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November 15, 2011

How do you handle rape jokes on Twitter?

We want to share an incident that happened to us on Twitter last night because we think it raises some important issues. Yes, we know, try to contain your shock that we would speak out about something and get ourselves into trouble, but in this case we felt it was something worth saying. To be clear, we're not trying to call this person out or shame them publicly or whatever by blogging about this, we're trying to get at the larger issues involved. (We thought about blurring out her name in our screenshots but we realized that it would be really easy to go to our Twitter and figure it out in about two seconds, so we didn't.) But we're not encouraging anyone to contact her or anything like that, we just want to talk about the situation.

Here's what happened. We were checking Twitter when we saw this tweet pop up in our stream:


It was late and I was a little tired, so I had to read this tweet over about five times just to confirm that yes, she was comparing paying $13 for parking to "getting raped". We decided to address it because we feel like rape jokes are never funny and making light of rape is really not okay, but we tried to be polite about it:


This was her reply to us:


We're not sure if this was just her way of saying 'I can say whatever I want' or if she was trying to somehow argue that it was okay for her to use the word rape because we use the word slut. We understand and respect that there are legitimate arguments against reclaiming words like slut, but we don't think that's really comparable to making inappropriate comments about rape. But no matter which way she meant it, we quickly realized that we weren't going to have any kind of productive conversation with her about it. (At the same time that this was happening, someone else also replied to her and jokingly said that they didn't see what "penetrative and oral sex" had to do with parking, and her reply was "$13 is outrageous at emergency".) We decided to just unfollow her and drop it, so we replied one more time to tell her that we were unfollowing and why.


As far as we were concerned it was over at that point. We were going to unfollow her and figured that she would probably unfollow us too. Well, it turns out that while we were writing that second (and last) reply to her, she not only unfollowed us but also blocked us. This seemed a little excessive to us considering that we had only tweeted at her once at that point. It's not like we had gone on some 50 tweet long 'angry feminist' rant or tried to give her a lecture on Rape Culture 101 and she had to block us to shut us up. In fact, it turned out that she was the one who wasn't done discussing it (read up from the bottom):



Ah, the good old "PC Police" argument. It seems a little weird in this context, though. It's not like we were talking to her about cultural appropriation or some other 'liberal cause'. We were asking her not to compare something as serious as rape to something as trivial as the price of parking. That doesn't seem like a massive stretch of the boundaries of political correctness.

She still wasn't done. In fact, the next tweet was so long that it needed help from TwitLonger:




Like we said above, we understand that some people are going to find our name offensive and that's fine. (Although again, we object to the idea that it's offensive in the same way that using the word rape can be offensive.) But it's kind of funny that it apparently didn't bother her when she followed us on Twitter in the first place, and is only a problem now because we called out something that she said. It's also a little problematic to tell someone who complained about a rape-related comment to "get fucked".

At this point the other guy who had commented on her original tweet made the mistake of trying to defend us a little bit and got a multi-tweet answer for his trouble:





It's interesting to us that she kept insisting that we were "policing" her or "forcing our ideas" on her because we tweeted at her once and politely asked that she not make light of rape. And that's exactly what she was doing even though she claims she wasn't - comparing rape to something as inconsequential as paying 13 bucks at a parking garage is pretty much the definition of making light of rape. We're also confused by her comment that "nobody minds" jokes about Jews - actually we do mind, and so do a lot of other people, and if we saw an anti-Semitic joke in our Twitter stream we would call that out too. It just seemed like a strange defense to us to say that other kinds of offensive jokes are tolerated by some people so rape jokes should be too.

She continued to reference the incident while talking to other people about totally unrelated topics, saying things like "just my humble uneducated opinion...in case anyone wanted to jump in and PC the convo" and "Rent is this city is ridiculous (don't compare it to any kind of sexual act though) #eyeroll". (Rape is NOT a "sexual act"!) We never tried to tweet at her again after our second tweet and we also didn't reference it on our twitter again in any way. To us her reaction seems like a case of protesting too much, but obviously we're biased.

We feel like what we said must have affected her since she kept talking and talking and talking about it. In fact, we might not have addressed this at all if she hadn't reacted so strongly and gone on at such length about her right to make rape jokes on Twitter. But we're curious about what other people think and if anyone else has experienced something like this. Was she right that we should have just quietly unfollowed her without saying anything? How do you handle it when you hear someone making rape jokes (or jokes that are racist, homophobic, etc.) or comments that make light of rape? We'd love to hear some feedback on this one.

