“Horrifying” Racist, Sexist Costumes Cause Halloween Backlash

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This Halloween season there is an offensive offensive, with groups pushing retailers to stop selling costumes that they consider racist, insensitive, inappropriate, or unnecessary.

Earlier this week, Pottery Barn decided to stop selling kids’ Halloween costumes that Asian American civil rights groups deemed as offensive. One of the costumes featured a kimono, while the other was a sushi chef, complete with a fake knife and a prominent Japanese flag. The outfits weren’t caricatures or cartoon-like, and to some extent may even have been glorifying these characters. But the fact that they were presented as characters to have fun with was enough for some to be offended.

“Our problem is not with the attire itself; it is with the fact that Pottery Barn is marketing these outfits as costumes,” wrote Ling Woo Liu, director of strategic communications for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In the past, Liu has endorsed campaigns at Ohio University to make students and others rethink their choice of Halloween outfits, using the motto “We’re a culture, not a costume.” For that matter, as Inside Higher Ed noted, several college campuses around the U.S. have proactively been trying to discourage students from wearing offensive costumes this Halloween. For instance, the University of Colorado at Boulder has cautioned students against dressing up as hillbillies, Asian nerds, cowboys, Native Americans, ghetto characters, and other racial or ethnic stereotypes.

(MORE: The High Cost of Halloween for Pets)

The campaign caused Denver Post columnist Alicia Caldwell to wonder if there are any Halloween costumes whatsoever that are 100% non-offensive. After making the case that certain groups could be offended by classic costumes like witches, hobos, nuns, and fortune tellers, Caldwell consulted a CU professor who studies stereotypes and offered the advice, “Probably your safest bet is to dress as the devil.”

By dropping its Asian costumes, Pottery Barn has joined a handful of other retailers that have been forced to offer apologies and remove outfits from stores and websites this Halloween season. A month ago, Walmart pulled a “Naughty Leopard” costume after images of the outfit—intended for toddlers and viewed as inappropriately sexy due to the word “naughty”—went viral.

Soon thereafter, a “Turban and Beard” costume that resembled Osama Bin Laden disappeared from the shelves of Walmart and Rite Aid, after complaints from the Sikh Coalition, among others. Over in the UK, meanwhile, the Asda and Tesco chains decided it was unwise to sell “Mental Patient” and “Psycho Ward” costumes after receiving criticism about insensitivity to those suffering from mental illness.

(MORE: 17 Ways to Be a Meme for Halloween)

Another group that has denounced a costume as upsetting has yet to been appeased, however. Jezebel, Salon, and assorted bloggers have called out a Marvel Spider-Girl outfit as “horrifying” and disappointing, if not “gender conformist” and offensive because it’s overly girly, with go-go boots and a frilly pink skirt. In comic books and cartoons, the real Spider-Girl is dressed essentially just like Spider-Man — who usually doesn’t wear a skirt or go-go boots.

Regardless, for now at least, girly pink Spider-Girl costumes are still available for sale at Walmart, among other stores.

28 comments
Singermann
Singermann

It's not about offensive. It's about desensitization to child abuse. Just Google images using terms Spirit and Halloween to see the inventory of the big box halloween store. Scroll down and you will see that they are objectifying, abuse-glorifying costumes and figures. Their costumes are obscene, glorifying child abuse and self-mutilation with no redeeming social value. There can be no redeeming social value to glorifying the destruction of children and child innocence. Protecting children is protecting the future mental health and well being of the nation. There can be no compromise on this: child-degradation and corruption in costumes, toys, and other products has got to stop. A product that injures a child's body is subject to products liability suits. A media or toy product that twists a child's memory with obscene images of mutilation and violence should be cause for criminal charges and products liability brought against the makers of that product.

