Despite both its Christian and pagan origins, Halloween in the United States has become a time to watch scary movies, share candy with neighbors, and dress up in costume… Unfortunately, as many bloggers this Halloween season pointed out, those costumes are often at the expense of others.
One major blogosphere controversy occurred this Halloween over a costume that poked fun at undocumented immigrants (also referred to, often degradingly, as “illegal aliens”). The costume, dubbed “Illegal Alien,” featured an orange prison jumpsuit, alien mask, and green card, and was initially sold at major retailers, until the League of United Latin American Citizens and other groups, lobbied for its removal. Popular blog Sociological Images broke down what was wrong with the costume, saying:
Several stores, including Target, Walgreens, and Amazon.com, offered an “Illegal Alien” costume for sale. The costume, which includes a orange (prison?) jumpsuit, a green card, and a space alien mask, conflates undocumented immigrants with aliens from outer space.
Amalia Pallares, writing for Dissident Voice, saw the costume's appearance as a teachable moment for her children, explaining:
The truth is that I know too many faces, too many names, too many stories of detention, deportation, family separation and pain to “get” the generic illegal alien joke. Perhaps you know some too. It is time to teach our children that there is nothing laughable about the uncertain fate of 12 million people and their families in a context of increasingly restrictive immigration policy, egregious human rights violations, massive fear, annual family separation and financial devastation of hundreds of thousands who are not wearing a mask, but are in fact exposed and vulnerable every day of their lives, cannot escape their circumstances, and cannot rely on the comfort provided by slipping out of a costume.
The alien costume wasn't the only controversy this Halloween. Frustrated by the way women are portrayed in commercial Halloween costumes, a number of bloggers remarked on this year's selection. Lisa at Sociological Images noticed that Halloween has adult women dressing as little girls dressing as adult women, providing several photographic examples, including the one to the right. The blogger remarks:
The fact that many women dress up as sexy little girls points to both the sexualization of female children and the infantilization of adult women.
In yet another post, Lisa points out children's costumes that promote the sexualization of young girls.
Beyond the “illegal alien” issue, there were other costumes that got bloggers talking about racism this year. Macon D of Stuff White People Do shared a bunch of pictures on his blog of racialized and racist Halloween costumes, and also shared a suggestion for readers:
So finally, if you're white, I have a suggestion. Aside from resisting any temptation you might have to somehow dress up like a member of another race or ethnic group — and thereby perpetuating stereotypes and running the risk of hurting other people — how would the following idea work for you?
If you meet a white friend or acquaintance who's dressed up that way, you could say this to them: “Wow, what a concept! Where'd you get the idea of dressing up like a racist dipshit?”
But hey, why stop there? There are other fun and easy ways to be Chinese. Just try on the Chinese Man wig, “an ancient style with bald front and long pigtail in the back.” But even at the low sale price of $41.48, the Chinese Man wig might just be a little outside your budget. That’s okay, because the Bargain Chinese Man wig is also available for just $22.05. Because nobody should miss out on the racist mockery.
Native American blogger Whebr Hotub may have summed up the problem best in a blog post entitled, “My identity is not a costume for you to wear!” A quote:
As a Native American, I am utterly appalled to see my culture lump together into some stereotypical Pan-Injun image, shipped and sold for the American masses to mimic my people and culture. I find it insulting my identity and heritage as a Native American, as a Navajo, is as easily acquired with few bucks, some nasty grease paint, and a loin cloth. That history of genocide and forced assimilation of Native Americans people in the US is not even an accessory to these supposed costumes! It's not important or even a consideration!!! What a privilege it must be to take the imagery of a people or culture without the social or historical baggage that goes along with it!
I hope you can understand my frustration; that the race and ethnicity of a group of people is not an acceptable Halloween costume!?