My roommates and I decided at the very last minute to go to a party the weekend before Halloween. With only a couple hours to get ready to go, we rushed to Walmart to try and come up with some last minute costumes. On the way, we browsed the web to hopefully get some inspiration, and with that came the ultimate Halloween decision that most college aged females face during this time of year: Are we supposed to dress funny, scary, or sexy? It’s this kind of decision that makes Halloween become stressful for girls my age when in reality, this is supposed to be a fun holiday.
It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that we shouldn’t have to be forced to think about what we are supposed to wear, but we should instead think about what we want to wear. In our readings assigned for class, we learn about how women are “crucial to the pleasure of the (male) gaze,” and how “men look and women exhibit ‘to-be-looked-at-ness,'” in order to play to male desire (Storey, 2015). As me and my roommates browsed the web in search for costumes inspiration, I realized that all of the options presented to me through a simple google search were something supposed to be “sexy,” but I can’t ever recall a time that I wanted to be sexy for Halloween. It is society that tells us we’re supposed to be sexy for Halloween, and it’s not for our pleasure, but for the pleasure of men.
We grew discouraged as we grazed the picked-over Halloween aisles at Walmart when we found most the options for adult females were far too revealing for our tastes. It was in this moment that we were being interpolated into our gendered role. We felt pressured by our culture’s ideas about how a female should dress on Halloween to choose costumes like the ones we saw in our earlier google searches.
But in the end, we finally decided to take more of a funny route with our costumes, and we found these images that served as our inspiration to be “Oh Deer!” “Holy Cow!” and “A Blessing in Disguise.”
Although we avoided dressing in a way that society tells us to dress on Halloween, we still spent a considerably long amount of time getting ready and doing our hair and makeup. In lecture we discussed how ideology is something that we can not exist outside of since it is transparent and natural like the air that surrounds us. As I reflect on me and my roommates’ experiences trying to decide on Halloween costumes, I realize that even when we try our hardest to not follow the “rules” our society and culture gives us as the correct way to perform femininity, we cannot ever actually escape it. However, it’s interesting to think about whether we spent such a long time on our hair and makeup because we wanted to or because we felt we were supposed to.
When we were done getting ready, we spent yet another considerably long amount of time trying to get the perfect picture of us in our costumes so we could post it on social media for all of our friends to see. Looking back, it seems silly to me that we spent so much time trying to figure out the best lighting, background, and pose and even more time choosing the one perfect picture from the 50 almost identical others on our phones’ camera rolls. And don’t even get me started on trying to come up with a caption for our Instagram posts. These are all things that society tells girls our age should be important when we are posting on social media.
Don’t get me wrong, my roommates and I still had a very fun time on Halloween. It’s just interesting to see how we are called to follow society’s rules, and it’s even more interesting to notice that these sort of things happen to females every single day and not just on Halloween. Reflecting on my Halloween experience has really shown me the importance of taking a step back and thinking about whether I am doing something because I want to or because I feel that I am supposed to.
I can’t help but think about how much easier Halloween seemed to be when I was a kid. At first glance, it seems like these societal “rules” didn’t exist back then. But who’s idea was it to dress me as a daisy when I was a baby, and why did it seem normal for me to want to dress as a princess instead of a power ranger? Like the air around us, these ideas about femininity is something that is always surrounding us at any age, and we cannot escape it.
Storey, John. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction. 7th ed. New York: Routledge, 2015. Print.