JackieNichols1
JackieNichols1

Is this PC nonsense ever going to stop? Enough already! 

uumystik
uumystik

Really?... It's ok to dress as the devil, but offensive to dress as Osama Bin Laden? Is it offensive to Germans if I dress as Hitler? I thought Halloween was about facing your fears. And am I really stereotyping Japanese if I dress as sushi chef? Halloween has also become a fantasy time in which to celebrate other cultures. Do I offend the Greeks if I dress as Caesar? And in a toddler's life, does "naughty" have sexual connotations? I think there's a lot of projection going on in someone who thinks so. That you are offended does not necessarily mean I was offensive. At Halloween-time, I think it is far more likely you are trying to force your own insensitive bigotries and issues onto me. 

Patrick13
Patrick13

Find it offensive? Don't watch it, don't buy it, but please do one thing...SHUT YOUR PIE HOLES...as for the retailers who succumb to this nonsense, you are spineless pathetic losers. This ridiculous sensitivity & assault on freedom of expression needs to stop. This is what happens when you let self loathing far left PC police think that anybody gives a s-it what they think.

swansong68
swansong68

So not one Asian, ever, has put on a costume that depicted another race, religion, culture...? Not one, not a single one of them did this? Ahhh, to be so perfect!

SharongeGe
SharongeGe

my friend's mom makes $62 every hour on the internet. She has been unemployed for 8 months but last month her check was $13696 just working on the internet for a few hours. ......>>>>>>>>>>  www.jobs60.ℂom

Ailidhalys
Ailidhalys

I don't understand why people is so sensitive, I don't think anybody is making fun of these attires. It's so sad that children have fewer choices now, if anything I would choose any traditional outfit of any country out of admiration for their culture.

vrcplou
vrcplou

If it offends you don't wear it, watch it, say it, use it.  I'm tired of the over sensitivity thing.  Where's the politically correct nag costume?

Omeskeren
Omeskeren

Wow do they need to lighten up! They only make racism worse by continually exposing it. Those easily-offended chinks need to remove whatever thats been pushing up their behind, and american decision makers should IGNORE anyone who has lost sense of humour, or enjoyment, or anything HUMANE. 
Im asian btw.

MrLewis
MrLewis

Nobody is saying that Africa needs diversity.
Nobody is saying that Asia needs diversity.

People are only telling White children in White countries that they need diversity.

White Countries will be 100% diverse when there are no White people left.

Diversity is a code-word for White genocide

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.

ruthgfeldman
ruthgfeldman

I understand the worry the Sikhs have; every time extremist Muslims do something bad some dope runs out and shoots a member of the Sikh religion.....but  why are cowboys complaining? 

DennisScottMoore
DennisScottMoore

I used to put together a 'flasher' costume every year......with continuous 'upgrades' as the years passed.    I recall one year in particular ( 1996 )  ......when I was at some big party at a nightclub.   As usual.......I was getting a LOT of laughs.   A couple of hours before the scheduled costume contest , one of the bouncers approached me and told me I would no longer be able to open my trench coat.           I had a 24 inch long stuffed flesh-colored tube sock ( among other things ) under there.    A 'Christian' couple were apparently 'offended'.    I promised the bouncer that I would 'obey' his request...until the contest.    He told me I WOULDN'T be allowed to participate in even THAT.    I'd laid out about a $25 cover charge to attend.    I smiled and promised to NOT do anything but sit there and 'behave'.     Well, when the contest started, I jumped out there on the dance floor & did my full routine....and WON!!!      I couldn't see very well from beneath the rubber mask, but after collecting my prize $$$$, as I headed back toward my table, I felt his hand grab me by the shoulder & he proceeded to 'perp-walk' me all the way out to the parking lot.  "You said you wouldn't 'flash!" he exclaimed.     I shook my envelope of cash at him and responded, "I won, didn't I?"    The very next night I attended another party.    This one was bigger, and I was aware of regular security guards all over the place.   So I was nervous about a repeat performance.    This time, I 'fired' my appendage........and the place erupted in cheers.    I ended up winning $900 PLUS a 3 day Carnival cruise.     I LOVE Halloween.     ( As a 'flasher'....I must say, the Clinton years were also extremely GOOD years....)    People shouldn't be so 'uptight'.    Get out there and have FUN with it.   I love seeing all the creative & imaginative costumes people throw together.     Happy Halloween everybody.

