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Halloween Should Be Fun, Not Offensive


You’ve likely seen negative media coverage of sorority or fraternity members wearing inappropriate costumes or participating in socials with themes that are offensive. Such behavior sends a message that sorority women and fraternity men care more about a fun party or clever costumes than they do people. As Kappa Deltas, we know this isn’t true.

With Halloween quickly approaching, many of us are searching Pinterest and sharing ideas through group texts to plan our costumes. Dressing up for Halloween can be one of the most fun things we do all year! Amidst the excitement of celebrating with friends, it is important that we keep our values at the forefront of all that we do. In other words, Halloween costumes — including accompanying signs — should be fun, not offensive.

Many popular Halloween costumes and party themes, while well-intentioned, are founded in stereotypes or the misrepresentation of another culture. Choosing to borrow individual aspects of a culture without fully understanding the meaning or significance they hold is known as cultural appropriation. When we wear these kinds of costumes, we can offend people in our communities who might have a more personal experience with the culture we are attempting to represent. We are sending the message that we care more about a clever costume or getting a laugh than we do about the traditions or experiences of others.

When choosing your costume, put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Ask yourself a few questions to determine whether it is appropriate.

  • Is this costume representing someone else’s culture? How would they feel about me representing their culture in this way?
  • Is my costume sensitive to people who are often marginalized by society?
  • Could this be considered offensive or in poor taste if posted on social media?
  • Would I be uncomfortable showing this costume or sign to my family or closest mentors?
  • Do I have any reservations about choosing this costume?
  • Is this the image of Kappa Delta I want the world to see?

If your answers to any of these questions leave you feeling uncertain about whether your costume is appropriate, it is safest to choose a different idea. Besides, there are so many to choose from — Carl from Up; your favorite Snapchat filter; Wonder Woman; Belle from Beauty and the Beast (or the Beast!); a slice of pizza; your favorite inspirational woman from history; or the always classic sheet-ghost.

Take the extra effort to consider what your costume really means and what impact it might have. When it comes down to it, our intentions matter far less than the way we make others feel. May we each day through love of those within our circle learn to know and better understand those without our circle. And don’t forget – have fun!

For more on Halloween costumes and cultural appropriation, check out these links:

Five Myths About Costumes and Themes

Delta Delta Delta Choices 101