The Halloween madness continues: “Three blind mice” costumes reported for “ableism”

I’m sure you won’t find this in The New York Times, so I’m trusting Heat Street‘s reportage here. What they report is another example of Costume Fascism, in which Halloween outfits that seem innocuous are deemed offensive to those whose avocation is to investigate and report anything that could possibly be deemed offensive. In this case it’s the costume below: “Three blind mice” (not worn by the original perpetrators, but demonstrated by others):

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 11.10.20 AM

The school: The University of Wisconsin-Platteville (UWP), where, around Halloween of last year, three women posted pictures of themselves in these costumes on their Facebook page. Recently, a member of UWP’s “Bias incident report team” decided to file a report on these costumes, apparently because they made fun of the disabled:

The documents,which Heat Street obtained under open records laws [JAC: I can’t find them], reveal that a member of the Bias Incident Team reported the students herself: “There was concern about their choice as it makes fun of a disability,” says the team’s meeting minutes.

The Bias Incident Team decided to follow up directly with the costume wearers, noting that “this incident is being considered a personnel issue in Residence Life” because the students were also staffers.

. . . Apparently the mouse costumes were a cautionary tale for the Bias Incident Team. During at least two different Bias Incident Team meetings, administrators discussed the need to “be pro-active next year before Halloween about choosing an appropriate Halloween costume,” also suggesting that “we may do an ‘inappropriate costumes’ de-briefing such as a news media article or overview.”

By deadline, members of the Bias Incident Team had not responded to inquiries about whether any disabled students reported being offended by the Three Blind Mice costumes or whether UW-Platteville had established guidelines about what constitutes an appropriate costume.

The Facebook picture was removed (ergo the reenactment above), though it’s not clear whether the damn Bias Report Team ordered this or the cowed students did it themselves.

This costume is not offensive, and if someone deems it offensive, well, I don’t have to accept their judgment. In some cases, of course, I would—say a costume in blackface, which has a history of racism behind it. But “Three Blind Mice”? Here’s the famous rhyme that dates back to at least 1609:

Three blind mice.
Three blind mice.
See how they run.
See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?

The “bias report” form of UWP specifies that “The purpose of this confidential reporting form is to monitor the occurrence of hate incidents both on and off campus.” So how is “Three blind mice” a “hate incident”?  How, exactly, is it making fun of a disability. In what world can the Pecksniff who reported this be living? And can we look forward to both students and children being vilified for wearing costumes like this?


I’m not saying that we shouldn’t consider the feelings of those who report themselves offended, but if we bowed to every such claim, not only would society meld into a homogenous blandness, but the principle of free expression would gradually be eroded. I’d love to see venues other than those on the Right (or FIRE) report issues like this.

Halloween is only three months away, and only Ceiling Cat knows what kind of madness we’ll see this year.

h/t: Greg Mayer


  1. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Surely a trigger warning required for the captain hook photo?🙂

    • Marilee Lovit
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      The child in the Captain Hook costume is cute, and the costume itself is elaborate and looks nicely designed and made. I don’t remember costumes like that when I was a little girl with a prosthetic hook of my own. But I do remember I hated being called Captain Hook, which would happen when Peter Pan was aired on the television every year.

  2. Paul S
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I’m fairly certain that no blind people were offended by the costumes.

    • John Taylor
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Yeah given they can’t even see the costume! Bad joke but as a half blind person suffering from progressive vitreoretinopathy I think I may be allowed to make such jokes. I’m not sure if I spelled that correctly. Then again I may be punching down because I’m only half blind. Visual loss is a spectrum so maybe only those on the very bottom end are allowed to make jokes. My Grandmother is 100% blind. Does that entitle me to joke about such things or only make me more of an asshole? It’s all very confusing.

    • Alpha Neil
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      I’m going to have to report this to the Student Hysteria Incident Tsar.

      • Kiwi Dave
        Posted August 5, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        If you mean the Bipartisan Undergraduate Legal Liabilities Student Hysteria Incident Tsar, I foresee no problems.

        • Alpha Neil
          Posted August 5, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink


  3. alexander
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    So is Miss Piggy next?

    • Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I’ve already heard of complaints against the character for supposedly being insensitive to the overweight and for sexism. Don’t know if this extends to the “costume police” or not.

  4. GBJames
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    That “pirate” photo is a slur against prosthetic designers. As if they are only capable of making hooks.

  5. jwthomas
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    There is no such thing as a “right” not to be offended. If Trump can do it everybody can.

  6. Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    As a noodle carrying member of the Church of the FSM, I object to the inconsiderate portrayal of our swashbuckling forefathers as a means of procuring sugary candy rather than meaty balls. I DEMAND that, as a minotiry, all such scallawags be given only durum wheat based confectionaries in respect to my deeply held religious beliefs.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      As a noodle carrying member of the Church of the FSM,

      I now have a Cunning Plan™ involving printing CoTFSM membership details on sheets of uncooked lasagne.