November 8, 2011

Cosmo's Editor Kate White Doesn't Understand Consent

Last month we wrote about a really problematic piece of advice printed in Cosmopolitan magazine (written by Cosmo's resident douchebag "guy guru" Ky Henderson). In the "Ask Him Anything" column, Henderson proved that he has no clue about what is or isn't consensual sex by giving some really terrible, harmful advice to a woman who complained that her boyfriend would initiate sex while she was asleep even if she had already said no. Henderson's response not only dismissed his behavior as evidence of something "good" ("he is a dude" and "he thinks your hot") but he actually went as far as to insist that she make sure not to act "as though he's doing something wrong". He also suggested that she initiate more spontaneous sex to keep him happy.

As we explained in our original blog, there is so much wrong with this advice - it is not only offensive, but dangerous - because it never properly addresses the issue of consent. Her boyfriend's behavior is wrong and inappropriate because 1) he is trying to initiate sexual activity with her when she is not in a position to consent because she is asleep and 2) she has already said no to any sexual activity in that situation and he is persisting anyway. This isn't happening because "he's a dude" but because 1) he's not respecting his girlfriend's boundaries and not listening when she says no and 2) he apparently doesn't understand how consent works anymore than Henderson does.

We tweeted many many times to Cosmo (and to Ky Henderson directly) about how dangerous this advice is and requested an apology and a correction. We received no response. Then we tweeted to Cosmo's editor Kate White directly, asking her to "correct & apologize for this harmful advice":

That was on October 19. Finally today (November 8 - how prompt) Kate White responded with possibly the least useful apology that we could have even imagined. She wrote "I’m sorry if the line was offensive. The author was being facetious."



What? What is she even talking about? Which line does she think we were offended by? (How about all of them!) And since when is "being facetious" an excuse for condoning non-consensual sexual activity. It isn't. There's nothing funny or "facetious" about it.

Apparently Cosmo's own editor doesn't understand consent either. (Or apologies for that matter. The "sorry you're offended" apologies are the most meaningless.) So maybe we need to teach her a lesson about it...

Contact Cosmo and tell them that non-consensual sex isn't funny, isn't okay and isn't good advice. Demand an apology (a real one - and a public one at that) and a correction.

To submit a comment to Cosmo:
http://Cosmopolitan.com/contribute/magazine/appear-in/this-months-issue


To contact Cosmo on Twitter: 
@CosmoOnline
@KateMWhite

November 7, 2011

Obligation Sex: Is Trading Sex for Favors Okay?

For some reason, why women have sex seems to be a hot-topic issue right now. Within only a few days, I came across two separate pieces that address the issue of women having sex for reasons other than enjoyment. (Can you imagine the media or the scientific community ever devoting  time to why men have sex? It's pretty much a given that men have sex because they want to have sex and there's only really attention given to ways to make that easier for them, such as Viagra).

First, the other day I came across a tiny little survey piece in the October 2011 issue of Redbook, debating whether it was ever okay to trade sex for favors:
IS TRADING SEX FOR FAVORS EVER OKAY?

In a recent poll, 68 percent of REDBOOK readers said they've offered the goodies in return for a good deed from him. The rest of you said it's wrong. Both sides sound off:

WHY NOT?

"Sometimes I want sex and I want ice cream, and sex is a good incentive. Either way, we both win!" -- Danielle Blue, Kalamazoo, MI

"I once lifted up my shirt and said, 'Do you ever want to see them again?' so he would vacuum for me. He said he'd do anything I wanted!" -- Anne Travis, Manchester, TN

NO WAY

"That's off-limits for us. Otherwise, you can expect your husband to demand sex in return for doing nice things. No, thank you!" -- Diana Brown, Houston

"Sexual favors are a special treat - I don't want to change, and he should know that I'm doing something for him because I want to." -- Carolyn Canales, Arlington, TX
I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I do agree that women should be having sex because they want to, not out of some obligation. But on the other hand, I support sex workers' rights and find nothing "morally" wrong with trading sex for money or favors. (Readers: I'd love to hear your opinions on the subject.)

Mostly, I feel like it isn't right for anyone else to tell you how to handle your own sexual activity.

