Halloween news in brief: clown decorations, costume policing, and Halloween political correctness

Canadian Tire cuts clown decorations

In light of the clown scares that have swept North America since August, Canadian Tire has recently decided to pull clown decorations off store shelves. Two clown products – one decoration to be hung and another that rotated – were initially sold by the chain. These are no longer available in stores, or listed online.

Ghosts, pumpkins, skeletons and spiders are in stock. But another lawn staple during Halloween – creepy clown decorations – are nowhere to be seen on Canadian Tire store shelves. (Courtesy Angela Bulatao-Taay)

Ghosts, pumpkins, skeletons and spiders are in stock. But classic creepy clown Halloween decorations are nowhere to be seen on Canadian Tire store shelves. (Courtesy Angela Bulatao-Taay)

The decision was made in order to be “sensitive to recent pranks,” according to a spokesperson for Canadian Tire who spoke with CBC News. For instance, less than two weeks ago, three Oshawa teens were charged for recklessly driving while wearing clown masks, scaring other drivers and pedestrians. There have been other similar sightings across the continent and many other places in the world.

American chains like Target have taken similar action and removed some clown masks from stores and its web pages earlier this month.

Meanwhile, menacing clown antics have gone viral on social media, sparking a heightened anxiety of killer clowns. In the event of witnessing suspicious clown activity, Durham police advise the public to contact local forces and Crime Stoppers.

Costume policing at university campus party

 Certain costumes are being prohibited from Brock University’s campus Halloween party this year. Its student union has developed a costume protocol to reduce cultural appropriation and promote respect for marginalized groups.

Students who plan on attending the campus party in St. Catharines, Ont. are being directed to Brock University Students’ Union’s guide that outlines which costumes and accessories will prohibit them entry to the festivities.

Brock University’s student union has created a web page listing costumes that that will be barred from the campus Halloween party. (Courtesy Brock University Students’ Union)

The protocol deems costumes that ridicule “real people, human traits or cultures” and “reduce cultural differences to jokes, stereotypes, or historical/cultural inaccuracies” as unacceptable.

For example, partygoers who wear Japanese geisha makeup, Arab thobes, and traditional or religious headdresses like feathered war bonnets and African head ties in a mocking manner will be asked to change or remove the offensive item. The website also provides Brock students with an educational link for each cultural symbol to help them understand the offensiveness behind the prohibited costumes.

The costume policing set out by Brock University Students’ Union occurred in response to complaints about a costume contest entry two years ago where four students dressed up as the Jamaican bobsled team, by covering themselves in blackface makeup.

Last year, Ryerson Student Life followed similar efforts by creating a guide on offensive Halloween costumes. However, rules were less strictly enforced. Instead, this approach aimed to help students rethink their costumes by questioning skin tone, ethnicities mentioned in costume names, and the use of cultural garments and accessories.

Costumes prompt cultural appropriation class

 The ongoing issue of Halloween costumes that disregard political correctness has made its way into elementary school classroom discussions. A Toronto teacher decided to further educate his students on the matter after coming across costumes that stereotyped Indigenous culture at Party City.

Denis Bell first expressed his disappointment through Facebook over the costumes, headdresses, and accessories being sold at the party supply store. The Grade 6 French immersion teacher then translated this experience into a lesson on widespread cultural stereotypes used to portray the marginalized group.

Party City sells a number of costumes and accessories that try to imitate Indigenous attire. (Courtesy Party City)

Last week, Bell held a conversation with his students at Davisville Junior Public School on the costumes’ negative and inaccurate representations. The class also discussed potential solutions to stop stereotypes on the Indigenous community from blowing out of proportion any further.

Similar lessons are available through Ryerson’s Aboriginal Knowledges and Experiences certificate program.

The Peel District School Board has also advocated for stronger sensitivity when students choose their Halloween costumes. Students are asked to avoid costumes that “mimic the traditional attire of an ethnic, racial or gender group/identity,” according to a statement provided to CityNews

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