A Costume Is But A Costume
Given that it is a new law of reality that not a day can go by without our modern day social justice warriors being unhappy about something it seems we once again have a moral crisis on our hands. This time it is centered on the subject of Halloween costumes. Apparently a few weeks ago (whilst I was happily away on vacation and therefore somewhat insulted from this modern day “monstrosity”) the wife of some Yale faculty member had the audacity to send out an email saying she did not feel it was the university’s place to tell students what to and what not to wear during Halloween. Imagine that, saying it was not the place of the university to tell its students what kind of costumes they should and should not wear? Horrifying!
Firstly, if you’re wondering what kind of costume you should wear for Halloween the answer is quite simple “none”. Dressing up is something best left to the children who incessantly ring on our doorbells during that one distasteful night of the year to extort candies and various other treats from us under threat that otherwise we shall have some unnamed “trick” brought upon us. If you are over the age of thirteen you really have no business joining in this foolish display of immaturity and vulgar extravagance.
However, lefties seem unable to take this very basic advice and instead argue that it’s perfectly fine for fully grown adults to partake in this childish ritual so long as the costume they chose is deemed appropriate by the PC Gods of modernity. In practice this means you should refrain from dressing up as some kind of stereotypical ethnic or religious minority group or figure out of fear that this might somehow cause offense in some manner. Causing offense is of course the absolute worst crime one can be accused of in the eyes of the proles of modernity, with the cry of “I’m offended” now seeming to command more sympathy than “rape” or “murder” it would seem.
Of course this is sheer and utter balderdash. First we must ask ourselves why this principle is not applied across the board. For if to cause offense is somehow this great crime, than why should we solely concern ourselves with not causing offense to certain groups and not humanity as a whole? Every costume relies on stereotypes to a certain extent (it’s how we are able to recognize they are only costumes). Is not a Viking outfit an insult to our dear friends of Scandinavian ancestry by reducing their whole culture to the representation of a pillager and plunderer dressed in an absurd horned helmet? Should we not be worried about demeaning the heritage of Midwestern Americans when we don the comically inaccurate garb of a cowboy? Does not a slutty nurse outfit show flippant disregard for the efforts of the entire nursing profession to which so many of us owe our health and lives too? Ultimately, to borrow the words of Bill Maher, everyone gets made fun of for something and it’s never 100% fair.
And is that even a bad thing? Back when I was a child I usually dressed up as something for Halloween, and the various costumes I chose (whether it was a fireman or a policeman or a crusading knight) always was something I thought, to use this crass word of juvenile simplicity, was “cool”. It is human nature to want to look good to our peers, and when we chose a costume whether or not our fellows will be approving of it is always a factor. So when a child or adult chooses to don the image of a Native American warrior or a Japanese ninja or a Middle Eastern sheik they are not insulting the said culture from which it stems but rather expressing admiration for it. Just as the names of sports teams like the Washington Redskins or Cleveland Indians were initially inspired by the West’s fascination and respect for the ideal of the “noble savage” that was the native warrior so too should these modern day representations be taken as nods of respect.
But even that is apparently wrong according to the God of political correctness worshiped by modern day liberals (or perhaps I should say Goddess….we wouldn’t want to be patriarchal). Even if one wears a costume out of respect and not malice than the equally egregious crime of “cultural appropriation” has been committed, which when translated from the language of equity studies into plain English means that apparently by dressing up as a cultural icon of some minority group we members of the imperialistic West are stealing these icons and making them our own just as we’ve apparently stolen everything else. At this point I am truly left at a loss. Tell newcomers to adapt to our customs and it’s racist, start aping theirs and it’s “cultural appropriation”, disliking other cultures is bad, liking them is bad – what would the modern day philosophes have us do? Should we simply sit at home and not interact with anyone out of fear that something we say or do might somehow be offensive to someone out there? Oh wait, can’t do that for it would probably been see as promoting cultural segregation or something of that manner.
We are at the point where it seems anything one does or does not do can somehow be judged as an act of micro-aggression or some other crime against goodness and equality. That is how deep the self-loathing of modernity has gone. I truly wonder if there is any act of contrition that would someone mollifying these eternal complainers, any hair shirt we could wear, any set of Herculean tasks we could perform as redemption that would be deemed sufficient. Nothing, it seems, will ever be enough. I doubt even the collective suicide of the entire Western world would be pleasing ; our dear social justice warriors would probably start tutting about how we were just taking the easy way out and letting ourselves off the hook.
What’s really needed is not more “sensitivity” but instead for everyone to stop taking everything so seriously. Halloween is a manufactured holiday, largely for the benefit of the candy companies, that is basically an excuse for indulgent little brats to dress up and demand sweets from their elders and for their elders to dress up and get wasted in a night out on the town. Let’s stop trying to ascribe deeper meanings to such trivial, childish things. If one really is concerned about inequality or racism or the welfare of the great unwashed masses of the marginalized there is probably something a little more important you could dedicate your time too than shaming some freshman for dressing up as Pocahontas.
Now, there is a line here. If a costume is deliberately designed to be offensive and belittling and it is clear that is the only possible intention one could have by wearing it, then yes it would be fair to say that goes too far. By all means, judge people who dress up in blackface or as a Klansman or Jewish financier. If campuses want to ban such overtly insulting displays from their events that is certainly within their rights. We have right to express ourselves but not a right to get access to a party when the other participants do not want us around due to our boorish behavior. But beyond such blatant examples everyone should be free to dress as they want and we should skip the fake outrage. The world is a rude and offensive place sometimes so try growing a thicker skin.