Halloween Costumes: You’re doing it wrong.

Some guidelines for Halloween costumes.

Blackface costumes (including being “thug” “ghetto” etc.) are never okay (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackface) no matter how many “friends” you have who are Black, “from Nigeria” etc.

Similarly, dressing in other ethnic costumes such as being Mexican, Chinese, etc. is not okay.
Even if you are from a particular background, this doesn’t excuse you from being racist. For example, a Muslim student wearing a turban, a beard and imitating a “suicide bomber” is as uncool as non-Muslim student doing the same. Possibly uncooler, actually.



26 responses to “Halloween Costumes: You’re doing it wrong.

  1. Hahaha, this is wonderful. As young leaders that are responsible for the type of environment we create, which the advocacy for a safe and accepting space. Great post.

  2. But I have an hard time understanding why things have to be offensive? Why is referencing a some sort of human culture have to be seen as “racist” while everything we wear on a daily basis was derived from some sort of culture to begin with. If you wear plaid, are you being racist because it is considered traditional dress for a Scottish person? What if I decide to wear a kilt for Halloween? How is that different from wearing a sombrero, or a native American head-piece or a durag, or a turban for one night? I understand that people are being offended and OBVIOUSLY there are lines that should not be crossed… suicide bomber is not okay. But at the same time Maybe wearing something that is foreign to you is not to discriminate against, but to acknowledge, explore and celebrate. Canada is a prime example of many different cultures living under one roof, so why not express that?

    • This blog is for the students by the students, and the social aspect of student life is very important. Being aware of creating a safe environment for students is just as relevant as posting something that is ‘architecturally related.’

      • we are all students and we are all studying architecture here. this is what we have in common. personally i don’t need another facebook, stumbleupon, whateversiteyouusetofindcoolstuff. i look through this blog to find things personal to us and the culture at this school. i’d rather keep this blog relevant to architecture then see it slowly degrade into a funny video/picture of the day site. i don’t think any of us have trouble finding this other filler content anywhere else we decide to look, so why post it here? if we really need an architecture blog to create a ‘safe environment for students’, i think we need to rethink whether or not we are attending a post-secondary institution.

  3. Everything is “architecturally relevant”! Architecture is a social activity, your views on these social topics will affect your architecture at some point or another.

    • How are you exploring or celebrating a culture by degrading it to a few stereotypes?

      If you wore a kilt, adorned with some whiskey bottles, acted drunk and cheap…does that represent all Scottish people? Are you aware that when dressing like a sexy Native woman.. of the horrific rates of sexual violence Native women face (Pickton farm anyone?)

      Dressing up as “another culture,” is racist, and an act of privilege. Not only does it lead to offensive, inaccurate, and stereotypical portrayals of other people’s culture (Do you think Día de los Muertos is just “Mexican Halloween”? Well it’s not, so put away your facepaint), but is also an act of appropriation in which someone who does not experience that oppression is able to “play,” temporarily, an “exotic” other, without experience any of the daily discriminations faced by other cultures. (taken from this site, if you should even dare to challenge your idiotic opinion further…http://bitchmagazine.org/post/costume-cultural-appropriation)

  4. “if you should even dare to challenge your idiotic opinion further” <- rude

    I think its fair to say that there is a DIFFERENCE between just wearing a kilt versus wearing a kilt with whiskey bottles, and acting drunk and cheap. As there is a difference between dressing in traditional native dress versus dressing as a slutty interpretation of a native woman. . I totally agree with the fact that the campaign is pointing out that we should be more aware about our costumes on Halloween so as not to degrade a persons background/ethnicity/origin etc.

    But saying that we can't dress up on Halloween representing other cultures because it is racist, helps to make it more racist.


  5. To the person that posted this Blog, thanks for contributing! We very much appreciate your opinions but would highly advise not to come across so harsh next time you try to give advise to our student body. Any postings on this blog will be likely to receive some criticism and it is best to respond to them respectfully. Please consider this for next time!

  6. fully agree with Brad.
    Dressing as a certain culture doesn’t mean you don’t understand what that culture is about, you’re just representing one aspect of it.
    I dressed as a geisha one halloween, and if anyone asked me what I was, I would respond “I’m a geisha”, and NOT “I’m an asian”
    If someone dresses as a “thug” or “gangsta”, and you immediately assume it’s racist because they’re depicting black people, then who’s the racist one here?
    Obviously the terrorist costume is taking things too far, but you need to chill. Calling someone’s opinion “idiotic” is completely unnecessary.


