Row over ‘offensive’ Halloween costumes

Spooktacular: The average American spent $83 on celebrating Halloween this year.

Acid attack survivor Katie Piper has criticised people who dress up with realistic cuts and burns for Halloween. ‘It’s distasteful and offensive,’ she says. Do some costumes go too far?

What’s happening

As people dressed up as ghosts and ghouls last week, Katie Piper criticised their use of fake gore. ‘Some of us have these differences all year round,’ wrote the activist, who was badly scarred when acid was thrown at her in 2008. ‘When did Halloween turn into people imitating accident victims?’

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Dressing up has always been a part of Halloween. According to most experts, the celebration started out as Samhain, an ancient Celtic harvest festival during which people lit bonfires and wore animal skins. Eventually the festival was absorbed into Christianity. By the early 20th century, Americans were celebrating it as a secular holiday, complete with spooky costumes.

Today, Halloween outfits are often accused of being too sexy, too scary, or offensive to other cultures. Others are just plain insensitive: earlier this month, a costume that mocked Kim Kardashian West’s recent run-in with robbers angered many people.

‘Pumpkins, witches, cats, bats, whatever,’ wrote Piper last week. But should we avoid costumes that might offend people?

Some say…

Yes. Dressing up is a big part of Halloween, and there is nothing wrong with spooky outfits. But we should not ruin it for everyone else by deliberately making them uncomfortable. Racist or sexist costumes, for example, are not okay. If Katie Piper is upset by fake scars and disfigurements, we should listen to her and try to respect her opinion.

Others think…

Calm down. If we banned every potentially offensive costume, there would be nothing left to wear. Halloween is about confronting the things which scare us by bringing them out into the open. In an image-obsessed world, dressing up is one of the best ways to express ourselves – and for one night a year, anything goes. We should not lose that.

You Decide

  1. Did you dress up for Halloween this year? Why (not)?

Activities

  1. Design your dream Halloween costume.

Some People Say...

“You can’t live your life in fear of offending others.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Samhain
Coming at the start of winter, this festival celebrated the transition from life to death. This theme influenced what would become Halloween.
Celtic
The Celts were a people who lived in Britain, Ireland and northern France in the Iron Age (roughly the first millennium BC).
Secular
Non-religious.
Kim Kardashian West
Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint in a hotel in Paris. A Californian company designed a ‘Robbery Victim Costume Kit’ inspired by the event.

Subjects

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