The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Horror: The Problem With Costumes

Leaves are trickling down from treetops. Pumpkin ale is being consumed in mass quantities. SEC football is consuming life here in the South.

It's October my friends... And apparently it's almost over. That also means Halloween is quickly approaching.

So let me be candid with you:

I don't particularly like Halloween.

I had a really terrible experience as a kid where I was out trick-or-treating with some friends and got egged in the face by a drive-by group of older boys. It was actually pretty traumatic and was one of the few times in my early adolescence where I swore openly [and very loudly] in public because it was incredibly painful.

Eggs. Cook them. Don't throw them.
I also have never really been all that jazzed about dressing up for such occasions. When I was little I wore the same 101 Dalmations costume for 3 years in a row because A. I still fit into it, and B. I just didn't want to wear anything else. I never really put effort into the whole costume thing. Most of the time I/my mom made my costumes, and even then it was like, "Meh, Halloween again." The candy part is a different story though.

But there's something about Halloween nowadays that I just don't understand: The costume industry...and women. Or maybe more appropriately said, "the sexualization of Halloween."

Every time I walk into/by a Halloween costume shop, there is a starking polarization of gendered costumes. And sometimes, it really makes me want to throw up. From children's to adult's costumes, there seems to be tailoring to quantify gender differences. Particularly, adult women's costumes.

For the most part, everything geared toward women is a "sexy [insert typically non-sexy profession here]" outfit. It kind of makes me want to go: Really? Please. -- Seriously though, is a tight-fitting, low cut V neckline somehow supposed to make me/women want to buy that pleather police officer get-up? I think a larger, subtextual issue here is the way particular genders are targeted with specific kinds of costumes.
  • Males can be traditonal "boy" characters, but females can be the same character so long as it's structered into a "dress" with sequenes and ruffles. For example:
    • Men are doctors, women are nurses (even though there's an enormous increase in men currently entering into the nursing field; not to mention WOMEN ARE ALSO DOCTORS)
    • Boys are superheroes, girls are "pink" superheroes (that is, if their mothers even let them be superheroes)
    • Then there's what is pictured below...

What if I want to wear the Cookie Monster onesie?!?!?

Hopefully, you get where I'm going with this.

But there's something else going on here that is problematic:

I've heard a lot of people say that Halloween is the one time of year when females can dress "slutty" or provocative and "get away with it." That apparently this "holiday" gives women free liscense to wear minimal clothing and not feel shameful for doing so.

Now I'm not saying dressing sexy is a bad thing. In fact, I support the embracing of sexuality in general as a positively, liberating and necessary exercise for overall health and well being for all persons (regardless of gender/orientation). But in a lot of ways, the costume industry is turning women into sex objects by positioning the bulk of costume designs toward this sexy, fem-dom piece of eye candy (pun intended) and/or asserting traditional gender roles/stereotypes. And on top of that, the cultural notion that Halloween is the only time of year where it is appropriate to display such sexuality (sexuality that has been structured a particular way by the available costume choices)... WHAT?!


If you want to show off your body, cool. It's no business of mine to say what a woman or anyone can/can't wear and when. There might be certain circumstances where clothing choices should be mediated in respect to the occasion, but who really gives a damn otherwise? In the case of Halloween costumes, not every outfit needs to be positioned in a way that makes "sexy" or archaic gender roles the only option for women who want to partake in the Halloween tradition and festivities.

Of course there are exceptions to this: Not every costume out there shows skin or is suggestive in a variety of ways. Hopefully, if there aren't any adequate store-bought options, people can get creative and dress in a costume they feel proud in (and if that happens to be a "sexy" costume, then kudos).

But let's take a minute to examine some popular "sexy" Halloween costumes that just aren't that sexy. (Because now that we've deconstructed Halloween costumes and their shortcomings, let's make light of our own shortcomings and mock some of them!)
  1. Sexy any variety of Disney Princess -- By dressing up as Sexy Belle, you just ruined my whole childhood. Sure, Disney & the Princesses get a bad wrap for portraying characters as too pious, domestic, and for the most part, elite and white. But damn it, they were still a large part of my creative imagination as a child. I didn't idolize them in the way that would give me unrealistic expectations for romance. Pop music did that. But I did enjoy the movies as a part of the 90s era of animated wonderfulness. Don't you take that away from me, Sexy Snow White! You and your thigh-high white stockings can get out of here. 
  2. Sexy anything where lingerie might be worn as actual clothing (i.e. Victoria Secret Angel, butterfly, fairy, other mythical creatures, etc.) -- Ok, if you're wearing so little clothing that you're not [technically] wearing clothing at all, that's a problem. Nothing is more unsexy than a girl with goosebumps, chugging light beer trying to forget that it's October and cold outside. At some point that just becomes pathetic if it isn't already. I don't care how creative you think you are wearing that lacey bustier/corset, put some damn clothes on and eat a candy bar.  
  3. Sexy nurse -- Does anyone know what a nurse actually does? Nurses (male or female) have to deal with a lot of gross stuff. Runny noses, bacteria, vomit. They literally and metaphorically get shit on pretty much every day. "But wait, let me put you in a tight-fitting white nurse's costume and you can take my temperature or draw my blood after I pee in a cup for you. Oh yah. So turned on." That's probably the furthest thought from my mind, considering nurses reside in the dungeon that is the doctor's office. Ew, yuck, hate the doctor. Stay the eff away from me, with that...thing you're holding.
Uhh... nurses don't look like that.

Still sexy without the 12" skirt and bows.

There's also terribly unsexy costumes such as Bert & Ernie, Chinese take out box, & Chuckie. These are just a few examples of the problems with Halloween costumes. Some costumes just aren't sexy, and sexiness isn't the only option for women wanting to participate in Halloween fun. The misconception that boys have to wear "boy costumes" and girls have to wear "girl costumes," to me, is also false. Kids, adults, and everyone should be free to express themselves without being contained by social structures or stigmas. Bottom line. --Let us toast to working for equality.

What do you think about Halloween costumes, for adults or for children? What about the costume industry is problematic, if anything at all?

Maybe we should reform the holiday altogether and just focus on the candy. Because who doesn't love candy? If there's one thing that can unite people, it's a good ol' lollypop, chocolate bar or caramel apple, am I right?

Have a spooky Halloween, friends.


  1. I'd have to agree that women would still look sexy in costumes without the need to wear such skimpy, revealing outfits and costumes.

  2. I was browsing about Halloween costume ideas and I found your blog which is quite interesting. I do hope it's okay with you if I pin them on my Pinterest board. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Excellent post! I like this...Thanks for sharing!

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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