People will say what they will about the recent Halloween costume offenses. In one sense, I see it as something positive - something that has provoked a forum to discuss touchy subjects like racism and race degradation. It provides an opportunity for people with different views to communicate and reach a level of understanding and respect. It's always admirable when a group of people speaks out against something that they find offensive and disrespectful - but I find it strange that while issues of race have been brought into this open forum, issues of gender degradation have not.
The days of dressing up like clowns and pumpkins are as long gone as trick-or-treating. Don't get me wrong, many people might dress up as something they were as a kid: police officer, fireman, Dorothy, heck, even a zombie. But chances are the word "slutty" precedes it. Alright, so being a wholesome Pippi Longstockings loses its fun by the time you're about 9, so you hike up the skirt and throw on some heels. If you've got it, flaunt it, right?
But when "slut" goes from a descriptive adjective of a costume to the noun of the costume phrase, shouldn't it bring about the same reaction from women as blackface makeup brings about for blacks? Perhaps even worse than the "slut/whore/hooker" costume, is the "pimp" costume. Dressing up as pimps and sluts is as degrading to women as using blackface makeup can be to blacks. And what about all the straight guys who mockingly dress up in drag? What makes that OK? There are plenty of individuals, male and female, who may find costumes such as these offensive. But why is it that the community hasn't addressed these concerns? Why have they not been publicized to the extent of issues concerning race?
As far as I'm concerned, there are two possible answers. One is the existence of a double standard - is it just a costume when it comes to sluts and pimps and drag, but when it comes to race, an insensitive and inappropriate offense? Or is it something more than that?
I've come to notice that there is a sort of lack of unity between different groups striving to achieve equality and respect. Special-interest groups seem to work for their rights and dignity in a way secularizing and weakening a force that, if united for the common goal of equality, justice and respect, would be much more effective. They become sort of "self-interest" groups, potentially creating double standards and uneven playing fields.
So that positive, open forum that the blackface costumes provoked should go beyond discussions of race, and instead should be an environment for individuals to communicate, with the common goal of creating a tolerant, equal environment in which all people are respected.