Halloween is often touted as a chance to let our imaginations run wild and to have fun. But I’m not so sure I’m all that crazy about where people’s imaginations turn.
It’s all just in good fun is an oft-used excuse for racism and sexism. But it reminds me that the definition of “fun” is strongly created and enforced by the majority.
I don’t think blackface is particularly fun. But it points out to me how segregated we are as a society. If you had any notion that a black person might show up at your halloween party, would you dress as Michael Vick? (Several years ago I had the entertaining experience of going to an all-white-except-me Halloween party and running into someone who was dressed as my race. Worse yet for that person to find I was the date of their boss. It was very clear that the unspoken expectation had been that the party would be completely white.)
Similarly, I find dressing up as “Indians” problematic.
And what’s with all the “naughty [whatever]” costumes? I personally could care less if you want to parade your boobs as a “naughty police officer.” But when the sexualization comes through racist stereotypes, and when it’s often played out in yellow- or brown-face, costumes can be more problematic.
Geishas abound in Halloween wear. And the common belief about geishas is that they are women whose sole goal in life is to please and pleasure men. This racist, sexist presentation is promoted in costume advertisements: “sexy,” “beguiling” costumes with “Oriental flair.” (Don’t forget to make your eyes all slanty while you’re at it!)
And Halloween gives out the “fun pass” for other, more disturbing images as well. Images of violence and torture. Am I the only one who doesn’t want to see a severed-head fountain? Or hooded figures standing on a box in an imitation of Abu Ghraib? Or lynching figures?
Because I doubt that black people find images of lynching “fun.”
But that does make me wonder about white people … why is it that they can be so emotionally disconnected as to see violence as fun?