Trick-or-treat = candidates’ masks, campus concerns
Most polls now put the former US secretary of state ahead of the businessman to win the presidential election in 11 days, but when it comes to putting on the face of one of them in three days for Halloween, Trump is ahead, according to surveys of costume retailers.
While 200 million Americans are registered to vote this year, 171 million are forecast to don costumes on Oct 31.
For children, it will be knocking on doors for candy. For adults, it will be the third-biggest party day after New Year’s and Super Bowl Sunday.
A record $8.4 billion is forecast to be spent on candy, costumes and decorations this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) — more than any other year since the survey began in 2005.
Halloween sales last year were $6.9 billion. In the last election year, 2012, they were $8 billion, up 16 percent from the previous year. And in 2008, the year then-Senator Barack Obama defeated Senator John McCain (and popular costume inspiration Sarah Palin) sales were $5.8 billion — up 14 percent from the previous year.
Close to 70 percent of Halloween shoppers surveyed said they’ll buy a costume. Most adults said they’ll choose a witch or pirate costume, and more than 4 percent of adults over the age of 35 said they’ll turn to the presidential election for their costume inspiration.
Donald Trump masks are currently outselling Hillary Clinton masks this Halloween 55 percent to 45 percent, according to retailers.
In the spirit
Spirit Halloween, a New Jerseybased company with 1,200 stores nationwide that make it the largest retailer for Halloween costumes, has a full line of Trump and Clinton masks made of latex or foam. They are made in China and Mexico, two countries that Trump has criticized for taking jobs away from Americans.
In late August, the retailer teamed up with Harris Poll, which surveyed 2,000 American adults on their costume choice. The top reason people said they would choose Trump for Halloween is to be funny, whereas the No 1 reason they gave for dressing up as Clinton is that they like her. The poll also found that twice as many Americans who want to dress up as Trump say they would do it to mock him.
Halloween costume manufacturers and retailers say that in normal presidential election/Halloween cycles, the candidate with the bestselling mask has eventually won the White House. Spirit Halloween’s best-selling Halloween mask has correctly forecast the outcome of every presidential election since 1996.
“The ongoing joke is that we predict the election by whatever mask sells more, though I’m not sure if that will be the case this year,” Mike Windsor, area manager for Spirit Halloween, told The Boston Globe.
At Rubie’s Costume Co in Queens, New York, the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of costumes, Trump masks are outselling Clinton masks 3-to-1, according to Howie Beige, Rubie’s executive vice-president.
The best-selling candidate mask has been a pretty good predictor of who will take the White House, Beige said. “It’s definitely worked for every single election since the Nixon era.”
But he told Bloomberg Businessweek that two things are happening that make this election different: People are dressing up as Trump to both make fun of him and support him. And dressing up as Clinton is too much work.
“Ninety-eight percent of the buyers of full-face masks are men,” he said. “When they buy a Hillary mask, they have to ask themselves, ‘Am I putting on a dress or a pantsuit?’ ”
While this year’s presidential campaign of both the Democratic and Republican candidates has been deemed by many as perhaps the most offensive ever, several colleges and universities across the nation are warning students not to wear Halloween costumes that in any manner may be offensive. And that has spurred critics to decry what they see as an emphasis on political correctness.
What to wear?
Yale University told students in an emailed message to wear a costume that “respects your classmates”. And guidelines issued by North Carolina State University include a question: “Ask yourself, would you wear the costume in front of people from that group? If not, then don’t do it.”
The University of Florida, where in previous years some students posted photographs of themselves in blackface, issued a memo, saying, “If you choose to participate in Halloween activities, we encourage you to think about your choices of costumes and themes. Some Halloween costumes reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures or religions.”
The school also has a hotline for people who see offensive Halloween costumes, and it’s offering counseling to students who become offended by costumes.
“Some Halloween costumes reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions. Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people,’’ the school wrote on its blog.
The school urged students who are disturbed by any Halloween shenanigans to seek counseling at the U Matter, We Care program.
Students at the University of Colorado Boulder have also been told to avoid “white trash” costumes and anything that portrays a particular culture as “oversexualized”, which the university says includes dressing up as a geisha or a “squaw”. A university spokesman called cowboy costumes a “crude stereotype”.
Students were also asked not to host parties with offensive themes, including those with “ghetto” or “hillbilly” themes or those associated with “crime or sex work”.
Students at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities were told by officials to “please keep in mind that certain Halloween costumes inappropriately perpetuate racial, cultural, and gender stereotypes”.
At Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, members of the school’s sororities and fraternities have been told they could face “serious disciplinary sanctions” — including a possible investigation by the campus police — for wearing Halloween costumes that offend peers or make the campus community “feel threatened or unsafe”.
The warning was part of a letter to the presidents of the organizations signed by various Greek Life council leaders, who asked the chapter presidents to relay the message to their members.
The letter stated in part that “Greek Brothers and Sisters have worn costumes that appropriate cultures and reproduce stereotypes on race, gender, sexuality, immigrant or socioeconomic status. Outfits relating to tragedy, controversy, or acts of violence are also inappropriate. … It is our mission to promote spaces that allow members of the Tufts community to have fun without feeling as though any part of their identity is being misrepresented or targeted.”
But the costume-policing trend at schools has raised concerns about overreach by the schools and violations of free expression.
At Tufts, Jake Goldberg, a student and founder of Students Advocating for Students, a free speech advocacy group, said that “this campus, as well as many other universities around the country, have fundamentally inverted the meaning of tolerance.”
“Many of my friends have felt compelled to alter their costume plans out of fear of administrative retaliation,” he said. “Merely unintentionally offending somebody with your costume could cause a Tufts student to face severe discipline. … A truly tolerant campus would ignore unfavorable costumes, a truly totalitarian campus would censor them. It seems quite clear based off of Tufts’ policy which category the university falls into.”
The restrictions and warnings haven’t been limited to the US.
At Brock University in Ontario, Canada, a costume “protocol’’ lists prohibited costumes at the campus Halloween party, including anklelength robes worn by Arab men, makeup depicting Japanese geishas, anything with the Confederate flag on it, costumes depicting the transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner and traditional or religious headdresses such as feathered bonnets and turbans.
It was developed by the student union, and followed an outcry two years ago over a group of students who dressed in blackface as the Jamaican bobsled team.
Change of space
Students were told that “if a member of your party is denied entry because of their costume, they will be escorted to a space where they can change or remove the offending item’’.
Richard Moon, a law professor at the University of Windsor in Ontario, whose research focuses on freedom of expression, told the National Post, “It seems entirely appropriate for an institution to ask students to think about why they might be wearing a particular costume. Does it involve denigrating or mocking disadvantaged groups?”
If the answer is yes, then it may be appropriate to restrict those costumes. Where universities must be careful is imposing broad restrictions for superficial reasons, Moon said.
The ongoing joke is that we predict the election by whatever mask sells more, though I’m not sure if that will be the case this year.’’ Mike Windsor, Spirit Halloween manager.
An employee holds up masks depicting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at Hollywood Toys & Costumes in Los Angeles on Wednesday.