Today = girls gone wild, for the rest of us?

I don’t want to be the little raincloud on an otherwise sunny, happy day. Don’t get me wrong, Halloween is great. I have a huge pumpkin sitting in my apartment, I’ve given out candy to the kiddies and forced my mother to dress up with me every year since I stopped trick-or-treating myself, and I love any excuse to celebrate. But the costumes…as a woman, I have a hard time biting my tongue on this one.

First, some stipulations to minimize the risk that my point will be misinterpreted (though I imagine it might be regardless as blanket statements without the benefit of conversation often are). Many of my friends have come up with really hilarious, clever ones this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing them. How any woman dresses is her own business on this day like any other. There is nothing wrong with dressing in a revealing manner on this Friday night or any other.  It doesn’t make you a slut/whore/easy or any of the other words society has created to make female sexuality seem like a “bad” thing, even in 2008. All that being said…

I was out shopping with one of my friends the other day and we wandered into a costume store. It was a huge store with hundreds of costumes. Some examples: sexy nurse, sexy doctor, sexy pirate, sexy firefighter, sexy bunny, pinup, playmate, school girl gone wild. It would not be an exaggeration to say every costume in that store marketed toward women was risque and really could have been the same costume (tight, short, low-cut) with a slight alteration in accessories.

My friend and I laughed at how over-the-top it all was but if I think about it for more than a minute, it becomes really troubling. Dressing up and playing make believe is fun but what does it say about our culture that Every. Single. Costume. in that store (and apparently most stores if you read this vintage NYT article on the subject from 2006: http://tinyurl.com/6hynkq) was overtly sexualized?

One could argue it’s one day out of the year in which to explore this other side of one’s personality and push boundaries with what wouldn’t be acceptable otherwise. In fact, such a position is stated in the above article. I’m sure for some people, that is the case. However, I think it unfortunately serves the same purpose for society — one day out of the year built in no small part around an all out objectification of women (again, every costume in that store!), which is far subtler but equally pervasive throughout the rest of the year.

No, I don’t think sexy costumes are one step removed from the idea that women should be barefoot and pregnant all the time. However, the way notions of “good girl,” “bad girl,” “sexy,” “slut,” etc., are played out in women’s Halloween costumes illustrates the fact that there is still some progress to be made on the objectification of women, how society views female sexuality, and the images put out there for young women/girls to internalize, emulate, and idealize vis a vis themselves and their interactions with men.

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3 responses to “Today = girls gone wild, for the rest of us?

  1. Thanks, sprite! 🙂

  2. You have room for a pumpkin? Me = jealous!

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