Say Boo to Halloween

October has descended upon us, and we all know what that means — pumpkin spice, sweater weather, and general spookiness. To cap off this long month, America has adopted an old Celtic celebration, now known as Halloween. However, this celebration is merely an excuse for people to dress up as something they’re not. Costumes are sometimes used as an excuse to take on a different identity, but they can often be offensive or culturally appropriative. Halloween is a waste of time and money and acts as the worst possible prologue to the actual holiday season. I simply cannot understand why anyone would spend all of October looking forward to it.

In 2019, Halloween is celebrated only because it is a tradition deeply steeped in consumerism and capitalism. Although consumerism and capitalism may be fundamental to American society, it’s also important to note that they are huge detriments to our society and cause massive amounts of harm to peoples and environments around the world. Then there is the strange ritualistic act of getting dressed up as someone else, getting tons of candy, and, as you get older, going to parties that are never as fun as you think they might be. 

Halloween exists, just like many other American holidays, because there is a need for American people to escape and create a nationwide excuse to party. There’s no longer a religious tie to it, it’s not about one of America’s ‘victories’, and it’s not the start of a new chapter. Instead, it is a day that American businesses have commercialized in order to increase their profit margins while trying to convince the American public into believing it’s a necessary American tradition. 

We should not be falling into the trap of overly commercialized holidays like Halloween or Valentine’s Day, but rather focus our energies on meaningful celebrations that revolve around love for each other and ourselves. The only thing that is traditionally American about Halloween is that it’s a capitalist opportunity for businesses that know how to churn profit only too well, just like other American holidays like Valentine’s Day or Black Friday weekend. And that profit comes from every aspect of properly celebrating the holiday, such as candy, costumes, decorations, and annoying fake spider webs. Companies have advertising schemes that are so successful that the average American spent almost $90 for Halloween in 2018. 

People are excited to dress up and become someone they’re not on Halloween. This type of dress up is limited to Halloween, even though we can dress up at any point in the year. When I was young, I dressed up as a princess, mainly because I wanted a prince and I did not live in a castle, and unfortunately, Disney princesses were the only female role models I saw on TV. But now, I am older. I have the capacity, will, and opportunity to be whoever I want, any day of the year. We all do. We can all wake up tomorrow morning and decide we actually want to be comfortable, and wear animal onesies to class. The worst that can happen is you might get weird looks. 

Yet sometimes, costumes end up being sexed-up versions of regular people, characters, or things. Why do we have to hide behind Halloween in order to do that? We are all old enough to dress ourselves every single day as what we want to be, not who we are right now, and do not need to wait for Halloween to roll around to wear what we’ve been itching to wear. Wearing costumes only on Halloween can lead to a road of disrespect and harm towards cultures other than your own, and this is not something we should be willing to tolerate any longer.

Offensive and culturally appropriative costumes harm progress towards an inclusive society. Most recently, we’ve seen a massive unmasking of various politicians’ past incidents of black or brown face. Whilst this is, unfortunately, not surprising, it is distressing that these individuals, who are highly educated, made a decision to follow through with an immensely insulting costume just because it was college and Halloween time. Halloween provides a day every year in America in which there is an unspoken expectation for people to have the boldest, most daring, and most attention-drawing costume, and this can push individuals to engage in extremely offensive costuming that may very well include black or brown face. 

Obviously, black or brown face is not the only way a costume can be offensive. There are a myriad of ways that costumes can appropriate a culture. What comes to mind first is a couples costume many couples in my high school gravitated towards, Indians and cowboys. The women who gravitated towards the Indian side of this costume were varying degrees of insulting, but again, justified themselves by explaining it was Halloween and they were just pretending. But just pretending is absolutely not acceptable when it is deeply hurtful and insulting to another group of people. 

At the end of the day, Halloween is also the absolute worst prologue to the proper holiday season, which starts in November and ends with the celebrations of New Year’s Eve. November and December bring plenty of traditional religious holidays, but those are not the only things that make November and December the real holiday season. The controversial Thanksgiving celebrations happen at the end of November, where America traditionally sits around a table and avoids talking about its history of violence, while families have the awkward opportunity to talk politics with each other. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we fuel our capitalist system by buying things we don’t need not only for ourselves, but also for the kind of people we   have to be fake-nice to during holiday parties. 

