Halloween: What Not To Wear

The Halloween costume for women that I call the “Slutty Noun” outfit is now a topic of debate and outrage; I’ve been complaining about it for years. It’s mainstreaming the sex industry, dragging women back into the Playboy Bunny past, and in poor taste. Yuck!

Last year I realized something worse. While the women dress as stereotyped available objects (nurse, catwoman, stripper outfits, little French maid, showgirls) the men have their own roles. They’re pirates, soldiers, cops, horror movie murderers, Dracula, barbarian.” These roles have something in common too: they’re powerfully violent and often depicted assaulting women.

What’s the message? Men are rapists and women are their victims. And now every year the men and women dress that way, go to parties and bars and get sloshed, and see what happens.

Anyone is free to explore sexuality and enjoy role-playing I don’t like. In this case it would be less worrisome if any if these people knew what roles they were taking on and where that might go.

47 thoughts on “Halloween: What Not To Wear

      1. Someone else on the internets that I can no longer locate called it “dress your girlfriend like something you want to fuck” day…

  1. All true. But I try to bear in mind that it’s not a universal truth. My receptionist is currently dressed as Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd. I have a female friend who dressed as Cthulhu. makes a mask each year, always something thoroughly odd simply drawn from his own, tortured imagination. People ask him, “What are you supposed to be?” and he simply says, “One of these.” The pleasures of Pandemonium can remain free of the rape overtones even among adults. It may still make you uncomfortable, but gather ye rosebuds where ye may.

    1. Oh yeah, anyone can have fun with a masquerade day.
      It’s the mass culture version that’s freaking me out. The dominant commercial version of a holiday shouldn’t be this ugly.

      1. You got that right, especially a holiday that is really mostly about “the kids.” It gives me the creeps to see prime time ads on TV for Party City or halloween specialty shops with all these slutty nouns dancing around. I’m no prude, but the same shop that sells my preschooler’s princess costume shouldn’t be working blue.

  2. I mostly hate it when people choose any costume, instead of holiday-appropriate costumes. What the fuck does being a cute bee have to do with Halloween? Not a freakin thing.
    Dress as something scary, or something evil. Dress as something magical or mythical, that ALSO has ties to the underworld. Dress as someone who is DEAD.
    But puh-LEASE put away the fireman, nurse & french maid costumes – unless you are a ZOMBIE nurse or a ZOMBIE fireman.
    Just because something is a *costume* doesn’t make it a Halloween costume.

    1. THIS!
      I don’t do adorable or sexy for Halloween, it’s fun because it’s EVIL, dammit.
      I even make my kids choose scary stuff! No Transformers or baseball players in this house, thankyouverymuch.

      1. Yeah. A generic masquerade party is a good idea too! But Halloween serves a purpose! I like the Mexican version.

      2. Just as you might imagine, our Dios de los Muertos is awesome. The neighborhood bakery is packed with sugar skulls and fancy cakes, there are actual ceremonies all over town, the schools celebrate it, and there’s even a parade or two. East Austin is fabulously decorated right now, and I am going to try to sneak out to take some photos tomorrow!

      3. That would probably lead to open revolt in my household. I was not brave enough to stand between my preschool daughters and their princess dresses. All hail Disney, usurper of youthful imaginations!

      4. My proudest mommy moment:
        When my daughter was 3 (she is now 18), my daughter told me she wanted to be a witch for Halloween. She was obsessed with Wizard of Oz at the time, so bracing myself for a request for a Glenda costume, I asked her “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”. She responded, “Oh mama, I am a bad witch. A very very bad witch.”
        Touched my heart, it did.

      1. Yeah, I think I dressed up as Linus 3x. Couldn’t get the head shape right, but easy to find a blankie. =)
        The most distressing party theme I ever ran into was the ever popular Pimp and Prostitute party at the residence I lived in. O_o Still distressing.

  3. Isn’t Halloween a holiday for kids?
    My kids are dressing up as:
    Santa Claus
    Indiana Jones
    The Angel of Death
    A Boobah
    Two of those costumes scare me.

      1. All I can say for certain is that if Indy were confronted by a Boohbah, he would turn away and shout. “Keep your eyes closed, Marion. Don’t look!” All around him the Nazis would melt as the Boohbahs danced.

