In debate over offensive Halloween costumes, where’s the line?

Published 9:31 AM EDT, Mon October 29, 2012

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) – They’re familiar characters in the debate over controversial Halloween costumes: suicide bombers, geishas, gangsta rappers, rednecks and sexy nurses.

Such costumes regularly draw allegations of racism, sexism or insensitivity. But where do fully-clothed folk legends fit in?

American Apparel featured characters on both ends of the spectrum this month in its annual do-it-yourself Halloween costume guide. Below a collection of pin-up girl costumes – including a model donning a breast-baring serape – was “La Llorona,” the ghostly weeping woman who kidnaps wandering children, according to folklore in parts of Latin America.

True, she was wearing a lace bustier under a shawl, but the layers upon layers make her appear more like the haunted bag lady than a sexy spirit.

Read: Sexy Little Geisha?’ Not so much, say many Asian-Americans

It’s the folk legend’s cultural significance – and the lack of skin, save an inch of midriff – that, for some, make this costume more acceptable than sexy señoritas or Mexican tequila guy.

“One is mythology, and the other is a stereotype that comes with a lot of baggage,” said feminist blogger Veronica Arreola, assistant director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender at University of Illinois at Chicago.

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