  7. Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t consider the feelings of those who report themselves offended

    I’m very offended at the insensitivity shown to my cultural heritage in which Three Blind Mice played a significant role. How dare they disrespect my traditional values!

    Indeed, I think that’s likely the only answer to this insanity. Tit-for-tat. Turn the censors on themselves, wave their own tails at them to chase.

    Were I a student, I’d probably try to rally together fellow students to collectively adorn the most over-the-top offensive costumes we could think of — blackface, sure, but also Klansmen, Hitler, a sex slave, a Cowboy with a noose around the neck of an Indian, that sort of thing.

    And when the inevitable shit hit the inevitable fan, lay bare the true cultural insensitivity and appropriation — namely, that the original point of Halloween costumes is to dress up as monsters so as to confuse and thereby protect oneself from the real monsters.

    The next year, of course, the same set of people should wear face masks of all the members of the “diversity protection” racket enforcement squad.



    • Kevin
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      I suspect cross-dressing costumes are going to take too. It might offend transgender simultaneously offending the Christian right who think the transgender should not have the right to be offended in the first place. It’s like darts in the butts of everyone.

    • GBJames
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      “…wave their own tails at them to chase…”

      Better…. chop of their tails with a carving knife!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Not being familiar with this aspect of American culture (when I grew up, Halloween was almost dead, and “guizing” had never been a tradition TTBOMK). But I thought that the

      namely, that the original point of Halloween costumes is to

      sell costumes to parents, via the pester power of the kids who are petrified of not being in the crowd.

      • eric
        Posted August 5, 2016 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

        AIUI, halloween in the US has undergone a ‘juvenilization’ over the past century or so. It used to be all about adults putting on costumes and partying (maybe more like Mexico’s day of the dead? Just a guess).

        So at least originally, no, it wasn’t a bilk-the-parent type holiday. But it certainly leans in that direction now.

  8. alexandra moffat
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    And yet anyone can carry a gun any day of the year which REALLY makes my space unsafe.But if we complained about that, the NRA….now there’s an idea!

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      That is a great point Alexandra! Yes please, let us have “concealed carry” (of all assinine things) at university, but don’t, whatever you do, wear a costume that offends me. Fucking ridiculous.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted August 5, 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        oops, ‘asinine’

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        So … for my friend who runs a costume hire business and strongly encourages hire of costumes for Halloween … the NRA will be pushing “Tony Martin” costumes in the UK and some prolific American gun-using multiple murderers on that side of the pond.

  9. Kevin
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    This is what my congressman recently added about First amendment:

    “…First Amendment protections, it must also respect common sense limitations on speech that is obscene, unsafe, or hateful.”

    Well, apparently 3 blind mice are hateful towards disabled. Guaranteed someone somewhere finds rap music obscene, heavy metal unsafe, and country music beyond the limit of common sense.

    • desconhecido
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Can you ID your congressman so that he may be properly vilified? Searching the quote doesn’t turn up anyone.

      • Kevin
        Posted August 5, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Ben Ray Lujan. Disclaimer: I know nothing about this person, just that his office sent that note back to me a while ago when FFRF asked its members to write to our local congress person about some First amendment issue. I did so, but honestly, I cannot remember what it was I was asked to write about. Obviously, I am not very political, but do feel that Americans are absolutely the most easily offended people on the planet….thankfully were not violent about negating other’s rights to freedom of speech.

        • Posted August 5, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

          “…Americans are absolutely the most easily offended people on the planet…”

          Yes, for example when we riot over cartoons and murder cartoonists. No one outdoes the Americans when it comes to taking offense.

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    And the madness continues.
    Just a quick check at an online Halloween store, we see the following ban-able costumes: All manner of ethnic stereotype costumes. I am sure that every Mexican and Indian costume especially. But I bet the ones that stereotype Germans or Scots would pass unnoticed. Wizard of Oz scarecrow (mentally disabled), witch costumes (mocks the Wiccans), etc. etc.
    Just ban Halloween. That will be next.

  11. Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    That’s totally stupid right there. They’re not wearing costumes to mock blind people, they’re wearing costumes for Halloween fun. I don’t see anything wrong with the costumes.

  12. mordacious1
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Those costumes are horrible! I’m just glad that no blind people were around to see them. I also heard a deaf joke on the radio last week and was shocked. If some of my deaf friends had heard it, they’d really be upset.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      I am trying to not laugh. I am not successful.

  13. Woof
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    What’s coming for this Halloween?

    Trump costumes. Guaranteed. And scary!

