To those that say social media activism doesn’t work, or say it is a form of slacktivism, I would point out that it can make a difference some of the time. Case in point: Titles (the McMaster University Bookstore) taking their offensive, racialized costumes off the shelves after social media spread the story.
As reported in the Silhouette:
Upon hearing of the available costumes, fourth-year Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour student Alan Rheaume started a petition asking that the Campus Store immediately remove the costumes, calling them “obscene and offensive towards Indigenous students at McMaster and aborad [sic]” and arguing that they violated the MSU’s Anti-Oppression Policy.
“I started the petition…so we could end this offensive business practice that has no place in an institution of higher education,” said Rheaume, who is a member of the McMaster First Nations Students Association.
“My goal was not only to get the costumes removed from the bookstore, but also to spread awareness about the widespread cultural appropriation inherent in Halloween celebrations.”
Rheaume’s petition, started on change.com, was established hours after the photos surfaced on Friday, Oct. 25. He was seeking 500 signatures; by the time it closed later in the weekend, 543 people had signed.
The Campus Store pulled the racist costumes less than 24 hours after complaints were made, removing them from sale before the store opened on Saturday.
Even through the controversy of the selections, observers praised the store’s swift response.
“I was happy on that front…for the [Campus Store] listening and being willing to respond like that,” said MSU President David Campbell of the quick remedy.
This of course does not fix the problems of misrepresentation of Indigenous people and the sexualization of Indigenous women, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.