Every year during the weeks leading up to Halloween—or “Halloweekend,” as the respective Thursday, Friday and Saturday of parties has been christened by our generation—countless advertisements for costumes inundate the media. As everyone scrambles to choose creative identities to take on for Halloween festivities, one theme always remains constant: the sexualization of female costumes.
The annual influx of costumes for sale in malls, catalogs and online stores makes it hard to ignore the blatant skimpiness and suggestiveness of not only women’s Halloween get-ups, but also those specifically meant for young girls—children and teenagers alike.
I know I’m not alone in my distaste for this social norm, but I admit that I have often chosen and made costumes with the goal of achieving that advertised sex appeal. It’s not a secret that this expectation of sexiness exists for feminine Halloween attire, nor is it a secret that many women and girls use the holiday as an excuse for dressing up as suggestively as possible.
There are three main issues surrounding this phenomenon. First, contemporary American culture has set the precedent that women and girls can only justify their costume choices and creativity by flaunting their physical assets.
Second, while feeling obligated to appear “sexy,” women and girls also feel that they have to have an excuse such as Halloween to justify a self-representation that would typically be regarded publically as slutty or distasteful.
Lastly, society is telling girls at a young and impressionable age to value their identities based on their appearance—specifically by how appealing they are to the heteronormative male gaze. This perpetuates not only the objectification of the female body, but also of the young female body, which is unsettling.
This trend is ingrained in our culture and is propagated by costume-selling companies competing in the capitalist market. At the end of the day, however, it is our responsibility to be conscious of the messages we’re falling prey to and their consequent damage. It’s hard to stray from peer expectations conceived from social norms, especially for holiday celebrations based on tradition. Striving for the development of mindfulness on such issues encourages constructive progress.
Amidst the outcry that females’ costumes are generally far too revealing, it is important to remember that it is not inherently socially negligent for women to wear scanty costumes for “Halloweekend.” If it is their choice, it can be empowering for women to dress erotically and to take pride in their bodies.
Society as a whole, however, must remain mindful of the messages out there and how we’re interpreting them—and how these interpretations are shaping our views and expectations of the female body and gender identity.
Most college students are guilty of indirectly supporting the negative societal implications surrounding sexy Halloween costumes, but with increased awareness, we can perhaps purge the perceived obligation to wear sexy Halloween costumes while also supporting those women who wish to wear sexually provocative attire.
A focus on generating more empowering messages that encourage women to dress the way they wish—revealing or not—must be emphasized instead of society dictating the “right” way to dress.