Haters on Halloween

Slut-shaming ignores the right to freedom of expression.

Bronwyn Miller

Now that homecoming and the Zombie Pub Crawl have come to a close, many people are looking toward the next October event that involves heavy drinking and dress-up: Halloween.

As we all scour for the perfect costume, a common controversy arises: Why do all the costumes for women seem most fitting to wear while popping out of a cake? Why would the word “sexy” ever appear next to “mental institution escapee” or “hamburger”?

It’s easy to denounce the overwhelming abundance of straight-out-of-the-strip-club-themed costumes as just one more way that society demands women adopt a hypersexual image in order to be viewed as feminine or attractive. Many argue that there is a strong expectation for females to wear this type of costume, epitomizing the ever-present pressure that correlates female worth and desirability with amount of skin bared.

The process of finding a non-slutty costume can be futile and frustrating to those who are not interested in wearing revealing costumes. Raunchy Cop, Sexy Cop and Naughty Cop costumes overwhelm stores, but for some reason, the Fully-Covered Cop costume evades us. Gripes related to lack of diversity in stores’ costume selections are quite often merited.

If you’d rather show up in a Green Man suit than a Sexy Raisin costume, that’s your prerogative. But if you expect this choice to be respected, don’t ridicule or label those who choose a more scantily clad option. It is likely you don’t want to be called a prude for your costume, just as the woman dressed as a Sexy Toaster likely doesn’t want to be called easy or skanky, either. All these names can hurt. Every form of self-expression needs to be equally accepted.

As adults, we should not be shamed if we select a revealing costume, nor should the assumption be that we are doing so in the name of societal pressure. Agency plays a role in the costume decision-making process, and it is neither anti-woman nor anti-feminist to choose to dress sexily. Wearing a revealing costume should not be automatically viewed as stemming from a lack of self-respect.

If “Mean Girls” taught us anything, it’s that Halloween should be celebrated without judgment. However, we shouldn’t be advocating a pass on slut-shaming for just one night of the year. The reality is that baring cleavage is enough for us to be accused of “asking for it,” whether we are dressed as a French Maid or a Franzia box or just out on a normal weekend.

For many people, Halloween serves the same mission of the SlutWalk march: to protest the idea that staying safe as females comes down to avoiding dressing like sluts. It’s a way for us to defy those who warn women that dressing in a revealing way ups our chances of being raped.

Beyond concerns of being attacked, we should also be allowed to wear whatever we’d like without being shunned or criticized — on Halloween and on every other day of the year. There is no formula that links amount of revealed skin to number of sexual partners. The Naughty Nurse costume gives you no knowledge about the person who wears it.

We’ll display a vast variety of costumes this Halloween, but let’s collectively embrace and applaud everyone who has the confidence to wear what he or she wants — even if that’s a Sexy Potato costume. We are all so much more beautifully complex than the clothes we wear, and the importance of avoiding stereotyping is especially important on a day when many people choose to play with their identities.