Let’s talk about Halloween costumes.
I’m a crafty lady, and I love making my own costumes. I’ve been Peter Pan, Cruella DeVille (favorite costume award: strangers on the street sang the theme song to me all night long), Sailor Moon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a flapper, a clown (three years in a row. I had an odd childhood.), a pirate, and I can’t even remember what else. Most of these costumes I made myself. Some of them were sexy, and some of them weren’t. But I’ve never been anything where “sexy” was part of the concept of the costume. Peter Pan is a little boy, so, guess what? Not sexy.
Like many people, I’m getting a little tired of the pre-packaged sexy costume trend. Want to be a “Sexy Pineapple?” I’m sure there’s a way to make that happen. Which I guess is cool? if a little weird. My problem with The Sexy Costume is not that I have a problem with sexy costumes. I’m pretty into sexy costumes, to be honest. I think people should totally be allowed to be sexy if they want, not just on Halloween, but on every day of the year. There’s really nothing exotic about loving your body and wanting to show it to people, and the idea that Halloween is the one night of the year that women can sex it up with impunity is absurd. It plays into the idea that a woman’s sexuality is somehow taboo. As taboo as zombies, even. Which is just crazy talk.
So my main problem with the pre-packaged sexy costume is, as I said, that it exoticizes female sexuality. Also, I think it’s boring. If you’re going to dress up as a Sexy Ant, at least have the creativity to make your own costume. Buying a cheaply made polyester one for two hundred bucks off the internet is sort of an extreme waste of money, and it screams “I have the creativity of a rock, so we’re probably not going to have very much to talk about if you approach me at this party.” Which, I don’t know, maybe that’s your intention. In which case, by all means, buy that $150 Sexy Tampon costume. It’s so you!
But just because I don’t think Sexy Pancakes are very interesting, doesn’t mean I’m offended by them. I don’t think that the Sexy Blank Costume craze is ruining Halloween. I think it’s interesting and kind of sad that some people do:
The folks at the Real History Project have created this website. It’s a really unique Halloween website, in that it’s run by historians who created a bunch of historically accurate DIY costume ideas for women. So it’s great because 1) the ideas are really unique, and 2) it’s an opportunity for easy crafting! If you get a costume idea from this website I will be impressed and love it, and maybe even love you! The costumes on this site say to me, “I’m pretty smart and I like history and feminism, so we’d probably have a lot to talk about if you approach me at this party!” So I love everything about this website except the name: Take Back Halloween.
What exactly are we taking Halloween back from? Did “we” own it before, and then the sexy slut brigade stole it, preventing us from ever again using Halloween for what it was initially intended to be, which is a time for adults to dress up like historically accurate characters and talk about politics over bowls of candy? No. No one owns Halloween. The idea that there is a right way to do Halloween is like saying there is a right way to do any other holiday: “you celebrate Christmas but you didn’t go to church? Uh, oh, better take that holiday back from you.” “You celebrate Thanksgiving by eating Chinese food? Nope, not gonna fly, you’re going to have to give that holiday back. You’re doing it totally wrong.”
Halloween is a chance to party. Halloween also often involves children. It is supposed to be fun. And, it‘s the one day of the year that you can dress up as absolutely whatever you want, and no one is going to bat an eye. Want to be Adam and Eve, complete with no clothing whatsoever? Seen it. No one cared. (ok, there were pasties.) Want to be a sexy piece of bacon? Please, please, do. I would actually love to see that. (Guess what, I thought I was just making that up, but here it is.)
Now I know there is more to be covered in the “what is an appropriate Halloween costume” conversation than just the sexy/not sexy/”your grandmother is going to see those pictures” debate. For instance, this student group at Ohio University created a really smart ad campaign about the stigmatizing influence of racist costumes, which I think is totally rad. And while I think that we need to be careful about when we say appropriation is “bad” I do agree that there are some things that are pretty uncool. But ultimately, decisions about when cultural appropriation in a Halloween costume is acceptable are personal decisions, often made with an awareness of who you’re going to be around when you decide to dress up as, say, a Nazi.
Depictions of Halloween traditionally incorporate frightening, shocking, and bizarre images. You are likely to be put in situations where people are actively trying to scare you. With that in mind, the modern culture of Halloween embraces the idea that people can dress up as anything–there are no taboos. No one thinks that if you dress up as sexy corn, it’s because you have a corn fetish. I think it’s sort of understood that whatever you do on Halloween, it’s not real life, and tomorrow at the office, you’re going to go back to being your normal, culturally sensitive, maybe-sexy-maybe-not self. Which I think is so great.
Bring on the Sexy Pizza.
- Beds, Chairs, and the Kitchen Sink: The Best Home-Inspired Halloween Costumes (apartmenttherapy.com)
- Esquire:How to Avoid a Terrible Halloween Costume (esquire.com)
- 2013’s Most Popular “Sexy” Halloween Costumes Might Surprise You (refinery29.com)
- Amazing and Inspirational Women’s Costumes to “Take Back Halloween” (io9.com)
- ‘Sexy Pizza’? Halloween costumes get absurd (today.com)