Op-Ed: We Don’t Know How to Have Fun Anymore

Op-Ed: We Don’t Know How to Have Fun Anymore

An op-ed submitted by Natalie Bao Tram Le. Le is a College of Charleston alumna and currently a master’s candidate in Government at Harvard University.


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays: a time when people can get creative with pumpkin carvings, party favors, and costumes. This past Halloween I dressed as a conspiracy theorist because I find humor in poking at people’s unwarranted findings. I donned a tinfoil hat and held signs that read “9/11 was an inside job” and “The chemicals in our water turn frogs gay.” While I walked around in Boston with my strange ensemble and made others laugh, I hadn’t thought about whether my costume was offensive or not. Not, that is, until a friend told me that he had considered being a rice paddy worker for Halloween but decided not to do it since the costume might be an insult to Asians and the overly sensitive.

But how can anyone be offended by a mere costume? Wearing a costume is a way for people to express their creativity and humor in a harmless way. In fact, I would have found it funny if my friend were to dress as a rice paddy worker for Halloween even though it is poking fun at my own culture. However, people have been offended by cultural Halloween costumes because wearing cultural items that are not part of, let’s say, a white man’s culture, is considered an act of cultural appropriation. And it’s not just costumes that are perceived as rude – many social justice crusaders also advocate for refraining from saying uncomfortable words and phrases. It was just few weeks ago that someone requested that I not say a certain phrase because I sarcastically said I’d rather “jump of the bridge” than taking four classes during the summer, even though I was not intending to make a joke about suicide victims.

Those who fit under the umbrella of extreme advocacy and oversensitivity believe that they are the champions of the social justice movement and are fighting for a greater cause, but the actions they’ve taken (e.g. phasing out social clubs to make the campus more inclusive) are overbearing and are not well thought out, since it is nearly impossible to prevent everything that could be harmful, when most are well-intentioned. Despite that, they take great offense to trivial matters like Halloween costumes and even songs.

In 2014, a DJ was playing the popular “Blurred Lines” and was asked by a University of North Carolina student Liz Hawryluk to stop playing it because the Robin Thicke song supposedly promotes rape culture. Hawryluk told The Daily Tar Heel, “Fundamentally, all I was aiming to do is to create a safe space in the Carolina community… In a lot of ways, violent or graphic images that allude to sexual violence are triggers.” After the DJ refused Hawryluk’s request, she took it to Facebook, complained, and got the DJ fired.

The song was meant to be fun and harmless, yet people, like Hawryluk, interpreted the lyrics as violent and vulgar. They dictate people’s choices to create a world that they feel is safe for them and continue to mold that vision according to their constant and ever-changing feelings. The proponents of social justice believe they hold the objective rule on what is offensive, without acknowledging that everything that’s being perceived by each person is different.

I’m not the only one who disagrees with their attempts to monopolize the definition of what is offensive. LGBT singer and sexual abuse survivor Mary Lambert is best known for her song “Same Love” with Macklemore. She disagrees with the advocates’ sentiment about “Blurred Lines.” “I’m going to get in trouble for this, but I love the ‘Blurred Lines’ video,” Lambert told Vulture. “Sure, it’s gotten its flack… But sometimes you just want to dance and have fun, and it’s okay to just sort of let all political correctness go.” She’s right––we’ve got to let go, have fun, and dance.

We need to calm down and enjoy what’s around us because life is too short to always be offended. Rather than being repulsed by Halloween costumes and songs and imposing a social justice mentality on others, let’s learn to tolerate. How can we live a fulfilling, enjoyable life when we are always on a constant verge of an emotional breakdown after hearing someone say something offensive? We live in a society where open dialogue and creativity flourishes our society, and we must stay away from mechanisms that impede that.


The views reflected in this op-ed do not necessarily reflect those of CisternYard News.

