Please don’t wear an Ebola costume for Halloween

Should you, or should you not, incorporate Ebola into your Halloween costume this year? That is the question. The topic has been hotly debated on social media, with about 30,000 posters weighing in (and counting). The October 15th issue of The New York Post sports a cover declaring the Ebola disease as the hot Halloween costume of the year, and argues in a recent op-ed that, “When we mock Ebola, we’re simply making fun of ourselves.”

Meanwhile, The Atlantic’s take on the idea is simply: the “Worst Halloween Costume.”

Time recently devoted a piece to the ethics of wearing an Ebola costume, contacting an honest to goodness ethics expert, Kathryn Getek Soltis, Director of the Center for Peace and Justice Education and Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Villanova University, who stated for the record that she found the idea of Ebola costumes “rather disturbing.”

“It allows people to stay far from the situation and not to imagine the human suffering that’s actually occurring,” she elaborates. “The issue isn’t that you’re a bad person because you have an insensitive costume, it’s that actually you’re closing yourself and the people around you off from trying to understand how you might be able to participate in this issue in a way that affects people’s lives.”

Lastly, let us not forget to let the people actually MAKING Ebola costumes weigh in on the matter. The company BrandsOnSale is selling an Ebola Containment Suit costume for $79.99, and vice president Jonathan Weeks told The Associated Press that he “didn’t want to stray away from anything current or controversial.” The company is on target to sell a thousand of these costumes before the end of the month.

Weeks also advocates for validity, even the nobility of the costume:

“This is an Ebola containment healthcare worker costume; it’s not the Ebola disease costume; it’s not an Ebola victim costume,” says Mr Weeks. “It’s no different in my eyes than what a firefighter costume would be, or doctors and nurses costume. Those people save lives every day, just like these people are.”

So, we circle back to the question we started with: should you wear an Ebola costume this year?

You should not, people.

Don’t be the disease, don’t be a person in a containment suit battling the disease, just don’t have your costume have anything to do with a disease that is ravaging West Africa, a disease that has recently entered the United States and is causing national panic, a disease with a 70% mortality rate.

I get why people are drawn to Ebola costumes. It’s topical. It hits a nerve. One hopes that by wearing an Ebola-themed costume, one will be considered edgy and hilarious. I just don’t see how wearing an Ebola costume is going to yield you these results. I don’t think you’re going to make people laugh. I think you’re going to make people uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable in a “Oh, that girl is testing the boundaries of what is socially acceptable, what a brave and clever girl she is!” kind of way. Like uncomfortable in a “That girl is attention-starved and socially tone-deaf, this Halloween party was super fun until that rando in the Ebola costume showed up, let’s get out of here” kind of way.

“But Halloween is about SCARY THINGS!” you protest. “What’s scarier right now than EBOLA???”

Yeah, but look around you, look at all the “scary things” we celebrate during Halloween. Vampires and zombies and horror movie serial killers. We celebrate scary things that we, as a society overall, have agreed are not real. These monsters scare us in a safe way, because we know we’re not REALLY going to be drained dry by a vampire or have our brains snacked upon by a horde of zombies. Something that is a very real and present threat like Ebola is certainly scary, but it’s not Halloween-scary, it’s real-life scary, and real-life scary just doesn’t play well during the Halloween season.

Honestly, I’ve never been one for super-topical Halloween costumes. The joke just never plays as well as intended. And it ESPECIALLY doesn’t play well when you’re making people super uncomfortable, again, not “hilarious” uncomfortable, just “Ugh, STOP” uncomfortable.

You want a topical Halloween costume? Go as a Boxtroll. That movie just came out and it is cute to the moon and back and basically all you need is a box! There are a million costumes out there that are going to make you look like you have your finger on the pulse, like you are smart and funny and with it. An Ebola containment suit is not one of them. If you want to have the awesomest Halloween possible, I’d stay away from a costume that’s going to undercut your (and everyone else’s) experience.

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