This year, Brock University is making headlines yet again, but this time – for a policy that our students’ union has implemented for Halloween. Our school is one of the first to implement a costume policy that prohibits students from wearing offensive costumes that are mocking to individuals within marginalized groups, various cultures and a whole host of other areas that hold value to a demographic of people. This is the second year that this policy is being acted on, and it’s an incredible move to ensure a safe space for all on Halloween.With Halloween weekend at our doors, I just want to write a quick post about why a few costumes are offensive and provide a brief context on why exactly. Day of The Dead Skulls, Bindis, and many other things have no place at Isaac’s Halloween Parties.
Black Face itself is a practice that is rooted in anti-black racism, and there is no way to disconnect the practice itself from that racism. Stemming back as far as the 19th Century, black face is a practice that was used to portray black men, women and children in offensive stereotypes in theatre; mocking them with horrific jokes. It sounds unheard of, but this was a popular form of entertainment in America. Black Face today can still be seen in a number of countries in Europe, and is just as racist now as it was previously. By choosing to wear black face, you reassert these stereotypes, and that’s not cool. For more information on Black Face and Minstrel shows, here’s a great source.
Caitlyn Jenner or Any Trans Identifying Person:
To make a long story short, a trans identity is not something that can just be put on. Pretending to be Caitlyn Jenner on Halloween reduces the lived experiences that Caitlyn, Laverne, and many transgender individuals have faced over the past few decades and presents it as a joke, when it’s not. Around the world, many men and women are being killed for being transgender, and that’s something to consider.
Native American Chiefs or Pocahontas:
Looking at the grotesque treatment of Native American communities in Canada and how ignored those same communities are today, it’s incredibly offensive to ignore the needs of a culture while still wearing their sacred items to a costume party or to a Music Festival. In addition, there is much more to the story of Pocahontas than Disney Movie, and it has much to do with pain, trauma and other themes that are far too triggering to discuss at this moment. Currently, Native American communities are fighting large companies trying to run a gas line through a water supply, and being harmed and prosecuted for doing so. Pretending to be a chief on Halloween ignores the pain that this community has faced in the past, and still faces today.
Kidnapped Kim Kardashian:
This is a costume that I saw online days after Kim Kardashian went through an extremely traumatic event; including a wig, rope to tie your hands and a bathrobe. In a moment where this individual expressed that she feared for her life or worse, it’s incredibly offensive. Many women express fear of violence on a daily bases, and now that fear is becoming commodified to be warn as a costume on Halloween.
Many are arguing that this is a form of “censorship”, when it’s not. In reality, you are free to wear any of these costumes but the student union staff is also free to refuse you entry into Isaacs. There are a million costumes that are fantastic, and inoffensive. Stick with one of those. If you aren’t sure how your costume will be received, ASK. Halloween should be a safe space for all hoping to attend parties both on and off campus, and the new policies hope to ensure that. Major shoutout to Laura Hughes, The Student Justice Centre and BUSU for working to make this change possible.
Further Reading & Sources: