-By Cassy Gonzalez, student volunteer
When I was in high school Halloween was the holiday. It was/is the only day that the female students could wear minimal clothes and it was considered “sexy” and not “slutty.” As offensive as it was, I assumed that this sexist and misogynistic binary would magically disappear when I reached college—I was naïve. Halloween has taken on a double meaning for women and girls—you can be sexy, according to popular culture, and “enjoy” the male gaze without being labeled a slut. This is the (well, one of many) message young women developing into their own sexualities, a sexist paradigm that teaches young women they can be sexy and on display but only on socially prescribed terms.
And it is not just young women in their teens that are receiving these messages—younger girls are receiving them as well. There was an episode of “Toddlers & Tiaras” where one pageant girl—three year old Paige—dressed as Julia Robert’s character from Pretty Woman with a fake blonde wig, white halter top, black skirt and thigh-high boots. The audience enjoyed it immensely. There are even sexualized Sesame Street outfits for children—dresses with Big Bird’s Face, or the Cookie Monster with knee high socks and heeled boots.
It is not just revealing outfits for women that are contributing to this awful standard. There are outfits for men that come attached with a woman performing a sexual act on him, or ones with an exaggerated appendage (read: penis) put on display that is meant more for comedy than for ogling. And then there are the outfits meant to mock men by wearing effeminate clothing, because dressing as a woman—for those who do not identify as women—is a costume, a joke that is not “offensive” because it is on Halloween. Apparently common decency and awareness of all the oppressed “isms” can be put aside for Halloween.
I am not anti-Halloween or sexy dress-up. I am against the manufactured and socially-dictated ideal of “sexy” because it leaves women (and men as well) with only two options—the option to be labeled as “slutty” or sexy solely for the male gaze. To me, this seems like a false empowerment mentality that is being fed to young women, and males as the consumers. Especially since “slutty” seems to be a common way to describe individuals who like feeling sexy for themselves and not others. Trouble is, the “sexy” and “slutty” binary is so common and tightly wound together, and it can be hard to distinguish between the two; especially for young women coming into their own sexuality. This is also very heteronormative as well as sexual minorities and non-heterosexual identified individuals are made invisible.
I love Halloween and fun like everyone else and yes sometimes I do enjoy dressing a little more “sexy” than I normally would on any other day. But when I do, it is under my terms and not contradictory ideals that my culture circumscribes. Everyone is entitled to a fun Halloween—and every day of their lives—but it should not be under these false pretenses. I say if you want to dress up as a sexy nurse or police officer then go right ahead! Just do it because you are confident in yourself and your own sexuality, regardless of what anyone else has to say.