serena Williams, Kanye West, or Janelle Monae, do it; but change your clothes, not your complexion.
African-American people are not the only ones who are humiliated on Halloween. Dressing up like a traditional Mexican band (or just a Mexican) is not a compliment, it's a way to reduce a rich aspect of Latinx culture to a costume. Instead of putting on the most stereotypical depiction of the primary victims of xenophobia, how about dressing up as one of their heroes like Frida Kahlo, Lin-Manuel Miranda (in his Hamilton best), or Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her robe?
Although even Halloween queen Heidi Klum has done this no-no, it doesn't mean it's OK. Dressing up as a god from an Eastern culture, especially if you lack knowledge about its significance, is demeaning to the people for whom these figures are sacred. Yes, Ganesha might make an ornate costume, but when the elephant-headed deity has already been portrayed on socks, bedsheets, and basically everything you can find in an Urban Outfitters, we have solid proof that Western people should take their hands off him.
Want to cause double offense for the price of one costume? Show up as a terrorist. Not only is the look disrespectful toward the people who have been victimized by attacks, but to Arabic and Muslim people who are repeatedly perceived as threats for their ethnicity or religion. In this case, dressing up as a specific terrorist won't get you off the hook; as with Harvey Weinstein, you're portraying the criminal who caused actual harm.
Although geishas are beautiful and their clothing seemingly festive, dressing as one normalizes whiteness while exoticizing Asian women as silent sexual objects. Just like a bariachi musician, a geisha is not a specific person in history, but rather an example of a cultural practice. Because Western society sees Japanese people as a monolithic, and particularly Japanese women as geishas, rather than artists like infinity room creator Yayoi Kusama or rock stars like Yoko Ono, it's harmful to dress up as the most hackneyed representation of them.
If you don't watch the harrowing show, a handmaid is a sex slave in an America taken over by the religious right. Although wearing the red capes has been an act of protest against conservatives passing laws that infringe on women's reproductive rights, there's no reason to dress up in a naughty version of the uniform. There's nothing sexy about a rape victim. However, sexy pizzas, pirates, and pine nuts are fair game!