Posted by: maxvoltage | October 31, 2010

halloween costumery

Happy Halloween!

The pros of this holiday for me are often that I go about my usual performance-costume scavenger hunts, and everyone suddenly carries all the random crap i need, and looks at me less strangely for wanting it in the first place.  For my Halloween costume?  Sure.  If by Halloween costume you mean genderfuck performance-art dance piece!

The flip side of spending much of my life conceptualizing/searching/constructing costumes, is that it takes the novelty out of Halloween for me.   I have millions of costumes to choose from, just walking into my basement (a fact that was NOT lost on my Housemates, who were thrilled to do their Halloween shopping in my costume closet).

Halloween is an intriguing holiday.  Its the one day of the year when it’s socially acceptable to dress however the fuck you want.  Straight dudes dress in drag, women find ways to wear the least amount of clothes possible.  I think Halloween is the day when you’re socially allowed to explore your inner-fantasies.  Women’s sexuality is a double-edged sword in our society, and while women are expected to be sexy and available to men, they are also judged if they cross some “too slutty” line.  Halloween allows space for women to be sexy and scandalous and not judged as “sluts.”  For straight men, dressing in drag, stepping away from male privilege and embracing the stigmatized “other” of femininity, is a compelling momentary freedom.

There are a plethora of ways we embrace the unseen sides of ourselves on Halloween.  And some of these ways can be empowering, fun experiences.   The first time in my adulthood I dressed as a drag king was Halloween.  And the following year I embraced my inner-drag queen and dressed as Britney Spears.  Halloween gives us space to experiment, to be someone else, or pull out parts of ourselves rarely seen.

While I commend the freedom Halloween allows, it is not giving you permission to be a racist asshole.

On Friday night, I went to the opening night haunted opening of Hamburger Mary’s.  While overall I had a fun time, i was appalled at the number of Native American costumes.  From head-dresses to war paint to loin clothes, these costumes were perpetuating oppressive stereotypes of indigenous peoples.  Often these folks could be found holding hands with their boyfriend, dressed as a cowboy.  Ugh.

Now, if you dont understand why that shit is fucked up, some blog posts for you to read, which can articulate it far better than I can so, check it out:

We are not a post-racist world.  People of color  are constantly fighting stereotypes and institutionalized racism.  It’s not funny it’s harmful.  We, as white people benefit from Racism, and are taught to re-enforce racism in order to keep our white privilege.  So, when you dawn problematic costumes, its not “pushing boundaries” its re-enforcing the status-quo.

We often think of “racists” as these people in the PAST; these bad people who wear white hoods and burn crosses.  People who are not us.  Well, guess what? Racism is not in the past.  And combating it is a constant struggle, both internal and external.  Unlearning our socialization, and challenging our assumptions and the assumptions of others.   So, please think critically and challenge your socialization long enough to realize that racism is not “ironic.”   Racism is not a social inhibitions that needs to be “shed” this one day of the year.  It’s an oppressive system that needs to be examined and questioned.  And while i feel frustrated and how many appropriative costumes I’m seeing this year, I also feel optimistic about how many conversations are being had, in real life and in the blogosphere.  And hope that maybe one day I can go to a Halloween party where everyone respects the history & ancestry of their fellow humans.



  1. Thank you so much for your awesome post! I’ll definitely check back for more! And thanks for the shout out! I appreciate the support!


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