In response to Halloween & sexy costumes:
‘Tis the season of childish laughter and playful ploys bringing families together through the joys of free candy, costumes and the rite of passage that Halloween is to most. Specifically, an American Halloween. And that’s all fine and dandy for the youngsters, but when it comes time to pay your college dues at frat parties and night clubs, stumbling in short skirts and high heels is not necessarily fun anymore, it’s work, but it’s honorable work, because, that’s what girls are for and that’s what they do best. DUH.
DISCLAIMER (and then some): This post isn’t about slamming “slutty,” stupid, or inappropriate costumes. Nor is it about being pro-slut walk or encouraging the “flaunt it if you got it” idea. Instead, this post is personal because I want to talk about the pressures of popular conventions on All Hallow’s Eve (and honestly a whole ton of other nights out of the year) and why we all need to be more aware of what we say, how we think and the way we treat each other.
From my own observations and experiences, there are pressures on young women to be feminine, sexy and (sometimes) smart (in that order). But it’s more complicated than that: we ladies also have to balance constant judgments from peers and ourselves while being compared to and from the media. To say the least, it can be a little overwhelming to form an identity from these three main factors, especially when there seems to be a superficial, limited definition for each. As Jessica Valenti points out, it seems as though a woman’s worth is based on whether or not she’s having sex (The Purity Myth, 2009) and not on her intellect, her accomplishments or her character. With this being said, it’s no wonder that women spend more time second guessing what others will think of what she’s wearing instead of the political advocacy or individuality she holds.
Now, on Halloween it’s all about walking the fine line of being a “slut” and just pretending to be one. As Cady says in the popular movie, Mean Girls (2004), “In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” Stereotypically, that pretty much sums up Halloween in college. The night is projected through the male gaze, but seems to be more about women competing with each other for the hot-o-meter.
And, as I said, this writing isn’t about chastising them for such choices, nor is it about applauding them. It is about critically looking at this formula, this set of mental questions and applications women must go through to constantly assess the response from their surroundings, peers and self-image. It is the balancing act of getting by unscathed from participating or not participating in certain social functions and conventions. How can you be “slutty,” but not “too slutty?” More so, how the hell do you possibly create a scale to measure that question?!
Sure, you can dress up as a sexy magician, a sexy referee, a sexy child’s character or, the always classic, sexy cat. Fine. That’s all great. Go for it.
But how do you deal with the negative and positive responses you may get? Are you dressing that way to please yourself or others? Are you wearing those clothes (or lack thereof) because you think they look good or you’ve been conditioned to believe so? It is this idea, this belief, that if one succumbs to Halloween peer-pressure, it’s ok, as long as they succeed by being the hottest. Whether a decision is good or bad, it comes with consequences, some accounted for and some unforeseen.
Basically, I think, when a women dresses in any of the costumes above or the like, she is doing so because she’s been taught to believe that sexy is as sexy does and sexy means mini-skirts, heels and cleavage. Often, women are not offered an alternative to identify with, let alone a different standard to uphold. I do not think any girl wants to be told she’s a slut, but instead when she dresses provocatively that she wants attention. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING. Sadly, looking good is the easiest way in this world to get compliments and adoration.
So, in conclusion, ladies — I don’t care how you dress or how you feel when you dress in a certain way, but no matter what you’re wearing, remember that the words and ideas of being slutty, whorey, hoey or sexy are relative. How you chose to see yourself is up to you, no one else. And hetero-men — the women dressed at parties bearing their busts and booties may catch your eye, but don’t need your approval or applause. And the women who choose to cover up do not need your name-calling or insults either. No one wants to feel like a piece of fresh meat hanging from the ceiling or a pair of disembodied parts waiting for your gaze. The world we live in says women should be beautiful. Let them learn on their own that no matter who they may be or what they look like, that they are stunning as themselves, inside and out. We don’t need your confirmation.
Darragh Dandurand Friedman, firstname.lastname@example.org