Sexualizing Halloween costumes perpetuates stereotypes

Written by: Zoe Weisner

Graphic by: David Zhu

For many teenagers, celebrating Halloween is difficult; society traditionally associates Halloween with young children dressing up as their favorite superheroes or cartoon characters while adults supply them with an exorbitant amount of sugar. But as children mature, it is no longer considered “cute” for girls to wear fairy princess costumes. So in an effort to express their maturity, teenagers, particularly girls, will use Halloween as an excuse to wear provocative costumes. However, girls who use Halloween as a pass to wear skimpy outfits, in an effort to express their transition into adulthood, perpetuate gender stereotypes.

According to a 2007 report by the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls, oversexualization is linked to the three most common mental health problems for girls: anorexia, low self-esteem and depression. In today’s world, the pressure on teenage girls to become more attractive at younger ages is only increasing. Around almost every corner, women are hypersexualized. In movies and on television, women are more likely to be seen wearing revealing clothing rather than conservative outfits. As a result, it becomes difficult for teenage girls to find appropriate costumes without appearing childish since the demand for provocative costumes is rising. Most teenage girls then end up giving in to the pressure and choose to wear the outfit that shows more skin, not less, during Halloween.

Girls who decide to wear suggestive clothing are not only objectifying themselves, but also placing themselves in danger. Teenage girls are especially prone to sexual harassment, and subject themselves to even more risk when they choose to dress promiscuously. According to the Rape, Abuse, and  Incest National Network,  44 percent of the victims who are sexually abused are under the age of 18. Many of these incidents are caused by skimpy attire.

However, there are more appropriate ways for teenage girls to express themselves during Halloween that do not involve wearing suggestive outfits. Even though most major Halloween stores such as “Spirit” and “Party City” have only a limited selection of costumes that do not include showing excessive skin, teenagers should seize this opportunity to make an original handmade costume. Rather than going for the standard, like the French maid or racy nurse, take the time to create something that is age appropriate and creative. For those who are not as willing to spend time putting together a costume, try pairing up with a friend to wear a humorous couple costume.  Despite what some may believe, there are more original outfits than the plug and socket.

Society makes it seemingly normal for young girls to choose to dress up in costumes such as sexy nurses over more conservative and innocent outfits because there is an imbalance of conventionally female roles compared to female leadership roles wherever we look. But as teenagers it is important to remember that we are not yet adults and still have much to learn in our lives.

Teens need to realize that growing up is not a race to see who is the most “mature” by showing off our bodies and imitating what other adults would be wearing. Halloween should serve as one of the days during which we can savor the final days of our fleeting childhood, without the pressure of having to dress in costumes that we think we should be wearing.

 

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