We can all recall that special Halloween when our costume was going to be the talk of the town. Especially as girls, what we wore for Halloween reflected a lot about our personality, interests, and how we wanted our peers to see us. The issue with this was that the costume options for men were, and still are, drastically different.
Women’s costumes are usually sexy and revealing while men’s costumes were actually accurate to the character.
Men wearing a cop costume actually look like one, while girls are expected to show their stomachs, wear heels and a mini skirt with a cop hat. These costumes were designed with the purpose of sexualizing girls at a very young age with the excuse of Halloween.
Sharron Lennon from Indiana University-Bloomington carried out a study regarding the difference in Halloween costumes between men and women and the way these costumes are perceived. Her results showed that women dressed in revealing costumes were more sexualized and viewed by some as less faithful, less moral, less sincere, and less self-respecting. It also showed that both men and women objectified women who were dressed in revealing costumes. So why do women choose these kinds of costumes?
Because even though every woman has total autonomy to choose what to wear, we are put under such pressure to look “sexy” that we might wear something we don’t feel comfortable with. The cultural and social pressure to fit into a certain pattern is a huge factor and plays a major role when choosing which costume to get. Maybe we remember the scene in the movie Mean Girls when they say that Halloween is the only day of the year when it is authorized and appropriate for girls to dress like sl*ts. Even though this movie is almost 20 years old, it reflects this normalization of women being sexualized without considering their true feelings about it.
It is so normal for women to be sexualized and objectified in our society that no one even questions it, leading girls to voluntarily choose those revealing outfits.
“Choice” is a very tricky word in this sense though. We can go back to peer pressure but we also must talk about the industry and corporations. Every year when we go costume shopping, the incredible difference between revealing and non-revealing costumes is outrageous. Most of the options are super sexy costumes that only come in small sizes, leaving not a lot of options for those women who do not feel comfortable wearing that or simply need a bigger size.
So apart from the objectification and sexualization, we add the size element, which might lead to even bigger insecurities in those girls. And there is very little real “choice” in this process.
Women are pressured into revealing outfits they might not be comfortable with, or their size is unavailable in the costume they do want, and corporations do nothing to change it because this is how they make a profit and can continue sustaining this unhealthy system.
This process of sexualization is a vicious cycle in which society demands from the industry and vice versa, normalizing women’s sexualization and making the world see it as a good thing once a year.
As women, we need to understand this and act accordingly. We are entitled to wear whatever we please and we should always feel comfortable with ourselves and the image we are presenting to the world. We should not allow events like Halloween to alter our vision of ourselves and of our bodies just because it is socially acceptable. We should feel comfortable wearing whatever makes us feel empowered and ready to enjoy the evening, whether that be a full-coverage onesie or lingerie with animal ears.
Let’s not allow the market, societal patterns, or holidays to manipulate our bodily and individual autonomy. We always come first, with or without a costume.
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