If you go to college, work at a college/university, or know people who fit into either of these groups (that's pretty much everyone who might read this), you've probably seen this poster in circulation.
This call to be thoughtful in Halloween costume selection was initially made by a student group at Ohio University called Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) and it's good. It's getting tons of national press for all the right reasons.
Today is Halloween and by now, most have already chosen their costumes if you're going to wear one. Yes, choose your costume thoughtfully. This is not new news.
What this poster made us think more about, however, is the fact that fraternity and sorority members have lots more opportunities to wear costumes than the average college student. For some reason, a culture has been established where party/event + costume/theme = AWESOME.
For the record, we love costumes. So much that we've considered the concept of 'costume Friday' instead of 'casual Friday' here at the office. Okay, that's not really true, but you get the picture. We're into dressing up.
To us, one of the larger conversations that needs to be tied to this campaign is this: what themes are you choosing for your chapter events where costumes are involved?
Let's think of a few popular ones:
Cowboys and Indians
Dressing up like 'Indians' (and, really, you probably shouldn't use that term in most areas of the U.S.) is not only offensive, it's almost always incorrect. The garb that American Indians wear for spiritual ceremony is sacred. No American Indian wears feathers and moccasins as their daily clothing. The wearing of feathers has deep spiritual meaning. For example, they might be worn by chiefs to symbolize their communication with the Spirit and to express their celestial wisdom.
Other themes that may offend a culture:
- Cinco de Mayo
- White Trash Bash (fraternity/sorority members are the most affluent college students in America - basically this is like saying "let's dress like poor people!" That's really not that funny.)
- Homeless Ball (see above)
Pimps 'N Ho's
Do you even know what a pimp is? Sure, the word has become casual slang and probably you're not using it literally when and if you do, but here's what's wrong with pimps. The pimp/ho relationship is abusive and possessive. Physical and psychological manipulation, starvation, rape (including gang rape), beating, forced drug use, and shame are all commonly used techniques to establish the culture that the pimp owns (literally) the prostitute. Prostitutes have sex with five, ten, twenty (or more) strangers a day, every day. Besides the sheer numbers involved, some of those strangers are going to use a person in ways that are bizarre, painful, disturbing, humiliating, and occasionally fatal. And, to boot, they don't even get to keep the money paid - it all goes to the pimp.
There are lots of renditions that are basically the same as Pimps 'N Ho's:
- Bro's 'N Ho's
- Catholic School Girl/Principal
- CEO's and Secretaries
- Playboy mansion
- Lingerie party
- Pajama party (It's not like you think the ladies will show up wearing bathrobes, fellas, we know what you're hoping for.)
- Dirty Doctors/Naughty Nurses
What do all these themes have in common? The woman is the slut. The men get to wear (basically) normal clothes and the women dress scantily clad. Any rendition that glorifies the dominant male and provocative female should be reconsidered. Ideally, because of the dangerous roles they perpetuate - but in the least because of this: lots of people stereotype fraternity and sorority members to be more promiscuous than the average college student - why purposefully perpetuate that stereotype?
Maybe we're overestimating your intellect. Maybe these themes aren't plays on power and sex. Maybe it's simply a group of adolescent men's efforts to get a whole slew of women to come over dressed in practically nothing. But, seriously how juvenile is that? If you have to have a slutty party theme to get to see a lady in her undies, that's your problem.
As you can see, we're not just talking about being politically correct, we're talking about some serious issues, folks. Sure, we get it, wearing a pimp costume doesn't mean you're actively advocating for sex trafficking and rape. But here's what it DOES mean: you're either ignorant to the issue or you know about it and simply don't give a damn. Either way, this spells out P-R-O-B-L-E-M.
Sorority ladies, sick of people saying you're a bunch of sluts? Fraternity men, sick of people assume you've committed a date rape? Besides the obvious - stop doing these types of actions (if you are). But also, consider stopping sexualizing your date parties, for starters.
Finally, if you're reading this and thinking, "that's an awesome theme idea! We're going to use it!" We have two reactions:
- Get real