Let’s face it: we’re not celebrating your grandparents’ Halloween, when bottles of Coke cost a nickel and Sun-Maid raisins were the hot new item to find in your trick-or-treating bag. This holiday’s done a lot of growing over the years, and society in general is more aware of historical atrocities and appropriations than ever before. Here are a few pointers to help you avoid the offensive tropes our previous generations championed on All Hallows’ Eve.
Avoid gendering your costume: Even in 2015, the gender divide in many career fields is still problematic, so do your best to avoid strengthening these labels. Don’t be a sexy mailman, but rather a sexy mailperson; that sexy boogeyman costume could just as easily be a sexy boogeyhuman costume, though even the definition of human is difficult because of the “man” part. Just dress as androgynously as possible and whenever someone asks you what you’re supposed to be, defuse the situation by asking them not to assume your gender.
Don’t reinforce harmful stereotypes: Generalizing the work of terrible directors like Michael Bay or M. Night Shyamalan is great, but generalizing someone else’s culture or walk-of-life isn’t. People often use the excuse of, “Oh, this is just a costume” to justify casual racism, but that doesn’t make it any better. A good rule of thumb to follow is if it was okay on a ‘90s television show, then it’s not okay now.
Stay away from dressing up as copyrighted characters: Films are being leaked online before they even hit theatres; television ratings have plummeted thanks to everyone illegally downloading or streaming their favourite shows; and you still think taking someone else’s idea and tailoring it to your own needs is a victimless crime? Now you’re going to dress up as a character from a movie you didn’t even pay to see, and get a bunch of compliments and positive reinforcement for something you didn’t even create yourself? Get your head out of your ass — you’re getting shit all over someone else’s copyrighted creation.
And you can just forget about scantily-clad outfits too: Feminism’s making some grand strides in helping people stop shaming women, so this rule isn’t about policing female bodies — it’s just because slutty costumes are too formulaic and boring. Forget what I said earlier about the sexy mailperson costume; just because Channing Tatum gets to dance around with his package hanging out doesn’t mean you can, too.
Nothing speciesist either: oh, you think dressing up in a panda costume is cute? You know what isn’t cute? The grim reality most pandas are facing. There are less than an estimated 2,000 giant pandas left in the entire world, and in the time it took for you to apply makeup to mimic panda eyes, a hundred square hectacres of panda habitat were lost due to human activity. So try to consider the global biosphere before dressing up like an endangered animal for Halloween, you monster.
Don’t even think about using colours for your costume: Three words for you, bucko: colourblind people. Someone at a party asks what you’re supposed to be, and you reply, “The colour red!” while proudly self-examining your red T-shirt, red corduroys, and matching red Converse. Unfortunately for you, the person you’re talking to is colourblind, and you’ve just offended them by having a non-inclusive costume. Only dress in black and varying shades of black, or run the risk of being an enormous jerk-face.
And there you have it: a few simple tips and tricks to having your most inclusive Halloween yet. Of course, there’s no foolproof way to avoid offending people with your costume, so my only advice would be to stay home on Halloween night and hide out under your bed covers. Sufferers of agoraphobia may argue you’re appropriating a mental disorder, but hey, you can’t please everyone, right? Right?!