Students from Ohio University’s group ‘Students Teaching About Racism in Society’ launched a campaign before Halloween urging people not to dress up this halloween as caricatures of a certain culture.  Their slogan is “We’re a Culture, not a Costume.”  These students believe that it is degrading and insulting to dress up as a steretype of a certain culture, for example, wearing a kimono to dress like a geisha or a Mexican mariachi suit, because everyone in the culture does not conform to that stereotype and by dressing up as that stereotype, you are sending the wrong message.

The ad campaign shows the students holding photos of different racial and ethnic stereotypical costumes.  There are photos from the campaign below. The campaign went viral, showing up on blogs and other schools’ websites.  The responses have been mostly positive, but there were definitely other people who did not agree with the campaign.  They believe that Halloween is all about dressing up and people using costumes of racial or ethnic stereotypes are purely for fun and laughter and do not mean to be hurtful or insulting.  According to’s article “We’re a Culture not a Costume,” someone who did not agree with the campaign said, “Suddenly, I am overcome with the urge to dress up as the Frito Bandito this year. Guys & girls — Halloween is just bit of fun. Dead guys don’t come back to life and eat people. There are no hot blonde lady cops in tiny uniforms that demand to ‘frisk’ you. Kimonos are OK even if ‘Asians’ don’t wear them on a daily basis.”  ( Below is a link to the article.

I can see both sides of the arguement- I understand that these costumes can show that many people believe a culture to be only the stereotypes they hear about and nothing else.  When people dress up this way it reinforces these stereotypes and gives that culture more of a stereotype and can give off a message that this is the only thing this culture is about. However, I also understand that Halloween is about having fun dressing up and it is not meant in a negative way.  I think there is a balance between both sides of the arguement and that there is a limit that shouldn’t be crossed with costumes.  For example, I am a woman and if a man decided to dress up as a woman, I would not think there was anything wrong with that, however, I am Jewish as well and if someone decided to dress up as a Jew and wear a huge nose, I would think that was insulting, because that stereotype is not true and means absolutely nothing about Jews.

These are 2 of the photos from the ad campaign:

Link to article:


About sharonbetesh

I am a student at Hunter College and a media studies major.

4 responses

  1. ilonabubel says:

    Before reading this article I honestly never thought of costumes as possibly being so offensive. I also can see truth in both sides of the arguments. I think it also has a lot to do with a persons intentions. If someone is puposely dressing up to mock a stereotype of a certain culture like mentioned of the jewish nose, then I do believe that that can be very insulting towards others.
    On another note, this article made me think of my grandmother’s impression of Halloween when we first came to America. She had a very old fashioned out look about it and didnt want me dressing up. A generation later, with some assimilation, my grandmother is much more open minded to the idea of putting on temporary tattoos and dressing up for Halloween. Let’s just say that my little sister and baby cousins have it a lot easier than I did.

  2. emilyreid31 says:

    I can completely understand how extremely negative stereotypes such as “a white guy wearing a traditional ghutra and iqal over his head, [with] bombs strapped to his chest,” would be offensive and inappropriate. However, I don’t think people should be so sensitive to many of these other Halloween caricatures. I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think most people are trying to be malicious when they dress up as another culture on Halloween. Halloween is about exaggeration and fun. I think we should be able to laugh at ourselves and the different stereotypes people dress up as. I think it is safe to say that most people are aware that not all Asians dress in Kimonos, not all Mexicans wear mariachi suits, not all Italians are guidos, not all Germans dress in lederhosen, not all Irish are Leprechauns, and not all African-Americans are rappers, etc. This is just my opinion and I understand not everyone will agree with me.

  3. Not until recent years did I start to think that some costumes can be seen as displaying stereotypes. In fact when I went to the Halloween parade this past monday, I observed what people were wearing and if their costumes catered to a stereotype. For the majority of the night I can say I didn’t see people dressed up as other races. In fact, the only stereotypical costume I saw was a middle aged African American women dressed in a kimono with the white make up on her face. Before she walked passed me, a asian couple asked to take a picture of her in which she allowed. Other than this instance I didn’t see any costumes of this caliber. Perhaps people feel that these costumes are disrespectful towards certain cultures and decided to be something different. Although Halloween is suppose to be a playful “holiday”, I think people should be mindful of the image they put out it they were costumes pretending to the be another race.

  4. talswisa says:

    I think that it should not be such a big deal. It is just one day, and people should be able to dress as they like without having to feel guilty. I also think that most people who dress up as other cultures are not trying to be offensive, and I think that most people are not really offended, and definitely shouldn’t be. I am Jewish and I saw someone dressed up as a Hasidic Rabbi, and I thought it was hilarious. My friend dressed up as the Pope and many people, of all religions loved it and thought it was original and funny. If someone put on a big nose and said they were Jewish, I would probably think its funny, but even if not, I’m not gonna cry about it. Its Halloween, people should learn how to take a joke, and if its not funny, then simply ignore it.