Halloween Costumes: Sexy or Sexist?

OCRCC Articles

So you’ve got plans tonight? Wonderful! Whether trick-or-treating or heading to a party, the question remains:  what should you wear? From animals or appliances to your favorite Toy Story character, the choice is yours and your ideas are many.

Dude vs. Lady SharkYet on the web, it would seem that you have few options, with about 99 out of 100 costumes for women featuring her body in the same tight, revealing dress, walking in terrifyingly painful heels. Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Why is it that the men’s shark costume looks like a shark, and the costume women are supposed to squeeze into doesn’t even feature a tail?”

Though we all quote Mean Girls to mock the trend, it’s still disconcerting that costume designers and marketers are forcing the message that women must wear revealing costumes on Halloween. Check out “The Evolution of Costumes, from Girls to Women,” from Hypervocal. Starting with adorable children’s costumes, the progression through ages culminates with straight-up lingerie for adult women. The way these costumes are designed and marketed plays into the idea that women are only valued when sexualized and objectified for men’s pleasure. And sadly, these marketing ploys are increasingly targeting teens, tweens, and young girls. The impressive #NotBuyingIt campaign has worked hard to petition costume companies to change their costumes and change the problematic language they use to describe them. (Click here to learn more about the campaign, find out how they’ve impacted costume marketing this year, and sign the petition.)

BabiesWhile women may find it a challenge to find a Halloween costume they are comfortable in, all women have the right to dress up in any way they desire. If you want to be a shark, buy the men’s costume, or make your own. If you want to be a sexy shark, then go for it. Ignore the victim-blaming and slut-shaming from people who claim that women will be “asking for it” in the outfits they’re rockin’. The costume you choose – whatever it looks like – does not come with the label “touch me” or even “disrespect me.” So go out and find the costume that is right for you and always remember that you are the only one who has the right to your body. And encourage others to remember that no costume is an invitation for harassment or rape. Wearing a certain costume, drinking at a party, or flirting are not ways of “asking for it.” Only an enthusiastic yes means yes, and only asking for it is “asking for it.”

Be safe, and Happy Halloween!

Julia Ramos is our RPE Program Intern. She contributes to our Community Education program with education and advocacy support.

Alyson Culin is our Development and Marketing Director. She works behind the scenes to support the Center and its mission with fundraising, communications, and advocacy.

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