GuyPinestra
GuyPinestra

Jesus, you people should grow a skin! This is America, where you have the right to be offended, but you don't have the right to stifle free speech or expression because of your perceived offense. Your 'sensitivity' offends me, but I don't have the right to shut you up, even though I'd be doing the world a favor if I did so.

And chances are I'll be labelled a 'racist' because I used the words 'you people'. 


Morons...

AliceZindagi
AliceZindagi

I understand that some people are raising an eyebrow and scratching their heads at this, because it's not like these costumes are overplayed racial caricatures that completely ape and disregard the rich history of a storied and ancient people, depicting their ancestors as worthy of little more than amusing and poorly understood entertainment, am I right? No? Anybody? I strongly suspect that many of the people telling Asians to just brush it off and laugh because it's only a joke wouldn't say the same thing if a store were selling a Kunta Kinte couples' costume complete with loincloth, slave master's hat, and whip.


But, you know, Asians are the recipients of more racially-based bullying than any other ethnic group in the United States:


http://www.abcsofattraction.com/blog/the-racist-bullying-crisis-why-54-of-asian-american-children-are-targeted-by-bullies/


... and it's hard to make people see the error of their ways and realize how offensive they're being when they're accustomed to a culture of white privilege and they see Asians as the "good" minority, the "model" minority with good grades and good jobs, so what right do they have to complain about unfair treatment?

Bullsgt
Bullsgt

The land of the bland and the home of the perceived slight. 

I think this year I'll dress as a spineless jellyfish, a quivering mass of fear that somewhere, someone might be offended. Of course it might be difficult to handout candy. Oh well! I'll probably get sued for contributing to children's cavities and insulting the whole gelatinous zooplalnkton family.

Sean
Sean

It's nice to know that life in America is perfect - because it would have to be for strangers to have so much time to spend so much energy worrying about what other people wear for Halloween. 

Heisencat
Heisencat

Just do what my mom did.. put my hair in rollers, give me a rolled up fake cigarette.. and bam.. housewife.

Lenkah45
Lenkah45

@uumystik If you think the devil is more offensive than Osama Bin Laden, you might need to sit down and think for a moment. Osama Bin Laden was a real person who killed real people. The 'devil' is in no way proven to have done anything, let alone existed.

luhai
luhai

@uumystik

"Do I offend the Greeks if I dress as Caesar?"

You didn't offend the Greeks, but you have just offended your History teacher.

JosephWoosley
JosephWoosley

@MrLewis   I missed the mass exodus of white people to Africa and Asia, well excepting when "we" if I must refer to the British as an arm of our mighty race tried to take over bits and pieces of them respectively.  For the rest, you're confusing countries with continents and assuming all attitudes are the same flavor contained therein which I can assure you they are not.  Racial pride is just the kissing cousin of racism anyway.  If you want to celebrate something celebrate your national heritage or ethnic heritage.  Congratulating yourself on your skin color is like blowing a party favor every time you take a dump.  Everyone uses the restroom just like everyone has some skin pigment.  This all stems from worrying about white purity and that old tired song.


I'm not saying there aren't some valid instances of white people being discriminated against, but some of that is a  reaction from a couple hundred years of oppression on a people finally being lifted and their not having to worry about the other shoe dropping.  Some blow back is to be expected.  Toughen up a little.  Anybody told you to go to the back of the bus yet?

iSPEAK_COUTURE
iSPEAK_COUTURE

@GuyPinestra Im sure you know, even with the phrase "you people", its not about the words its about the intent as it would be with some of the costumes that have been spotted on social media lately.  Should people not be offended when a pair of men are dressed up (one in black face and a soiled hoody) portraying Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.  Im just asking is there a line or should 'us people' (whomever that could be) grow thicker skin about that as well.  

