The accepted norm of Halloween costumes is that they are an opportunity to be not yourself for an evening. That is all well and good but I can guarantee that there is not enough post-feminist theory in this world to justify the female skin parade that will be on full display this All-Hallows Eve.
Many women my age took the movie “Mean Girls” too seriously when it said: “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
Which is a really lovely sentiment, isn’t it? We’re so post-feminist that dressing to please the aesthetic sexual eye of men is acceptable again. Because I’m sure that all the girls running around in black tights, bustiers and bunny ears and tails will be thinking about Gloria Steinem and her investigative stint as a Playboy Bunny (in the cocktail club, not the magazine) in 1963 (see “I Was A Playboy Bunny” for details).
And do all the professions really need an injection of the erotic? There’s no such thing as being a doctor or police officer or zombie for Halloween anymore. Being those things requires showing lots of skin, as if Halloween will be a dress rehearsal for Spring Break.
This mentality about the acceptability of body-baring costumes on Halloween has trickled down to children. Reports of young girls sexing it up on Oct. 31 may be slightly over-exaggerated, but I would certainly argue that ladybugs with short skirts and false eyelashes, or pirates in tube dresses and fishnets, or maybe just the devil, are sexualizing girls before they’re old enough to understand what it all means.
Maybe it’s because I am from Michigan, where the end of October is quite cold, but I keep thinking that it must be miserable wearing nothing but a theme bikini as a Halloween costume. Going to a bar or a house party to celebrate with copious amounts of apple cider inherently requires less cold-weather wear than trick-or-treating out in the elements. To maximize the candy grab, at 10-years-old, all Halloween costumes had to be worn over three layers of sweat suits and jackets for warmth, and with the exception of Dorothys with ruby slippers, boots in case of rain or snow.
Now, a Dorothy is more likely to be wearing four-inch spike ruby heels than ruby slippers. Where is the creativity? The scare-factor? Halloween costumes have their roots in the Celt’s fear of being recognized by spirits of the dead, and they wore masks so they would be mistaken for fellow spirits. Or maybe we should all be scared of the cleavage?
The display of too much female flesh on Halloween is merely a symptom of a larger problem. The reclamation of sexual images that previously upheld a patriarchal society’s impractical standard of beauty and a female’s role of servitude is a standard of post-feminism. But this has been perverted into a one-night-per-year display of sex that has no purpose except to please male party-goers. It’s hard to demand respect when a woman is dressed, even on Halloween, like she does not respect herself.
Erin K. O'Neill is a former assistant director of photography and current page designer for the Missourian. She is also a master's degree candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism.