Revealing Halloween Costumes Should Not Result in Slut Shaming

By Allie O'Brien
On October 31, 2016

Photo courtesy of MarkScottAustinTX, Flickr

Every year children, teenagers and adults look forward to October for several reasons. Some are most excited to go apple picking, others love the way the leaves change color, and still others look forward to the crisp autumn air. Most people, however, see October as nothing more than a countdown until Halloween.

As a young child, I enjoyed trick-or-treating with my friends usually dressed as a classic Halloween character or someone from TV.

In high school, we still trick-or-treated, but the costumes were not as big of a deal -- we preferred eating candy and watching scary movies at a friend’s house. In college, trick-or-treating is more or less abandoned for costume parties and bar crawls (although I personally never left behind my love of horror films).

For young men, dressing up usually entails either a last-second trip to Goodwill or a more well thought out witty costume. However, many young women decide to adorn themselves in a “sexy” costume instead. Lindsay Lohan’s character in "Mean Girls" makes an interesting observation upon participating in Halloween festivities; “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.”

Conversely, I would argue that in the real world, Halloween is also just one of the many nights a year in which girls feel righteous in judging other girls based on the perceived provocativeness of their costumes. This blatant slut-shaming is an epidemic amongst young women that I believe needs to change.

It is important to recognize that women who dress provocatively on Halloween are legal adults who are doing so of their own volition. Recognizing this unfortunately does not always stop judgmental people, often other women, from looking down upon those who choose to wear a revealing costume.

It has become somewhat of a badge of honor amongst religious conservatives and radical feminists alike to wear something modest on Halloween. For many women, the idea of presenting oneself as more scandalous than usual is enticing, but the fear of backlash prevents one from stepping outside of their comfort zone on a regular Friday night. 

On Halloween, however, it is not them who are dressing in a sexy way -- it’s Britney Spears, Jessica Rabbit or even the devil himself. Being able to temporarily take on a different identity gives these women confidence to experiment with their image, something that we should all have the freedom to do without fear of being judged. Dressing oneself in a mini-skirt and heels doesn’t mean you don’t respect yourself, it is simply one choice out of many in how to spend Halloween night.

The energy people waste on berating those dressed provocatively on Halloween would be better utilized pointing out offensive costumes and encouraging fellow students to think more carefully about the impact of their costume before dressing up. I have personally seen several iterations of the “Mexican and border patrol” couples costume. A simple Google search of these terms brings up a staggering number of these types of costumes for sale. When something this racially insensitive and tone-deaf can be seen at college campuses around the country, why worry about the sexy cat next door? A hot nurse isn’t going to make an entire demographic of people feel unsafe.

Personally, I haven’t worn an explicitly provocative costume for Halloween, although I do tend to go all-out for Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screenings. The sexiest costume I ever wore in my opinion was an homage to David Bowie. Despite not being a consistently scandalous costume-wearer, I can confidently say I will never judge another young woman for wearing such a costume. I prefer to lift other women up, not tear them down and I urge you all to do the same.

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