Costume Controversies

Published on October 30, 2014 by Anne Cousins

Halloween brings a challenge to us every year to pick our brains and try to come up with the best costume we can. Everyone has their own sort of style when selecting a costume. Many of us go for the goriest getup we can find, complete with fake blood and special effects makeup. Others go for something sexy, such as the naughty school girls and Playboy bunnies that can be found nearly every year at Halloween parties. Many show their creative side by trying to make their own unique costume, a lot of the time they end up being something relevant to current events in popular culture. Some go for the downright ridiculous, and just try to wear something that will get them a laugh, like a banana suit or something of that sort.

Then there is a different breed of costume wearer altogether, those who go for the most controversial costume they can find. These people like to stir up trouble, raise a few eyebrows, and push the envelope on what is considered a socially acceptable Halloween costume. Take, for example, these idiots who decided last year that it would be a good idea to dress up as George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, making light of the death of the unarmed 17 year old who lost his life in a tragic “misunderstanding” that arose out of Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” legislation, which allows someone to use deadly force against another person if they feel that they are in immediate danger of a violent attack.

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Well, the Halloween season is in full force and the costume controversies have already started flooding the internet. Surely, many individuals will be coming under attack as the actual date passes because of their cringe-worthy costume ideas. Some stores have already started to be called out online by customers for their tasteless marketing tactics and questionable costumes.

Way To Go Walmart

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One company that has been at the heart of a tidal wave of backlash this week is Walmart. Whether it was an intentional and completely misguided labeling of one of the website’s sections, or some web developer’s idea of a joke, the company is in deep trouble with many individuals on social media. On Monday, users began to notice that the store’s website had a section labeled “Fat Girl Costumes.” It wasn’t long before online shoppers began to take notice and put the company on blast for its shameful section title.

The first to notice was an online shopper from California named Kristyn Washburn (@ItsWithaY), who chose Twitter as her weapon of choice. She tweeted, “@Walmart, not sure labeling these as ‘Fat Girl Costumes’ is the best approach. #rude.” The company was quick to respond to her tweet, saying, “@ItsWithaY Your comments and suggestions are important to us and help make Walmart even better. Thank you.” As you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly the response that Kristyn was looking for. The auto-generated response just wasn’t going to cut it this time.

Another twitter user soon voiced their concerns to the company as well. This time it was Kristin Secorsky (@KristinSecorsky), who posted a screenshot of the webpage in question and tweeted, “That is shameful @Walmart.”

This time, Walmart took notice. The company responded to Secorsky’s tweet saying, “@KristinSecorsky This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize. We worked quickly to remove this.” True to their word, Walmart removed the offensive content. However, many are still awaiting an explanation for the extremely offensive section title. The costumes should have undoubtedly been filed under “Plus Size,” which has been the socially acceptable term for such clothing for decades.

Jezebel, the news site that first reported the story, has their own theory that the section was created as some web developer’s idea of a joke, seeing as the short-lived section contained the same costumes that were listed under the store’s “Plus Sized” section. Walmart has not confirmed or denied these rumors,  but they did say in a public apology that they were “taking steps” to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

 Pocahottie Backlash

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A Halloween store in Manitoba has begun to face criticism just today about a line of costumes that can be found on its shelves. A Spirit Halloween store in Winnepeg carries a collection of costumes that go by names like “Reservation Royalty,” “Pow Wow Princess,” and “Pocahottie.” All of the costumes are accompanied by pictures of women who are obviously supposed to be perceived as Native American wearing the skimpiest of outfits.

Understandably, the costumes are being perceived as extremely offensive towards aboriginal women. Greg Monks, a professor of anthropology at the University of Manitoba explained the issue with the costumes from his perspective to CTV News in an interview, where he said, “to sell or wear the costumes seems highly culturally insensitive and inappropriate. How many aboriginal women are missing and brutalized, and yet we’re depicting them as sexually objectified people by these costumes.” Customers have also commented that in addition to being offensive, the costumes are far from accurate to what aboriginal women actually wear.

The store claims that the costumes are meant to represent aboriginal culture in a positive way. It is nearly impossible to see what could be positive about misrepresenting and over sexualizing an entire group of women. The costumes are more than tacky, they are downright offensive and really have no business being on the market at all.

Making Ebola Sexy?

Perhaps the one of the most surprising costumes this year is the infamous “Sexy Ebola Nurse” costume that has begun to generate discussion online, just in time for Halloween. Now, it’s no secret that there has been a sexy version made of almost every costume out there. However, many feel that this one crosses a line. Some on the internet even doubted its existence, but it is in fact real, and being marketed to the masses this year.

The whole thing began as a hoax awhile back when the following photograph started to make its rounds on the internet. However, if was soon uncovered that the costume in question was actually one inspired by the show Breaking Bad, and that the ad had been photo shopped to appear to be an Ebola containment suit. Many across the world breathed a collective sigh of relief.

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However, some could not let the idea rest. Brandsonsale.com took it upon themselves to make this terrible joke a reality, and currently they are selling their “Sexy Ebola Containment Suit” on their website for $59.99. Across the internet, the general consensus has been that this is absolutely not okay. Many news organizations have written articles condemning the company.

The website did not stop at the sexy version of the costume either, they made a mens version as well. According to the description on their website, “The deadly Ebola virus has landed in the United States and the crisis has reached new levels of domestic escalation. You are sure to be prepared if any outbreak happens at your Halloween party. This will literally be the most ‘viral’ costume of the year.”

Ebola is no laughing matter. According to reports, the deadly disease has claimed at least 5,000 lives in West Africa alone, and has infected more than 10,000 people.

The company clearly knows that it is going to be stirring up trouble with the costume. When they advertised the outfit on twitter, their tweet read “YEA we went there.” For awhile, the company would not return requests for comment. When CEO Johnathan Weeks finally spoke to The Atlantic, he defended the costume, saying, “You can go on any website for a zombie mask for an eight-year-old with cuts and scars all over their face. It’s Halloween, it’s one day, if people are that serious about it, they don’t know what Halloween is about.”

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It’s true that Halloween is a celebration that toes the line of making a mockery of death, with children running around as skeletons, ghosts, and zombies. However, the Ebola epidemic is a very current and very sensitive issue, and there is absolutely nothing sexy about making fun of a very real disease that is currently spreading across the globe, taking lives, and ruining families.

What do you think? Is the public too sensitive about Halloween costumes that are meant to be harmless? Should stores be permitted to sell such offensive content? Is dressing up as a sexy aboriginal woman really that big of a deal? Let us know with your comments.

At the end of the day, we all have very different ideas of what is funny, and what is not. I think most of us can agree, though, that making fun of Plus Sized women, aboriginal cultures, and fatal diseases is probably not the best idea as far as Halloween costumes go. Let’s have fun this Halloween without making others feel like garbage. Halloween should be fun for everyone!

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