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October 27, 2015

The “Sexification” of Halloween.

Ben Tesch/Flickr

Last week I visited my local Halloween shop in search of an adult-size costume for a Halloween party I am hosting.

It had been a couple of years since I last shopped for a Halloween costume for myself, so I guess I wasn’t prepared for what I saw on the racks: before my eyes a deluge of “sexy” costumes designed for adult women.

There were aisles and aisles of skimpy fabric, tiny skirts and low-cut tops. In fact, I had a very hard time finding a costume that wasn’t meant to showcase my legs, breasts and/or belly. In this particular store, the number of sexy costumes for women far outnumbered the number of regular costumes for women.

Unfortunately this put me in a bit of a pickle, given that I needed to buy an appropriate costume for the party I am throwing for my young children, who are eight and six years old.

Fishnets and a little skirt will just not do.

I know I am not the first person to ask this question, but seriously, what happened to Halloween?

Instead of selling garb that is silly or scary, the costume theme most frequently marketed to women for this holiday is racy. Do we have stores and online sites full of “sexy” female costumes every Halloween because that’s what adult women actually want to wear and there is a high demand for them? Or is society limiting women’s Halloween costume options so they are swayed to choose “sexy” outfits (because the non-sexy choices are few and far between)? Or do costume designers truly not know enough non-sexualized female characters to model their designs after?

Whatever the reason, Halloween has truly become “sexified.” At least, it has for women.

The risqué costume selection for females at the Halloween store ranged from hilarious to disturbing. They had everything from traditional (“Sexy French Maid” and “Sexy Nurse”) to funny (“Sexy Beetlejuice” and “Sexy Scissorhands”), to weird (“Sexy Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Sexy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle”), to downright inappropriate (“Sexy Girl Scout”).

I noticed that most of these costumes are simply “sexy” versions of the normal costumes men get to select from. The male versions of these costumes (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Leatherface, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) were portrayed just like the characters in the movies—no short skirts, no fishnets and no pouty model seductively posing on the packaging.

But if you are a woman who wants to dress like Edward Scissorhands, apparently you have to turn your costume into “Sexy Scissorhands” in order to pull it off.

It’s kind of insulting. I’d like to think I could pull off Scissorhands with all of my naughty bits covered up. And seriously, “Sexy Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre”? I mean, come on now. That character is supposed to be terrifying. “Sexy Leatherface” kind of misses the point. Unless the costume designer was going for “absurd,” in which case they totally nailed it.

To be clear, I am not someone who dislikes the erotic or is afraid of a healthy sexuality. I am a woman who supports the right to embrace one’s sex appeal and femininity unapologetically, and I have also embraced my own. I am not against sultry Halloween costumes or the making and selling of them; I admit I have worn them in my younger years. By all means, if sexy is your thing, let your freak flag fly. Do what makes you feel good.

My concern is that we as a society have made “sexy” costumes the norm by turning every female costume into something racy; I am worried about the message that sends to younger females who are approaching adolescence. A young impressionable girl who is battling with self-esteem issues (as most adolescents do) might see a store full of skimpy costumes and think she needs to dress that way to escape reality or to be liked by her peers.

And even for those of us who are older and no longer in the throes of adolescence, what message does this send? The message I received in the Halloween store this week was very loud and crystal clear: A woman in a costume is not fun or interesting unless she is half naked.

You might be thinking I need to lighten up; it’s only Halloween and it’s just a silly costume people put on once a year. What’s the big deal, right?

In my mind, the “sexification” of Halloween is a direct representation of how our society views women, so to me it is a big deal.

If a woman wants to dress up like an airplane pilot, her costume selection will be limited to a short, tight dress and a pilot’s hat. Because what’s interesting about a woman dressed in a regular pilot’s costume? Meanwhile, a man’s pilot costume selection won’t be skimpy or racy. The companies who design these costumes might as well print the pretend annual salaries of these pilots on the packaging of the costumes so we can see how much less “sexy female pilot” makes compared to her male coworker. Yeah, I went there.

As I said before, if you are in the market for a sexy Halloween costume this year, by all means get one and have fun with it. You’re in luck—you have an enormous selection to choose from! As for me, I am going to attempt to put together a non-sexy Princess Leia costume for my children’s Halloween party.

I know I am just one person, but I will try to set an example for my kids by not giving in to the “sexification” of Halloween. Society might think it’s boring because it won’t show off my body, but my two young children who love Star Wars will think it’s cool. And I will show them that a woman in a costume can be fun and interesting, while fully dressed.

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Relephant Read:

Jenna Marbles in defense of “Sluts on Halloween.” {NSFW}

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Author: Francesca Harris

Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Ben Tesch/Flickr // RyC – Behind The Lens/Flickr

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Francesca Harris