I don’t have a problem with sexy Halloween costumes. That is, I don’t have a problem with adult women wearing sexy Halloween costumes to adult events.
But when these costumes sexualize children or objects, or they are racist or culturally appropriating, is when they cross the line. It makes no sense for a woman to dress as a sexy child or a Muppet or food or a racist slur. Women are objectified enough. No need to feed the ever-hungry fire.
These costumes are some of the worst offenders:
Photo credit: Yandy.com
There’s nothing wrong with being sexy, especially on Halloween. The problem with these costumes is that they make women into objects.
It’s horrific that when women dress sexy, some men see that as invitation to treat those women without a shred of respect, as if sexy automatically equals sexual availability. Sometimes it’s just about strutting your stuff. Not about closing the deal.
Halloween should be a refuge of sorts, allowing us to play at being someone we aren’t generally “allowed” to be because costumes give us permission to wear what we would otherwise be shamed for wearing. "Any time you're allowed to wear a costume, you're also allowed to engage in activities outside your normal behavior," says Nancy Deihl, Director of Costume Studies at NYU Steindhardt.
It makes sense then that Halloween would be the time for this kind of loosening of roles and mores since it began as an opportunity to dabble in the taboo. It was that toe-dipping that led to all of this sexy Halloween costume business.
“The historical precedent would be the sexy costumes at masquerade balls, which were wildly popular from the 18th and 19th century on," says Valerie Steele, Director of the Museum at FIT. "Respectable women would wear pantaloons or short skirts and milkmaid outfits when they went to costume parties. At the masquerade parties in London, you had costumes with a degree of body exposure. You also had artists' balls — in Paris especially — where you had revealing costumes and some nudity."
I take more issue with people shaming women for letting their sexy out once a year.
I love what this University of Washington freshman Robin Sacks, has to say on the subject. “What’s wrong is how we treat women who choose these costumes — they’re made to feel ashamed of themselves and their sexualities because of others’ words and actions, and if crimes are committed against them, they’re blamed because of the way they were dressed.”
What’s gotten out of hand is that now Halloween has become about sexualizing everything and anything.
It’s one thing for a woman to choose to be sexy. It’s another for her to choose to be an object. It's still no excuse to treat her as one. But it certainly doesn’t help matters.
There's also a bigger issue at play during Halloween – the sexualization of little girls that happens every year when pumpkin season rolls around.
“Dressing girls like grown women for Halloween communicates that they have the sexuality of adults, in the bodies of children," says Teresa Downing-Matibag, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Iowa State University.
They don’t have the sexuality of adults. They shouldn’t have the sexuality of adults. And dressing little girls as tiny, sexy adults teaches little girls that their worth is based on their being sexual objects.
These are costumes for tweens:
And these are for little girls:
It’s gross. Halloween should be fun. It should be about stepping out of the every day and stepping into the fantastical. That means non-sexy costumes for kids and that means if a woman wants to sex it up on Halloween, more power to her, whether she’s looking to take someone home for the night or not. Either is her prerogative. Neither is a forgone conclusion based on her outfit.
But I hope she’ll think twice about turning herself into something that one eats or stores food in or otherwise “uses” and instead takes it as a chance to show who she just might be if the world around her wasn’t constantly telling her to shut up and cover up.
Kyra Richards, writing for BuzzFeed, puts it best, “I find it perplexing that critics of women who wear sexy Halloween costumes claim to support women’s rights and female empowerment on the other 364 days of the year — yet they chastise the women who have the gall to ‘go there’ on Halloween.”