Opinion: Let's Dress With Respect this Halloween

It is that time of year again, the time when little kids  drool over how much candy they will collect, houses sport carved pumpkins and spooky decorations, and college kids embark on the difficult road to find “the perfect Halloween costume.” Halloween in college, especially here at BC, is not a one day event. It is more of a non-stop party that, depending on which day of the year Halloween falls on, could span two weekends. This of course requires more than one costume, because naturally wearing the same outfit twice is considered scandalous by the general BC population.  The students’ mentality that I have discovered in the weeks leading up to Halloween is that the perfect costume is an essential part of the formula for the best Halloween ever. It must be attractive, yet somewhat tasteful; unique, but not too obscure; funny, but not stupid. It should make people stop and say, “Wow,what a great costume!”

However, the search for a costume that will bring its wearer fame and fortune often leads us down a problematic road. Often, we do not consider which costumes are appropriate and which are not. It seems nothing is out of bounds on Halloween, yet this overly permissive mentality can cause a lot of offensive costumes to be deemed “acceptable.” We have all seen costumes that have made us feel a little uncomfortable. What kind of message do we send to other people when we dress up like Muslims and call ourselves terrorists? Or when we don yard worker getup, draw on a mustache and call ourselves Mexican lawn mowers?

Issues like race, culture, religious affiliation and sexual orientation are important for us to consider when we choose our Halloween costumes this year. This goes beyond the obvious. Even dressing up like a hillbilly can be offensive to people from the Appalachian region of the United States; which we might inherently disregard because said people are primarily white. However, they are still marginalized and deserve the same respect as any other  demographic. It is easy for us to want to impress our friends and get laughs at Halloween. But the world is greater and more varied than our cliques.

We must think about how walking around campus dressed in  cultural, racial, religious, or LGBT costumes could be greatly offensive to people who actually belong to those groups. As a student body, we need to collectively open our minds and remember that diversity is something to be respected, not parodied.  That’s why UGBC here at Boston College has a Dress With Respect campaign around Halloween. Their goal is to make the students here aware of the repercussions certain costume choices can have for their fellow classmates.

UGBC is in no way dictating the costume you will choose this year. If you want to dress in a costume that is racially, culturally or religiously charged, that is your prerogative. However, you are representing yourself in a certain light to the rest of your peers. In fact, in this relatively new era of social media, you are now presenting yourself to the world.

I don’t think that UGBC and the Boston College administration are asking too much when they suggest extra sensitivity around Halloween. At a Jesuit college, we are taught that one of the most important principles to uphold is openness to different views and critical thought before expression of personal opinions.  Think twice before you order that geisha costume from Party City. You not only will offend most Asian women whose heritage is mocked by your costume, but you will also present yourself as ignorant and insensitive. Is it worth that high five from your friend who, like you, doesn’t know or care about the stigmas you’re propagating? It’s 2013, people. Time to start practicing the equality and acceptance we preach.

Featured image courtesy of Gavel Media

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