  7. Pretty sure that the original post specifically mentioned blackface when discussing dressing as a ‘thug’ or ‘gangsta.’ As s/he said, blackface is never OK. Can’t see anything racist about that, so…we should probably try to avoid the ad hominem arguments and focus on the issues, as no one’s convincing anyone that the original poster is a racist. At least anyone who can follow the thread of an argument…

    The ‘idiotic’ comment definitely wasn’t unnecessary. It’s 2011 and we’re in one of the most ethnically/culturally diverse countries in the world, yet people (including many of you posting to this blog) still feel the need to defend their rights to dress up as (racist) stereotypes.

    Seeing as this is an architecture blog, I’d assume that you all consider yourselves to be somewhat creative. Yet, somehow, you can’t think of Halloween costumes that aren’t horribly offensive to certain ethnic/cultural groups?

    The first definition of ‘idiotic’ on thefreedictionary.com: 1. Showing foolishness or stupidity. It’s foolish to argue with someone who’s genuinely offended by these costumes. If you can’t understand why they’re offensive, maybe it’s best to avoid wearing these awful costumes. And seeing as you’re all (at least partially) graded on creativity and context, parading around in a culturally insensitive, totally uncreative costume is…well…stupid. Again, idiotic = showing foolishness or stupidity.

    So the ‘idiotic’ comment is justified. And to get all ‘meta’ on you, I find it hilarious that some of you are so offended by someone calling an idiotic comment idiotic, yet you can’t grasp how offensive it is to dress as an ethnic/cultural stereotype. If you really feel hurt by seeing the word ‘idiotic’ on a blog, you might want to try (just try!) to consider how much pain your ignorance can cause.

    And if you can’t grasp ANY of this, why not just play it safe and avoid these stupid costumes altogether? You’d save yourself the embarrassment of having to defend your ignorant costume in public AND you’d avoid potentially making other people uncomfortable.

    Halloween should be fun. Racism/stereotyping isn’t fun. Seems pretty simple, no?

  8. I think this is taking politically correctness to the next level. We dress as murderers and and gory murder victims but we’re offended by someone with a sombrero? Stop being so god damned sensitive.. It’s not even these cultures that are being offended, it’s everyone who’s just afraid they might be. Take a joke. Fuck political correctness.

  9. I can’t quite comprehend what’s going on in the last post. Maybe it’s because the argument’s beyond me, but I think that it might have something to do with the borderline illiteracy.

    Whatever this abstract, beautifully constructed post means, I don’t need to counter such brilliant arguments as “Fuck political correctness.” Coupled with “Take a joke” (because other cultures ARE jokes!), these ‘counterarguments’ are doing my work for me.

    • People…you all need to chill…dressing up as another race can be done in a respectful way…and obviously if you are choosing to be another nationality for a halloween costume you cannot possibly reproduce a whole culture with a few clothing pieces so obviously you will have to represent only a few “stereotypes”…the subject of a costume is supposed to be easy to distinguish by everyone…we live in a multicultural country where we interact daily with people coming from different backgrounds and anyone with a bit of a brain can understand that mexicans don’t wear sombreros to work and japanese people don’t go clubbing in a kimono…if something is done for fun but without the intention of it being offensive then there is nothing wrong with it! I am sure we are all smart people here…only someone very ignorant would purposely make fun of another race…I am sorry, has anyone forgotten how Disney movies that we have grown up with tend to teach children about racial stereotypes?? I don’t see anyone being offended by a Jasmine costume or a Pocahontas…yet they are arabic and native… I am italian but I don’t care if people dress up as Jersey Shore characters…everyone knows that people in Italy aren’t actually that way. It’s just for fun. Relax everyone.

  10. Oh and I just wanted to add..this 10 year old girl I used to babysit wanted to be a flamenco dancer for Halloween because she thought Spanish women are beautiful…does that make her a young racist?? I see that as admiration and interest. You all could learn a lot from that little girl. And know if you don’t mind I will go enjoy my Halloween and I’ll dress up as I please.

    • One thing that is clear from this comment thread is that Carleton University desperately needs to implement a first year English writing course for all of its students.

      • I think that whoever keeps writing this bullshit about illiteracy and needing writing courses is extremely rude. If you don’t have anything relevant to say about the topic that is being discussed, then perhaps you should leave your comments about other things to yourself. It is not helpful at all to contribute your two cents in a demeaning way, in which other students will definitely find offensive. It’s quite clear that this is an intense and opinionated debate where people are expressing their opinions about the original topic, so why the hell do you find the need to further insult the ones commenting?

