In the style of the great Abstract Expressionists, the Sexy Costume genre is a real boundary pusher when it comes to abstracting costumes so obtusely that the actual concept is barely perceptible. See masterpieces like The Sexy Banana, The Sexy Gold Digger, and The Sexy Shower. These works of artistic genius and should be appreciated appropriately.
My problem with the popular critique of the Sexy Costume is that it doesn’t stop at mocking this absurd by-product of our society, but rather goes straight ahead into mocking (and shaming) the women who chose to wear them.
This image has nearly 50,000 reposts on Tumblr and I think most people would agree it represents a popular opinion on Sexy Costumes. ‘Sexy’ conflated with ‘slutty'; sexuality conflated with immorality. You’ve heard it before, say it with me: “Halloween is just a chance for women to dress like sluts”.
UPDATE: Turns out I took this image TOTALLY out of context. Do yourself a favor and watch Jenna Marbles’ awesome take down of girl-hate:
Obviously there are many problems with the Sexy Costume from a feminist perspective: perpetuating the sexual objectification of women, discrediting women’s involvement in various occupations, and pressuring women to always have one eye on being appealing, even when you are dressing up as a rotten corpse.
I agree with all of those critiques. The Sexy Costume is a definite by-product of our sexist, hypersexual culture; a by-product that we would all do well to move away from. But the fact remains that we as a society set the scene for the Sexy Costume to flourish, so we don’t have a lot of room to act all scandalized that “all these women are walking around like [insert favorite slur here]“.
Unfortunately, the opposing argument defending the Sexy Costume as an act of sexual liberation usually misses the point. A lot of people will insist they are dressing sexy ALL FOR MYSELF, DAMMIT. But few people address the extent to which our “fantasy fulfillment” or doing things “because I like it” is informed by the sexist status-quo.
I see Halloween as the Virgin/Whore dichotomy in action. For all other 364 days in the year, women are told to walk that fine line. Most days, women just dress like people who need to get shit done. All days, real women are surrounded by images of sexy fantasy women. Because of this, I want to live out a media fantasy every now and then. I want to reflect the prized images I see around me all the time; I want to play with a sexiness that I’m not actually allowed to do any other day of the year; not when our clothes and actions and sexuality are policed incessantly.
Sometimes it feels good to play into the patriarchy. Sometimes it’s fun to wear heels and imagine yourself as the sex bomb you saw in that ad/movie/tvshow. We just need to be cognizant of the underlying (sexist) reasons we derive enjoyment from it. And then we need to remember that it’s the patriarchy who deserves scorning, not the women oppressed under it.
Bonus Material: View the Mens category for Sexy Costumes, if you want to feel bad about yourself. Then check out the the MissRepresentation tumblr full of awesome non-sexy costumes, if you want to feel better again.
So anyway, HAPPY HALLOWEEN MOTHERFUCKERS!