October 31, 2013
While dressing up in silly costumes is all part of the spirit of Halloween, a student-led awareness campaign claims that some inappropriate costumes may take it too far. A group of ten students started a poster campaign “We’re a culture, not a costume” to ask people to think twice before choosing a Halloween costume that plays off ethnic or cultural stereotypes.
Audience: The small student group, Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS), from Ohio University created these posters in the hope of sparking a discussion about race and insensitivity. The posters, which started out as a small movement, quickly became popular over Tumblr, catching the attention of Time, Huffington Post, and other media outlets.
Message: That Halloween costumes are rife with hurtful stereotypes – and that these shouldn’t just be brushed under the carpet.
Success or failure: The message is straightforward and coincides with the belief that “it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what they hear.” Costumes that reinforce cultural stereotypes, whether it be “uncivilized Native Americans” or a “promiscuous Geisha” are offensive, whether or not that is the intention behind wearing them.
Why: The media attention around this campaign highlights that this is a hot topic not only on student campuses but across America. Although there has been widespread support for the students’ campaign, others dismiss it saying that people are just “overly sensitive” and “can’t take a joke.” But their message is honest and simple: whether it is your intention or not, wearing one of these costumes is insulting and turns someone’s cultural identity into a caricature. While dressing up is supposed to be entertaining and fun, after seeing these posters, it is difficult to argue that the “fun” in wearing these costumes outweighs the offensive message. We are curious to see how this message influenced Halloween costume choices as a result – if at all.