Be mind­ful of what cos­tume you choose to wear on Hal­loween


Hal­loween is right around the cor­ner and so too are of­fend­ing and be­ing of­fended.

A Hand­maid’s Tale cos­tume sparked a so­cial me­dia frenzy re­cently for mak­ing fe­male op­pres­sion “cute” and “sexy.” The “Brave Red Maiden” was yanked from an on­line cos­tume store. Hor­ri­fied trick-or-tweet­ers have gen­er­ated a lot of on­line out­rage over th­ese past few Hal­loweens, and there’s more to come.

So be­fore you head out to that bash in a few weeks, don’t let your Hal­loween cos­tume haunt you for years to come. Of course, you might of­fend some­one with­out mean­ing to, and some peo­ple are just eas­ily of­fended, says Dr. Oren Ami­tay.

When it comes to cos­tumes, usu­ally peo­ple are just try­ing to stand out, to shock and get at­ten­tion, and for some to re­veal a bit of their darker side. “It crosses the line and could po­ten­tially go wrong when peo­ple are more fo­cused on them­selves than the po­ten­tial im­pact,” says Ami­tay, a Toronto psy­chol­o­gist at do­cami­tay.com.

Think about the value and im­pact of your cos­tume. Def­i­nitely, you don’t want to hurt other peo­ple, or be racially or cul­tur­ally in­sen­si­tive, and you do have to think prac­ti­cally and prag­mat­i­cally about it. Ask your­self: If some­one posts this pic­ture, could I lose my job over it?

On the other hand, far too many peo­ple get of­fended by any­thing, says Ami­tay, and are look­ing to get of­fended — “it’s a blood sport for them. They can’t wait to take a pic­ture and post it on In­sta­gram and in­sti­gate a pub­lic lynch­ing! They’re look­ing for it and get off on it!”

Ami­tay says peo­ple are less tol­er­ant than they were a few years ago, and while you don’t have to as­cribe to “this cul­ture of hy­per-sen­si­tiv­ity, you do have to be smart. To take a stand on Hal­loween and wear that cos­tume re­gard­less of the con­se­quences, I don’t know if it’s re­ally worth it — find an­other hill to die on!”

For those who see a hurt­ful cos­tume and feel strongly about it, and be­lieve they re­ally need to do some­thing about it, how about bring­ing it to the per­son’s at­ten­tion, po­litely and qui­etly, in­stead of try­ing to shame the per­son pub­licly for wear­ing what they thought was a cute, sexy, funny or provoca­tive cos­tume.

Ami­tay adds that vir­tu­ally any­thing to­day could be seen as of­fen­sive — “some peo­ple are go­ing to as­cribe the same mean­ing or mo­tive to some­body wear­ing a slightly tacky cos­tume to some­one dressed up as a Nazi. Peo­ple seem to have lost the sense of nu­ance that we had just a few years ago.”

While some cos­tumes are le­git­i­mately of­fen­sive and off lim­its, like do­ing black­face, what­ever hap­pened to irony, says Ami­tay. “It takes in­tel­li­gence to ap­pre­ci­ate irony or dark hu­mour, to step back and say this per­son is not nec­es­sar­ily a mon­ster...”

As for the Hand­maid’s Tale cos­tume out­rage: “On one hand, I can un­der­stand why some peo­ple would feel this is mock­ing or min­i­miz­ing an at­tempt to high­light what they be­lieve is the sub­ju­ga­tion, ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion and/or op­pres­sion of women. On the other hand, one can ar­gue that such a cos­tume is a means of re­claim­ing women’s sex­u­al­ity and em­pow­er­ment, just as gay peo­ple have done with ‘queer’ or black peo­ple have done with the N-word.”

You can count on of­fend­ing one or two peo­ple no mat­ter the cos­tume, he adds, but that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean the cos­tume is of­fen­sive. “So if you’re con­cerned and think there’s po­ten­tial to of­fend some­one you know, then just ask them.”

Yandy has stopped sell­ing the “Brave Red Maiden” cos­tume.

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