KGOU

Sexy Halloween Costumes Raise Questions About Gender Roles, Objectification

Oct 29, 2014

In the 2004 comedy Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan’s character describes some of the fashion choices young women make every October 31.

But with ever-shifting social boundaries, how exactly do you define what makes an “appropriate” Halloween costume?

The walls of Party Galaxy in Norman are lined with hundreds of costumes for people to choose from. But as customer Courtney looks at every woman's costume from "the Sexy Nun" to "Poca-hottie" (a play on the 17th century Native American woman glamorized in the 1995 Disney film), there's a clear theme: Suggestive, sultry, and even a little slutty.

Courtney is shopping with her boyfriend Todd, but says she doesn’t mind the available options for women’s attire.

Credit Hayley Thornton / KGOU

“You pretty much have to wear shorts underneath it because you know if you do anything besides stand up you’re going to flash somebody,” Courtney said. “Everyone likes the idea of Halloween and getting a chance to kind of wear the sexy kind of costume without being judged for it because everyone else is dressing up too."

But University of Oklahoma Liberal Studies and affiliate Women and Gender Studies department professor Roksana Alavi says that although it’s okay to be sexy, how the costumes are fitted sends a negative message.

"Well I actually don’t think that Halloween is a special event in any way whatsoever; I think that it’s just an extension of just ordinary everyday sexual objectification of women and women’s bodies in the media,” Alavi said. “There’s really nothing wrong with being sexy or sexual, I think what the problem is, is when we tell girls or women is like, that’s the only asset that you have."

Alavi says that the sexy costumes are only made for a thin, big-busted body type that her research indicates only five percent of people have. But even her 10-year-old daughter noticed a trend.

"I saw a devil women costume for little girls and I asked her what do you think of the Halloween costumes? And she said, ‘They seem sexist because I don’t have a tiny waist like those clothes, so that means I don’t get to wear those.’,” Alavi said. “It also tells younger people that, that’s what society wants men and women to look like and if you don’t fit that mold, and then somehow you have less value."

These suggestive Halloween costumes are in local stores and on websites. "Sahand Fard is the general manager for Roma Costumes, a company that designs and distributes American-made outfits, says it's just for fun, and for the best look."

"I think it’s a day where they can act crazy and do whatever they want in a different way, but it doesn’t necessarily define anything,” Fard said. “They’re adorable costumes, but at the same time they’re sexy because they’re sort the back is open and it shows a little bit of cleavage, they’re just trying to look good. I believe the sexy one, gives it a better look."

Fard also said that his company’s research shows women are wearing short skirts and sexy outfits on dates and out to clubs on weekends, so they’re catering to the demand.

So for Courtney and Todd, their Halloween tradition remains.

"I think it’s a way to kind of test boundaries because it’s a night where you don’t judge quite as harshly,” Courtney said. “You get to dress up and have fun and it’s just a costume."

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