Tricks or Treats? The Real Problem With Halloween Costumes

Who remembers that scene in Mean Girls when Lindsay Lohan explains that “Halloween is the one night a girl when a girl can dress like a total slut, and no other girls can say anything about it”?

Sadly, this is true.  This is SO TRUE.  Women’s Halloween costumes have become absurdly sexualized, and they are covering less and less of us as time goes by.

When you look at the options available to women and men for Halloween, everything I have been saying about how women become hypersexualized and women’s bodies are just put on display for men becomes even more apparent than I had been making it.  Weirdly enough, there aren’t a whole lot of other options for women (unless you want to make your own costume), and that’s why I’m really grateful that the blog Fuck No Sexist Halloween Costumes exists, to highlight this absurdity.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Why?  Just, WHY?  Look, does it have to be tiny? Does it need peels to draw EXTRA attention to her breasts?  Isn’t the zipper down the whole front a little much?  Especially when you look at the guy version…I just…WHY?

This one’s also great.  You don’t even NEED the male version of this costume to know how absurd this watermelon situation is.  The bite out of the side?  That’s really classy.  Love it.  The fact that it’s shorter than some of my shirts?  Even better.

Maybe you’re thinking it’s just fruit costumes that are the problem, but of course that isn’t true either.  Take a look at this “army” costume:

Can I be honest?  If I were in the military, I would be SO OFFENDED.  So. Incredibly. Offended.  Why?  Because army women are strong.  They do incredible things.  And women had to fight like hell to be IN the armed services, so to reduce that service to some hypersexualized, overtly sexist outfit to fulfill some stupid male fantasy is disgusting.

Sorry, I just felt a little extra strongly about that one.

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but do you know when Halloween is?  It’s at the end of October.  THE END OF OCTOBER.  Let me translate that for you: IT’S COLD OUTSIDE.  And these costumes?  Some of them would leave me shivering in July, forget October 31.  They’re impractical, they’re often uncomfortable (because really, who ENJOYS wearing something she has to constantly pull back into place and is worried it’s falling down every time she tries to dance?), and they’re so overtly sexual that the only thing left to wonder is whether or not this is just a trick to get men whatever treats they think they’ll be getting on Halloween.

Look, I don’t care if you want to wear a skimpy Halloween costume, but it would be nice if there were sufficient alternatives.  I don’t really like having to piece together Halloween costumes and I also don’ t like feeling like Cady Heron walking into the party in Mean Girls and realizing that I’m the only one whose costume is more than 3 inches long.  My point?  Options–we need more of them.


But let’s just set women’s costumes aside for a second to talk about

Why?! Why is this how we want tweens to dress?!

girls’ costumes.  The issue of premature sexualization, which I never thought about before reading Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter, becomes extra apparent in some of these costumes.  We seriously need to stop teaching girls to divorce themselves from their sexuality, and to put on displays of sexuality for the appreciation of others, especially when we live in a society that will only punish them for it later vis-a-vis slut shaming.  What we are teaching is that bodies are meant to be displayed but not enjoyed, and that’s the wrong message to be sending.  Halloween costumes are only one little part of this, but they’re definitely the low-hanging fruit for solving this problem.

At least none of the girls’ costumes I have found are trashy renderings of fruit.

Look, I’m not really sure when Halloween changed from being scary to being sexy, but what should be a night of fun and sweetness has turned into a night of flirting and shenanigans.  What kind of message are we sending girls and women when all the market offers is hypersexualized costumes that turn women into something they never wanted to be-~-because last time I checked, “eye candy” wasn’t really the top of anyone’s costume list.


~ by Randi Saunders on October 22, 2012.

One Response to “Tricks or Treats? The Real Problem With Halloween Costumes”

  1. Great points! Halloween costumes are another great example of how our culture says: men are men, and women are for men. It goes back as far as the Garden of Eden! Halloween should be an opportunity to break through the walls that gender roles inflict every day…not another reinforcement of them!

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