College students have the wonderful gift of finishing fall semester in December, and get to celebrate with finals that cost them hours of study time, but then, for a couple of wonderful days, the world is quiet. Once finals are over, people take time off work, shops close, and we’re able to properly celebrate the holiday season by being largely spared from responsibilities and briefly restoring our sleeping schedules. To start off this wondrous holiday season with Halloween is like going to a pregame and realizing everyone there is problematic and isn’t even your friend, and the only alcohol they’re serving is Pabst Blue Ribbon. And let’s be honest — that is not a pregame you should be attending because of the wasted time, effort and money it will require.

9 comments

  1. 72
    Check that priv says:

    There are a couple of typos throughout… Look, this is the type of pointless content that we all expect from the Phoenix. This is the high-road message that we see all the time: “remember that thing you find fun and exciting is actually not so cool, so just remember that.” Because not only are racists ruining Halloween, but it’s existence is driven solely by capitalism, which was we know is an absolute disaster and contributes to climate change, economic inequality, etc. with no benefit to society whatsoever. Choices are dumb/frustrating, and a waste of time (though not as much of a waste of time as going out on Halloween). This message is classic and quintessential Swat. More specifically, this is post-frat Phoenix content whereby we need to find new things to be upset about.

    But I will not stand by as you, the Phoenix, bad mouth PBR. As someone who has had many, many PBR’s, far more than anyone on the Phoenix’s staff, I want to make one thing very clear: PBR is a fine, quality, budget beer. Badmouthing it as anything else is a blatant display or privelege. PBR’s not good enough for you? Introduced in 1844, PBR has been refreshing it’s customers since before the Civil War. It was voted best beer in America in 1893 and was awarded a blue ribbon, hence it’s name. Denying it’s prominence in the realm of pregames is simply laughable, and I’ll take a 30 rack of an award-winning beer for under $20 over whatever libations you see as “worthy” of pregame status. And I’ll share a few of them with my friends.

    There are several flaws with the final analogy about the pregame. Everyone at the pregame being problematic, not having any friends, etc., are, on the surface, not very relatable to Halloween, at least for most people. But to cheap shot, trounce all over, and spit on a classic American beer that is a favorite means of tomfoolery for our nation’s lower- and middle-class is shameful, and I needed to have my voice heard.

  2. 17
    Respectfully Disagree says:

    While I agree that the cultural appropriation and racism that tends to arise in the midst of Halloween celebrations is extremely problematic – and needs to be stopped – I can’t help but disagree with the rest of this article. If we hate Halloween for being capitalist, then should we not hate every holiday celebrated in America? Christmas has not been about Jesus’s birth in at least my lifetime, Chanukah is a capitalist trap for Jewish Americans (with all the decorations, the gelt, the dreidels, etc.), and Easter sparks rises in certain pet industries (and spells profits for anyone with monetary interest in pastels). Hating a holiday because of marketing and increased spending (I spend way too much on cobwebs each year, but it brings me joy so why not) is a waste of energy. Why not just let people enjoy what little there is to celebrate nowadays in this political climate?
    Furthermore, as a queer individual, I also resent the idea that Halloween isn’t special or worth celebrating, since it has, for me, often served as a day of liberation, where I and my queer friends can express ourselves without as much fear of discrimination. For some of my trans friends, its one of the few opportunities throughout the year that they can actually express their true gender identity. If you spent five minutes googling Halloween and the queer community, you’d see how cherished this time of year is for the community as a whole. I’m sorry the author hasn’t enjoyed their experiences at Halloween parties, but I think the chance to dress up as a vampire or witch, eat an ungodly amount of candy, and maybe get a little boozy is harmless and extremely fun.

  3. 6
    trophy guy says:

    Congratulations, Giorgia! I would like to present you with this trophy 🏆.

    You have succeeded in being the most wokest person on campus and therefore win Swarthmore.

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