Po­lit­i­cal Hal­loween

Trick-or-treat = can­di­dates’ masks, cam­pus con­cerns

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at xi­ao­hong@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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”.

Mes­sage re­lay

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.”

Cos­tume po­lice

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.

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