Content warning: This article mentions sexism and sexual harassment.
As a girl, it’s kind of a rite of passage. At some point in the mundane of our annual traipse around this October holiday, things start to change. Being a princess becomes less about the bright neon Party City garb, and more about how tight one can get the mini pink cocktail dress to be. With mom not around, nobody is there to tell us to cover up, and so the competition for who has the shortest skirt begins. And who can be blamed? Floor-length dresses aren’t exactly functional on the club floor.
Yet, it’s also around this time when the comments start. The so-called ‘sluttiness,’ and the remarks on how we’re grabbing for attention — which, sometimes, leads to literal grabbing. Our Halloween costumes begin to walk a blurry line between having fun with our clothes and fielding judgement on our supposed lack of prudeness. As if girls aren’t objectified enough during the other 364 days of the year.
Slut shaming on the regular is already an issue to discuss in and of itself — but in the context of Halloween, it especially makes no sense to me. In a holiday based around creativity and self-expression, the whole point is to have fun and dress up in what you find fitting and phenomenal.
Sometimes, that means going all out and nearly causing a heart attack with all the fake blood on your body. Sometimes, it’s just another dress out of the closet and a witch hat thrown on top last minute. Whatever the choice may be, we should be able to celebrate this holiday the way we want in the outfit and the costume we want — free of charge.
Moreover, there’s also the consideration of assault. For most women, we’re forced to be extra vigilant this time of year and know that what we wear for ourselves, others may see as an invitation. We’re required to be alert and divide our attention from enjoying the night. Experiences like these are what ruin the moment, disincentivizing and destroying the enthusiasm to take part in this ever again. The fact that we are never able to celebrate in peace — that we’re given a warning sign on what should be a night for freedom — says everything about the issue.
And it’s not like we entirely ask for this tradition of dressing less, either. The system is built to perpetuate a cycle of sexualization — made evident in Halloween costumes, or even just costumes at all. In a study that analyzed over 1,600 costumes and costume types, results found that 90 per cent of women’s costumes were sexualized, while only 11 per cent of men’s were sexualized. A Google search will tell you — show you, really — the exact same thing: look up classic costume ideas by gender, and you’ll find that male results are accurate portrayals of policemen or wizards or cats, but the female counterpart is nothing but short skirts, exposed torsos, and bunched cleavage. We are quite literally being sold “ass and tits,” and there is an imminent pressure to come cute and skimpy. And yet, when we do, it’s somehow still our fault?
Whether a girl decides to Regina George-ify herself is up to her own liberties, comfort, and convenience. It does not define her character, or even remotely open any doors she doesn’t want opened herself. In the words of possibly the most famous Halloween quote ever, spoken by true cult classic protagonist Cady Heron herself: “Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.” Of course, Cady didn’t account much for the patriarchy — granted, because she was too busy fighting high school feudalism, so she gets a pass.
So as I sit here, applying lipstick to my white button-up shirt in preparation for this weekend, the mental safety checklist is kicking in. Don’t get drugged. Don’t let people get too close to you. Don’t back out of wearing what you want at the last moment just because you’re worried of what “they” may think. And, out there, I’m confident that about a hundred other girls are going through the exact same tragic thought process.
It should not have to come down to this, but it has to be said: to all my girls this Halloween, be as cute as you want — and be safe.
Isabella Liu is a third-year student at Victoria College studying public policy and international relations. She is an Associate Comment Editor at The Varsity.