I used to love Halloween. From childhood into the late 1990s, I used to wear costumes every October and then wonder why we couldn’t do it every day. I mean, wouldn’t any given Monday just be better if I could wear my Supergirl costume on the “el” as I commuted to work?
My disillusionment with this most wonderful holiday of the year – I mean, come on, no family obligations, just dressing up as someone else and getting candy, what’s the downside? – began about the time I started looking for a Hogwarts costume one year. I couldn’t find a nice long Gryffindor robe that would make me look like a student at Harry Potter’s school. Ah, but I could find a Sexy Gryffindor Robe, so if I wanted to I could both freeze in the Chicago night and look like the Harlot of Hogsmeade instead. Whee.
A year or two later, my well-meaning husband actually went to Target and picked out a Halloween costume for me – a Sexy Soccer Player outfit. See, being a kick-ass female footballer isn’t sexy enough in itself. I have to be pink and black, wearing a mini-skirt and carrying a matching ball-shaped clutch purse with thigh-high socks on. I’m sure that’s really helpful out on the pitch. Actually, I’m amusing myself imagining a chick in spiked heels tripping across the grass trying not to break a nail while Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe fly past on their way to possess a not-pink ball before it gets to Hope Solo.
If only I was a cosplayer – but my skill with needle and thread and makeup is pretty negligible. If I could sew (or afford to buy quality handcrafted costumes made by actual seamstresses), I wouldn’t be at the mercy of costume makers who think that Every Single Costume Available for Women must be cheaply made, super-short, frilly, lacy, sequined, patent leathery or otherwise girly, feminine and skimpy.
Leaving aside questions of sexualization, and how the ubiquity of such costumes might be internalized within the psyche of young girls, I just want to say that I like pink and glitter and tutus as much as the next woman who played with Barbie dolls all throughout her youth. I’m not the type to slut-shame. I get that this is what many women want – and it’s not at all wrong for women to want to look beautiful and desirable. I get that this is how costume companies make money. I’m not going to delve into the societal issues this brings up about women’s self-esteem and images in the media and all that important stuff. But is it wrong to want some choice here?
When it comes to Halloween, donning a costume to look and act like someone else, I don’t want my only options to be Whore In a Ghostbusters Outfit, Whore from Gotham, Whore With Tongue from the VMAs, Whore Dressed in A Nurse’s Outfit, or Whore Garbed Like Food With Strategically-Placed Bits (Get It? Get It?!). Ultimately it’s no choice at all, if I’m only being asked to choose between 31 flavors of Woman Dressed As Someone Else’s Sex Fantasy.
And then there’s the issue of WHOM these 31 flavors represent. Sure, we girls get to co-opt male superhero roles by dressing up as Iron Man or Captain America (only sexier! With glitter and ruffles!). But my main problem with gender-bending costumes is that I wish there were more famous, well-written (and better-represented on the silver screen) female superheroes so that girls wouldn’t feel the need to become their male counterparts. I mean, I loved Spider-Woman and Batgirl and Supergirl and Wonder Woman and Laurel Kent (was rather devastated when she turned Manhunter) as a girl. But it’s way more likely for you to see a girl in a Spider-Man suit at any given Halloween gathering. I’d like to see more actual kick-ass females in the mix.
Of course, we as women all want to look good. But I don’t think I’m the only one who finds store-bought costumes to be degrading, impractical and unimaginative. All I want is the option to not look like bait for rapey assholes, no matter my age.
My beef with all these sexualized costumes has to do with the fact that I like dressing up as someone else to channel their strength, their abilities, their experiences. It’s fun, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – to pretend. It’s just that not all of my dressing-up fantasies involve putting out for someone. Sometimes, I want to actually look and feel like an interesting, powerful woman, one who is interesting and powerful regardless of how traditionally “sexy” she may or may not be. The lack of options here is discouraging at best, harmful and misogynistic at worst. It is what has made Halloween lost some its wonder and excitement for me.
I am still going to sneak some of my son’s candy, though. Just sayin’.
[box type=”info”] Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, opinion or position of The Mommy Gamers.[/box]