Also, although they technically gave both "sides" of the debate, even the "Why Not?" side seemed to be strictly within the confines of a relationship - trading sex for ice cream and vacuuming isn't exactly as controversial as some of the other stuff women might trade sex for, so the whole thing came off kind of slut-shamey in a passive-aggressive roundabout way.

In a moment of synchronicity, I received a press releasae today from HealthyWomen.org titled "New Survey Reveals Women Having Sex for Obligation Not Enjoyment". It cited a recent WomenTALK survey done by the National Women's Health Group and EmpowerHER.

From the press release:
Naomi Greenblatt, MD, a board certified psychiatrist specializing in women’s health, said the WomenTALK data aligns with her clinical work in the field.

"There seems to be a growing trend in women having sex for obligation, not enjoyment purposes, "Dr. Greenblatt said.  "Women say there are only 24 hours in the day, and they simply are not prioritizing sex."
However, upon reading the actual findings of the study, I didn't really come to the conclusion that women were having sex out of obligation. Among the findings:
  • 51% of women believe engaging in sexual activity a few times a week is considered "sexually healthy" but only 30% actually engage in sexual activity at this level.
  • 76% of women in committed relations are very happy with their relationships but only 33% of women are extremely or very satisfied with their sex life. (39% are "somewhat or not at all" satisfied.)
  • 41% of women said they are engaging in sexual activity less often than they would like (citing reasons such as being too tired - 32%; not having a partner - 31%, being too stressed -23%; being insecure about their body - 22%; lack of desire - 20%).
I'm not sure how they came to the conclusion that this means women are having sex out of obligation. Most of the women surveyed seem to be having sex less often than they want. Women don't seem to be prioritizing sex and don't seem to be fully aware of all the health and relationship benefits sex can bring... but there's no reason to believe that they're having sex for the "wrong" reasons. If anything, they're not having sex for the wrong reasons. (Not that there are ever really any "wrong" reasons to make a personal choice about what to do with your own body, but you know what we mean.)

So readers, weigh in on the "sex for favors" debate in the comments but please refrain from slut-shaming if possible. (There's a difference between saying you would never do something and suggesting that it's wrong for someone else to do it.)

Hey AFA: You don't know shit about your own holiday

Personally I think it's a little early to be talking about Christmas, but the American Family Association has already started sending out action alerts about the so-called "War on Christmas", naming companies that allegedly don't "recognize Christmas" on their websites and in their advertising. (Of course, this is extra of ridiculous because they started in October when most stores hadn't even started advertising their holiday sales in the first place.)

The AFA's favorite argument for why stores must mention Christmas (and only Christmas) is because it is such a special and important holiday and way better than any other holiday ever. Saying "happy holidays" or - gasp - acknowledging Christmas alongside "lesser" holidays like Chanukah, Kwanza or Yule/Solstice is blasphemous because it doesn't pay recognition to Jesus. And what better way to honor our savior than by shopping? (But only in stores that decorate in red and green and use the "C" word!)

Since the AFA won't stand for anything at Christmas time that isn't CHRISTMAS (and gets especially pissy if you dare acknowledge anything pagan-based), we thought we'd would just remind everyone what their so-called "Christmas" is really about. They're right - it's about Jesus Christ. Only it's not. But yet it is.

I don't know if these geniuses over at the AFA think that Santa and the reindeer and evergreen trees covered in lights were actually in the Bible, but the truth is, Christmas as we know it today has very little to do with the birth of Christ. Much of it was "borrowed" from pagan celebrations and some of it is just commercialized made-up stuff. So what's the big deal if a retailer doesn't go Christmas-crazy?

So we thought we'd remind the AFA exactly what they're complaining about by listing some of the "Christmas traditions" that likely came from earlier pagan traditions.

  • December 25
The date of Jesus's Nativity is never actually mentioned in the Bible. What did always take place during that time of the year was the Winter Solstice. There were a lot of ancient holidays associated with the Solstice that paid homage to various "sun" deities, including Sol Invictus and Saturnalia. Sol Invictus ("Invincible Sun") was the official sun god of the Roman empire and was the focus of a festival on December 25 to celebrate the "birthday" of the Sun. Saturnalia was a major holiday for the ancient Romans and paid homage to the god Saturn. Celebrations involved feasting, drinking, gift-giving and the lighting of candles. (December 25 was also the date of the birth of Mithras, the Iranian sun god. There are a lot of similarities between Mitras and Jesus.)