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There are 15 comments for this article
  1. Tatjana Washington at 12:07 am

    Wow. This is really offensive. Not because I am “oversensitive,” as you would like to put it, but because I am a human being that is continually being oppressed for being African American and a women in today’s society. Such a disgrace that College of Charleston would allow such a article to represent the school.

    • Nie at 11:12 pm

      How is it a disgrace for CofC to publish an op-ed? It’s an opinion piece. Are we shutting down free speech because you’re offended at an opinion? It’s not a black and white issue, it’s a debate. Bring discourse, not outrage.

  2. Jailan Williams at 1:27 am

    I just have one question for you. I assume that you are white and if you are not then my apologies but my question to you is this. As a white person in today’s society, as you see how people in the black community are treated when it comes to equality, as a white person if you were given the opportunity to live in the life of a black person for one day would you do it? If you answered no, that simply tells me that you know exactly what’s going on and you know exactly what black people are going through on a daily basis when it comes to discrimination and injustice. So, don’t try to cover it up with bland and ignorant arguments like this one because it’s not like black folks are out here dressing up as Dylan Roof because I guarantee you if a white person saw that they would be offended because that’s not only disrespectful but it’s ignorant and disgusting so why would I want to poke fun at another race like that? Just because it’s halloween and I can dress up in a costume doesn’t mean that I should wear something that’s disrespectful and doesn’t represent fun or having a good time because I guarantee you wouldn’t want somebody dressing up as a terroist right? But then again I could be wrong because some white people are just ignorant and you’ve shown that here because it seems as though you are not educated enough about the black community to know that certain things shouldn’t be “tolerated” So don’t try and tell black people or any minority for that matter when and what to get mad about because you’re not BLACK and you are not a minority so don’t try and tell us how to feel about certain things because you clearly don’t understand.

  3. Harlem Farr at 2:14 am

    How can someone be offended by a mere costume? Easy. It is a costume which means that it can be taken on and off. Those who are not at a disadvantage in this society can easily dress up as their idea of a group of people, –which, in itself, is dehumanizing– laugh about it, mock it and portray a negative image of that group. By the end of the night, they can take the costume off and live another day without having a constant reminder of being a person in this society who endures systemic oppression and trauma every day. Needless to say, the attempted joke has gone too far and what is “gained” from the joke is insignificant to the dignity lost from perpetuating an insensitive culture toward marginalized people. All persons could benefit if the feelings of the offended were respected and not dismissed and mocked. Dressing up for Halloween should always be something of fun and light-heartedness but dismissing those whose existence and experiences are being mocked prevents room for progress.

  4. Anon at 8:29 am

    Great Insight. #Coratoldmetocomment #SternFam

  5. Derek Berry at 10:00 am

    I guess dehumanzing black people is “fun” for Natalie Bao Tram Le? Black face is not a trivial issue.

  6. Jailan Williams at 10:41 am

    Also, I just found out that you are a minority which does nothing but make your argument even more ignorant and invalid because all you did was make an argument to please white people and you should be ashamed because as a minority, you should understand the things your culture dealt with and how they were oppressed so there shouldn’t be certain things that you “tolerate” especially when it comes discrimination, equality, racial injustice and so forth. So my apologies for assuming that you are white but I’m now even more disgusted and disappointed because your article did nothing but show how lost some people who are not can be.

  7. Jesse Kieve at 12:32 pm

    This article doesn’t present anything of value. I’ve read it several times trying to understand the basis of your argument and there is nothing substantive to support what you’re saying here. For example, when you brought up the person who asked you not to jokingly reference suicide. You made that point and let it stand as if it’s supposed to prove a point. I see nothing problematic this particular interaction. If someone confronts you about something you said that makes them uncomfortable, you can either take their feelings into consideration or you can ignore them. That choice is yours. If you choose to disregard somebody’s feelings and continue your behavior, you cannot also police their reaction to your choice. Free speech cuts both ways. Very disappointing.

