Editorial: Halloween costumes can be clever without being clueless

  • Most kids love dressing up for Halloween, but some costumes have raised controversy in recent years.

    Most kids love dressing up for Halloween, but some costumes have raised controversy in recent years. Getty Images

Posted10/29/2019 5:11 PM

Halloween costumes these days scare up plenty of controversy.

In recent years, retailers have been pushed to pull all sorts of questionable costumes from their shelves and websites -- from an Anne Frank outfit modeled by a smiling girl striking a hand-on-her-hip pose to a sexy red number for adults inspired by "The Handmaid's Tale," a disturbing portrait of oppression against women.


Yandy, the company behind the latter costume, apologized and offered up this statement on Twitter: "Over the last few hours, it has become obvious that the Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume is being seen as a symbol of women's oppression, rather than empowerment," the company wrote.

We're not sure how that all-too-obvious conclusion caught company officials by surprise. If you've read Margaret Atwood's novel, or watched a single episode of the harrowing Hulu series, you know red dresses and capes are worn by enslaved women forced to bear -- and relinquish -- the babies of ruling-class men.

Sometimes, the issue isn't as clear. Kmart in Australia this year ditched its kids' bride costume after a woman complained that it was inappropriate in light of forced child marriage. Others, however, have blasted that move, saying it's an example of political correctness gone too far.

Yes, political correctness sometimes runs amok. And if you try hard enough, you can probably find someone offended by a whole range of things most of us would consider innocuous costumes.

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Yet, we should all think about what we choose to wear as a "costume" and how we dress our kids for class parties and trick-or-treating Thursday.

Sometimes, there's a thin line between clever and clueless.

Even Good Housekeeping was inspired to wade into the fray this year with a list of "15 Offensive Halloween Costumes That Shouldn't Exist." On the list is anything involving blackface, reinforcing cultural stereotypes or making fun of the mentally ill. The Anne Frank costume -- now not-helpfully renamed "World War II Evacuee" -- also made the list, along with an "Anna Rexia" costume that poked fun at the eating disorder with a skeleton dress and measuring tape at the waist.

When you put your costume together, it doesn't hurt to question whether your choice is racially insensitive or if your laugh comes at the expense of someone else's pain. Ask yourself this: If you should be photographed in your costume, would you have to apologize for it down the road?

Whatever you decide, Halloween offers wonderful teaching moments for parents and children -- the chance to talk about thinking through choices as you have fun, make memories and collect all sorts of candy.

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