For the purpose of this article, I anonymously surveyed 30 participants ranging in age from 18-25. All quotes used in this piece are from the anonymous survey.
As a child, Halloween was the most liberating and exciting night of the year. I simply was obsessed. Playing dress up was part of my everyday life as a little girl, but a night out in a costume of my choice for the world to see was something I (maybe overly) cherished. My mother had my costume handmade months in advance by a dear family friend. My father would decorate the house as if we lived in The Adam’s Family mansion. For the entirety of October, bright purple spider webs dangled from my ceiling, and chilling skeletons haunted the hallways between the rooms of my house. I soaked up the spirit of Halloween and embraced it. But as I grew up, the darkness of the witches and ghosts disappeared and the horrors of society crept in.
There’s a certain type of sexism that’s carved its way into the Halloween season. It’s obvious and impossible to ignore. Halloween has become a night that marginalizes and forces people to conform to inadequate societal standards. Not only are the costumes in the stores sadly targeted towards specific genders of different ages, but the female-targeted adult costumes expect a lot more skin to be shown. There’s an overwhelming expectation that women need to dress a certain way and sexualize themselves every October 31st. You’re supposed to look like society’s standards of sexy, but when you do, you are ridiculed and judged. You literally can’t win.
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve felt that Halloween has changed from being a fun-spirited holiday to a contest of sorts. Especially being a woman on a college campus, it always feels like there’s pressure to have a “sexy costume” or show more skin than the next girl. Halloween has just become a day that weighs on my body image issues. So, in more recent years I have just decided to have fun with it and care less what others think.”
My inner child is screaming. Halloween’s supposed to be a night to dress up however you want, to live your biggest and most unreal dream. To be anybody. Anything. What if someone wants to look sexy on Halloween? What if someone wants to be warm and dress like a polar bear? Who cares? Apparently, too many people. I’m here to fix the tarnished holiday and remind everyone what the unique evening is all about.
Empowered. Rebellious. Hilarious. Sexy. Beautiful. Iconic. Funky. These are the words participants of the survey used to describe how their Halloween costume this year makes them feel. The majority of participants will be celebrating Halloween this upcoming weekend with friends and family. Prepared costumes range from Brittany Spears to Santa Claus, to angels and devils, to Captain Underpants. Some participants’ costumes make them feel confident because they are showcasing their personalities. Some of the costumes enabled self-expression and a sense of humor. It’s critical to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, whether it be a theatrical holiday or not. And who’s to say that comfortable can’t mean sexy? Everyone is different.
“My costume makes me feel confident because I am able to embrace the body I am in and not care about what other people think because it is Halloween. The purpose of the day is to dress how I want and to dress in a way that makes me feel good (and sexy in this case).”
It’s important to feel good about yourself, Halloween or not. It’s even more important to feel safe. Halloween is typically a night when people can dress more provocatively, expressive, and in a more revealing way. 100% of my participants believe sexual assault and crime are higher on Halloween. Near 97% of my participants also believe there is an increased amount of slut shaming behavior around Halloween. When did this Holiday steer away from its spirited roots and bring forth this judgment, control, and shame?
Let’s collectively make an effort to break down these societal expectations on Halloween and in everyday life. There is no justification, ever, for placing judgment on others for how they dress and chose to express themselves. Even in a costume. Let’s dress how we want and not be so quick to judge. Let’s reinvent Halloween.