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Halloween as a feminist issue

Written by Lifestyle

Our writers discuss Halloween as an opportunity to empower women and celebrate feminism.
Em Richardson
Picture this: you’re at a Halloween party. Now, imagine what everyone present is wearing. For male guests, your mind probably jumps to white make-up, a smear of fake blood or, if they’re feeling adventurous, maybe even a cape or an old bed sheet. For female guests, your mind probably jumps to underwear, leather, mesh, and possibly a pair of animal ears, if they had any spare cash.

Skimpy costumes are now seen as a rite of passage.

Halloween has long been stereotyped as an excuse for girls to ‘let loose’, and use the spooky holiday as an opportunity to embrace their ‘naughty’ side. Skimpy costumes are now seen as a rite of passage. After all, who can forget Mean Girls’s infamous ‘I’m a mouse, duh?!’ scene?

It’s difficult to determine exactly when the trend for ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes started, but I think it has something to do with the fact women have traditionally been taught to be ashamed of their sexuality. Just as a woman who enjoys sex is characterised as ‘easy’, a woman who enjoys showing off her body is perceived as promiscuous.

The fact that women are only encouraged to dress in such a manner on Halloween, a holiday associated with ‘weirdness’ and ‘spookiness’, is a prime example of the way society treats confident women… We’ve been conditioned to think they’re somehow ‘odd’, or ‘strange’.

So, maybe we should all buck the trend, ‘reclaim’ Halloween, and start to wear traditional, conservative costumes?

I disagree entirely. Girls, the skimpier the better. Personally, I think there’s nothing more empowering than acknowledging a stereotype, then ironically fulfilling it anyway, and choosing to embrace it.

So, wear that mesh bodysuit. Cake yourself in whatever make-up you choose. Dance around in leather boots. Just make sure to do so with the knowledge that you’re turning a stereotype on its head, and laugh at those who think you’re only this confident on occasions when society has given you the ‘okay’.

Image: Pixabay

Laura Chaney
Feminism is the equality of men and women and the equality of their freedom and choices. The question is, does this include having the freedom to decide what to wear on Halloween? From tots to teens, many have seen and felt a shift from ‘the scarier the better’ to ‘the sexier the better.’

For many children, Halloween is a time to feel powerful and special, whether this be by dressing up as your favourite super hero, super villain or by having the best home-made costume at school. It’s a chance to let creative juices flow and for children to be whoever they want to be. Similarly, for decades, women have used fashion as a feminist tool. From the suffragettes using the colours green, white and purple to identify themselves as feminists, women during WWII wearing trousers to prove that they could do the same jobs as the men to women all over the world still using fashion to feel empowered and confident.

there should be no pressure to dress up sexy, neither should there be pressure to make oneself as gory and scary as possible.

If dressing up as a sexy nun, nurse or nun is what makes a woman feel empowered, sexy and simply good about herself, then who’s to tell her that she’s wrong and that she should be showing less skin. Just like there should be no pressure to dress up sexy, neither should there be pressure to make oneself as gory and scary as possible.

Dressing sexy vs. scary does not make you a Mean Girl. The Karen, Gretchen and Regina George’s deserve the same amount of respect as the Cady’s. Ghost bride or “a mouse duh”, Halloween should be about feeling good within yourself. If feminism is about having the freedom of choice, then shouldn’t women be free to choose how sexy or scary they want to dress?

Jess Herbert
Halloween can be a daunting celebration, especially as a female, especially at university.

The discussions start at the beginning of the month, with whispers of ‘what are you dressing up as’ and ‘where are you going’ culminating in a mad panic of shopping, raiding your housemates wardrobe and stressing about looking as good as everyone else. Unfortunately, there is a pressure on females to dress up in as little clothing as possible and stretch the concept of ‘witch’ to the most vague degree.

However, it’s vital to remember is as long as you feel comfortable then dressing up should be an exciting endeavour. There’s no point being a Kardashian-esque angel if you’ll spend all night pulling down your wings so they cover your bum, but it’s also pointless covering yourself up if you want to embrace your sexy side.

feel confident in whatever outfit you chose and remember not to judge others for their costume choices.

Halloween can be a difficult concept to navigate as a feminist, but the most important thing is to surround yourself with your friends, feel confident in whatever outfit you chose and remember not to judge others for their costume choices.

Jenny Banton
The discussion of feminism at Halloween is often defined by slut-shaming and is predominantly focused on the outfits of white women, but it’s important to remember the other political implications entwined in people’s costumes.

Photos of Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, wearing blackface to a party recently emerged, demonstrating how the most powerful people in the world are still using their white privilege to ignore the history of oppression involved in their costumes. Blackface is therefore a feminist issue at Halloween as it brings to light the racial inequalities which are still prevalent in society. It is important to not overlook the cultural associations of certain costumes to engage in a fully ‘feminist’ Halloween. Women are not truly liberated until all women are equal, therefore, although it is extremely important to consider the mainstream concerns of body confidence, we must also consider the cultural and historical origins of certain costumes.

The historical origins of the event are rooted in an amalgamation of Aztec beliefs with the enforced conversion to Christianity by the Spanish crown.

Another example is the appropriation of outfits inspired by The Day of the Dead, which has significant cultural connotations in Mexican history. The historical origins of the event are rooted in an amalgamation of Aztec beliefs with the enforced conversion to Christianity by the Spanish crown. Today, customs based upon the Day of the Dead are distanced from this violent clash of cultures, but the impact of colonialism should not be appropriated for a Halloween costume.

It is important to consider the origins of certain costumes – Native American headdresses, Geishas, Cowboys and Indians, blackface and Day of the Dead to name a few- and question whether it’s appropriate to wear them. In order to keep Halloween fun and feminist, it’s vital we do not overlook the cultural appropriation or connotations in the process of trying to look edgy.

Image: Flickr

Amy Brown
Halloween, at its core, should be about having fun. It’s an alternative holiday to those who aren’t so bothered about the spectacle of Christmas. But with Halloween, dressing up is expected. And this is where the problem comes into play, something I myself have seen growing up.

Halloween starts off as an exciting holiday where you can dress spooky and eat copious amounts of sweets. Thinking up and buying a scary costume was half the fun. This is where it becomes, and remains to be a feminist issue. Our choices of costumes become sexualised in some way. A witch costume becomes a ‘sexy’ witch. Or you can dress up as a female version of a horror villain like Freddy Krueger but it’s somehow sexy? It’s an unnecessary pressure.

In an ideal feminist society, everyone should be free to wear whatever they like; not even just on Halloween.

Specifically gendered costumes will hopefully fade out. But of course, all of this brings with it the idea of slut-shaming which remains to be prominent. In an ideal feminist society, everyone should be free to wear whatever they like; not even just on Halloween. If it makes you feel confident, then that’s the most important thing. Everyone deserves the same amount of respect regardless of how they dress.

But the underlying issue here is the pressure for women to be sexy. It’s how in a patriarchal society, worth is determined. Worth becomes based on how physically appealing you are. A holiday that celebrates the scary and dark ironically only becomes scary because of these strong expectations. We have to strive for mutual respect and push for social constructs to be torn down for the world to become a safer place.

The hardest part is that there is no real immediate solution to this. We’re heading slowly into a more equal society but for now, look after each other and don’t tear each other down. Be safe. Wear whatever you want, as long as you’re not being offensive. Enjoy Halloween for what it’s meant to be.

Last modified: 23rd August 2020

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