In the past several years, Halloween has morphed into something really scary. Not because of the blood and gore, creepy decorations, or traditionally spooky costumes, but because of how it reinforces the cultural narrative about women.
Halloween used to be the day when you could put on a disguise and pretend to be someone else for the night. For women, it could be a reprieve from the daily pressure to look thin, beautiful, and sexy. But instead of a day off from that pressure, Halloween is now a day to amp it up. Nearly every option for women is a sexy take on a traditional costume, from fetishized caricatures from porn to the totally absurd, such as the Sexy Hamburger, the Sexy Crayon, the Sexy Skittles, the Sexy Sponge Bob, and the Sexy Nemo (the clown fish from Finding Nemo). I just … I … have no words:
But it’s not all just harmless fun. Even child characters in fairy tales have been made into sexed-up costumes for women, e.g., Sexy Little Red Riding Hood, Sexy Goldilocks, and Sexy Alice in Wonderland. (See more examples here).
In addition to fairy tale characters, here are a few other ways for women to dress up as sexy little girls — the Sexy Girl Scout, the Sexy Schoolgirl, and the Sexy Baby (WTF is wrong with people?!):
What’s so troubling about these costumes is that:
“… [M]any of the ‘sexy’ costumes are highly sexualized versions of characters who are supposed to be little girls … The fact that many women dress up as sexy little girls points to both the sexualization of female children and the infantilization of adult women.”
The sexualization of girls teaches them early on that their value lies in their appearance, their bodies, and their sexuality. The American Psychological Association found that sexualization damages girls’ feelings of self-worth, impairs their mental functioning, and contributes to eating disorders. In other words, it fucks girls up. The infantilization of adult women reinforces attitudes that women should be treated as naive, dependent, and incapable of making intelligent decisions or holding leadership roles. In other words, it fucks women over.
Another disturbing trend in sexy costumes is linking sexuality with violence. Here are some creepy sexy costumes, such as female versions of horror movie serial killers — Sexy Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Sexy Jason (Friday the 13th), and Sexy Michael Myers (Halloween). I guess the Sexy Body Bag (seriously, who comes up with this shit?!) fits in here as well :/ :
Of course, many Halloween costumes are intended to be frightening or gory, but turning a male horror movie killer that often targets scantily-clad female victims into a scantily-clad female horror movie killer has some interesting connotations. Horror movie killers tend to murder (punish) the sexually open “whores” early on, while the good girl “virgins” often escape (reward). Underlying the sexy female killer is a misogynistic fear of female sexuality and power — it threatens conservative social attitudes about women owning our sexuality and our bodies. It also sparks our own conflicted feelings about sexuality or our insecurities about other women being competition or threats. Since all of these fears are uncomfortable, they must be buried or “killed”.
Clearly, there are lots of “sexy” costumes for women, but those for men are a bit different. This Tumblr page has tons of examples of the same costume idea, but different versions for him and her. The differences are quite striking when you look at them side-by-side. His costumes are typically silly, while hers are always sexy. Here are his-and-hers versions of Tigger, Skunk, Firefighter, and Astronaut:
Making sexy versions of non-sexy characters like Tigger or Skunk invariably make sexiness cross into absurdity. However, sexing-up women’s costumes of traditionally male careers, such as Firefighter or Astronaut, is another breed of animal. First, how could women realistically fight fires in a mini-skirt, garters, and fishnets or work in zero gravity in a mini-skirt and a top that low-cut? The answer is that they can’t. And that speaks to deeper cultural beliefs about what women should and shouldn’t do. Underlying sexy costumes such as these are sexist beliefs about a woman’s place in society. Women taking on traditionally male roles is treated as absurd in itself, and the only way to make it okay is to sexualize it. This reinforces beliefs that we’re primarily sexual objects and that we don’t belong in certain careers or positions of power unless we’re there to support men.
So far, we’ve only looked at sexy costumes for women, but men have a few choices as well: the Breathalizer (Get it? You “blow” into that straw between his legs), the One Night Stand, and the Pimp (Parents — make sure to teach your sons early that women are “hos” to exploit for money and status!):
There’s obviously a discrepancy between men’s and women’s sexy costumes:
“… [W]hen women go sexy for Halloween, it usually means being seen as a sex object for others. When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced, have access to one night stands, or being in charge of and profiting from women’s bodies. A different type of ‘sexy’ entirely.”
That’s it. I’m skipping Halloween. These are all just too scary for me. :/