  8. Maxwell Rose at 1:36 pm

    Great Article Natalie! I feel that some people have completely over reached on certain issues in society and begun to infringe on someones right to express themselves freely. It is important that we avoid targeting individuals and groups specifically but at the same time we cannot and should not someones right to make a joke and not maliciously target someone.

    • Jesse Kieve at 2:04 pm

      Nobody is taking away anyone’s rights to say anything. People have the right to make whatever kinds of jokes they want but if something makes someone uncomfortable they have every right to bring it up. Free speech does not mean free of consequences.

  9. Cora Webb at 2:47 pm

    “But how can anyone be offended by a mere costume? Wearing a costume is a way for people to express their creativity and humor in a harmless way. In fact, I would have found it funny if my friend were to dress as a rice paddy worker for Halloween even though it is poking fun at my own culture.”

    Creativity? Humor? Harmless? Funny??

    Definitions of “fun” and “humor” need to be analyzed here. For you, it may be easy to believe that people need to get a sense of humor, but historically “jokes” have been at the forefront of oppressive and dehumanizing behavior. The primary idea behind the origin of blackface was “fun” and entertainment, at the expense of black people. Then and now, fun is defined as demeaning treatment towards black people. Blackface*, and other related forms of dehumanization, are the historical background of what occurred during Halloween, where white students used derogatory slurs and joked about the murder of a black man, Freddie Gray. Students think that is alright to dress up and mock marginalized peoples and cultures and it is not okay. It will not be tolerated. Just because you, a person of color, has desensitized yourself to racism, stereotypes, etc., does not erase the problem. Nor does it mean that it does not exist.

    Also, you continuous used creativity as an excuse for these offensive costumes. If someone was truly creative, they would be able to find a way to celebrate a holiday without depicting stereotypes of black people. Creativity is not dressing up to depict people of color, specifically black people, in demeaning ways. Creativity can exist without malice.

    * “Minstrelsy, comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core. By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment, and character—white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis.” From Blackface: The Birth of An American Stereotype, The National Museum of African American History and Culture.

    Link: https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/blackface-birth-american-stereotype

  10. Tavish Kelly at 11:30 pm

    Great article, Nat. The far left’s habit of calling everything “offensive” is no different than religious fundamentalists calling every new children’s crazy “demonic”.

  11. Chrissy McClellan at 8:32 am

    Rachel Kumar how do you deem the below..applicable?

    (The below paragraphs seem to contradict themselves-but some points in the Quillette editorial may be illustrative of your point re: further grouping or isolating the terms in your OP…grouping…isolating…..grouping…….isolating……could lead to a “failure to connect” as each ‘privileged’ group in Smith’s op/ed is hyperlinked to an example.)

    “In recent years, ‘privilege’ has become an important concept in modern politics, academia, and popular culture. It appears in an increasing and disorienting number of forms, from male privilege and white privilege, to “gay privilege,” “black male privilege,” and “family privilege,” and these claims about privilege animate a wide array of political stances. Supporters of Hillary Clinton criticized voters for Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein as privileged radicals risking a Trump victory for the sake of inflexible principles. Supporters of the latter candidates returned fire, targeting Hillary voters as privileged centrists out of touch with America’s economic and racial inequalities. Donald Trump, of course, as countless media outlets insist, is (white, male) privilege personnifed; his supporters, meanwhile, are said to demonstrate the extent of their own privilege by denying that privilege exists. In the classroom and in the media, people are increasingly asked (or made) to measure, acknowledge, and strive to reduce their privilege. “Privilege studies” is a growing field, with more and more scholar-activists devoting themselves to its practice.

    “Language that identifies specific groups as vectors of the supposedly dangerous, anti-social force of privilege sunders society into the good, oppressed victims and the wicked, oppressive victimizers. Everything that the former might do to the latter, by this logic, is merely self-defense.”
    http://quillette.com/2017/11/03/problems-privilege-lessons-french-revolution/

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