When done right, Halloween costumes can be empowering

A quick disclaimer: This is not another article about how your costume is culturally appropriative or sexist or racist or ableist — although, let’s be honest, it might be. As much as I do believe it’s important not to use Halloween as a chance to belittle cultural iconography and engage in hurtful, lazy stereotypes, I’m also acutely aware that you have already heard that argument before, probably more times than you can count.

You should already know why you shouldn’t wear a headdress or put on blackface this year, and if you don’t, it’s your own responsibility to figure that shit out.

Instead of writing that article, though, I’d like to look at the other side of the spectrum: namely, to celebrate the potential for Halloween to be empowering, and to allow us to show a side of ourselves that might not be considered “appropriate” the other 364 days of the year.

Think about it. Halloween is the only day of the year where it’s not only sanctioned but actually encouraged that you dress up as something radical, flamboyant, and over-the-top. If you’re into horror films, you can dress up as Freddy Krueger or Nosferatu; if you’re a comic book nerd, there are hundreds of different superheroes to choose from. Columbia may not be willing to sign off on a black Spider-Man, but you’re likely to see at least one roaming the streets come next Saturday night.

The idea that dressing however one wants can be acceptable [and] awesome is pretty underrated.

Better yet, All Hallow’s Eve doesn’t just allow superfans and weirdos to fly their freak flag — it gives the more reserved and awkward folks among us the chance to express ourselves in a situation where everyone else is equally dolled up and in no position to judge us. Want to show off your sexy gams or your totally ballin’ chest hair? Halloween’s your day. Eager to boast your sewing skills with a homemade costume that tops anything you’re likely to find at Value Village? Mark your calendars.

Especially in the increasingly button-down, niqab-ophobic Great White North, the idea that dressing however one wants can not only be acceptable but awesome is an idea that is, as far as I see it, pretty underrated. The other days of the year have a lot to learn from October 31.

This may seem obvious to many of you, but to me it’s an important part of Halloween — one that the annual shame-fest aimed at the latest idiot with an ill-advised costume tends to distract from. It’s important to hold racists and other assholes using Halloween as an excuse to show off their horribleness accountable, but it’s a mistake to let that take away from how empowering this holiday can be for everyone else. After all, few other occasions give us a chance to spend hours working on a costume to show off to our friends and to hand out free candy to trusting (!) children.

It’s easy to look at Halloween as the time of year where our culture’s most misogynistic and racially clueless aspects are brought to the forefront, and to an extent, that’s true. But Halloween also gives us a chance to take off our real costumes — our suits and ties, our fancy socks, our combed hair — and to dress the way we truly see ourselves.

We all have a superhero, a creepy ghoulie, and a Disney princess inside us, and we only get one day to show it off. So own it.

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