Oversexualization of Women’s Halloween Costumes

Hallie O'Rourke, Assistant Academics Editos

Each fall, many girls and women feel the pressure to be provocative with their Halloween costume choices. Party stores are filled with lingeries simply embroidered so that they can be classified as costumes. This poses an issue to many young people.

“I am really offended by the fact that girls’ costumes are constantly more sexualized and demeaning,” sophomore Anupriya Jacob said. “It’s up to anyone that supplies these costumes to have an option for girls that don’t want that because [if there aren’t other options] then it forms this expectation of girls to always be sexualized no matter what.”

Women’s Halloween costumes probably wouldn’t be disputed over as much if less revealing costumes were more common, but it seems that many costume companies focus on making revealing or flirty costumes.

“If a girl wants to be covered up, she can’t really do that and that means she has to either make her own costume, which might cost more money, or just not go,” Jacob said.

The media seems to encourage women to choose the more provocative costume options, and sometimes it feels like there is no other option.

“I feel like this comes a lot from the media and the magazines,” school psychologist Kristina Crawford said. “It’s this idea that girls are supposed to be sexy and that’s the accepted way to look.”

The media sells sex through almost every tactic possible, but the pressure for girls to dress provocatively is intensified even more around Halloween. This is because this holiday gives companies the ability to make costumes much more suggestive than average clothing. Society, prompted by the media, increases pressure on young women to purchase and wear costumes that may make them feel uncomfortable.

Companies that design Halloween costumes are also at fault for pushing this idea on the female gender as a whole, even influencing children.

“Even little girl costumes are different than little boy costumes, and that’s feeding young girls sexualized images so that they grow up and think they have to be really feminine and flirty [especially when it comes to Halloween costumes],” sophomore Ava Sharifi said.

Beginning at childhood, this pressure can be extremely damaging during the teenage years as young women try to find their identities and discover how they want to dress and be perceived. It’s not a bad thing if a girl chooses to dress a certain way for Halloween; the real issue is that many women feel like they’re being forced to dress that way. Through advertisements and the public appearances of many celebrities, the media is able to push this image onto women and make them feel like they have to dress a certain way, especially in costumes, if they want to be accepted.

“It puts a lot of pressure on ordinary people to be [sexy] all the time,” Crawford said. “Whether you are that way or not, it’s just this social expectation to be that way, and that’s damaging since girls will feel like they can’t look the way that they want to or the way society wants them to.”

Although girls constantly feel pressures from society, this experience is more common during Halloween season. The girls’ costumes vary extremely from the boys’. If a boy wants to dress as a modern superhero, such as Superman, he can easily find a pretty accurate representation of that character in a costume. However, if a girl wants to dress up as Superman, she would have more difficulty finding a costume that actually looks like that character. Many Superman or Superwoman costumes for females are made of skin-tight fabric and often feature short skirts and low cut tops- nothing like what the actual Superman would wear and usually nothing that the average woman is comfortable wearing in public.

There is also a lot of hypocrisy found in our society as we encourage sexualized outfits in many ways, then shame girls when they dress that way. Additionally, conservative outfits are often praised in mindset, but when girls dress more modestly, they are ridiculed.

“There is this whole ‘slut-shaming concept’ where girls will be made fun of if they show a lot of skin and then they’re called ‘prudes’ and made fun of even more if they don’t at all,” Jacob said.

Although their costume choices differ greatly from the girl selections, boys sometimes do experience pressures when selecting outfits for Halloween, but not nearly to the extent that their female peers do.

“I think boys’ costumes are less of a problem but they do have some problems, like this image of masculinity forced upon them,” Sharifi said. “Both boys’ and girls’ costumes have problems, but they’re different problems.”

Even though boys can argue that they too are pressured to dress a certain way, the weight of this issue remains with the girls since they are the ones being encouraged to dress provocatively.

“I think it’s very unfair for girls to be constantly put into the expectation of being overly sexualized,” Jacob said.