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Ah, Halloween, that time of year when even usually well-adjusted people come up with extraordinarily complex puns and turn them into costumes, when sexy corn becomes a brief and beautiful reality, and when some folks very nearly ruin everything by dressing up in horribly misguided ensembles.
It’s not that Halloween itself is bad. Halloween is a damn good time. Who can hate a holiday that is half about dressing up and half about candy? It’s just that at some point in the past few years, Halloween has turned into a strange meta event in which the certainty that offensive and bizarre costumes will happen somehow feeds their creation.
Thus, the “Ebola containment suit” costume was probably, sadly, inevitable.
Never mind that it explicably has “Ebola” printed on it, as though the costume itself is the virus, or contains the disease ("Get yer Ebola right here!"). It’s kind of like those “sexy” costumes that have the word “sexy” right on them, in case you were confused as to their purpose.
The fact that the copy for this ensemble says, “This will literally be the most ‘viral’ costume of the year,” is enough to wish it dead.
As always, I have spent long hours combing costume sites looking for the oddest selections, the most offensive mass-produced options and the simply, utterly bizarre.
And we’re going to start with the fake private parts of "ladies" as mockingly worn by men.
Pubic hair. It exists. For as long as human women have been walking upright, most of them have been growing some amount of hair between their legs. I don’t know the whole history of down-there hair removal, but I know that even as American Apparel has tried to revive big ol’ hedges recently, women have been mowing their ladygardens -- and not doing so -- for millenia.
The "Anita Waxin" costume attempts to provoke a thoughtful conversation about hair politics. Or it's just something frat dudes wear to make their bros laugh. Still, I don’t see how pubic hair is all that funny. But I also don’t laugh when someone farts either.
The “Droopers” copy explains its premise:
Ever wonder what happens to the girls that work at Hooters? There's no real retirement plan when you're a waitress - you've just gotta keep on working!
Which should put it in the finals for the award for most unintentionally depressing Halloween costume description. Even if you aren’t put off by the “LOL WAITRESSES SO POOR” approach, this is pretty terrible.
And for the gentleman who wants to cover BOTH the saggy-breast AND unusually-giant-bush bases, we have the “Gropin’ Granny” costume, complete with dramatic nipples and flasher-housecoat.
Elderly women! The lowest-hanging fruit is always good for a laugh. And it’s extra fun because they’re unlikely to defend themselves.
Moving on to the appropriation set: deranged and unsinkable optimist that I am, every October I think, “Surely this will be the year that twenty bazillion ‘new’ ‘Indian Princess’ costumes DON’T get made,” and I’m wrong. There are SO MANY of these costumes.
The URL identifies the example above as a “Cherokee princess” and I can’t decide if it’s more offensive to use the name of an actual tribe to describe a mocking ensemble contained in a plastic bag and hanging on a hook at the Halloween store, or if it’s worse to just assume that "Indians are Indians" and there is no distinction between tribes to be made. They’re probably equally horrible for their own unique reasons.
Even a cursory look through any Halloween costume site reveals literally dozens of these mass-produced costumes on the market -- so many that it’s not that surprising that folks doggedly continue to believe there is nothing gross about dressing up as native cultures that only continue to exist as a result of the strength of those who have fought to preserve them even in the face of devastating abuse and erasure on the part of white Europeans who “discovered” a land hundreds of years back and immediately went to work on destroying the people already living there, a process that, in degrees, continues even today.
Depressing? For sure. Who wants to bring that to a party?
What did I just say? Day of the Dead celebrations -- with which sugar skulls are directly connected and which this "Senorita Death" (seriously) costume is inspired by -- can be traced back to the Aztecs. As a general rule, if it’s not your culture, it’s usually a good idea not to dress up in it as a costume, because even if you are intending to do so as a somber homage to its origins, it is probably going to come off as cavalier. ESPECIALLY if you do so by dropping $50 on a crap outfit made in a sweatshop in China.
The “We’re a culture, not a costume” campaign has been often mocked since it first appeared in 2011, which is a shame because the message is totally legit -- these “funny” efforts can have measurable negative effects on people.
And beyond being potentially hurtful, wearing a stereotype as a costume is pure laziness. The “Tighty Whitey Underwear Briefs Costume” is neither funny nor particularly inventive; it just makes fun of a cultural signifier and a racist caricature. “Sagging,” which this costume attempts to mock, is said to have its roots in the prison system, where belts are often not allowed, and the style was later popularized in hip hop. In the 2000s, some parts of the US were actually trying to make sagging illegal, because I guess pants are only safe for the public when they’re around your waist.
I doubt anyone wearing this costume is going to be arrested, unfortunately. Oh, and it also comes in a child version, so your towheaded little scamp can join the offensive party.
And in case you thought things couldn't possibly get worse, there's even a mass-produced "sexy burqa" costume. Whatever your feelings on the burqa as a symbol (and unless you are Muslim or extraordinarily well educated about Islam, your opinion is probably unfairly negatively influenced), the fact remains that Muslim women are entitled to choose how they dress and present themselves in public, and should their personal standards -- and personal safety -- dictate a certain degree of modesty, it’s not acceptable to mock that choice.
More to the point, the burqa and other Muslim headcoverings are typically a religious choice as well. Muslims in the U.S. are already misunderstood and misrepresented enough on every other day besides Halloween. Turning a burqa -- the purpose of which, in part, is to cover a woman’s body and avoid her being sexualized against her will -- into a sexual garment is so disrespectful it boggles the mind that this costume even exists.
And there are so many other, better sexy costumes. Enjoy a few, as a palate cleanser after the above:
Sexy Mr Peanut. I have nothing bad to say about this. I kind of love it.
Sexy Droog? Actually I don't know if this is hilarious and brilliant or terrible. I'll leave that decision to you.
Or, you could just cut through the bullshit and wear a vagina hat.
This is probably what most men see when they look at women anyway. (Misandry rimshot!)
Did I miss any bizarre or offensive costumes you’ve seen? Let us know your favorites -- or tell us about your painstakingly handcrafted Sexy Something-That-Is-Not-Usually-Sexy costume -- in comments.