T’was the night before Halloween and all through the sorority house girls scrambled to find the perfect costume for all Hallows Eve. Every girl has to make a choice of what category they fall into, Cady Heron or Regina George (slutty vs. scary).
In the wise words of Cady Heron, “In the real world, Halloween is when kids dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.”
Monday – Halloween
Is Halloween the one day of the year where girls can go out in next to nothing and are not slutshamed? Today I will try and figure out if girls are expeted to dress slutty and if they do dress “like a total slut” will people really not say anything about it?
Going to the store for a Halloween costume and consuming media spreads a lot of messages about what girls are and are not suppose to wear on Halloween.
Sunday night a girl who must not be named said “I can’t decide if I want to be funny or slutty tonight” because apparently we have to make a choice. I thought about this and when I went to the Halloween store I tried to find options for a ‘funny costume’ for girls.
As you can see apparently dressing like a pop can, Nerds, or Siracha is expected to be a costume solely for men.
The costumes which displayed a woman on the packaging were scandalous and very revealing –
Buying a tutu apparently insinuates that the women will be going topless. It was truly embarrassing trying to find a single packaged costume that did not exploit women.
We are expected to pick costumes to please men because the media is constantly implying that we make our choices for men. The media portays this through the use of the male gaze which is when the women is the object of desire and is symbolically castrated due to the power of the gaze. In Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975) she explains how in cinema “the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium” (p. 62). This is similar to the costumes that are supplied for women while shopping, the packaging is meant to please the eyes of the men in the store and the actual costume is for men that will see the woman in the costume.
Cosmopolitan wrote an article “What Men Really Think of Slutty Halloween” and Her Campus wrote “6 Halloween Costumes Guys Actually Think Are Sexy” because it doesn’t matter what girls think it is all about the male opinion. Is it so hard to believe that sometimes girls just want to feel sexy and empowered? In the Her Campus article Kelsey Mulvey (2013) opens up the article by saying “Deny it all you want, but every Halloween costume has an ulterior motive” because the possibility of girls dressing for themselves does not make sense in our modern world.
In Michael Messner’s “The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events” (2005) it discusses multiple ads that send messgaes about the relationship between men and women. The 2003 Super Bowl Commercial for Bud Light shows a close up view of a womens body (breast and bottom) so that the male viewers at home get a nice view as well. Ads like this are what serves to promote the idea that when women dress slutty on Halloween it is for men. Messner (2005) talks about the dominant gender themes and number 3 is “Hotties”meaning that women appear in these ads as sexualized fantasy objects because they are a prize for the men to win (p. 1887). This theme in our media is why women feel that they need to dress and look a certain way in order to please males. Messner (2005) goes on to explain that these ads send the long term message that “If you have got to have a wife, make sure that she is, and always will be, conventionally thin and beautiful” (p. 1892).
In the Halloween store I also tried to find a costume package that showed a women without makeup and a women who was not extremely skinny. I thought about the message this sends to teenage girls who can now only buy costumes that represent this idea of a beautiful women. This does not only affect teenage girls, but women of every age that constantly have to try to live up to these standards.
The women who are on these packages have similar body types and beauty characteristics to the women seen in the Miss America Pageants. As Banet-Weiser and Potwood-Stacer (2006) explain “Beauty pageants such as the Miss America pageant are not simply sites for the objectified feminine body, but are rather places in which this feminine body is articulated within the terms of liberal ideology – as an individual with choices and freedoms. Importantly, the television context of the Miss America pageant allows for this kind of liberal production, encouraging audiences to focus relentlessly on the visual character of women’s bodies, as testimony for the collapse of identity with representation” (p. 258). This is similar to what Halloween has become for men, an opportunity to look at a womens bodies and criticize whether or not she is as sexy as the girl on the packaging.
In conclusion, in the last twenty minutes of Halloween night I found myself in a bathroom full of 15+ girls and I focused in on the conversations they were having. Three different groups of girls were all discussing and criticizing costumes that other girls had been wearing that night, not a single male was criticized. Halloween is not a day where girls are able to dress freely and not be judged. Women will always be judged, regardless of what they wear, because it is what the media has instilled in our minds. After my day of criticizing Halloween I couldn’t help but wonder why men are not held to the standards that women are. Regardless if a women is in a nerds costume or dresses as a slutty cat there will always be both men and women judging her.
Banet-Weiser, S. Portwood-Stacer, L. ‘I just want to be me again!’ Beauty pageants, reality television and post-feminism. Feminist Theory Copyright © 2006 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi).
Ingberg, D. (2013, October 15). What Men Really Think of Slutty Halloween | Cosmopolitan.
Retrieved November 1, 2016, from
Messner, M. Montez de Oca, J. (2005). “The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events.” Journal of Women in Culture and Society: University of Chicago Press 879-1909 .
Mulvey, K. (2013, October 23). . 6 Halloween Costumes Guys Actually Think Are Sexy | Her Campus. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from
Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP, 1999: 833-44.