Halloween is here, and it’s making monsters out of my favorite news publications and blogs.
Yes, it’s that time of year, when the journalistic ritual known as The Shaming of the Sexy Halloween Costume rears its smug head, chastising Raggedy Anns who dare show too much cleavage. All month, articles like Happy Slut-o-Ween, 2010 Edition and Sexy Costumes Get Even More Horrifying have been popping up left and right. This, even while there are more of us opting for sexy costumes than ever before, according to the National Retail Federation.
There’s also the usual crop of “Hide your daughters!” editorials like this one, bemoaning the immodest options parents face when costume shopping for their little Emilys and Madisons. Never mind that the media seems to have no problem with the overwhelmingly violent crop of costume selections for young boys—everything from Freddy Krueger to machete-wielding convicts. Apparently teen pregnancy is still a threat but aggression in teenage boys has been handily resolved.
I digress. We’re here to talk about adults. You know, the ones that are supposed to be above bullying and name-calling. Except that, for some reason, as soon as Halloween rolls around, even the most liberal, sex-positive, and pro-feminist among us seem to lose our progressive ideals. Why, when throughout the rest of the year we defend a woman’s right to dress any way she wants, are we so quick to apply the “bimbo” label to ladies in French maid’s uniforms on October 31?
"She’s only doing it because it’s Halloween," is a justification heard often. "She would never dress so slutty normally." Forgive me if I have my holidays mixed up, but isn’t that the whole point? How many of you wear a werewolf ensemble to meet your fiancée’s parents for Hanukkah? Second to pumpkin ale and candy hoarding, Halloween is about self-expression. Whether you want to get laughs, scare the neighbor kids, make a political statement, or display your fondness for the nursing profession while showing off your bodacious rack, all are valid options. When we start limiting what’s acceptable to wear on a day that’s essentially a bastardized mishmash of dozens of cultural and religious traditions, that’s when I call foul. I may not compliment you on your sexy NASCAR get-up, but I will defend with my last Snickers your right to wear one.
Another complaint frequently lobbed at the store-bought sexy Halloween costume is that it’s so “uncreative.” But let’s be honest: This is true of all pre-packaged off-the-rack Halloween costumes. It doesn’t take a special kind of artistic genius to bypass the “Sexy Devil, Size Medium” get-up for the “Fried Egg, Size Medium” outfit instead. Even homemade costumes aren’t immune from this critique. I’ve read articles railing against the superabundance of zombies clogging every bar, party, and pub crawl. Before that, people were complaining about pirates being too ubiquitous as the hip costume du jour. I have nothing against the undead or the seafaring masses, but take it from the girl who was dismayed to find herself one of several brain-eating Girl Scouts at one All Hallow’s Eve shindig—your “original” idea jumped the shark several years ago. You’re going to need more than fake blood and bruise makeup if you want to talk trash about that girl in the painted-on witch outfit with avant-garde impunity.
I wonder whether it’s not about contempt for the costumes themselves, but the women who choose to wear them that’s driving this. While it’s uncool in most educated circles to point to a woman in a miniskirt and label her trashy, during the month of October that social more gets put on hold. Are we only masquerading as enlightened when it comes to women’s sexuality? Are we really on the same side as Christine O’Donnell and the organizers of Purity Balls? I hope not.
I hereby call for more “live and let live” and less candy-coated judgment. That vamped-up Little Bo Peep you’re sneering at is somebody’s best friend, wife, or chemistry teacher. Cut her some slack, chug some spiked cider, and enjoy one of the precious few holidays you’re not obligated to spend with relatives.
Erin Bradley is the author of Miss Information, a sex and dating advice column on Nerve.com. Her new book, Every Rose Has Its Thorn: The Rock 'n' Roll Field Guide to Guys, is available at rockoutwithyourbookout.com