Halloween is less than two weeks away, and if you still don't have a costume ready, you're probably scrambling to figure out what you should wear.
Last-minute costume ideas are easy to find, but if you wander into a party store looking for an outfit, you may leave with a Halloween costume that plays into harmful stereotypes.
For one example, while revealing costumes aren't necessarily a bad thing, and
shaming a woman for dressing sexily on Halloween (or any other day) isn't cool, many pre-made Halloween costumes play off of stereotypes of commonly sexualized professions (see: sexy Nurse, Cop, etc. — ugh). It's worth considering the impact a sexy career costume could have, especially after this past week's national discussion about sexual harassment in the workplace.
You, of course, want to
avoid costumes that are culturally appropriative, along with anything that's outright racist. But the impact of some harmful costumes may be harder to pick up on, especially if you don't know which stereotypes they're playing off of. There are costumes you may not consider offensive at first glance, and some people won't find them problematic, but when there's a chance of perpetuating a stereotype, it's always best to avoid it. Here are 15 costume ideas that play into harmful stereotypes, and why you should just stay away from them this Halloween. Hot Nurse
Female nurses and doctors are particularly prone to
sexist incidents involving both colleagues and patients because of stereotypes like the one this costume plays off of. It's a stressful job, with medical professionals facing on-the-job fatigue and burnout. They're doing literally life-saving work, and downplaying that labor for a costume misses the point. Seductive Soldier
Sexual assault and harassment in the military are at an
all-time high. It doesn't help when Donald Trump has tweeted things like this in the past:
If a servicewoman chooses to dress provocatively, that's not an excuse to sexually violate her. This costume plays into the insidious lie that
women who serve in the military do anything other than work hard to keep our country safe. Undocumented Immigrant
Target ended up
pulling this costume, thankfully, but you could (unfortunately) recreate it at home. It may seem like a harmless play on words, but undocumented immigrants already face harmful myths about their productivity levels and reasons for being in the U.S., and this costume dehumanizes their struggle for dignity. "Gypsy"
a slur against Roma people who have historically been oppressed across Europe and Asia. To make things worse, costumes often use the stereotype of Romani women wearing provocative outfits, which is a common harmful myth about the culture. Waitress
Did you know waitresses face sexual harassment
more frequently than employees in any other industry? Ninety percent of female servers say they've been harassed by customers or employers. Waitresses aren't "asking" for harassment if they "smile," either — they're being nice because they need your tip to survive their often below-minimum wage salary. There are plenty of other Halloween costumes to choose from — go with one of those instead. Fat Person
If you're cringing, you're not alone. This particular costume manages to portray both fat people and sex workers offensively, but
any costume that requires a fat suit should be off-limits. It's never okay to make a costume out of someone's body type for laughs. Sexy Cop
When female police officers report sexual harassment to superiors, they often face retaliation that
one study described as "often severe." Only 13 percent of officers nationwide are women, which could explain why they struggle to find support. Sexualizing their jobs doesn't help at all. Prisoner
Women in jail and prisons across the U.S. face
terrifying but preventable issues, like barriers to accessing tampons and pads and sexual abuse. Lawmakers are discussing how to make incarceration a more dignified experience for women, but there's a lot of work to do. Making light of the issues they face with a sexy costume isn't a good look.
As you continue to get everything together for Halloween, think about whether your costume could potentially further a harmful stereotype — whether it's intentional or not. The good news is that there are
countless costume ideas that take little effort and also won't perpetuate myths about entire groups people. When in doubt, do one of those.