It’s Halloween Costume Time

How to have a conversation with friends who are excited to dress provocatively for Halloween

By Yajaira Nuñez

What would I say to a friend who wants to wear a provocative costume for Halloween…

My initial reaction would be to ask why they wanted to do that? You’re going to be cold, and it can be an unwanted invitation for people to say things that are undesired, offensive, or objectifying. BUT, in realizing that what I just said perpetuates victim blaming, I would say: go ahead. Who am I to tell you what to wear? Be provocative. Wear the “sexy” _________ (fill in the blank) if that’s what you want to dress up as.

This is where I face an internal dilemma. I don’t consider myself an expert on costumes, but there are certain costumes that I simply would not wear. Whether it’s because I would feel uncomfortable showing too much skin or appropriating someone else’s culture, I just wouldn’t chose to wear those costumes. So, now that I have processed the two answers I was inclined to give, how then, would I really approach this situation?

Granted that I am having this conversation with a friend, I would ask why they chose their costume. This conversation could then go down many different paths, and that’s okay, because then I have planted a seed that questions the decision they have made. I could continue by asking if they are comfortable wearing what they have chosen, as well as what type of environment they will be wearing the costume in. I would probably be doing a lot of the listening and adding my perspective when needed, but, ultimately, I would hope to allow for a conversation that allows them to think about their decision out loud and come to their own conclusions about what their costume will be.

After this I would leave it up to them, because respecting the decision that my friend is making is also an important factor in this conversation. I, by then, have stated my concerns, but have not told them what to do or wear. It is important to keep in mind that even though you might be concerned about the costume choice your friend has made, it is their body and what makes them feel comfortable and empowered might not be the same thing for you. Ultimately, there is no “right” answer to this question, but by making the effort to have a conversation about provocative or potentially problematic Halloween costumes, the space for deeper understanding and reflection is opened up both for myself and for the friend who I would be having this conversation with.

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