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.