Opinion: Do Female Halloween Costumes Objectify Women?


Illustration by Storm Wells

Erin Haynes

It’s that time of the year. The green of the leaves fade into warm hues of orange and yellow, the air is brisk, candy lines the aisles whilst Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” echoes throughout the market, and Halloween shops line their shelves with “sexy” female costumes in every occupation imaginable. In the midst of the excitement for sugar, decorations and spooky parties, I am once again struggling whether to conform to society’s ideals of a prude or slut this Halloween.

After browsing the halls of the local mega Halloween store, I felt relieved to see the women’s costume section and not another electronic zombie screaming that it will “eat my brains” when I passed in front of its motion detector. As fashion holds a special place in my heart, it seemed insulting not to dress up as the cruelest and most chic villain of them all, Disney’s Cruella De Vil. My idea however was shattered when I saw the plunging neckline and long slit of the infamous black dress pictured on the costume’s packaging. As my eyes darted across the other costumes’ packaging, my heart sank at the deep v-necklines, short skirts and tight outfits for women that were labeled “sexy.” After noting that costume designers believe female police officers wear a cropped top and mini skirt whilst on duty, I snatched the costume from the rack, and held it up against the male version of the outfit. A long-sleeve blue dress shirt, matching trousers and a smiling male model all stared back at me through the picture, as if he were amused by my disgust when I recognized female costumes were sexualized.

Anger boiled within me, because there is a social expectation for women to highlight their female assets, whilst men are relieved from this pressure. What is even more disappointing is how many men do not take the time to consider the double standard, allowing their eyes to roam over a woman’s body like a kid in a candy store.

However, the most shocking realization of this experience is the female participation in wearing these risqué outfits. In past years, a woman in Western culture was not allowed to wear revealing clothing or allow her body to be seen by a man who was not her husband. Yet, with the help of the digital age and social media, showcasing female assets is beginning to be seen as a form of empowerment, as she is confident enough to show the world that she likes being a woman. Normalizing breasts, hips and buttocks is what feminists like myself are fighting for. Celebrated women like Rihanna embrace their womanhood by creating luxury lingerie lines for women to feel sexy for themselves, and do not feel crushed by the male gaze when appreciating their bodies by wearing revealing clothing in public.

So, do you think Halloween costumes are an unavoidable trick that society places women in, or is it a treat to make a woman more appreciative of her beautiful body?