Halloween and “Slutty” Costumes

By Ashley

Halloween has come and gone, as it is apt to do. I managed to watch 31 movies, got drunk, and had generally spooky, awesome times with my friends and boyfriend. But Halloween has a lot of things associated with it that just drive me up the wall (one of which is culturally appropriative costumes but that’s a whole different blog post all together) and something I have to endure so much of when it’s this time of year is unabashed, non-stop slut-shaming and body policing. According to Lindsay Lohan’s Cady in Mean Girls, Halloween works like this:

In girl world, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.

This is not true, of course. There is a false sense of security surrounding Halloween, a fallacy that for one day we ladies can FINALLY wear whatever we want and not be policed and punished for it! But we all know this isn’t actually true. I still heard—over and over—the outrage at the cleavage, the short skirts, the high heels, the “lack of creativity.” It almost turns into a competition: how many women can you call out on wearing a slutty costume! If you reach a certain number, you achieve moral superiority over them!

I’m here to say that this is a bullshit mentality. And it does nothing but fuel the flames of this slut-shaming, victim-blaming misogynistic culture. There are a lot of “reasons” people give for decrying these kinds of costumes and I’m here to dismantle each one.

1. “Those costumes are so boring/non-scary/uncreative! They make a mockery of the holiday!”

Here’s the thing: you don’t own Halloween. You don’t make the rules about the level of scary each person is required to deliver at this time of year. This is coming from a die-hard horror movie fan who loves to dress up in scary outfits: some people do not like to look scary. They don’t like scary things and don’t want to be scary.

But beyond that, let’s just look at the market for women’s Halloween costumes. There are very slim-pickings in the “non-sexy” category. Marketers know how to capitalize on women’s insecurities and one of the biggest insecurities we have ingrained in us from childhood is “Am I sexy enough?” So we have a market that’s oversaturated with sexified costumes and a target audience that is taught from early on that you can never be too sexy and then we wanna turn around and judge the women who choose to turn the sexy up on Halloween?

If you really want to break out of the “uncreative” mold of sexy costumes, one of your best options is to make a costume but here’s the thing about that: not everyone has the time, skill, money, or spoons to make a really freaking awesome, scary costume for Halloween. Cat ears and a tail might not be very creative to some people, but it sure is cheap and quick.

2. “They make the rest of us look bad!”

This is an argument that isn’t just limited to Halloween. Slut-shamers far and wide complain about how we sluts are just ruining everything for them: making men go mad with desire over our exposed cleavage and legs, stealing boyfriends, and just getting into general slut mischief that has a direct negative impact on the non-slut’s life. In my experience so many of these claims are about women the accuser doesn’t even know; they just make assumptions based on the slut’s appearance. And it leads to all kinds of icky fucking implications, the main being that we are responsible for our own oppression, it’s our fault men disrespect us. Tina Fey in Mean Girls reaffirmed this:

You have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.

I fucking love me some Mean Girls but this is so not true and such fucking victim-blaming bullshit. How about men are taught early on that they have entitlement over women’s bodies? How about we learn really fucking early that calling a woman a “slut” (or any other term that calls into question her sexual integrity) is the quickest way to shut her down and invalidate her? Think about all the different reasons women get called sluts: it’s not JUST for sex stuff and we all know it. Women get called sluts for a huge number of things: for talking too much, being too loud, for being a WOC, for being too opinionated, for being a lesbian, for being too friendly with men, for not being friendly enough and it goes on and on and on. There is very little women can do to avoid being called a slut. Men don’t learn this shit from watching women; we all collectively learn it from the culture at large, a culture that is very interested in upholding the whore/virgin dichotomy (because it helps maintain the status quo and is mad profitable). And we all internalize it. And that is why we get this slut-shaming shit coming from men and women.

3. I miss the days when Halloween was about scary movies and trick or treating, not whoring it up!

You know what I did for Halloween this year? Got drunk off my ass, just like 50 bazillion other young adults. I don’t go trick or treating anymore and if I do, it’s because I’m taking my young nieces and nephews. As we grow into adulthood, holidays and traditions change (I’m at the point in my life where the traditions surrounding almost all holidays involve alcohol). It’s really ridiculous to justify shaming people for not following the same holiday traditions that they followed when they were five. And this is even MORE of a bullshit argument because, you know, I don’t hear people complaining about how drunk people are ruining the holiday traditions.

And you know, that’s one of my biggest issues with slut-shaming other than the fact that it contributes to a sexist, hostile environment: we’re all fucking adults here. And most of us are sexual and have and like sex. As adults we should be allowed to make our own goddamn choices and not be systematically shamed for it. Yes, it is true that female-presenting people are caught in the double-bind: because of male-gaze and socialization and so on, the free choice to wear skimpy clothes might not be much of a real choice. But you know what contributes to that double-bind? Fucking slut-shaming bullshit that reprimands female-presenting people for exposing their bodies. When it comes right down to it, and this is the real gist of feminism for me, what I or anyone else wears or does is not your fucking business. If you don’t like the way I look or what I wear, go stand in line behind all the other people waiting for me to hand out fucks.

