A collaborative authorship post from Bria Hamlet and Jess Myers
You guessed it! It’s that time of the year when the Women’s Center staff crushes your Halloween costume dreams and makes you feel guilty about your costume decisions. Sexist! Racist! Cultural appropriation! We know, we’re just no fun… but someone’s gotta do it.
But in all seriousness, this is an important conversation…. one that I wish I would have had with thoughtful intersectional feminists back in my growing up days. I didn’t know what cultural appropriation was in 3rd grade… or if I’m being honest, in college. Halloween costumes I regret include dressing as a Harem Girl and a nagging wife (ugh, just writing those words breaks my women’s center director heart) among others. I feel guilty about these choices and up until now, I’ve done my best to keep these secrets to myself but somewhere along the way these memories have been shared with Women’s Center staff members and together we’ve walked down memory lane of costumes of Halloween past. We’ve used these conversations as an opportunity for us to hold up the mirror for ourselves and others. We are not exempt from histories of making harmful choices in our Halloween gear. By allowing ourselves to look into the mirror of racism, sexism, and cultural appropriation, we hope to diffuse the guilt and defensive that often comes from having these conversations related to Halloween costumes of choice so we can all dig a bit deeper into that critical thought and dialogue.
Plus… what better way to share some of our childhood photos from Halloweens of the 1980s and 90s!
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I was an angel, a princess, and a pink Power Ranger in pursuit of candy. Queen Amidala and Mulan searched for the most haunting home decor while Cleopatra and Tinkerbell prepared for horror movie marathons with friends. It all started out so harmless.
I have never taken the time to reflect on how the intent of celebrating Halloween changes from childhood to adulthood. Historically, All Hallows’ Eve has been about terrifying confrontations with the dead, but these days I have been aghast at the overpriced sexism on Party City’s walls. For just $49.99, you can please the patriarchy and unleash your inner sexist all in one night!
Halloween has become a night for adults to indulge in repressed fantasies through costume. I am cringing as I recall the year I decided to costume as Playboy Bunny (before I could even legally be one). I now believe that if this industry wasn’t so hellbent on supplying women with only “sexy” options for Halloween, then women everywhere could proudly say they wanted to dress like that, not that they were left optionless. It’s bad enough that women are oversexualized everyday, and this ‘tradition’ reinforces the idea that any effort put into appearing sexy is to please men. And thus, we welcome you to the Sexy Halloween Costume Industry!
I chose my own costumes and wore them happily. My only regret is the lack of thought I put into the message I sent to the rest of the world. While I hoped my sexy schoolgirl costume screamed “I am poking fun at my all-girl secondary education and embracing my sexuality all at one time!,” I know that was not the case. Truly feminist costumes should leave you feeling respected, empowered, and happy. Although I am still struggling to settle on a costume idea, I am pleased to have the awesome resources below for some feminist costuming inspiration! Check them out!
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What is cultural appropriation?
Get your Activism On!
Oh hey RAs! A Halloween Bulletin Board at your finger tips!