In the 4th century CE, in an attempt to convert the pagan masses to Christianity, Christian leaders adopted many of the traditions of Saturnalia for Christmas and named the last day as Jesus's birthday. Yule was a Germanic pagan winter festival that was also equated with Christmas once the Christian calendar was adopted. Various scholars have suggested that Jesus' actual birth date may have been closer to September or April, but no one knows for sure. One thing we can be sure of, is that it likely wasn't December 25th at all.
  • Exchange of Gifts 
The main focus of the AFA's campaign is about retailers honoring Christmas because gift-giving is what Christmas is all about. The claim is that it represents the gifts that the three wise men gave in honor of Jesus's birth but the truth is, exchanging gifts wasn't a tradition associated with Jesus until at least the 4th century. In pre-Christian Rome, it was a Saturnalia tradition to give gifts and it didn't become a Christmas tradition until Jesus's birthday was moved to December. The Catholic Church later associated this with the gift-giving of Saint Nicholas.
  • Candlelight Services
Candlelight services for Christmas Eve also originated from paganism. Pagans often lit candles to celebrate the holidays associated with the Winter Solstice (the shortest and darkest day of the year).
  • The Evergreen Tree
For a long time, many pagan cults worshiped trees and sometimes decorated them. Often clippings of evergreen trees were used to decorate the home during the Solstice in ancient Greece, Rome and Eastern Europe. (In Egypt palm trees were used.) Because the trees stayed green throughout the winter, they represented eternal life. These pagan cults were recruited to Christianity when the Church co-opted the tradition of decorating trees for Christmas.
  • Mistletoe and Holly
Years before Jesus was born, mistletoe was used by the Druids to decorate their homes in the Winter. They believed that it had special powers of healing and fertility. Scandinavians associated the plant with their goddess of love which may have inspired the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. The early Christian church replaced mistletoe with holly, but it is still a custom today to kiss under the mistletoe.
  • Yule Log 
 This is one tradition that they didn't even bother renaming... It is obviously derived from Yule solstice celebrations. The Yule log was burned in the hearth as part of the traditional Yule celebrations in several European cultures.
  • Christmas Ham
The tradition of cooking a Christmas Ham was derived from the tradition of the Yule boar. The "sonargoltr" was a boar sacrificed as a tribute to the god associated with boars, harvest and fertility, as part of the Yule celebration in Germanic paganism. This eventually evolved into the tradition of eating a Yule ham or Christmas ham. Often the Catholic Church used the ham as a test of those who converted from Judaism. Authentic converts would enjoy the ham without issue, while non-truthful converts would decline to eat the non-kosher meal.
  • Caroling and Wassailing
The practice of singing Christmas carols from door to door was likely derived from Winter Solstice celebrations as well. The Anglo-Saxon tradition of "wassailing" predates the celebration of Christmas in old England and in ancient Rome there were groups of costume singers and dancers called Mummers who traveled from house to house entertaining the neighbors. These were likely the precurser to Christmas carols. 
  • "X-mas"

    The AFA really hate the abbreviation "X-mas" but it might actually be the only Christmas tradition that actually does have to do with Christ. Yep, that's right. All that "Keep the Christ in Christmas" complaining about X-mas is totally misguided.

    It is a common misconception that "X-mas" is a modern attempt at taking away the religious aspect of Christmas, but the truth is that "X" stands for Christ. The Greek word for Christ is Χριστός (Xristos) meaning "savior". Legend has it that Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity because he had a vision of the Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P) intertwined - the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ - so the letters "XP" or just "X" was often used to stand in for "Christ". It became popular to use "X-mas" as shorthand back in the 16th century.


    So there AFA! If you're going to tell other people how to celebrate Christmas, then maybe you should take a look at the way you celebrate first. Because you're basically celebrating a pagan holiday and pretending that it has anything to do with Jesus, even though it doesn't. (Note: We're not saying there's anything wrong with the way that people celebrate Christmas. Just that it's completely ridiculous for the AFA to boycott businesses for not acknowledging Christmas in the ways that they see fit without having any knowledge of where their holiday traditions actually came from.)

    November 3, 2011

    Keep Raising A Stink In November With Breast Cancer Action

    Breast Cancer Awareness Month is officially over now, which means that the pinkwashing is starting to die down, and we won't be seeing as many products plastered with pink ribbons on our store shelves.

