Monday, October 31, 2011

Take Back Halloween

I'm a fan of Halloween. I don't enjoy being scared or spooked, but I like eating candy, and I particularly like dressing up in a costume and getting together with friends. Halloween reminds me of childhood, so for me there remains an innocent joy about it that is really delightful. It's an opportunity to be quirky and creative, silly and dramatic, and generally let your freak flag fly.

But it seems that the costume trend--for young women especially--has tipped away from quirky/creative and more toward short flimsy skirts and "slutty" versions of every imaginable profession and traditional Halloween character. Walking down the sidewalk this weekend, you will find slutty nurses, slutty pirates, slutty witches, and any manner of costumes not outright labeled "slutty" but designed to flash skin and tease the eye.

I'm not exactly sure when Halloween became the holiday to be "slutty," but apparently it's unavoidable. Two years ago, I dressed as the board game "Twister." I wrapped a (homemade) Twister mat around me like a toga, and turned the dial into a mortarboard-like cap and went out. I thought it was a cute, innocent and child-like costume, but when I got to the party, the first thing every guy I talked to (and these were my friends) said to me was some version of "Whoa, I hope no one calls out Right Hand Yellow" or "That costume wins Most-Likely-To Get-You-Touched."

I have to admit, I was creeped out and traumatized by their reactions, because it had NEVER occurred to me that my costume was in any way sexually inviting, or might be interpreted that way. Am I naive? Maybe. But it was definitely an eye opener to the fact that these young guys have been trained to look at women as sexual objects--especially on Halloween, when all of our underbelly tendencies are allowed to rise to the surface.

I suspect there's deeper significance to the pervasive desire among young women to flaunt their sexuality as part of a costume. Something joyful and freeing about putting yourself physically out there, like saying it's me, but not me, and then not having to own it in the morning. The excitement that surrounds it can't be denied, but if dressing up in costumes is the only way women feel like they can be so baldly sexual, there's something wrong with that too.

This year I discovered an organization called Take Back Halloween, which tries to counter the trend toward overt sex-kitten attire by cataloging costume ideas based on dynamic women from world history on their website. They call it A Costume Guide for Women with Imagination. Their press release says: "We’re trying to reclaim some space for a different vision of the holiday, where women can use Halloween to explore history and celebrate their heritage.”

Sounds awesome to me. Ladies, let's mix it up a bit tonight.


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