        It’s distasteful and you need to get off your high horse.

        As for the actual discussion, I agree with Brad; the fact that others are saying we can’t dress up on Halloween to represent other cultures because its racist, definitely helps to make it more racist.

  11. I have read through this post and these are my thoughts. More than one person is concerned about your writing skills. I agree with this because we are in a university setting so one could assume you can write a coherent sentence. When you see so many people fail to do this, it is a bit disappointing.

    Many people are upset but neither side has answered their own argument. First, how are you exploring or celebrating a culture by degrading it to a few stereotypes? And second, how does the fact that others saying we can’t dress up on Halloween to represent other cultures because it’s racist, definitely help to make it more racist?

  12. Comments about writing skills <- SO irrelevant.
    Did it ever occur to you that the people commenting might have English as their second language? Or be international students? Cause I know two people who commented, and they are. So stick to the topic at hand, this isn't a thread about writing skills and you're just coming off as a huge asshole.

    To answer your questions, I'm Serbian, and I would be more than happy if someone dressed in traditional Balkan attire and was a "traditional Serb, or Croat, or whatever" for Halloween, because that would mean they went through the trouble to research the outfit and wanted to represent one aspect of my culture. I do not find it demeaning in any way, if anything it's flattering. How can a native person get offended if someone dressed in their traditional attire, or a Japanese person, if someone dressed as a geisha? Everyone, except maybe a few complete morons, know that it's ONLY A COSTUME, and it's not their entire culture.

    Some people's costumes do take it too far, but the word "degrading" is wrongly used in this context. And I wouldn't use the word "celebrating" either, but definitely "exploring". You're not degrading a culture unless you "sluttify" the outfit, or if you take one of the less admirable traits that culture is associated with, and amplify it… i.e, scots and drinking…

    And seriously… whoever wrote that thing about the murderers and murder victims is gold. People have lost loved ones to murder, you don't see them wasting their time, trying to stop people from dressing as murder victims because it offends them.

    You should take life with a grain of salt, don't assume that anyone dressing as another culture is ignorant, or racist, or trying to "degrade" that culture. To answer your second question, that's how you would make it it more racist; because that makes you the one associating only THAT costume to THAT culture.
    Give people a little more credit.


  13. Vikings, Germans, Serbians, Russians and Scots (et cetera)are not cultures that battle oppression like those in the ads. Try asking yourself these questions: What stereotypes does this costume rely on to convey a certain identity? How does that affect those stereotypes, and how does it affect the way people who are NOT part of that culture VIEW that culture?

    The problem with costumes that are based on a racial, cultural, or religious identity is that they rely on (and reinforce) stereotypes, often negative. To use sociologist speak, they “exoticise the other,” and often sexualize them as well

    Another problem with race, culture, and religion based costumes is that wearing them as a form of play is a very privileged act. While I COULD choose to dress up as a Mohawk Indian, or a Mexican bandito, or an African American “gangsta”, I get to take off that identity at the end of the day. You can explore all these costumes if you like but at the end of the day…It’s just play, just for fun.

    When I take off my Halloween costume, I get to shed that identity, and all the cultural baggage, stereotypes, and prejudice that goes with it. People who live that identity day in and day out don’t have that privilege.

    There are TONS of costumes people can choose to buy or make themselves that are not race, culture, or religion based… I’ve been a tiger, Time, the Dinosaur Extinction, a dark faerie, a Harry Potter character, a bag of jellybeans, a Tolkienesque elf, the Wicked Witch of the West, and even a cat!

    Don’t be That Person who wears a costume that makes you look like a racist asshat. Because chances are, you’re NOT a racist asshat, you are likely a good person! (with a very misinformed costume!)

  14. It would be nice to have a fraction (like, maybe 5?) comments on posts that are more explicitly “architectural.” It’s very nice that people are having a discussion here, and I’d love to see some more people post their opinions regularly! (They don’t always have to be fueled by anger or frustration.)

    More to the point, in grade 4 I was an ancient Egyptian royal. Does that make me racist? This campaign makes a valid point. But when intelligent people (like Brad, V, and the many anon’s out there) use moderation and respect, it’s plain to see that you are not restricted to being a character of your own race or identity during this fun, silly, outrageous day.

    (and that apostrophe in “anon’s” replaces the letters ‘ymous’ and does not indicate possession) lol

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