Sunday, February 28, 2021

Are These Purim Costumes Offensive?

Me and my creations, about thirty years ago
Like many people, I love seeing everyone dressed up for Purim. I've also always been passionate about dressing up myself. Little-known fact about me: As a child, after being convinced by others to give up on being a zoo director because it isn't a realistic job for a nice Jewish boy, I spent several years wanting to work in Jim Henson's Creature Shop, since I was obsessed with the Muppets and made lots of Muppet costumes. For several years, I would do a muppet-themed show for Purim.

Recently, though, it has turned out that some costumes which other people wear, I find very offensive, and some costumes that I think are perfectly fine, others find highly offensive!

One of my kids wanted to dress up this year as the coronavirus. I thought that this was in extraordinarily bad taste, and I nixed it. But apparently my view is not universally shared, because I saw lots of pictures of children dressed up as a coronavirus. Still, I'm pretty sure that this did not happen in any families where people died of coronavirus. And I think that it's an illustration of how people don't necessarily take it so seriously if it hasn't affected them personally - similar to how a certain vocal anti-vaxxer whose sister-in-law just died of covid said that it took her death for him to take covid seriously.

On the other hand, there were plenty of children in Israel happily dressed up in costumes that are apparently completely unacceptable in the United States. I saw numerous Native Americans, Chinese characters, Mexicans, Bedouin shepherds, and a few years back I myself dressed up as an African witch doctor, inspired by a genuine African witch doctor that I once met on a small island off the coast of Kenya. Most people here don't consider these costumes to be offensive cultural appropriation - and likewise, most people here would not object to non-Jews dressing up as rabbis.

But there was one dress-up I saw a video of which was extremely upsetting. It was a Yerushalmi cheder in which all the children were dressed up for a demonstration, complete with placards and blowing horns. Just like grown-ups! It was a tragic reflection of a society in which the only real activity that its members ever do is demonstrating.

Anyway, speaking of colorful ethnic characters, here's an interesting advertisement for a new documentary about how different religions view the animal kingdom:




23 comments:

  1. They cancelled the Muppets!? How were they offensive? I agree that purim costumes are not offensive. There is nothing wrong with the African witch doctor. It was just a costume.

    Mazel tov on the documentary. Where can one stream it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. In Lakewood: https://www.app.com/story/news/2021/02/28/lakewood-kids-blackface-black-lives-matter-garb-spark-purim-tiff/6860237002/

    A very biased article. Haman conjures images of Black lynchings? Really!?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, many chareidi Jews are unaware that seemingly innocent actions spark a backlash. If non-Jews are offended by something and its abandonment involves no infringement of halacha or minhag, Jews need to be sensitive enough to avoid chillul Hashem.
      The modern world views the hanging of effigies as primitive and hateful. That's enough reason not to do it.

      Delete
    2. I agree about afros and blackface, since that's a new thing. But I think hanging Haman effigies is an old practice (even if it's not a minhag), and we shouldn't let the non-Jews change our practices just because they happen to find them offensive or "primitive".

      One could easily imagine they might become offended by our black hats and jackets and old-style dress as evocative of "colonialism", or "plantation owners". Also, there is no reason in the world they should find Haman effigies offensive, instead they should educate themselves.

      Delete
    3. I suppose you have no trouble with people displaying the Ancient and honorable signs of the Othala Rune and the Sun Wheel either. That "conjures images of" murder and anti-semitism? Really?

      The hypocrisy is thick enough to cut with a knife

      Delete
    4. Eh, Tellner, hanging in effigy is a universal "insulting" thing. It was done in Europe, in the American colonies, and today in the Arab world. It was never used as a specifically directed insult.

      And I suppose if we were to find a tribe of people who have been living contiguously and use the othala rune and the swastika, and claim, "Why should we stop using our symbol just because someone else used it for evil?" they would have a valid argument. I don't know what the correct answer is in that situation, but I would feel for them.

      Delete
    5. Tellner, I too am very offended by the existence of crematoria for obvious reasons. I have petitioned my city to close all the crematoria, and that all non-Jews should bury their dead rather than cremating them, so as not to offend my sensibilities.

      Also, I have petitioned the Government of Japan to ban the display of swastikas as a religious symbols (which is ubiquitous in Bhuddist Temples in Japan) because it offends me.

