Ho or No? Are you inappropriately sexualized by “slutty” Halloween costumes? OR Is it no one’s business but yours, and if you’ve got it and want to flaunt it, good for you?
As women we are frequently categorized, and Halloween is a time of year that calls a lot of attention to that annoying reality. The same conversation seems to emerge annually around mid-October: are we inappropriately sexualized by Halloween? Are people’s judgments about our costume choice warranted or weird?
There’s a pretty obvious surface-level sexualization of women on Halloween by whoever it is that designs those ugly costumes you see hanging in that pop-up costume store in your local strip mall. Women are expected to buy a poly-blend mini-dress and ironically depict the “sexy” version of whatever profession said store is stocking that year. “Sexy Nurse.” “Sexy Teacher.” “Sexy [insert any profession or movie character ever].”
The reason those costumes exist in such consistent bulk isn’t because the Halloween industry is out to get women, but because it’s profitable. There’s a market for them. Do you think whoever produces those tongue-in-cheek costumes does it as a passion project? They move through stores quickly, are cheap to produce, and totally overpriced. They’re a cash cow because we buy them. Though I think they’re kind of lame, they’re easy to find and throw on when you don’t have a costume for that party tomorrow night that you’ve (as usual) waited until the last minute to plan for–everyone can relate to Halloween costume anxiety.
Reality is that women choose their own costumes. To put things in Mean Girls terms, some women choose the Regina George route, some the Katy Heron route. Some want to rock lingerie and bunny ears, some want to wear a blood soaked bridal gown and scary makeup. Some girls want to show off their makeup skills (we’ve all seen the YouTube tutorials where those makeup artists turn themselves into someone else using contouring, right? How on earth?) and some want to throw on a football jersey and shorts and call it a day.
When a woman dresses in a way that flaunts her body on Halloween, that doesn’t mean she’s a slut, just like when she dresses as a zombie it doesn’t mean she’s the walking undead. We choose costumes not to reflect who we are or what we do, but rather as a pointed escape from reality. Though some people view Halloween as a time when women are pressured into over sexualization, I think it can rather be looked at as a time for women to let loose who otherwise feel inhibited. A chance to live outside yourself, even if for just one night. Halloween is meant to be fun, silly, different. In an ideal world, women would have a chance to express and explore their sexuality, creativity, or niche fandom on a holiday like this without pressure or judgment.
As we are so frequently reminded, this isn’t a perfect world, and women are scrutinized (exponentially more than men, may I add) for our costume choices. That sentence in itself seems simply ridiculous, but it’s true. Unless you’re wearing a costume that is truly offensive, there is no reason someone should care about what you wear on Halloween. Some may admire your costume, think it’s great, think it’s sexy, think it’s funny, but why anyone would think it’s something to take to the bank and judge you on is beyond me. Why is it anyone’s responsibility to care about what you wear? People are so overly invested in the behavior of others that it’s become a commonplace conversation post-Halloween to discuss other people’s costumes and judge accordingly.
It’s beyond me why anyone cares about anyone else’s Halloween costume. It’s hard to say that it’s “no one’s business” what you wear on Halloween, because really, it’s everyone’s business. That’s the point of dressing up and going to a Halloween party. We dress up to go out and see what everyone else is wearing and to show off the costume we’ve thought up. That tradition is one of fun and whimsy. But, just because everyone can SEE what you are wearing, doesn’t mean that it’s their place to judge or make assessments about what you’ve chosen to wear.
If you want to flaunt what you’ve got, good for you. You should. If you would rather not, then don’t. It’s literally that simple. Although it would be really wonderful for judgmental people to alter the way they see the world, people will continue to judge female costume selection for eternity regardless of what you wear, so you may as well enjoy yourself! The best thing people can do is just stop caring about what other people are doing. Someone else’s costume doesn’t affect you, so why make it? Beyond that, let loose. Enjoy Halloween. Dress sexy, dress scary, don’t dress up at all. It’s a holiday about stepping outside yourself for a night, so let’s all do just that.