My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Monday, 21 October 2013

Goth Hallowe'en Costumes



We are a subculture, not a costume.
It is not acceptable to dress up as a terrorist Muslim, it is not acceptable to dress up as a 'Squaw' (that word, by the way, is an insult to Native North American women) and it is not acceptable to dress up as a Chinese person with taped eyes and a coolie hat because these are all reducing groups of people to flat and sexualised or negative stereotypes and perpetuating those stereotypes. 

It's not acceptable to dress up in a skimpy 'Goth' costume with a bad wig, white face-paint and cheap plastic 'collar'. 

'Goth' costumes often present a sexualised (sexy-fied) stereotype of Goth, and one that errs on the 'Goths are people who think they are vampires' and 'Goths are slutty and into kinky sex' stereotypes a bit too much for comfort. There are also those who, like those who wear the racial stereotype costumes, wear them to mock those stereotypes, people who wear Goth costumes in a way that deliberately mock what they think Goths are. THAT really annoys me. 

I live the Goth subculture 24 hours a day; even my dreams run to the same aesthetic as everything else I do, even my work clothes err on the Gothic. I have Joy Division and Dead Can Dance on my headphones when I sit on the bus. I have spider-web loo-roll and black plates. To say I am passionate about my subculture is a bit of an understatement, and to know people use Hallowe'en as an excuse to mock us is... well irritating to say the least. Especially when Hallowe'en is often quite dear to Goths. 

Now, wearing a Goth outfit at Halloween isn't inherently inappropriate. I've actually helped a friend put together a proper Goth outfit at Halloween, but it consisted of clothes that would actually be considered Goth (from her wardrobe and mine) rather than a tacky and cheaply-made, store-bought costume, and she wore Goth makeup rather than white and black face-paint. Her intention was not to mock Goths, her outfit was based on what is authentically Goth in consultation with a Goth, and she wore her outfit as an opportunity to explore a different way of looking for a night. Yes, the idea that it can still be considered a 'costume' could still be grating to some, as to her it was something different to wear for a night and not a form of expressing her permanent inner self and subcultural affiliation, but I don't think that this was not done in any  malevolence and what she wore was actually Goth and not a tawdry parody of Goth.

I know we are not actually 'scary', but a lot of Halloween costumes these days are not based around spooks and ghouls - yes vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies are always popular, but I see people dressed up as nurses, ladybugs, bananas, super-heroes, etc. A costume that is trying portray Goths as a scary entity alongside the zombies, vampires, serial killers and monsters is not appropriate and perpetuates negative stereotypes, whereas a costume that portrays Goth as just a different look is not a problem. Goths often find inspiration in the stories of ghosts, vampires, werewolves and other supernatural horrors, but it does not mean we believe ourselves to be like them, or that we ourselves are dangerous. Our aesthetic often draws from the artwork and cinema surrounding such mythology, and our tendency to seek beauty in dark places does mean many of us particularly enjoy Hallowe'en as a festival of spooks, death, monsters, etc. 

Some of us may celebrate Samhain on the same day, a Pagan holy day, not because it is the Goth thing to do, but because there is significant overlap between the Pagan and Goth communities. 

Note for non-Goths: It is not funny, cute, or amusing to ask, and even ruder to shout, "It's not Hallowe'en yet!" at a Goth, or  "Hallowe'en was last week/month" at them. We know,  this is who we are every day, and you are mocking us. Even the politest Goths get tetchy when they field this supposed 'joke' endlessly.You look like a rude and unimaginative idiot, and not even the slightest bit funny when you crack these 'jokes'. 

I am aware that a lot of this is literally cut and paste from an earlier post I made on subcultural appropriation back in March, but I felt that this point would need repeating nearer Halloween itself, when those searching 'Goth Halloween Costume' may come across it. I did elaborate on it, too, so for those who read the previous version of this post, there are new bits to stop you getting too bored! 

12 comments:

  1. I'm sorry but I find comparing the Gothic subculture (something you can choose to be a part of) to people's race (something that cannot be chosen) incredibly problematic.
    Halloween Goths are awkward and embarrassing yes, but trying to compare them to a racist caricature of a Native American is far more embarrassing and itself also pretty racist.

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    1. Religion is also choice - for example being Muslim. You get converts to Islam, and converts from Islam, and I mentioned that too.

      I chose the racist examples because most people are familiar with the concept of racism being wrong, or generally making fun of people for the way they are born is wrong (for example homosexuality and disability), and while more and more people are getting their heads around the concept that people are allowed to make alternative life choices (religion, for example), this is still less obvious territory. This is why people still point out how homosexuality, bisexuality, etc. is innate as a way to counter homophobes - the old order still looks down on people for choosing differently than the majority, but forgives those who can't help it. In order to pick any lifestyle or religion, or even sense of dress that goes outside the norm, you have to be brave enough to defy convention, which can mean anything from being beaten up at school for being weird to being killed for apostasy.

      Or for that matter, beaten to death by a bunch of teenage drunks for being a "mosher" "weirdo" and "freak".

      I picked these examples as I presumed they would be pretty familiar and evident to the majority as poor choices for Halloween costume, things people would see as /obviously/ wrong, and already have some idea about why they are wrong and could upset people. They are comparable as they are both portraying inaccurate and negative stereotypes, mocking caricatures of entire groups of people - that is the 'wrong thing' being done in both instances; the mechanism by which they offend and contribute to hatred. Yes, in our case it is not insult piled on top of genocide (as with Native Americans), I am aware of that, but it is still the same underlying mechanism.

      Racism is a much older and prevalent issue, and I won't contest that, but while you can't choose to change race (well, there are means to alter the appearance of race, just look at Michael Jackson, but that's not the point), and you can choose to change your lifestyle (whether that's a religious one or a subcultural one) that doesn't mean prejudice against the latter is somehow right or lesser. Just because the person could have chosen to not be a Goth, or not be Christian, or not be whatever it is they were harassed or attacked over does not change that the harassment or attack is unfair and wrong - to suggest otherwise is to shift the blame for the attack onto the victim, who has not actually done anything immoral, rather than the people who hurt them. Hatred is hatred, and when people get killed and beaten over it, it's worth pointing out things that contribute to that hatred.

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    2. I understand where you are coming from, especially with the hate towards alternative people sometimes being so similar to racism, such as what happened to Sophie Lancaster. As a very white looking person of mixed race, I have rarely heard a negative comment on my race, but I have been discriminated for the way I dress and the feeling with both is very similar. And I know it sounds like a cliche, but I can't help my dark leanings anymore than I can change my race.

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  2. I like your viewpoint. I do not have the money currently to upgrade my goth wardrobe but when I see short skirts made of leather and bondage clothing, it makes me disappointed and less likely to enjoy Halloween.

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    1. I am really going to have to post about being a Goth on a tiny budget... All my earnings go into rent, food, those sorts of important things; I have little to spare for even repairing clothes and shoes I need, let alone the fancier things. While there has been a link between Goth and the S&M community since the days of the Punk-to-Goth transition acts like Siouxsie & The Banshees, this aspect has been used to sensationalise and sexualise the whole subculture - supposedly "evidence" that we are slutty, or sexually depraved, or whatnot. It's one of my pet peeves as I am generally into being covered up, am decidedly monogamous and dislike the sexual objectification of Goth girls on feminist grounds, too.

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  3. I'm not much for wearing costumes. So, when Halloween comes around, I pretty much go out looking like I always do--Goth!

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    1. I'm quite the opposite. I had three costumes lined up this Halloween, but I only got to use two.

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  4. I agree with this so strongly! Especially how we find inspiration and beauty in a dark aesthetic but are mocked or feared or sexualised from the outside of the culture.

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  5. I really like that you made the distinction between "Goth costumes" and wearing "Goth fashion" for a night - because there IS a distinct difference. It's definitely one thing to be a mocking caricature of a group of people and to use Halloween to maybe explore another side of yourself that you might not otherwise feel comfortable or have the leeway to do.

    I'm all for people using Halloween to explore their darker sides but it should always be a genuine effort to appreciate and understand, not to mock or belittle.

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    1. I felt it was an important distinction to make - we're not a closed community and should be quite the opposite. It's perfectly OK for people to experiment and explore different aspects of themselves, especially as if they like it, they might stay!

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  6. Your posts are never boring, always informative and to the point. PS Happy Samhain

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    1. I don't like repeating myself on the same platform.

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