As Cady Heron reminds us in the popular teen cult classic, Mean Girls, “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.”
Are people still saying anything about it? In most recent years, the costume industry, specifically during Halloween, has been advertising the need for girls in their early teens and beyond to have costumes with sex appeal. This marketing approach has in turn changed the way young people think about their societal expectations.
When you, as a woman, go shopping for a Halloween costume, you will no doubt notice that no costume category is exempt from the added touch of sexiness. You can add the word “sexy” to any type of Halloween costume nowadays, from professions (sexy nurse) to mythical creatures (sexy fairy). I even discovered online that you can be a ‘sexy corn on the cob’ outfit, because even inanimate objects are made ‘better’ with sex appeal. Children’s media have also been adapted into sexy forms, from Frozen’s Elsa to Pocahontas.
While sexy costumes made for adults are more prevelant, the trend in marketing them towards young teens is troubling.
Unfortunately, the mass media and the societal sexualisation of girls has become so persistent that many people turn a blind eye and are quick to accept it as the norm. Why bother messing with the normal? The pressure for women to fit the mold of how they are supposed to look as well as the message that they are ‘supposed to be sexy,’ is a continuous and prominent thought in society and media. A single advertisement on Oct. 31 can lead to being trapped by this ideology 365 days a year.
We assume that the younger the girl is, the more impressionable she is. Is this saying that all underage girls should dress as scantily as possible? Of course not. In saying this, I am not suggesting that girls should be ashamed of their bodies. Instead that, at that age, they are still receptive and being taught what their bodies apparently should look like. They are not adults. This is where their parents and the adults in their lives must intervene and create a clear media consciousness within their child through open and safe discussion about all issues of body image.
We have the phrase “age appropriate” for a reason. The older you get, the easier it is for you to develop your own understanding and form personal opinions. You are more conscious of what you decide to do.
Although critics may assume that dressing in sexy costumes points to low self-esteem and a lack of maturity, I believe that it can also point to self-confidence and fearlessness. It takes guts to go out wearing something provocative or revealing and feel confident in it. Who says an adult woman cannot take part in the spirit of Halloween by dressing in an “age appropriate” costume? There is nothing wrong with having a cheeky sense of humour and feeling comfortable with your body.
If you are choosing to dress in a sexy manner to please society and other people, and you believe that is what you should be doing, perhaps that is there moment where you need to stop and ask yourself how you really feel about the subject. However, we cannot assume that this is the sole reason why women wear sexy costumes. Intent is always an important factor, yet one of the most difficult to determine. If you are wearing a sexy costume because you desire to, and feel comfortable and confident, then all the more power to you.
So, if you as an adult don’t like sexy costumes, that’s okay, don’t wear them. At the same time, that is not a permission to judge or make inaccurate assumptions about the girl in the ‘sexy policewoman costume’ who, just like you, made her own adult decision.