RJWinUK
RJWinUK

@AliceZindagi - I'm married to an Asian women and we are obviously having mixed heritage children. If I saw the Kimono and sushi chef costumes I would assume they were for Japanese American children to dress up in and celebrate part of their own culture. How do you equate traditional Japanese dress which is still worn today to slavery? Seriously I want to know as it is astonishing how people come out with such nonsense and I actually find it extremely offensive that you would trivialize the mass slaughter, rape and imprisonment of millions of people with a perfectly fine costume when worn by the correct person. Obviously one would hope non Asian parents would not get their children to dress in those costumes as that would be insensitive. But I certainly do not see any difference between a Japanese boy wanting to dress as a sushi chef or any other American wanting to dress as an builder.  

Why shouldn't Asian Americans have access to costumes that reflect their culture? 

I think you need to think very carefully in the future before posting such offence comparisons with slavery. Just beyond belief to read such dismissive comparison to what was mass murder. What next is the sushi one just like the holocaust? Seriously get a grip of yourself.

And I'm very sorry Asian kids get bullied in the USA but it is known as a very racist country and also a very violent country. I used to go their on vacation all the time but I'd never dream of taking my Asian wife or children to such a known racist country as of course they will suffer racism. I hope the country changes and i feel sorry for Asians who moved there but I don't see the big issue with these costumes.   


JosephWoosley
JosephWoosley

@RJWinUK @AliceZindagi   I can understand both perspectives.  So, to look at it from as close to a parallel as I myself could experience, as someone dressing up as a redneck would I in turn be offended? No, but some would argue that because I'm white I'm immune to feeling discrimination in it's fully faceted effect because of white privilege insulating me.  It's a complex issue.  Ultimately I don't think dressing in a Kimono or dressing as a Sushi chef as long as care is taken not to characterize the individual as another race, should cause offense.  However, if you change your looks to reflect a race not your own then of course your crossing the line into racist seeming actions.  A Kimono while originating in Japan is not exclusively Japanese, likewise with cowboys, sushi chef's (an occupation), and some of the others cited.  

Obviously, with children extra care beyond that of adults needs to be taken.  Perception is reality even more with children then with adults so pantomiming exaggerated accents or expressions while wearing ethnically  specific associated clothing would only encourage yet another generation of Americans blind to their own cultural ignorance and uncaring when it comes to how they might  be shaping their children's perceptions.


Witches are a great example of how power in society alters perception.  There are few Wicca lobbying groups or politicians with clout that come to mind when I try to think about it.  And yet it is a religion with ideals not dissimilar to most others with parts that could be taken from Buddhist teachings or Christian.  However, they get slandered through horror films and throw in with misguided souls trying to practice "black magic" etc.  We even popularize the stereotyping with revitalization of films such as The Wizard of Oz.  Because of their perceived lack of power and actual lack of clout in the political arena they are marginalized.  

Maybe most of them don't even care about witch's costumes and think it's cute which is possible, but it serves to illustrate the point that only through broadened empathy and greater introspection into our dismissal of others complaints can we identify that little silver of a racist, religious bigot, or cultural snob in ourselves.  If the worst case scenario is we only get to dress as TMNT, zombies, fantasy characters, or aliens and simultaneously manage not to offend anyone I think it's probably worth the price.  Though those who think their entitled to do what they like in all other aspects of life are incredibly unlikely to change that way of thinking on Halloween.

JosephWoosley
JosephWoosley

@matt.crawford88 @iSPEAK_COUTURE @GuyPinestra   A bit harsh there Matt.  Think of it like someone dressing as any school shooter you ever heard of then coming to your party at your house.  You wouldn't be offended?  Given your tone, I wouldn't be surprised if you weren't but I'm curious.  If self gratification at the expense of others is your only moral calling card then I pity you.