    • desconhecido
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      I’d think that Trump costumes might be mocking of the mentally challenged.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        They would certainly be mocking of everybody with less-than-perfect hair. Which is most of us.


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

          Most of us men, that is. Note the unconscious sexist assumption that women don’t count. I’m a bad man. Person. Creature. Entity.


          • Posted August 6, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            I am sure there are more women unhappy with the look of their hair than men (or the look of any part of their organism).

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 7, 2016 at 2:03 am | Permalink

              Confining my comment strictly to hair – there are far more bald men than women. Women worry about the style, men worry about having none at all. The only solution seems to be to try to disguise it (how’s that working for ya, Donald?), wear a hat, or just grin and bear* it.

              *Or bare it. Either fits.


    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      … and probably copyrighted.
      I assume that the Trump Campaign have copyrighted his appearance so that they can suppress parody under the guise of “protecting their brand”.

  14. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    The people who imagine these offenses must have nothing constructive to do with themselves. Either that, or this country is in much better shape than I can imagine, that it allows them to spend time with such things. Maybe they need to consider immigrating to another country where they love to police everything and there would be jobs for them.

    • Posted August 6, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      In Iran, there are now jobs opening for people who love to police how other people are dressed.

  15. GBJames
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I think the “Bias incident report team” should be praised for protecting blind people who are well known for having no sense of humor.

  16. desconhecido
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Heat Street, who are they?

    I thought maybe it was satire so started looking over the site trying to find some indication. Only thing I could find was a copyright notice: Copyright ©2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

    OK, same people who own the WSJ and Fox News. They claim that Hillary wants to “Raise taxes on the middle class” and use a video showing her stating, “and we aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class.”

    Heat Street’s ethics appear to be closer to those of Fox News rather than the WSJ.

  17. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    What do you call “endless love”?
    Two blind men playing tennis.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Joke taken.
      But I am informed that in Britain at least, blind tennis is well-enough know to have a defined governing body.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted August 5, 2016 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        As I understand it, blind tennis involves a ball designed to emit a whirring noise at it flies through the air. It is played by both blind people and blind-folded sighted people.
        Pretty impressive.

  18. jimroberts
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t a Grim Reaper costume offensive to everybody who is mortal?

  19. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Once again it’s the plight of women that’s being ignored in this. Those Three Blind Mice costumes are designed for women and portraying us as only of value if we look good in a tutu. And those mouse ears look suspiciously like Playboy bunny ears too …

    In my first year at uni we had a ‘P” party for Halloween. You had to dress as something starting with a P. Most of the women dressed as prostitutes because it was the easiest thing to manage on a budget.

  20. jeffery
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    These “mind-fascists” need to be told, loudly and repeatedly:

  21. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m shocked that they didn’t complain that the costumes also parodied ballet dancers because ballet dancers are not costumes but a profession.

  22. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I think they look charming, and kinda cute. How ridiculous can this get?

    (Of course my opinion on what they *look* like is discriminating totally against blind people, who can’t possibly tell what they look like. (I almost said ‘can’t have an opinion on what they look like’, but as the Bias Incident Report Team demonstrates, knowing nothing is no bar to having an opinion)).

    I cannot think of *any* Halloween costume that might not cause some (imaginary) offence to some (hypothetical, paranoid, hypersensitive) individual or other.

    Now excuse me, I have to go and taunt a cripple.


    • Richard
      Posted August 6, 2016 at 3:33 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget to kick his cane away!

  23. kelskye
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    If we bow to offence, then the people who are the most easily offended set the standards. And there are some people who are really really easily offended.

    What ever happened to not looking if one is offended?

  24. Pali
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    I work a neighborhood store in a college residential area, and was happily surprised when I worked as a Klingon – brown face paint included – and no one took offense or treated it as a white guy in blackface, black, white and other customers included.

    Going as God, though, that got the odd customer riled up. Apparently a name tag over dress-casual clothing can be an offensive costume.

  25. nurnord
    Posted August 6, 2016 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Well Jerry Coyne !
    “Halloween is only three months away, and only Ceiling Cat knows what kind of madness we’ll see this year.”

    Are you making fun of mental disability there ? Firing squad at dawn !

  26. Posted August 6, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    It is an almost universal opinion that when there is no other option, the oppressed can resort to violence. So I suggest, when Halloween comes, physically strong UWP students to kidnap members of “Bias incident report team”, lock them inside some isolated facility and not release them until the party is over.

  27. Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    When I was in elementary school there was some concern that students wearing costumes would make students unable to (due to parent religion, poverty, etc.) would feel left out … I dare say that makes a bit more sense. (Though cannot explain voluntary clubs at universities behaving the way they do, etc.)

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