9 Classist Halloween Themes to Think Twice About

I’ve been glad to see so much recent coverage exposing the cultural appropriation, racism and sexism inherent in so many Halloween costumes. Students at Ohio University have built a great campaign called “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume,” that highlights real people whose cultures are caricatured around Halloween. And one of my favorite YouTube videos by the NYC duo, EmotiStyle is titled Things You Can Be On Halloween Besides Naked. This year, I wanted to add a complementary list of classist costumes. A few quick Google search made this task all too easy. (Warning: Heavy sarcasm ahead).

1. Hobo

hobo2 hobo1

Awwww. Look at these cute little happy hobos. Apparently parents all over think it’s adorable to outfit their child with her/his basic human needs (shelter, food, etc.) unmet. One doting parent gushes, “This is our little hobo. She is complete with her own shopping cart. She has gotten lots of laughs at the holiday parties and the Halloween parade.” This is, of course, so precious, because millions of people without homes is hilarious, and also something every mother hopes her child will grow up to achieve some day.

2. Homeless Parties

homeless party

Maybe those little hobo kids grow up to enjoy dabbling in homelessness a little too much. And then they throw terribly classist costume parties like this one that Jezebel exposed. Yes, the economy is bad for college graduates these days, but come on.

3. Rednecks and Hillbillies


And just a step up from homelessness is apparently hillbilly-ness and rednecks. These days, the USA can’t get enough of their hillbilly reality shows. This “Hillbilly Bride” costume, courtesy of Sears, comes complete with an inflatable pregnant belly, but the teeth are sold separate (see #4.). No shoes necessary with this costume – get it? Barefoot and pregnant? Isn’t that funny? And check out this redneck guy! Complete with a mudflap girl, corncob pipe and a space worn thin on his overalls from his tobacco tin. Oh, and the I Heart Rednecks badge that every gun-toting, fishing guy in rural America doesn’t leave home without. No doubt you have, and will continue, to meet these folks at Halloween parties. They are usually (acting?) intoxicated, look at the size of that flask! And the person who dons this costume is usually very obnoxious – because city folk, wealthy and middle class suburbanites are never obnoxious.

4. Hillbilly Teeth


Isn’t it hilarious when people can’t afford basic healthcare that includes dental? And it causes them to talk funny, and say “teef” instead? In the world of Hollywood dental perfection (where most have spent thousands of dollars to get cosmetic implants), teeth are an unmistakable class indicator. And one that’s not easy to hide. And with millions of poor and rural folks in the South (and elsewhere) left behind because their states chose to reject the Affordable Care Act, we can continue to carry on this hillbilly teeth mockery.

5. Jersey Shore

jersey shore

Ahhh, the Jersey Shore not-so-distant, less-rural cousins of the hillbilly. Everybody loves to make fun of the Italian “White Trash” stereotype. (For more on the racist roots of “White Trash,” see #7). They are as loud, drunk and obnoxious as their country brethren, eight? Read more about the classism of Jersey Shore on our blog here. More costumes courtesy of Jezebel here.

6. Plus Sized Plumber


Oh man. Aren’t fat plumbers funny? And dumb? And especially funny when they are a little overweight? Actually, every time I’ve had to enlist the help of a plumber I have found them to be very knowledgeable, helping to solve some plumbing crisis in my apartment that kept crap from spewing back into my abode. I’m sure they’d love to see this costume hanging on your bathroom door when trying to help you out. You know what might be funny? If there were no plumbers at all. Think about that for 30 seconds. And lest we forget the words of John W. Gardner, “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” Way to be classist (and sizeist).

 7. White Trash/Redneck/Trailer Park Parties


Many partiers choose to bring the previous four together for a White Trash Bash. Seriously – just search Pinterest for “White Trash Bash,” and there are is no shortage of offensive tips and ideas. There’s even an Amazon playlist! One listserve points out how hilarious stuff in the yard is, and to consider attaching toilet paper to the invitations as a nice touch.

WTBBecause poor, rural folk are so uncivilized, ya know? And I guess they write up their party invitations on the pot. Heck, they must live on the toilet. And the fact that we’re calling out their race implies that anybody who is not white is trashy too. The only good thing about going to these parties is that you don’t have to feel like an a**hole for being a racist and classist jerk, because everybody else is too!

8. “Wigger”


To continue with the racist and classist dynamic duo found in the “white trash” label, I present to you the “wigger,” (on your costume store shelves as the “Tighty Whitey”). Isn’t it so funny when white suburban kids wear the same style clothes as urban kids of color? And really, it’s not racist if you replace the first letter of an abominable racial slur. Pictured above is a children’s costume, but don’t worry, the adult is available here.

9. Ghetto Costume


And finally, for the uncreative classist and racist Halloween party-goer. You can still mock poor people in urban communities with your simple basic “hilarious” t-shirt. Because ghetto insinuates that you are just too poor to afford a costume. Really?

10+. Others?

What do you think? Am I missing any here? Please let us know in the comments.

Anne Phillips is the executive director of Class Action. Halloween is her favorite holiday of all time, but she dreams of world where we can be clever and funny without being classist, racist, sexist, sizeist, ableist, etc.

first written in 2013; updated 2015

7 Responses

  1. Let’s not forget the equally offensive: maid costume (my grandmother was a domestic service person in several homes all her life and she never wore skimpy outfits that showed her bum while she cleaned.); the butler costume (Living in servitude to the wealthy–what a great idea); and the prostitute costume (yep, I want all little girls to see me pretend to be a sex worker.) The witch costume offends me greatly. I have wonderful friends who are in covens and don’t practice bad spells, nor do they have warts on their noses. And please remember that women who used herbs and other sources of spirituality to heal were tortured and burned as witches throughout history in many cultures. But here’s my last submission: The sleepy Mexican. I have never slept leaning up against a cactus while wearing a big hat and pajamas, I’m sure people in Mexico didn’t either. The muslin material used in clothing worn by some indigenous Mexican people was called “manta” and was prized for its versatility and craftsmanship. They were not pajamas. I could comment on Dia de los Muertos and how it’s been commercialized and gentrified, but hey, that’s for another blog post. Thanks for these examples, Anne.

  2. Becky Jeffers

    “If you really want to be a plumber, consider Super Mario.” Yes, because a fat, Italian, mustachioed plumber stomping on goombas is really any less classist, racist, or sizeist.

  3. Anne Phillips

    Good point, Becky! I jumped to considering a video game/cartoon character as a representation once removed from the actual person – but you’re totally right. Then there’s the whole feminist perspective of super mario…that could be another blog piece! I’ve updated the entry.

  4. Jake

    Yeah, this shit ain’t funny, it makes light of poverty and tries to pass it off as not only amusing but perfectly acceptable too.

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