Cultural Stereotyping: The Worst Halloween Costumes of 2013

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It might take a while before we celebrate Halloween again, and this blog comes a couple of weeks late, but we thought it was still worth a look at. Halloween might be a bit of fun for most people, but have you ever thought about what the costumes say about the people wearing them?


Recently, Al-Jazeera America drew our attention to this topic in an article penned by Nadeem Muaddi.


With Halloween being such an important part of the American cultural calendar, it is now commonplace to see kids and adults alike dressed up in all sorts of costumers.


However, many of these costumes are becoming culturally insensitive in the extreme, Muaddi says, pointing to stereotypes held by Americans about foreigners as being the reason behind these crude creations.


Muaddi believes these costumes have taken a turn for the worse over the past few years. She states that at US universities there seems to be a trend of “racist ragers,” parties for which students have to dress up as a certain ethnic or racial stereotype.


These parties are reason for concern for many school officials and other students as well. This is why the movement Students Teaching About Racism in Society has been formed to create race awareness among students.


Naturally we despise cultural stereotypes, especially when fuelled by ignorance and jingoism. To celebrate the stupidity of it all we have gathered the worst stereotypical Halloween costumes from 2013.


Taco wearing a sombrero


This costume does not include one, but two elements that are often seen as stereotypical for the Mexican culture. Not only does the Mexican cuisine consist of other foods than taco’s, not every Mexican wears a sombrero either. It would be the same as depicting the British as always wearing wellies and eating fish and chips!


Bin Laden

This costume was sold by Walmart, Rite Aid, Amazon and Fun World until Rajdeep Singh, director of law and policy at the Sikh Coalition, wrote these retailers a letter asking them to take it off the shelves. According to Singh, the turban included in the costume is a sacred symbol to the Sikh and should therefore not be used in Halloween costumes.




Inspiration for stereotypical Halloween costumes does not necessarily have to come from other countries, Muaddi Says:, there are also cultures native to the United States that can produce culturally insensitive costumes. Inhabitants of the southern part of the US are often portrayed as backward and poor, resulting in the “Hilbilly” stereotype with overalls, pleat shirts and work boots.


Indian Headdress


And speaking of native cultures, what about the stereotypical Indian costume? From a very young age onward, the Indian headdress is the go-to costume for people with lack of imagination. However, the headdress not is not only a very stereotypical, it is also considered sacred by the Indians and should thus, not be used for Halloween. Ray Ramirez, spokesman for the Native American Rights Fund, believes Americans would not choose this costume in the first place if they were educated about the native US cultures.



And it is not just the Indian headdress that is often turned into a Halloween costume Of course, our image of Pocahontas might be a woman that is easy on the eyes – but that does not mean she should be sexualised in order to seduce men on Halloween! (You will notice a theme with women and sex in the next few examples too – what could this possibly mean?) This costume is not only insulting, it might not be warm enough for the cold October night either.


Belly dancers

Not only Muslim men have to face stereotypes when going out on Halloween night; Muslim women are also in for a treat! According to Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Muslim men are usually depicted as bombers or billionaires, but the women are often portrayed as belly-dancers. We hate to break it to you boys, but not every Arab woman walks around with a bare midriff every day…




Dressing up as a Geisha for Halloween focuses on the sexual aspect of these Japanese entertainers. There is a grain of truth in this as Geisha’s are indeed no strangers to sex. However, using the Geisha dress as Halloween inspiration, especially when this is turned into a skimpy version of the traditional outfit, implies they are nothing but escort ladies.


Readers should not think that this is a poke in the eye of our American cousins. The British are no better it seems as these two girls perfectly demonstrated when dressing up as the Twin Towers! Shockingly, they actually won the fancy dress competition!


twin towers halloween costume


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