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On Facebook and through posters around campus, a group of students and proctors are pushing their peers to rethink Halloween costumes this year through a campaign dubbed “A Happier Halloween.”
The campaign, launched earlier this week, addresses issues of cultural stereotypes and sexual expression and consent as they relate to dressing up for Halloween, with the headlines “My costume is not consent,” “My culture is not a costume,” and “My identity is not a costume.”
The campaign’s overall message is to ask students not to wear racist costumes—like ones that mimic groups or cultures—and remind them that they should not assume that someone consents to sexual activity because of what they are wearing.
“Halloween costumes have the power to celebrate and amuse, but they also have the power to harm and marginalize,” read an email promoting the project over House lists.
Freshman race relations, BGLTQ, and Consent, Assault Awareness, and Relationship Education, or CAARE, speciality proctors organized the campaign. They drew from a similar project at Ohio University called “We’re a culture, not a costume,” according to Monica G. Tibbits-Nutt, a race relations proctor involved in organizing it.
Proctors are recruiting students to help hang up posters from the Ohio University campaign. One sign features a woman wearing a Native American headdress, condemning the costume with the line, “You think it’s harmless, but you’re not the target.”
Another poster features a photograph of a woman wearing blackface. In the poster, a black woman holds up the photo alongside the headline, “This is not who I am, and this is not okay.”
While other schools have started similar campaigns against wearing costumes that stereotype, Harvard’s campaign added the issue of sexual consent, according to Lispeth J. Tibbits-Nutt, a BGLTQ proctor involved in the project.
Referencing the recent release of Harvard’s sexual assault climate survey results—which demonstrated the incidence of sexual misconduct at the College and administrators deemed “deeply troubling”—Monica Tibbits-Nutt said the campaign furthers discussion on the topic.
“Especially at Halloween, things have a tendency to get a lot less safe, and so I think we really wanted on the heels of that report to take this chance to open up another avenue of dialogue about it,” she said.
Students have taken to social media to further the campaign’s message; it has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Through these mediums, organizers are posting anonymous comments students and other supporters send to them via email.
“I dressed up as, you know, a ‘slutty witch.’ While I was at the party, one of the boys in my class put his hand on my inner thigh, really high up. When I reacted with shock, he laughed and said something like: ‘It was a compliment! Plus, what do you expect in that costume?’” read one anonymous post from a self-described sophomore.
According to Lispeth Tibbits-Nutt, the media blitz hopes to personalize the campaign to reach other students and garner a mass of stories for the campaign in future years.
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