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Mental Illness Isn’t a Costume


Halloween is a fairly awful time for anyone who doesn’t appreciate culturally insensitive costumes that target marginalized groups of people. You’ve seen it: the blackface, sexy geisha, Indian princess, Caitlyn Jenner, and so much more.

However, I recently found a costume so problematic that even I didn’t see it coming: Anna Rexia. That’s right. Some costume company thought it would be soooo clever to make a pun out of anorexia. Not to mention the fact that they thought it would be a good idea to make anorexia a costume.

Anorexia isn’t a joke. I shouldn’t have to say that. Anorexia is a serious mental illness with dire consequences. I find it interesting that it would be unthinkable to dress up as “depression” or “autism,” as it should be, but the one mental illness that is apparently fair game happens to be the mental illness with the highest mortality rate.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), there are 30 million people in the U.S. who suffer from an eating disorder. That means that about one in ten Americans see this costume as a physical representation of a disorder they are dealing with, or a disorder similar to what they are currently suffering. Ten percent. So if you trick-or-treat at 20 houses on Halloween in that costume, odds are you will be making fun of two people while they are handing you candy.

Additionally, 95% of people who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.8, or the exact target consumers of this costume. Anorexia nervosa specifically is the third most common chronic illness among teenagers. This disease is incredibly common, especially among the young people who celebrate Halloween. People with anorexia are not a monolith, they are extremely vulnerable, and they are all around us.

I also have to take issue with the costume’s look itself. The “skeleton” theme is incredibly problematic as it brings up stereotypes of the skinny anorexic girl with her bones jutting out. It ignores the many average-sized and overweight individuals who also risk their lives by starving themselves. The “sexy” short dress also ignores the millions of men who struggle with anorexia nervosa. The included measuring tape is a symbol of the horrific, destructive self-criticism that individuals with anorexia experience everyday.

There is no excuse for making fun of any entire group of people, but making fun of a particularly at-risk community is extra disgusting. That’s why us feminists get so angry at racist Halloween costumes. This is the first ableist costume I’ve seen, and it’s more than a little distasteful. One more costume to leave hanging at the Halloween store this year.

Sophia Cunningham is a vegan feminist from Orange County. She is interested in studying politics and sociology, and she spends her free time reading, writing, and singing. She hopes to educate others about social issues and the importance of activism in everyday life

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