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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Akron chapter.

Halloween is just around the corner, and it seems nowadays that college students are more than ready for the weekend. Let’s be real; it’s not even about the candy or carving pumpkins, but rather going out and having a fun time with friends. This gives people plenty of opportunity to pick what costume they like and go all or nothing when it comes to creativity. However, being able to be whatever you want can cause a lot of friction if not thought through properly. People dress up as monsters and funny memes, but then go as far as dressing as one another. This is where things get complicated, and college students especially need to be weary of political correctness and even cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is simply put as taking something from a culture that is not his or her own. Whether it is a hairstyle, piece of clothing, or even trying to paint your face to “match” a different race’s skin color, it’s wrong to try to “wear” such aspects of a culture especially without any understanding or respect. There is a clear difference between appreciating and appropriating, and without asking questions this puts some people in very bad positions. Not everyone sets out to insult the people whose culture they’re mimicking, but it’s always best to play it safe and dress up as something else to avoid conflict.

It doesn’t just stop there. Some people go even further by wearing costumes that trivialize human suffering. From marginalized groups of people [such as immigrants, unemployed people, or people released from incarceration] to mental illness or physical disabilities, the idea for mocking someone’s health or people that are ostracized from society is wrong. There is a massive list of costumes that are offensive and controversial, but here is a short list to give you an idea of why there’s a problem:

  • Over sexualized versions of real religions and stereotyped cultural figures

  • Traumatic events (victims of sexual assault or victims of hate crimes)

  • Racist historical figures (e.g. Hitler)

  • Costumes that hyper-sexualize women and girls (as well as men)

Sexism, racism, homophobia, traumatic news stories [in regards to controversial celebrities] and historical events, and even the mocking of violence and abuse litter Halloween stores every year. It’s important to sit back and really think about what you are buying or what you plan to make. It’s also important to check your friends when they consider wearing something that could potentially be an issue to others. If you are currently prepping your costume or still haven’t started looking, take some time to really plan what to wear, and what to never (ever) wear, and what you could wear instead.

Completely unsure if your costume might be offensive? Well don’t be scared to ask! Are you making fun of someone’s pain? Does your costume need context? Does it make fun of gender identity? Have you consulted with experts or done your research? A quick Google search or asking other friends will do the trick. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dressing up as traditional comic book characters, old-fashioned horror movie staples, or even food too! For college kids, Halloween is literally a week/weekend full of adventure with haunted houses, parties, and spooky traditions. The possibilities are endless! So go forth ghouls and ghosts. Be safe and responsible, and don’t let ignorance turn your Halloween festivities into a living nightmare.

I graduated from the University of Akron in 2019 majoring in Communications of Public Relations with a minor in Biology. Aspiring writer/journalist for wildlife conservation. (She/Her)