That’s not sexy, it’s sexist: a re-evaluation of “sexy” Halloween costumes

Two women shop for Halloween costumes at a Halloween store in Florida. (George Skene/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

By ARIANA APOSTOL-DOOLEY
Staff Writer

In America, the objectification of women exists in a variety of forms, from television to music lyrics and from advertisements to social norms. But now even the clothes sold to women perpetuate the sexualization of women and girls. In Halloween costumes, this issue becomes especially apparent. While it is true that women and girls who wear ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes may have chosen to do so themselves, we often fail to acknowledge the inherent problems with the idea of sexy Halloween costumes that almost exclusively target women.

It is bad enough that sexy Halloween costumes promote the objectification of women, but it is even worse that the majority of costume characters actually have nothing inherently suggestive about them. This year, a variety of sexy Halloween costumes have gone on sale from events throughout the year that have nothing to do with looking attractive. Some of these include sexy Donald Trump, Pizza Rat and Minion costumes, according to the Huffington Post. Several of these costumes originate from children’s characters, but they are altered extensively in order to enhance their sex appeal. In fact, even the definition of sexy shows how women are objectified by these costumes. Sexy is defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary as “sexually suggestive or appealing.” Halloween should not be aimed at trying to increase a woman’s sex appeal to other people, nor should it reinforce the idea that women are only worth as much as the amount of skin they show.

According to Forbes, the lingerie site Yandy, a distributor of many of these costumes, is expected to make $15 million this year selling Halloween costumes alone. Women have not protested the existence of such racy Halloween costumes on a large scale. In fact, many do quite the opposite by purchasing and wearing them. Even what were previously empowering female figures have been sexualized by Halloween costumes: a figure of female strength in World War II, Rosie the Riveter, has been made into a sexy costume that focuses on her body rather than her character and what she represents.

Women should be able to don costumes depicting powerful women in outfits that they would actually wear rather than clothes that are considered sexy. Women and girls do not dress to “distract” boys at school and already have to fight to be taken seriously. Sexy Halloween costumes only serve to exacerbate this problem. Since young children are the most impressionable of all people, it is especially important that American society does not degrade or sexualize women on a holiday oriented towards small children (Zerotothree.org).

Many women have become so used to how they are expected to dress that finding the inherent sexism in certain costumes becomes difficult.  Yet that does not discount the fact that everyone has the freedom to choose what they want to wear and choosing to wear such outfits does not, by any means, make it okay for anyone to treat that individual with anything less than respect. Jayne Chung (Jr.) said that “just like other clothing…people should be able to wear whatever costume they want, but personally [she] would never wear a ‘sexy maid costume.’” She continued by saying that she agrees that “there is an over-sexualization of women with the sexy costumes.” Stores need to accommodate women who want to dress up without worrying about being perceived as sexual objects. DoSomething.org has started a movement which aims to encourage stores like Party City to provide more non-sexy costume options for women. According to DoSomething, 90-95% of women’s costumes are considered “sexy,” and that will not change unless we speak out.

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