In Defense of the “Slutty” Halloween Costume

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Photo of a woman wearing a red and black burlesque costume

By: Paola Aguilar

Every year around Halloween time, we inevitably see articles like this and this one making fun of the year’s most ridiculous sexy Halloween costumes. Admittedly, these are pretty hilarious. A few real issues with female Halloween costumes is the fact that more often than not, women are given few choices when trying to pick out a Halloween costume that isn’t “sexy” and the sexualization of costumes that are made for young girls. Apart from the issues specific to female costumes, there’s also the ever-persistent issue of cultural appropriation with Halloween costumes.

Although these are just a few of the many issues with Halloween costumes in current society, Halloween can be fun. I’ve always thought of Halloween as a time to dress up as someone or something you’ve always wanted to be.

Back in 2011, Jenna Marbles made a video titled, “Sluts on Halloween”. This is one of my favorite videos because instead of insulting the women who choose to wear “slutty” costumes, Jenna calls for women to quit insulting each other and, instead, compliment each other.

Why do we negatively view women who choose to wear revealing clothing? It goes back to the basic idea of slut-shaming. Women from a young age are socialized to conform to the almost non-existent middle ground between being prude or being a slut. If you have sex, you’re a slut, and if you don’t, you’re a prude. It’s designed so that you can never win. It is detrimental for girls to be shamed for their sexuality. In the Netflix documentary Audrie & Daisy, the story of two teenage girls who were sexually assaulted while in high school and then slut-shamed by their peers, shows some of the major negative impacts of slut-shaming on young girls. The dangerous impact this has on girls, women, and survivors of sexual assault is why wearing something revealing becomes a courageous action.

Because Halloween is a time to dress up as someone you want to be, it can also be an opportunity to dress like an empowering female figure. It’s great that we’re finally having conversations about dressing up like amazing people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem for Halloween. It gives women and girls more ideas about what they can aspire to be rather than just the generic costumes at shops.

As a feminist, can I not also dress in a revealing costume and still be in favor of equality? I love the idea of dressing up as one of my feminist role-models for Halloween but I should also have the freedom to dress up however I want and not be seen as any less of a feminist.

Why can’t women just wear whatever they want to wear without being shamed for doing so? When a woman dresses up as a sexy nurse, it’s not for any other reason than because she wants to feel and look sexy. Should we not afford every person, including women, the opportunity to wear whatever they want to wear for Halloween without judgment? The fact of the matter is, I’m a grown woman and I’m going to wear whatever I want. What I wear does not dictate anything about my morality or my sexuality. It’s what I feel is empowering and expressive of my own personality.

Beyond having the courage to wear whatever you please for Halloween, empower other women to do so as well. Instead of scoffing or rolling your eyes at the woman wearing lingerie and angel wings at the Halloween party this weekend, why not let her know how great she looks?

This Halloween, whether you’re dressing up as a pumpkin, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Sexy John Oliver, be happy with what you’re wearing, enjoy it, and empower the other women around you who are also wearing whatever the hell they want.

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