When I was small, I had a trusty Halloween ‘costume’ that I repeated year after year: a long velvet dress from mum’s hippy days, and – actually, that was it. Then I told people I was a witch and stuck out my little hand for sweeties.
My lack of effort then was an accurate forecast of my costume apathy now. When it comes to theme parties, I can’t muster even a tenth of the excitement that seems to consume everybody else. At the end of a working week I struggle with the concept of leaving the house, let alone springing into action to get dressed in Something Beginning With X, or: Someone From An Obscure Film The Hosts Are Really Digging Right Now. Or: Pimps and Hoes. Or: One of Your Friends (actually, that one could be funny. Why don’t more people do that one?)
Much to my ongoing dismay, the dress-up options are endless.
BUT: are they really? Not so much for women, the internet has discovered. As the blog F**k no sexist Halloween costumes points out, followed by a raft of commentary, options for ladies are actually pretty limited.
And by ‘limited’, I mean nearly naked – or nothing. Because while men’s costumes are designed for a night of fun and humour, their female counterparts are made to showcase T&A.
In other words, the default role of ladies – as sexual objects first and foremost – can be found even here, in an industry touting comedy and fun. But that’s the thing with defaults; they’re so ingrained, it’s not until you really, really look at the difference between a male banana costume and a female banana costume that things become clear. Things like PEEL THE ZIP TO REVEAL THE BOOBS!
It’s not just adult costumes, either. Little girls get to swap fun for body-consciousness too. At US retailer Halloween City, boys’ “Career Costumes” include action-based options like Medical Doctor and Blast Off Astronaut, whereas girls’ “Career Costumes” consist of fluff like Igloo Cutie, Cutie Cupcake and Celebrity Starlet. For budding prostitute facilitators, Costume Craze offers a boys’ “Mac Daddy Pimp Costume”: “Pimp cane, play money and dollar sign necklace sold separately. Great fun with this costume!” Over at Target’s website, there’s an “occupation” costume category under the boys’ section, but not the girls’.
Costumes have always been fertile ground for reinforcing stereotypes. (Sexy Native American, anyone? How about some Chinese eyes?) Dressing up is funny, and therefore what you mimic becomes both the ‘joke’ – and the standard view, potentially. As pointed out in this great STARS ad campaign on cultural costumes.
Of course, nothing’s stopping women from buying men’s costumes, or parents from buying boys’ costumes for their daughters. (Or girls’ costumes for their sons, for that matter.) But why should they have to? Why should 50 per cent of the population need to go the extra mile to have fun – and forget about their physique – for one measly night of the year?
Not that women shouldn’t dress sexy because oh my god what if people start thinking women are sexy. Or that women aren’t sexy. Or that there’s anything wrong with women dressing sexy. No woman should ever be shamed for that, ever. Just, it’s worth noting sexualisation comes in many costumes, including costumes. And wherever there’s little-to-zero alternative to a narrow worldview, something’s wrong.
P.s. I lied; there are some really hot men’s Halloween costumes out there. Here.
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By Rebecca Kamm rebeccakamm Email Rebecca