How to Not Be a Dick This Halloween

Remember when you were a kid and Halloween costumes were actually scary? Trick-or-treaters and party goers adorned themselves in devil horns and witch's hats, went out and had a good time. However, with online retailers selling costumes such as "Sexy Indian Girl" and "Psych Ward Patient", Halloween has recently taken a turn for the offensive.

Some popular costumes of the past few years have caused offense to various groups and individuals, appropriating cultures and making fun of serious health conditions and this must stop. This isn't political correctness gone mad. By all means, dress up, have a few tinnies and have a laugh. Just don't be a dick.

Cultural appropriation happens when members of a dominant culture adopts elements from another that is experiencing oppression, picking and choosing the parts of such culture they want to participate in and often reducing significant cultural styles to a mere fashion statement. Costumes that rip off cultural identity, including "Pow Wow Indians" and "Day of the Dead Senoritas", create a caricature and a joke of already marginalised cultures.

You never see a costume named the 'White Middle-Class Male', despite monsters such as Brett Kavanaugh being entirely terrifying. Instead, dominant cultures use marginalised cultures to create costumes, which in turn keeps them 'othered'.

"Pocahottie" costume from escapade.co.uk

Similarly, costumes that make a mockery of illness, such as "Mental Patients" and "Anna Rexia" should be avoided. By wearing such costumes, you are a belittling things that people really struggle with. It may not be offensive to you or your immediate friends, but you can never know how it may affect those who are dealing with such ailments.

What worsens these types of costume is a retailer's tendency to sell a 'sexy' version. It not only demeans the illness and its sufferers, but glamourises it and creates an illusion that illness is sexy and beautiful, instead of a debilitating problem. It adds more layers of invisibility and disbelief to issues that are already incredibly misunderstood in society.

"Anna Rexia" costume from DreamGirl

Other costumes garner uncomfortable laughs by being misogynistic, including dressing as a flasher, a sexual offender, or - God forbid - a victim of their crimes. Again, these costumes are offensive to the people they marginalise. Last year a BBC survey revealed that over 50% of women have expressed harassment at work. But sure, dress up as Jimmy Savile to your Halloween celebrations, but don't blame us when no woman or marginally respectful man wants you anywhere near them.

Jimmy Savile Costume from Smiffy's

An overpriced, store-bought costume may seem like a quick fix but when it makes fun of someone's culture, sexuality or illness, it's never a good idea. Get creative. Special effects make-up is huge right now (just check out YouTube). Buy some latex, slap on the fake blood and embrace Halloween's true purpose. Be scary, not upsetting. And most definitely, don't be a dick.