by Delphine Burns
Walking around campus, there are all sorts of creative Halloween costumes. Some students plan for “Halloweekend” for months, coordinating group costumes with friends, or simply ensuring their own costume is one to be remembered. There are multiple nights of Halloween parties, so many students even plan multiple outfits. There are many decisions that go into the process of choosing a costume.
However, for female-identifying individuals specifically, extra burdens are added to the costume decision process. Will she look scary, or will she look “slutty?” And if she is going to dress promiscuously, is she doing it for herself or for the hegemonic male gaze? This makes locking down that perfect Halloween costume a lot more complicated.
Students have differing opinions about what costumes can be empowering, what costumes can objectifying, and the general implications of wearing revealing costumes on Halloween, specifically women’s clothing.
Some students do not see harm in wearing Halloween costumes that are a little skimpier, and find it unfortunate that there are societal implications for choosing to do so. First year Elliot Joyce sees wearing “slutty” costumes simply as a choice.
“I have nothing against someone wearing a more revealing or tight-fitting costume,” Joyce said. “As someone who does cosplay, I’m used to seeing such characters on a regular basis and I don’t think any differently of people who show lots of skin or people who choose not to. Unfortunately there is an inherent risk when wearing a costume deemed ‘slutty.’ If you’re female identifying, appearing, or passing, then there’s a greater chance of people saying things about you, making advances to you in sexual manners, and so forth. But it definitely should be up to the person to wear the costume or not. It sucks that society has so many opinions on people who wear them.”
Contrarily, first year Sam Kole sees slutty costumes as objectifying, but also as a popular culture trend.
“I would say that these costumes are objectifying, but people wear them to feel empowered,” Kole said. “It’s similar to the way people who like Hip Hop music listen to artists say the N word, bitch, and other slurs. But they still listen to it because it’s pop culture and a lot of people feel empowered when they get in with the trend. This doesn’t make it okay. In my Hip Hop example, those words objectify people. But a lot of people feel empowered by what they are listening to and elevate the artist’s status.”
Kole also believes that “slutty” Halloween costumes go too far, and can cause negative opinions of those choosing to wear them.
“I think we need to be careful that the costume isn’t so slutty that no matter how you feel about what you are wearing it’s unpresentable,” Kole said.
When Kole was asked what he defined as ‘unpresentable,’ he said, “I mean too much is skin exposed. There are varying degrees of slutty-ness. If you are completely exposing your breasts or butt, that would be too much. People are entitled to their opinion and while they can’t stop you, for yourself, if you want to be liked, you will think about what you wear.”
While some find revealing costumes empowering and some objectifying, other students opinions on wearing these costumes are a little more nuanced. First year Bethany Reim sees the norms around “slutty” Halloween costumes as giving women a “false sense of freedom.”
“The vibe I get is that Halloween is the one night girls can’t be judged,” Reim said. “So we can go crazy with costumes, and I like this, but it’s kind of a false freedom. Girls are told by corporations to wear whatever they want but as long as it’s sexual. For example, there are costumes like sexy cop, sexy anything pretty much. I think in a real world setting people go for much more creative costumes while still sexual. Either way, I enjoy Halloween and do feel free to wear what I want, and at the end of the day it’s all about having fun.”
An anonymous male-identifying student sees women’s costumes a little differently. This student feels constrained by gender normative clothing and society’s judgments.
“As a male-bodied individual, I find it exciting to wear women’s clothing occasionally,” this student said. “It’s especially enjoyable when it’s in socially acceptable situations, like Halloween or other costume parties. It’s liberating because men are very confined in terms of the diversity of clothing that is available to us. If you go into any clothing store, women have way more types of clothing, materials, and accessories catered to them. Clothing shopping as a guy is easy because there is no choice. It’s just pants and shirts, and shirts and pants. The most serious clothing choices men have to make is boxers or briefs, shorts or pants, shoes or sandals. Women have more options to choose from. Aside from lack of clothing that fits, men don’t experience nearly as many fabrics and materials. Actually, I find most men’s clothing to be rather rough and not conducive to the touch.”
This student finds Halloween an opportunity to express himself in other sorts of clothing, such as women’s.
“Dressing in women’s clothing on Halloween provides an excuse for some men to experiment with foreign textile sensations as well as different forms of presenting oneself to others,” this student said. “The gender-bending associated with cross-dressing allows men to disrupt their habitual gender narratives and try new ways of interacting with their peers.”
In regard to “slutty” costumes, this student feels they are just another avenue for self-expression in a non normative way.
“The choice to dress in promiscuous clothing is rather subjective but could give some pleasure by overemphasizing certain parts of the body, or by emulating parts of the female anatomy,” the student said. “Clothes can be sexy, especially women’s clothing, for a variety of reasons. Close-fitting articles of clothing like bras, or underwear literally hug the body, giving a sensation of being touched. Certain materials like leather or latex also have similar effects.”
So, it can be concluded that Pitzer students hold a wide variety of opinions in regard to dressing in revealing women’s clothing on Halloween. While choosing a Halloween costume may seem like a large decision, ask yourself what your opinion is. Would dressing this way make you comfortable? Does it matter to you what the rest of the student body thinks of your costume? Tonight when you put on your costume, make sure it makes you happy.