Be Inclusive this Halloween! Some Helpful Costume and Decoration Tips from Sadie’s Place for Innovative Inclusion

By: Sarah Forbes, Sue Arai, and Carrie Briscoe

Celebration of community

Here at Sadie’s Place, as we prepare to participate in the laughter, sweets, and celebration of costumes that are central parts of Halloween we try to keep the goals of our organization in mind. At Sadie’s Place we work to:

  • strengthen relationships and promote interdependence as a foundation for inclusion;
  • create authentic engagement in community;
  • shift disabling languages and practices; and
  • engage in ongoing reflection on our collaborative practices.

As we engage our principle of honouring human rights through compassion and celebration, we try to be mindful that common costumes can be hurtful to others.

In addition to handing out candy, tonight we are giving out activity pages for children that include various puzzles and inclusive messages. Here is a copy for those of you with a creative side! inclusive-halloween-puzzles

Mindfulness of ableism

We are mindful that many Halloween costumes and decorations rely on stigmatized images of mental illness and disability and perpetuate hurtful and dangerous myths. Costumes that rely on stereotypical portrayals of disability, connect disability with violence, or involve ‘props’ such as straightjackets, medication, or other disability-adjacent items further stigma around disability. In addition, Halloween attractions and decorations that portray mental and physical health treatments as terrifying ‘asylums’ add to the difficulty of discussing disability and mental health publicly.

This video by Cuquis Robledo captures the conversation well: http://www.rootedinrights.org/video-does-your-halloween-costume-marginalize-people-with-disabilities/

In addition, we found this blog post by Lydia X. Z. Brown helpful as we explored this issue in more depth: http://www.autistichoya.com/2012/10/halloweens-ableism-problem.html

When handing out sweets to community members, Adults in Motion published a post about how to be accepting of difference: https://www.facebook.com/AdultsInMotionWR/photos/a.783550315058756.1073741831.724336797646775/1140142436066207/?type=3&theater

Mindfulness of racial stereotypes and cultural appropriation

We are mindful that common costumes can be hurtful to others, and so we try to avoid costumes that celebrate racial stereotyping and cultural appropriation. We found information pages from Wilfrid Laurier University and York University to be helpful guides:

Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group: http://www.lspirg.org/costumes/

Centre for Human Rights at York Universityhttp://rights.info.yorku.ca/files/2015/10/Halloween_Memo.pdf

Mindfulness of gender stereotypes, unequal power relations, and sexism

We are mindful that Halloween costumes can often replicate gender stereotypes and unequal power relations, and diminish women to sexualized roles (e.g., maid costumes, sex trade workers). We found an article that helped us to think through these concerns:

The Huffington Post British Columbia published an article recently discussing the difference between costumes marketed to young children based on gender: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/raina-delisle/halloween-costumes-sexy-inappropriate_b_6006922.html