    But that doesn't mean the opportunity to take action is over. I actually think this is a good time to contact companies or organizations and give them feedback on their Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaigns. Something like this (just pick and choose whatever applies):
    Dear Company/Organization,

    I didn't buy your pink product/participate in your campaign this October because you didn't clearly explain where the money was going or what it would be used for/you were only donating two cents per item/your contribution is capped so I have no way of knowing if my purchase is actually adding to the donation/you were giving the money to an organization that spends more on cocktail parties and executive salaries than real activism/you weren't actually making a donation or doing anything but slapping a pink ribbon on your product to "raise awareness"/the Attorney General told me not to/your pink product contains ingredients that may actually cause cancer. Please do better next year.

    This year, Breast Cancer Action's anti-pinkwashing campaign is called Raise A Stink, and the target is Susan G. Komen for the Cure's new perfume:
    Pinkwashing has reached a new low this year with “Promise Me,” a perfume commissioned by the giant of the breast cancer movement, Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Promise Me contains chemicals not listed in the ingredients that: (a) are regulated as toxic and hazardous, (b) have not been adequately evaluated for human safety, and (c) have demonstrated negative health effects.

    Two chemicals of primary concern in Promise Me include Galaxolide and Toluene:

    * Galaxolide is a synthetic musk that works as a hormone disruptor and has been detected in blood, breast milk, and even newborns.
    * Toluene is a potent neurotoxicant linked to a variety of demonstrated negative health effects and is widely known as one of the toxic trio. Toluene is banned by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA).
    Breast Cancer Action has also done the math and determined that the manufacturer of the perfume is donating only $7.97 per $59 bottle to Komen, and they estimate that only about $1.50 per bottle will actually go towards research. They are asking people to join them in sending a message to Komen asking them to recall the perfume and stop engaging in pinkwashing.

    Did you see any particularly ridiculous examples of pinkwashing this October? Let us know in the comments and, more importantly, let the companies know how you feel about it.

    November 1, 2011

    Geisha Girls and Indian Princesses

    Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain, Happy All Saints Day and Happy All Souls Day! Hope everyone didn't OD on candy last night...

    We saw a lot of questionable costumes this week, so we wanted to make a quick note about that. We already wrote about the whole "sexy _____" phenomenon, but we also wanted to quickly address some issues of race and culture. Earlier this month we had come across an online conversation about Halloween costumes and were surprised by some of the comments made. The question was whether or not costumes like 'geisha', 'senorita' or 'Indian princess' were inappropriate.We were surprised by the amount of people who not only didn't find these costumes to be inappropriate, but didn't even understand why others might potentially find them offensive. (What was not that surprising was that the majority of people commenting that there was nothing wrong with the costumes were white. Shocker.)

    Here is just a sampling of our "favorite" comments:
    I say go for it, "dress up" is about being something different than what you are. Weather that be a dream occupation, a different gender, or race.


    I just think of them as a way to celebrate a heritage...not really any different than a cowboy costume.


    What I am reading is making me a little upset. What I think I'm reading from some of you is that pretending to be someone you're not can be racist? What if you're pretending to be a Native American in a school play? Is that so different from Halloween?

    I am offended by very few costumes. Every culture, genre, gender etc can have a silly side.

    A costume is just a costume. It doesn't 'make' you behave or think any particular way. Witches or zombies included.
    We were kind of shocked. We know that not everyone will automatically understand why costumes like these are potentially offensive, but the "it's just Halloween and therefore nothing can be offensive" people can be annoying, because they refuse to accept it, even when confronted with the reasons why.




    So we thought maybe it was time to "remind" people one more time why certain costumes are at best - culturally insensitive and at worst - racist. The best way we can think to do that is to pass on these images from Ohio University's S.T.A.R.S. group ("Students Teaching About Racism in Society"). Yes, these have been reposted on a lot in the last few weeks, but we felt it was important to show them one more time because they are just that good.

     
     
     
     

    Basically these kinds of costumes are offensive for two reasons: One, it's misappropriating a part of someone else's culture and two, it's representing a stereotype of that culture or race. People who benefit from white privilege may think it's okay to dress up as someone more "exotic" for your own holiday amusement, but costumes that poke fun at another race or culture, reinforce a stereotype about that race or culture, or perpetuate racism are not okay.

