Loading articles...

Costume caution: How political correctness is changing the face of Halloween

Last Updated Oct 19, 2016 at 8:54 pm EDT

What do a bound-and-gagged Kim Kardashian, a creepy clown, and a Peeping Tom all have in common?

They are just a few examples of Halloween costumes and decorations that have been pulled from store shelves across North America after being deemed inappropriate for public consumption.

Controversial Halloween costumes are nothing new.

The sleepy town of Campbellford, Ont., woke up to a raging scandal in 2010 after a man dressed up in a KKK robe, complete with a hood and Confederate flag, for a Royal Canadian Legion Halloween party. He was leading another man in blackface by a rope tied in a noose around his neck.

The offensive costume won first prize.

A man dressed in a KKK robe, complete with hood and a Confederate flag on his back led another man in blackface around by a rope tied in a noose around his neck at the Halloween party in Campbellford, Ont., on Saturday October 30, 2010. A witness said the act was awarded top honours. So far it seems unlikely criminal charges will be laid, but the investigation is ongoing. A photo of the two showing the noose around the neck of the man in blackface was splashed across websites and TV broadcasts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
A man dressed in a KKK robe leads another man in blackface by a rope tied in a noose around at the Halloween party in Campbellford, Ont., on Oct. 30, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO


But not all costumes deemed distasteful in 2016 are that blatant or bigoted.

In a climate of heightened political correctness, once-common costumes are now approached with caution.

The Peel District School Board has taken a strong stance on Halloween costumes, clearly outlining what’s considered unacceptable for students.

“In order to be inclusive and to model our character values, please do not dress in costumes that mimic the traditional attire of an ethnic, racial or gender group/identity,” the statement reads.

“This would include dressing in clothing of the opposite gender ‘in jest.’ Pretending to be a member of a group for ‘fun’ is evidence of cultural appropriation and sends the message that cultural attire is a ‘costume’ to be donned for entertainment purposes. Additionally, do not wear costumes that require you to assume a racialized minority or other marginalized identity. Assuming such an identity for entertainment purposes trivializes and disrespects the oppression of the group.”

So what kind of costumes could fall under those categories?

Mimic traditional attire of an ethnic, racial or gender group/identity:

  • Pocahontas
  • Transgender or transsexual person
  • Hasidic Jewish person


Clothing of the opposite gender “in jest”

  • Hillary Clinton
  • Donald Trump
  • Kim Kardashian


Not everyone is bowing to public pressure when it comes to costumes and political correctness. Popular chain store Spirit Halloween, which has two Toronto locations, says it won’t pull Indigenous-themed costumes (below) which are available at some stores and online.


“While we respect the opinion of those who are opposed to the sale of any cultural or historical costumes, we are proud of our costume selection for men, women and children,” a company spokesperson told CityNews in a statement.

“We continue to offer this broad assortment of costumes in the future, while we maintain our commitment to our diverse customer base.”

So what do you think — has Halloween become too politically correct? Let us know in the comment section below or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.