Along with the traditional ghost, cartoon character, and princess costumes, you may see some different characters this year. Halloween costumes are supposed to be fun and humorous, but is there a line between funny and offensive for Halloween costumes?
Many people believe so, including some University of Ohio students. These students are protesting costumes depicting people of different ethnicities, such as Japanese geishas, a Latino wearing a poncho and sombrero, and an Arab terrorist wearing a fake bomb. Such costumes can promote stereotypes and hostilities against certain ethnic groups.
Especially troubling is the new “sexy anorexia” costume, depicting a skeleton body with measuring tape around the waist and neck. Making a joke of anorexia or depicting it as “sexy” sends the wrong message to girls and women. This also fuels the general public’s misunderstanding of anorexia and other eating disorders.
Children and teens may have strong emotional reactions to the Halloween costumes their peers wear to school. Kids and teens already deal with the normal developmental tasks of trying to fit in and developing self-esteem. At the same time, they may also be struggling with an eating disorder or discrimination based on their ethnicity. Seeing their peers depict these issues in humorous Halloween costumes may cause feelings of shame, anger, sadness, or confusion.
However, these costumes can also provide an opportunity for people to start open conversations about eating disorders, discrimination issues, or any other concerns that the costumes may evoke. Parents can take this opportunity to talk to their children after school and discover what their kids and teens think about these issues.