by Paige N.
Halloween is an event in which people engage in leisure, offering a unique opportunity to present yourself differently from everyday life. As a child, I remember dressing up in costumes such as a witch, cat and pumpkin and as I got older (I am sure others will agree too), my peers and I were still able to dress up as those characters but with “less fabric and more of a push up bra”.
Halloween: once associated with innocent children dressing up as Ghostbusters asking for candy. Now, it seems women and adolescent girls are encouraged to dress however they want as long as the outfit is associated with the prefix “sexy” or “slutty”. Originally, “sexy Halloween costumes” were something found in fetish shop windows and today, these costumes have left the shop windows and emerged in mainstream society.
This shift from “scary to sexy” can negatively impact women in the workforce. Most Halloween costumes for women are “sexy versions” of something, for example sexy fire-fighter or sexy nurse. The portrayal of almost every single occupation in a sexual light is unlikely to contribute to women being taken seriously. Over the last fifty years, the women’s movement has been a key driver to increase the status and significance of women to promote equality. These sexually suggestive costumes defeat the purpose of the women’s movement and generally depict women as “sex symbols”.
Not only are Halloween costumes of a sexual nature present for women but younger individuals too. The implication of exposure to sexualized Halloween costumes at such a young age, can encourage an obsession with one’s body image. Numerous costumes are sending deliberate messages to teens about body image, with emphasis on being a certain “body type”. For example, many outfits designed for teenagers are “short and low cut” and made for a “thin” body type. Therefore, there is pressure to be this specific body type and unavailability to wear such outfits if you are more of a full figure.
Moreover, it has become almost customary that adolescent girls wear costumes that vaguely resemble animals or figures of authority. Commonly, there is pressure for young girls to conform to dress up in a sexy outfit to fit in. From my observation, there is a considerable amount of conformity among girl groups nowadays. Many individuals might “do the same or wear the same” as their peers, as an act of acceptance within a group to reduce judgments of being “different”.
I perceive conformity to contribute towards the development of sexualized Halloween costumes. A great example is noted in the movie Mean Girls. Lindsay Lohan’s character is unaware of the “sexy Halloween costume” rule, and shows up to a party dressed as a zombie bride, complete with ugly fake teeth and a dress which covered most of her body. She was predictably out of place and remarks ” I guess in girl world, Halloween is the one night a years when a girl can dress like a total slut, and no other girls can say anything about it”. Popular movies like Mean Girls act as a gateway and endorsement for a sexualized nature amongst women and young girls.
In addition, these kind of messages sent early to children will only further perpetuate the message that the media sends i.e. both emphasis of thinness and sexuality. Another example I found in an article by the guardian goes to show how the “sexy little girl” has become insistently present in the media. The article describes an acquaintance on Halloween with a five year old girl, wearing a tube top, miniskirt, platform shoes and eye shadow shouting “im a Bratz”. Related to the concept of sexualized clothing, this example displays how influential everyday toys directly impact younger individuals, and a “toys” contribution toward the sexual nature of Halloween Costumes.
The University of Texas have undertaken studies related to how a sexualized body image negatively effects young adolescent girls. Research suggests 10-15 year old girls with higher levels of internalized sexualization (belief to be sexually attractive), achieve lower grades at school than their peers. Related to this study, Halloween costume choices for girls may reflect a damaging preoccupation with being sexually attractive. For example, boys have multiple costume options ranging from scary, funny, nerdy and powerful, whereas girls are limited in scope and increasingly sexualized with features such a fitted bodess , short skirts and heels. Wearing a sexy costume may not negatively affect a girls development, but continued exposure to sex messages can lead to decreased self esteem, body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and depression.
These problems are serious and just because something is sold and displayed in a store, should not be perceived as the norm when it comes to body image, sexiness or fashionability. Halloween should be an opportunity for people to show off their creativity and not be a time when women feel they SHOULD wear sexy costumes but be the one night a year when women/ girls break from this.
Goodin, S.M., Denburg, A.V., Mumen, S.K., & Smolak, L. (2011). Putting on sexiness: A content analysis of the presence of sexualizing characteristics in girls’ clothing. Journal of Sex Roles, 65(1-2), pp. 1-12.
The Guardian (2015). Women. Lost youth: turning young girls into sex symbols. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/sep/18/lost-youth-young-girls
The Guardian (2015). Halloween. Why are Halloween costumes so ‘slutty’? Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2014/oct/20/halloween-costumes-slutty-sexy-witch-women-creativity-boob
The University of Texas (2014). Sexualized body image has negative effect on young adolescent girls. Retrieved from http://www.utexas.edu/news/2014/10/29/body-image-adolescent-girls/
Valley (2014). The link between Halloween costumes and body image. Retrieved from http://www.valleymagazinepsu.com
Article-Buzz (n.d.).Fashion. Sexy Halloween costumes advocate healthy body image. Retrieved from http://www.article-buzz.com/Article/Sexy-Halloween-Costumes-Advocate-Healthy-Body-Image/326548#.VQcwZe9_n4h
The Body Image Therapy Center (2014). Sexualization of girls’ halloween costumes. Retrieved from http://thebodyimagecenter.com/news-blogs/body-image/sexualization-girls-halloween-costumes/