Why is there so much pressure on women to dress 'sexy' at Halloween?

You should be allowed to wear a sexy costume if you want - but why is it always the only option for women?

I will admit to having bought into the whole "sexy costume" thing for the best part of my teenage and student years. I’ve been a sexy zombie, a sexy schoolgirl, a sexy boxer, a sexy Alice in Wonderland, and one year I turned up wearing construction tape, boots and little else. But this year, I think I’m going to branch out a bit and go as my favourite writer or artist or character from American Horror Story. Why? Because I’m bored.

I’m bored of the knee socks and tiny polyester dresses that are designed to show as much boob as possible. They all look the same. I’m bored of going to Halloween parties with 20 million sexy cats and no girls dressed up as anything else. I’m bored of being part of a bunch of half-naked girls when our male peers get to be genuinely scary-looking and not worry about a nip-slip during the evening’s festivities. I’m ready for something different, something that doesn’t involve ubiquitous, pre-packaged "sexy" that doesn’t help me express my sexuality or even make me feel particularly good in my own skin.

The top Google hit for "Halloween costumes" after sponsored sites and eBay is a certain party store. For women, the site offers three main options before it gets to wigs and accessories: "Sexy Halloween Costumes", "Cheap Halloween Costumes" and "Plus Size Costumes".

Men get "Film & TV Costumes", "Cheap Halloween Costumes" and "Plus Size Costumes". It seems hardly fair that we’re stuck with sexy while the boys get all the film and TV characters in their corner. Why is there no sexy section for men? Why is that the main differentiating category for women’s costumes? I sense that there just might be some sexism going on here.

My concern is that Halloween provides a microcosmic peek at a society where women are primarily valued by how physically or sexually attractive they are, above their intellect or their achievements or their personalities. Sexuality is definitely a part of who we are, but it’s not all we are. The lack of alternatives to "sexy" in shop-bought Halloween costumes illustrates a reduction of choice and a reduction of possibilities for who women are allowed to be when they re-imagine themselves in costume form.

I don’t want to slut-shame anyone, on Halloween or at any other time, and by that I mean passing judgment on other women or mocking them because of how they conduct their sex lives or how they express their sexuality. However, and this is where it gets tricky, there is a difference between recognizing when some sexism is occurring and not respecting the choices of fellow ladies. Men and women should both have the option of looking sexy on Halloween, but when it is the only available option for women, at the expense of all other options, then I start feeling a bit cross and like I’ve been somehow shortchanged.

Tina Fey’s beautifully scripted Mean Girls is of course, a cultural case-in-point here. Cady dresses up as scarily as she can, because she has not yet learned the rules of "Girl World". She realises that: "Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it."

This implies that on no other days or nights of the year can women dress in a sexy or provocative way without being in some way punished or shamed. Who is giving women this weird permission on Halloween to demonstrate their sexuality? I’m not sure I want a bizarre cultural thumbs-up to get my upper thighs, midriff and cleavage out, one night a year. I think I’d quite like the option of being whoever I want on Halloween (sexy or unsexy) and the ability to celebrate my sexuality, whenever the hell I like.

Surely, if we stopped being judged and slut-shamed and put into good girl/bad girl boxes all the rest of the year, then Halloween could just be about "dressing up as stuff" rather than a time when boys get to dress up as stuff and girls get to dress up as sexy stuff. Let’s see some costume variety this year, and a mixture of sexiness, quirkiness, hilarity and scares, undivided by gender.    

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas