Is it OK for Hallowe’en to be a spooky-faced event?

It was great to see Mind win an apology and donation from Asda and maybe Tesco after they complained about a ‘Mental Patient Fancy Dress Costume’ presumably intended for wearing at Hallowe’en but maybe at any time…

It seems to me important that the two offending items of clothing were both branded heavily in such a way that they deliberately pointed at and stigmatised people with mental health problems. As Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind rightly says, that goes way beyond the boundaries of acceptability.

That is very different from most of the ghoulish and scary face masks that are sold in the annual mini retail boom around Hallowe’en – none of them are branded as ‘let’s pick on people with scars, eye patches and asymmetry’. They don’t need to. Everyone accepts – unwittingly perhaps? – that this is the time of year when children dress up to scare the wits out of others… and if the face masks are extreme, they simply reflect the idea that skulls and skeletons are ghostly and scary.

Is this OK?

Every year, Changing Faces has a problem with Hallowe’en. We debate it but always end up concluding that whilst it is tiresome to have facial disfigurement associated with evil (again), we don’t want to be kill-joys – and actually some children with disfigurements find the whole event rather fun too, able to indulge themselves behind a mask without worrying.

Maybe we should stick to this line. What do you think?

Maybe there’s a role for social media in this? I rather liked the riposte that Mind planned: tweet your real face to Asda and Tesco…

Perhaps we should look around for particularly unpleasant masks and let the manufacturer and retailer know what it’s like to live with a real face with scars etc?

Please let me know where you stand… Thank you.

4 thoughts on “Is it OK for Hallowe’en to be a spooky-faced event?

  1. It was honestly never crossed my mind that Hallowe’en could offend those, like myself, have an unusual appearance whether that be scars or marks on their faces. It is a very interesting point.

    I can completely understand the whole issue around those in films who have scars are normally the ‘baddies’ but I do see the point about being a kill-joy.

    Afterall, not everyone dresses up in scary, scar faced, mutilated costumes. Cheerleaders, Mr Blobby, and clowns are not exactly scary (ok, clowns are debatable)


    Mental health service users/survivors took the lead in Asda/Tesco costumes going viral, I suggested free shopping for a day by way of apology and that the donation to Mind should be spent on people currently impacted by welfare reviews with no access to legal aid. I found the ebay ECT costume for children even more disturbing given in some parts of the world kids are given ECT and adults without a general anaesthetic and muscle relaxants which can result in fractured spines at the worst.

    Here’s an issue I’d like to flag up – Body Equality for people scarred through self-injury

    Her experiences are sadly not uncommon, within healthcare I’ve experienced the worst stigma of all, from being a curiosity to being stared at with demands to reveal ALL bodily scars in A&E, being questioned as to their origins 1 minute before having a general anaesthetic administered, through to diagnostic overshadowing of it impacting on clinical decisions because of the assumptions made. The consequences within healthcare are far reaching. Skin Camouflage practitioners I’ve come into contact with (in presentations to them) have commented on their own observation of specific discrimination against people scarred through self-injury. Ironically years ago when I applied to do skin camouflage training the course co-ordinator discriminated against me alleging that no hospital occupational health dept would allow me to run a clinic with medical history of self-harm. I never pursued my desire to become a practitioner because I couldn’t see the point in being trained by someone who didn’t want me there.
    The fact is, we have the right to wear our skin however it looks; no sleeves, short sleeves, creative dressing/accessories, skin camouflage or body art – Body Equality! I want to promote Body Equality for people scarred through injury – they are a part of us, our battle scars just like scars from surgery for cancer are visible testimony of surviving. Next time you meet someone scarred through self-injury tell them you respect their survival.

  3. I think the classic garb of ghosts, witches, skeletons,vampires etc are fine for Halloween. It is a safe, fun bit of imagination provoking scariness if handled properly (and I speak as a teacher and mother). But .. this trend to add in zombies, falling eyeballs, huge wounds and a lot of blood and gore is relatively recent. And I don’t like it. The craze for zombie walks in cities at a different time of year I find uncomfortable and distasteful. I have no disfigurement myself, but can imagine it could be more disturbing and have a potential variety of consequences for those who have.

  4. This is an interesting debate! You raise some interesting points. I think this is a pick-your-battles situation, as you mention. It reminds me of the PETA movement to stop people from keeping animals as pets…they may have a point, but the general consensus is not behind them, and pushing that campaign just hurts the support/donations they’ll get for their other campaigns.

    Not that we should marginalize movements simply because they’re currently unpopular ideas among the majority. But some activists fail to strategize, while the forces they’re working against you can bet, will not. Right now I think the best strategy for this conversation is to make it the subject of autumn conversations over cocktails, rather than launching some official campaign (which is, to some extent what you’ve done with this post…minus the cocktails!).

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