No, You Shouldn’t Be Jeffrey Dahmer for Halloween This Year


Every Halloween the conversation is brought up again about what you should and should not be for Halloween. The phrase “my culture is not your costume” resurfaces every October with almost as much rigor as Mariah Carey during the Christmas season. But even alongside cultural appropriation, what are some other Halloween costumes that are insensitive?

What is cultural appropriation?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, cultural appropriation is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” This can manifest in many different ways and some of the best examples in pop culture are the Kardashian/Jenner family and their active appropriation of Black and Hispanic culture. The main reason why cultural appropriation has become a huge talking point when discussing microaggressions and racism is that while white people are being praised for their “clean girl aesthetic”, “boxer braids” and “Hailey Bieber lips,” Black, Hispanic, and Asian people are being persecuted for the same things. For as long as Black women are being fired for their natural hair and for as long as Hispanic people are mocked for their ethnic food, the issue of cultural appropriation will continue to thrive. Your choice of Halloween costume each year can help eliminate one area where cultural appropriation is so prevalent.

Serial killers

With the debut of the umpteenth Jeffrey Dahmer docu-drama, many blonde males all over the world are contemplating if they should don the 80’s glasses and prison jumpsuit and call it a costume. While I’m sure that idea took a lot of thought and coordination, I think that we as a society can do better than re-traumatizing the victims of his crimes any more this year. And, this is not the case only for Jeffrey Dahmer, but rather for any mass murderer in all of history. While I know that seems like a given point, some people really don’t think about the effects of their actions.

Decades theme

I know this sounds silly, but over the years, certain cultures have really dominated the fashion scene in each decade. In most Halloween stores there is a decades section, and while it may just look like a lot of funky clothes and wigs from each decade, a lot of these items that are being satirized are parts of a lot of marginalized cultures. For example, in the Black community in the ’60s and ’70s, having a big afro was huge in fashion. So of course, this will be reflected in costumes that are supposed to showcase the decade, right? As a Black individual, seeing white people wear our cultural hairstyles as a costume is thoroughly offensive, and I’m not the only person who thinks so.

Costumes that should never ever be sexualized
Year after year, being one of the largest retailers in adult Halloween costumes, Fashion Nova comes out with a new catalog of “sexy” costumes, yet there are a few that never leave the rotation. After some intensely uncomfortable research, I have come up with a list of costume themes that should never be sexualized. First on the list: schoolgirls. My first issue with this is that there isn’t a schoolboy counterpart to the costume. Sexism? I think yes. The second and most pressing issue, imposing a sexual aspect on something as innocent as a child. The amount of “sexy schoolgirl” costumes that are available in every single Halloween costume store is disgusting. Sexualizing young children is an epidemic that I fear will not be solved until the costumes are taken out of stores.

In addition to schoolgirls, I think that sexualizing religious imagery is gross as well. Religion is a huge part of a lot of people’s cultures, and sexualizing any aspect of anyone’s culture is disrespectful, regardless of how you feel about them. In my research I found a lot of “Sexy Nun” and “Sexy Priest” costumes and I wonder why people think that it’s funny or cute to buy these outfits and wear them out.

So, why does this matter?

I know you’re thinking, “Why should I listen to her opinions on Halloween costumes?” In order to begin to answer this I think we need to go back to cultural appropriation. The obvious things that come to mind are wearing cultural garments as a costume. This is really harmful to the marginalized communities that are being satirized as Halloween costumes. Wearing the cultural aspects of someone’s identity as a costume means that the things that minorities are being patronized for and attacked over becomes something that you (as the wearer) can just take off whenever you want. Cultural identity is not something that people can take on and off at their will. This becomes harmful to those communities because it means that those aspects of their culture are not being respected and will continue to not be taken seriously in the future. In addition to that, I think that there is always room for growth and the first place to start growing and evolving is by dealing with the things we can immediately fix.

Other costume ideas you can try

Since I’m sure I just eliminated a bunch of costume ideas, here are a few of my favorites. First, you could be a character from one of your favorite books growing up. When I was in elementary school, I was a fairy from the Rainbow Magic series, and it was such a fun, age-appropriate costume that was easy to execute. Another idea is being a concept. I know this sounds confusing but I saw some really great concept costumes on Pinterest in my research. For example, you and a friend could be darkness and light, or you could be love or time. Another fun idea for older teens is to be a pop culture reference. For example, a really popular one is “She Doesn’t Even Go Here” from Mean Girls, or the famous optical illusion “The Dress.”

Let’s be nice to each other this Halloween and think about the people that may be impacted by your costume choices.