  4. Though I’m right in the demographic that tends to dress like this, I’ve truly never understood its appeal. Which I guess is because I don’t see these outfits as sexy in the least. They just seem… histrionic, and kind of desperate.

  5. What’s the message? Men are rapists and women are their victims.
    I was sold on that message way, way before hitting puberty at an authoritarian matriarch middle school. Unlike being yelled at by a woman groping her breasts for the crime of being a boy, women are totally free to not wear a sexy costume if they don’t want to.
    Some women like to feel sexy because it gives them power over men or grabs their attention. Not nearly as much power as sexually horrifying a captive audience of children, but power all the same.
    As for people knowing what roles they’re taking on… that’s the crux of being personally responsible for oneself as an adult.
    not trying to be a jerk, just had $.02 burning a hole in my pocket

    1. Of course – I wasn’t suggesting that the stupid Halloween costume is enforced like a burqa, or that ignorance is excusable. And of course people can do just as they please with their own adult sexuality.
      The problem addressed is a social one on a mass scale: the idea of the “adult” Halloween party is presented by default as a sexual disaster waiting to happen, and that this happened on its own starting about fifteen years ago when Halloween for drunk adults became a big commercial holiday.
      Individuals who put on dumb outfits, get drunk, and assault each other are behaving poorly and not to be excused by some social phenomenon. You’re quite right to point that out.
      I’m just depressed by the social phenomenon itself.

      1. That makes sense. Sometimes I see things like that as an individualistic society using the holiday to make themselves shallowly available out of communal loneliness.
        Perhaps I’ve been lucky to miss out on any depressing aspects of halloween, forever lost in my childish enamor for my favorite of holidays.

      2. It didn’t start 15 years ago. My parents and their friends ALWAYS partied hard on Halloween – hence my mom making handmade costumes for all of us each year. Adults partying on Halloween has been the case for my entire life – nearly 40 years!

  6. It’s a terrible night for rape crisis counsellors, lemme tell you. I worked at one in SB and on that weekend and on what they call Fiesta weekend (in August?) we received the highest number of calls (both counseling calls and meet-ups with the cops at the emergency room). Isla Vista was particularly bad.
    These days Santa Cruz is getting stabby along with the pimpy and the hoey. I stay in.

    1. I’ve talked to other college rape crisis counselors and I was genuinely shocked and horrified to find out how common sexual assault was on college campuses. In a “carnival” atmosphere it must be mind-bendingly awful.

      1. (i’m a current ucsb student)
        the university puts out tons of messaging about keeping halloween in isla vista safe and local, including reminders about the signs of alcohol poisoning, making it very hard to park nearby for visitors, etc., but the extent of the anti-sexual-assault messaging is that grabbing asses is not ok. this is important but so limited. aaargh

  7. Didn’t Star Trek explain this one?
    Halloween is a FESTIVAL! FESTIVAL! Wherein adults “pretend” to transgress social boundaries. I think most of it is harmless, even healthy play acting. However, there are those that go too far.
    Sex and violence are potent forces and even the best of us need to learn how to recognize and integrate both of these forces into our psyches. If dressing up as a whore/pirate aids that process, why complain?
    The separation between reality and fantasy should be clear in the healthy adult mind. I wouldn’t want to get puritanical about costumes until a few other pressing social issues are contained.

    1. Re: Didn’t Star Trek explain this one?
      transgress social boundaries.
      You’re not really doing that unless you’re dressed up when there isn’t a festival on.

  8. the lack of consciousness re: this is hell of depressing.
    halloween is time for the dead. this year’s skeleton iteration was particularly satisfying all riding down the street yelling IIIIIM INSIDE OF YOU ALL!! AND IM SMILIN!! IM SMILIN!!!!. now i am sick and will not be partying but i think that is okay, the concept of halloween as also a time for quiet contemplation is something that is worth considering. i think.

  9. Last year I was a black hole. Two years ago I was Jem (of Jem and the Holograms). Before that, I was always a vampire. Actually, one year I was a cow, but that was unfortunate. I don’t think I’ve ever been a slutty anything.

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