      Delete
  3. In these days of ultra-Lefty sensitivities in the US, dressing up as an African witch doctor or a (Muslim) Bedouin would be taken as a great affront and sin to the hugely disjointed (anti-) cultural appropriation SJW intersectionality crowd.

    Personally, with huge corporations, like Coca Cola and Hasbro jumping on the “be less white” training programs, where simply having caucasian skin color automatically renders one racist, I’d be tempted to dress up in some way (maybe a Coke bottle with white, rather than brown soda) just to take a slap at this latest leftist absurdity.

    I guess one must be mindful of the streams of thought and cultural contexts of their own environs. Would it be wrong for a clearly very masculine guy to dress up as a woman in the US, with the transgender crowd calling the political shots?

    Probably the Muppets are the most benign and safest costumes to wear.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On Purim a few years ago I drove by a house, in a mostly frum neighborhood, that had an effigy of Haman literally hanging outside a second-story window. The face and hands were conspicuously black. Is that okay in your view? Is this not Chillul Hashem in some way?

      Delete
    2. I don't know Carol but I'm pretty sure she would be appalled by this. Surely you can see the difference between this case and what she wrote.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I can see it. I would hope that everyone who's posting here now would agree that a hanging effigy with black face and hands is thoroughly unacceptable, no matter what neighborhood you live in, and no matter what your "minhag" might be.

      Delete
    4. Coca cola is one thing, a person is another.

      Delete
  4. What if another kid dressed up as a syringe loaded with vaccine?

    ReplyDelete
  5. "It was a tragic reflection of a society in which the only real activity that its members ever do is demonstrating."

    Wow, that is quite the statement, oh my goodness. Have you completely lost your mind? Were you intoxicated when you wrote that? Do you really believe that the only real activity its members ever do is protest? I'm pretty horrified

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is sectarian bile. Come to this blog for insight into upset middle class smug entitlement.

      Delete
    2. Other than sit and learn, which the kids do already, so there is nothing to dress up to do. There is no fireman, policeman, doctor, businessman, etc. to try to dress up as - all of those are "other."

      Delete
  6. There wasa family in our shul who's kids were dressed up each purim as crusader knights !! I always thought that very peculiar

    ReplyDelete
  7. If a single one of those costumes relied on postal deliveries from outside your household, then what is offensive is the rank hypocrisy. You would have berated unvaccinated younger people for not getting the Coronavirus injections while your own deliveries created unnecessary risks to all the workers who facilitated these costumes. If you insist other people turn their lives upside down to minimise the risk of deaths practice what you preach.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you robbed a bank at gunpoint and shot all the tellers, then what is really offensive is how you come on to my blog and criticize me when you are a thief and a cold-blooded mass murderer. Practice what you preach!

      Delete
    2. And which particular coronavirus regulation have I breached by disagreeing with the ethical, moral and legal basis for those regulations. That's right, Rabbi Dr Slifkin. None.

      In not sure how you get on to thieving, of course your accusations of mass murderer speak far more profoundly of your state of moral funk then I ever could.

      I take it from your response that you did consider it proportionate, reasonable and less than murderous to use the postal service for frivolous frippery. And I'm frankly disgusted. Not that you took a reasonable, proportionate risk necessary for the smooth functioning of society.

      But that you hypocritically berate others to the point of causing suicides for doing the equivalent of what you did.

      Delete
    3. No, my point was that just as it would be ridiculous for me to condemn you based on an utterly hypothetical scenario, likewise when you do that to me!

      Delete
    4. So you accept it would be hypocritical of you did not eschew all non essential deliveries?! Of course you've been getting deliveries. Everyone has. Nothing to be ashamed of. This crazy moral funk world where you feel the need to be coy about getting deliveries for Purim costumes is absurd.

      Delete
  8. If you have a weak Charedi mind and need a feted hero figure to place inordinate trust in, please look at the work of the following doctors.

    Margaret McCartney
    Carl Heneghan
    Tim Spector
    David Spiegelhalter

    But if you are adult enough please do read the studies and ignore the messengers.

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

When Chassidim Fly

Mishpacha magazine is normally reasonably good about honestly admitting problems in the frum community. They even acknowledge the overwhelmi...