In 2004 Mean Girls summed up Halloween costumes thusly “Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years you know that October 31 has become a ridiculous parade of nonsensical “sexy” costumes. If you can think of a possible halloween costume odds are there’s a “sexy” incarnation available for you. Here are some of my favorites:
Chinese Takeout- Because who hasn’t looked at a box of General Tso’s Chicken and thought “I’d hit that”?
Sexy Coca-Cola – Also available in Diet Coke, obviously.
Guitar -Finally you can be as sexy an inanimate object.
Crayon -Available in multiple colors- get sexy pre-school style!
Snowman – Yeah, see, sex plus snow just equals “shrinkage” to me.
House – Like a building, but sexy.
Wet T-Shirt Contest – Includes GIANT fake breasts with large visible nipples. Because you want to expose breasts, just not YOUR breasts.
What the hell is going on? Is there really the demand for this? Given the responses one of my friends got last year when she announced she and her husband would be dressing as baseball players for halloween ( “Does yours have a skirt?”, “Are you going to cut the shirt smaller?” and my personal favorite, “I don’t get it” ) yes, yes there is. As the Sexy Halloween frenzy has grown and, make no mistake, it has grown (almost everything I read about the trend included the phrase “in the last decade”) the pressure to participate has increased exponentially. Women are told over and over that this is the one night out of the year when they can dress as sexily as they want and no one will say anything (it keeps coming back to “no one will say anything”). With that kind of hype and that much build-up of course it’s not going to be enough to have some lingerie, animal ears and a french maid outfit for everyone to pick from. Enter the costumes that make no sense. Bring on the Sexy Sanitation Engineer!
There’s a lot of talk about the sexist nature of “sexy” costumes, how the male equivalents allow the wearers to simply be whatever they are being (cop, cowboy, Klingon, whatever) without being mostly naked/sexy and how this boils down to objectification of women and how we, as women, shouldn’t engage in it. That is definitely a relevant discussion but, frankly, I’m more irked by the inherent sexism of the mentality that says, as the movie puts it, “Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it”. Why is this the “one night” I am allowed to express my sexuality outwardly without fear of being judged? Why in expressing that sexuality is the understanding that what I’m doing is dressing “like a total slut”? By saying that “Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut” judgement-free we not only reserve the right to judge for the rest of the year but we also make it clear that the reason folks are so down with Sexy Halloween is that it’s not about expressing my sexual nature as a real person, it’s about playing a role, something that is different from “real” me. Make no mistake, whether the costume is sold as Sexy Snow White, Sexy Police Officer, Sexy Big Bird or Sexy HR Rep, the role Sexy Halloween is giving the big stamp of approval to is Slut.
It’s clear if you look at a television show, magazine, video game, mainstream porn or paycheck made out to Gisele that America loves, loves, loves idealized sexy women. This is no secret. It’s also clear if you look at a gossip magazine, Rush Limbaugh broadcast, actual plot of a television series or certain Toronto police officer that we love, love, love to police the sexuality of women. One step out of line and you are going down- hard. Other countries use restrictive curfews, decency laws and burkas. Here in North America we just slut-shame like we’re being paid to do it (to be fair, some folks actually are). So, apparently sexy women are hot but very, very wrong. I think more than likely, sexy women are hot and very, very scary. Sexy Halloween is a wonderful antidote to this. For this one night the women are packaged the way they are in magazines and videos but they are the women you know! They aren’t scary! The slut-shaming, “look what she was wearing!”, “don’t dress like a whore” mentality in this case seems to aim for 364 days of keeping women contained and acting appropriately and one night of dressing them up like the ideal sexualized fantasy and taking them out to play. Yep, like a doll
This time of year there are invariably a lot of discussions about fighting back against the sexy costume cavalcade. But I don’t think the answer lies in simply refusing to don the Sexy Fozzie the Bear get-up. I think the answer lies in wearing whatever you want. In respecting the right of others to wear what they want. In fighting back against the practice of judging women’s sexuality based on her clothing. If you get the opportunity, check out a SlutWalk, it’s an amazingly empowering experience and a great way to find your voice and push back against a world that still uses “look at what she was wearing” as a rape defense. This isn’t a battle that we only fight in October, I think this is a year-round project because the goal isn’t to burn all the sexy costumes and be done with it, it is to end up a world where they aren’t necessary. Where no woman feels like this is the one day she gets to be sexy and no woman feels that her sexiness is grounds for punishment. Where short dresses are as accepted on March 31st as they are on October 31st and a full-body suit at a Halloween party isn’t seen as a wasted opportunity but rather what one wears when dressed as a Wookie.
Don’t be a mean girl, don’t let this be the one time of year when you don’t pass judgement. Don’t keep your mouth shut when you hear others passing judgement. However you choose to dress this Halloween, own it. However you choose to dress in April, own that too. What I’m saying is don’t let anyone else dress you up. Don’t be anyone’s doll, this time of year or any other.
PS- Sexy Nemo? Really, folks?
Image courtesy of Ben Tesch on Flickr