Halloween costumes and celebrating your body

GVSU Women's Center

It has become very commonplace every Oct. to find an overwhelming collection of Halloween costumes for women prefixed by the words “sexy” or “naughty.” And hey, Halloween is a great holiday to express yourself and have fun (and of course, to eat a LOT of candy.) But the way that women’s costumes have come to be marketed raise several questions for us at the Women’s Center.

Why are women encouraged to dress scantily on Halloween, but reprimanded for it the other 364 days of the year? And why do these “sexy” versions of nurse or pirate costumes seem to be the only ones available for young women in the store? What if I don’t want to be the kind of zombie that wears a mini skirt and a corset?

This is a tricky issue to look at from a feminist perspective. On one hand, we hate seeing this obvious objectification of women in the marketing of sexualized Halloween costumes. On the other hand, even addressing this sexualization as an issue could potentially be perceived as a form of slut-shaming, something which we are wholeheartedly against.

Sexual objectification is when one person perceives someone as nothing more than a device for their sexual pleasure. Slut shaming is instilling guilt in another person for exhibiting sexual behaviors. At the Women’s Center, we believe that: 1. Women are people capable of making their own decisions regarding sex and sexuality, not devices to be used for anyone else’s pleasure, and 2. No one should be shamed for their own personal sexual expression.

Everyone should celebrate their bodies by dressing any way that they choose. But exactly how much of our “choice” is really our own? How much of our decisions are influenced by the limitations of larger society constructs, like the limited range of Halloween costumes for women at the store?

It is totally possible to be completely respectful of yourself and your body no matter how you dress. But it’s important that we all take time to examine our choices carefully and determine if our self-expression is in any way influenced by the societal pressures of what is attractive or what is deemed appropriate.

For example, you may realize after considering this that you’ve been wearing revealing clothing not necessarily because you felt comfortable doing so, but because you thought you had to in order to be perceived as attractive. Or contrarily, maybe you have been covering up for fear of being shamed when in reality wearing revealing clothing would make you feel more confident and, well, like you! Self-expression comes in all forms, and it is no one’s place to decide what way is the right way to dress in order to respect YOUR body.

I wanted to write this blog to emphasize individual choice. This goes not only for Halloween, but every other day of the year too. It’s easy to forget that having a choice is actually a thing for women who dress up on Halloween, especially if marketing strategies or other outside influences make it more difficult for us to celebrate ourselves and our bodies in the way that is comfortable for us rather than in the way we may be “expected” to. Dressing up on Halloween, scantily or not, is a way to express yourself and have fun, with no place for any judgment or pressure from others.

By Therese Stastny, GV Women’s Center social media intern