Let’s Stop Criticizing Women for Sexy Halloween Costumes and Start Asking Why

There's a trend here that scares me far more than sexy halloween outfits.
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There's a trend here that scares me far more than sexy halloween outfits.

It’s that time of year again! Halloween! I love Halloween. What’s not to love? There’s candy, pumpkin carving, decorations, corn mazes, cider, and scantily clad women.

Er, wait, what?

Unfortunately, yep, that last one pretty much goes hand in hand with Halloween costuming these days. I understand choosing an itty-bitty costume when the thing you have chosen to dress up as is supposed to be “sexy.” If you dress as a Vegas showgirl, then, yes, you probably are showing some skin. But why is it the norm that almost all costumes—regardless of their typical nature—are sexualized?

I recently decided to look up what I thought to be one of the least sexy costumes I could think of. Dragon. The Google search “woman dragon costume” produced an endless supply of images of women wearing skintight leotards with spiky tails attached, spiked head pieces, and sexy knee-high scaled leg warmers.

What the heck is going on? What on earth do dragons need boobs for? They are reptiles. They don’t breast-feed. Gone are the hard-scaled bellies of fairy-tale lore. No wonder dragons don’t exist. According to these costumes, the females of the species are completely vulnerable to attack and poorly suited for surviving the elements. They’d be extinct before the second generation made it to adulthood.

A second search for a construction worker costume had similar results. My screen was flooded with ladies wearing tight-fitting crop tops, itty-bitty cutoff jeans, boots, and a hard hat. I’ve passed a lot of construction sites in my day and seen a lot of female workers, but I’ve never seen one that looks like she just ended her shift at the nightclub.

Take my word for it. It’s hard being a woman today looking for a Halloween costume if you don’t want to look like a porn-ified version of you-name-it.

I am in no way, shape, or form putting down women for wanting to look attractive or sexy. The female form is fantastic, and I fault no one for wanting to celebrate it. Everything else about Halloween day itself is void of seriousness or substance to begin with. The whole point is simply to have a whimsical, entertaining, good time. What I don’t understand is dressing as a “Sexy Pizza Slice” (I won’t link to it, but you know it’s for real; I couldn’t make this up).

It might be easy to join the critical chorus of “Ladies, put some clothes on,” but if that’s your reaction, I can’t help but wonder: What do you think of watching an average day of TV? Of flipping through lifestyle magazines (for both men and women)? We see hypersexualized imagery to the same degree on TV, in advertisements, and in media every day of the year. So why is it that what’s status quo most days seems over the top on Halloween?

All of this caused me to contemplate the root cause of this behavior. Does the costume provoke a behavior change? There’s something to be said of wearing the mask of a different person, and it can feel exciting to play a different role for a night. And there’s a sense of less personal accountability because you’re pretending to be something else. But if on any other day being the sexy version of you would barely cause the bat of an eye, perhaps the fact that we must be sexy in costume highlights the ridiculous nature of this standard in the first place.

It’s an understatement to say that girls today experience pressure and that increasingly that means to be sexualized. It starts so young now. When my daughter was 6 years old, she wanted to be Ariel, the Little Mermaid, for Halloween. Granted, that costume shows a lot of skin regardless because it is, after all, basically just two strategically placed seashells as a top. But the lengths I went to so that my daughter wasn’t showing any of her stomach almost did me in; you certainly couldn’t just buy the damn thing. And I know that a lot of my friends have had to hand-sew costumes for their daughters to get the non-hooker effect.

Lest you think I’m being too prudish about a Little Mermaid costume, just google “girls cop costume.” Be prepared for a plethora of costumes boasting form-fitting tops and short little skirts with tights or leggings underneath. Girls of today’s generation are up against some horrible stuff. Some costumes, such as this sold-out one, even try to sexualize and humorize things as un-sexy and un-funny as anorexia.

When kids’ costumes start to be sexualized, it becomes hard to deny that Houston, we have a problem.

There is nothing sexy about little girls. So why are they wearing the “sexy” version of police gear? Why don’t little-girl policewomen costumes look like actual policewomen uniforms? It’s no wonder that little girls grow up to think that costumes need to be on the skimpy side. It’s just the natural progression from girlhood to adulthood in terms of what our culture is feeding them.

The costumes marketed to girls today are not an isolated Halloween-centric issue; I see this as further evidence of what our mainstream culture has become. What is today a young girl’s questionable mermaid costume could fifteen years from now be a one-night stand at a Halloween party. I don’t want my daughter subconsciously taking on the mindset that Halloween, or any day for that matter, is a time for her to be mindless with her body. Because on November 1, the costume is gone, but the decisions we made are not.

Do women really want to be objectified and called hoes on Halloween? I don’t think so. I think that many probably just want to fit in, and yes, don’t want to go completely unnoticed. But, most of us are just buying what they’re selling and what we’ve been sold for a long time. If we want Halloween to go back to being about a little fun and fright and not about who the sexiest girl in the room is, perhaps we need to examine our everyday behavior. The nearly naked magazine covers, the sexualized album covers, the nudity-filled TV shows. If we don’t chime in to criticize those, then we’re hypocritical to criticize women for personifying what they see in their own lives.

As of now, countless women and girls are just putting on costumes reflective of how women are depicted all over mainstream media, sex-appeal ads, and porn: things that remain generally accepted by society. And if our mainstream media is feeding girls objectifying imagery on a constant basis, and it’s enticing them to role play, that’s far scarier to me than any Halloween costume.