Because what is a slut? How much skin do I have to show to be deemed a slut? How many people do I have to kiss or fuck or suck or talk to or look at before I’m a slut? When I was a virgin in high school who had no sexual reputation to speak of, I was called a slut and a whore and dyke simply because I talked about masturbation with my friends. Slut is an enigma. It’s a magical word that is used to shut women down and control our behavior. That is its only function. The very idea that we shame women by saying “YOU HAVE TOO MUCH SEX” is…absolutely fucking ridiculous. Sex feels good. Sex is fun. Sex can be a social tool. Sex can be between people who don’t know each other very well and still be very good and fulfilling and healthy. Sex is a normal part of most people’s lives. And when you shame women who dress “too slutty,” guess what you’re doing? You’re perpetuating a culture that blames victims of sexual assault and rape. You’re basically saying that if that woman were to be raped, well, she was kinda asking for it. YOU are the reason why rapists target those women: because you make it easier for them to get away with a horrible fucking crime. Rape is a fucking crime; cleavage isn’t.

So basically, the next time you see a sexy kitty or a sexy WHATEVER and you have the urge to call out how slutty it is: stop. Think for a minute about why you’re saying and why you’re saying. Realize that every time you use the word “slut” to try and degrade someone you are perpetuating rape culture and misogyny. And stop fucking doing it.


Filed under Politics

6 responses to “Halloween and “Slutty” Costumes

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I L-O-V-E this post.

    “When it comes right down to it, and this is the real gist of feminism for me, what I or anyone else wears or does is not your fucking business.” SO true, my god, how many times do I have to mention this to people on a daily basis? It irks me that everyone thinks they can have an opinion on what people where and what they shouldn’t wear, it really does. Okay, we have all judged someone on something they have worn at some point or other, but as adults, we should grow out of that, and unfortunately, a lot of people don’t.

    Traditions of general holidays as well, as you point out, have definitely changed over the years, and it does, as you get older, become a lot less about knocking on strangers doors for sweets (that sounded really weird putting it like that….). So, with that, we should be able to wear what the fuck we want to, too. Halloween isn’t just about being scary, it’s supposed to be about having fun (that’s how I see it anyway). No matter if you’re going to a party, or sitting at home watching horror movies, it should be about having a good time.

    If I had the money, I would have totally gone all Catwoman-like, but then I know that travelling on trains dressed in a tight, probably PVC costume, would, without doubt, cause a lot of comments and stares from other people. Sometimes I am cool with the way that I look, sometimes not (as we all are most of the time), but the inevitable comments did put me off slightly.

    The whole ‘slut’ thing is so aggravating that every time it pops up, it really winds me up. Like it is no one’s business what you wear, it’s no one’s business who you shag/who you don’t shag.

    On the racial side of things, I ended up dressing as a Japanese school girl as it was the only costume I had in the house from when I was in my anime/manga phase, but I never saw it is as anything ‘racist’ or otherwise. If it could have been seen that way, my God, I really cocked up there, as I am against racism in every form possible. The only thing I can say about that is it was some sort of ode to Battle Royale, hence why I bought it in the first place as I was properly into the film/manga (I messed up the fake blood, though, so I had to go blood-less because it looked like I had a rash on my neck). Plus, I had no money to buy anything else, and when I did end up in a fancy dress shop at about 6 at night (ended up buying an awful wig and some skeleton cup for some reason), I was too stoned to even know where I was…

    This was a comment that was wayyy too long, but I loved this post so damn much not to start on one of my rambles!

    • The Japanese school girl example is great, since the school girl uniform was, to use the language of antiracism theorists, appropriated from Europeans by the Japanese. So, Cherokee, don’t worry; you only reclaimed that costume.

      More seriously, how anyone can claim anyone is being racist for using an image that’s being marketed around the world seems very silly to me. A more accurate criticism of using a manga image would be that it’s capitalist. Well, if you buy the costume. Make it yourself, and it’s just awesome.

  2. Love. This. Post. My costume being crap for the past two years, I’m gonna be sexy next Halloween but while dressed up as Osama bin Laden, to mark the arrival of the Kathryn Bigelow film about him. I have no idea how that’s gonna work.

  3. Excellent post! I think commenting on how women use Halloween as an excuse to be slutty is usually done by those who are out of original things to say. Yes, I’m looking at you Bill Maher.

  4. Pingback: Film Reviews » Come and Get It

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