    Hopefully most people can understand why "illegal Alien" and "Muslim terrorist" costumes are offensive (most people) but certain costume choices have been around for a long time and often go unchallenged, even by the most well-intentioned. Possibly two of the most widespread costumes that really irk me the most are the Indian Princess/Pocahottie and the Geisha/China Doll (and their countless variations). The reason why these particularly bother me is two-fold:

    First off, they are not only based on stereotypes, but vast blanket stereotypes. "Native American" encompasses hundreds of different indigegnous tribes and "Asian" can refer to so many different, dissimilar countries and cultures... however as a costume they are somehow simplistically condensed into the same general looks. For the "Asian Princesses" and "Geisha Girls" it's all (fake) silk and floral prints; for the "Indian Princesses" and "Tribal Hottie" costumes it's (fake) suede with fringe and feathers. Both depictions are rather insulting and far from historically accurate.

    Secondly, both costumes are almost always highly sexualized - which actually sexualizes entire groups of women.


    A Native American woman is 2.5 times more likely to be raped and/or sexually assaulted than other women in the U.S. The fact that these women are stereotypically portrayed as sexy Indians is disturbing on many levels. The fact that Pocahontas specifically is singled out for sexy costumes just adds another layer of "wrongness"... The myth of Pocahontas did not go down the way the Disney movie implies. If the story actually happened at all, Pocahontas would have been 10 or 11 at the time that she alleged saved John Smith's life, so a sexualized Pocahontas is a costume that sexualizes a child. The real Pocahontas was later kidnapped by the English at the age of 17 and was only released when she "agreed" to marry an older widower. Yet another aspect of her story that makes her portrayal and a sexualized costume rub me the wrong way.
     
    As for the "Asian" costumes... people will often make the argument that the sexualization of a geisha costume isn't wrong because the geisha were basically prostitutes. This is a misconception. The role of the geisha was far different than that of a courtesan; she was an entertainer. (Yes, it is possible that some geisha did engage in some acts of prostitution, but that wasn't what the geisha were. See the distinction?) Furthermore, the authentic geisha outfits rarely look anything like the way they are portrayed in Halloween costumes today.

    Take a look at the way Yandy.com portrays both of these racist caricatures. (That's not to single them out. You can find the same costumes - or similar/equally offensive costumes - on almost any costume site. They're just usually our "go to" for this sort of thing because they have such a large selection of items.)

    A random sampling under the category of geisha costumes:

    Left: "Sexy Geisha", Right: "Geisha Beauty to Ninja Cutie" 

    (In the second one, they actually managed to fit two antiquated, inaccurate Japanese stereotypes into one costume.)

     
    Left: "Japanese Doll", Right: "Tokyo-A-Go-Go".

     Left: "China Doll", Right: "Beijing Babe"

    (Neither of those is even remotely a geisha costume, seeing as geisha were Japanese and these are both "Chinese", sort of.)

    Left: simply "Sexy Asian", Right: "Chinese Takeout".

    (Words fail me on that last one. I just... I just can't.)

    And now for a more authentic look at what a traditional geisha may have worn:



    A random sampling under the category of Indian costumes:

     
    Left: "Indian Diva", Right: "Pow Wow Princess".

    Left: "Sexy Pocahontas", Right: "Igloo Cutie" .

    Left: "Makin Reservations Indian", Right: "Burlesque With No Reservations".

    (Oh those puns are just hilarious.)

    Left: "Tribal Trouble", Right: "Tribal Vibe".


     
    Left: ""Indian Huntress", Right: "Indian Warrior".

    (I know that's exactly what I'd wear if I was a huntress or warrior. Totally practical.)

    And now for some traditional Native American attire:

    Left: Portrait of a Puebloan woman believed to be circa 1900,
    Right: "Ghost Shirt" similar to that worn by the Lakota-Sioux for the Ghost Dance.

    I could go on and on with various offensive costumes from many different cultures, but I'll stop with these two because I think (hope) you must understand what I'm getting at by now. It doesn't make you a bad person or inherently racist if you've worn a culturally insensitive costume in the past (even as far "past" as last night) but that doesn't mean it's totally fine to wear whatever you want because you may very well be hurting someone else. Or you might be perpetuating a stereotype that is not only false but damaging

    When someone (especially someone from the culture you're dressing up as) points out that your costume is offensive, don't tell them that they're wrong or oversensitive. Take it as a learning moment and do better next year. But for now, you can go buy some half-priced candy and eat til you're sick.