It’s that time of year again. The Hall of Languages is lit up in purple and “Hocus Pocus” is on every night on ABC Family. Halloween rolls around every October, but as the years pass us by, so too does the culture of the holiday. When you’re a little kid, Halloween is all about scary costumes, candy apples, and trick-or-treating. However, after puberty, things get a little less G-rated. For the older crowd, Halloween is synonymous with drinking and partying. Strobe lights and spiked punch replace candy apples and trick-or-treating. Nevertheless, as the holiday evolves from wholesome to racy, perhaps the raciest transition of them all are the costumes, particularly for women.
Ask any student around campus, or any campus in America for that fact, and most will tell you it is common knowledge that women will be scantily clad on Halloween. Any costume you could possibly imagine is sexualized. A girl doesn’t dress up as just a doctor, an esteemed, respected and highly educated figure in society. Instead, she dresses up as a “Sexy Doctor,” wearing basically lingerie with a Red Cross symbol ironed on. The list goes on all day, “Sexy Nurse,” “Sexy Firefighter,” “Sexy Toll Booth Worker.” So why do so many women bare it all on the 31st? Is it our way of saying that we are looking to have sex? The answer to this question can’t be diminished to an overall generalization made by third parties. Women are complex human beings, so to assume our willingness for intercourse belittles our worth is a form of discrimination. Much like the decision to have sex, what we wear on our bodies is our prerogative. In all different aspects (sex, clothing, medical etc.), each individual has the final say when it comes to his or her own body.
If “just because” doesn’t satisfy you, there are other reasons why women may choose to wear less on Halloween. It is possibly the only day of the year they feel comfortable to do so. Halloween is all about disguise. To quote the cult classic “Mean Girls,” “In girl world, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut, and no other girl can say anything about it.” While “Mean Girls” is undoubtedly hysterical, it is also satirical and holds truth in this situation. For one night (or seven during undergrad, but hey who’s counting?), you can be anyone you want to be. Every other day, a woman must bear the weight of what society tells them is an appropriate expression of their sexuality, so Halloween is a window of opportunity where the rules don’t apply. Wear whatever you want, because you won’t have to sport the red A on your blouse come Monday morning. This all boils down to the archaic notion that a woman is reduced to her appearance. You’re a good girl for dressing conservatively, and a slut for bearing skin. A woman’s choice to wear a skimpy Halloween costume most likely results from backwards thinking.
Still, if a woman dresses herself in a tiny outfit is she sending a message? Many people hold the view that she put it on willingly, so she’s objectifying herself. She’s basically asking for sex. Right? So wrong. As college students and Halloween rave-goers, it is important to be reminded of the harsh reality of the situation. Human rights and common sense tell us you can only ask for something by actually asking for it. Consent is given only when the initiator of sexual activity is sure they have obtained consent before moving forward. Knowing they have received an affirmative YES is the only way to know if the activity is OK. This does not include making assumptions based on what someone might be wearing.
Who’s to say that someone is promiscuous based off of how she’s dressed? Women aren’t mindless sex objects, so if a woman so chooses to display her cleavage or midriff, it doesn’t mean she’s up for grabs. Everyone has the right to his or her own body. This means you can do what you want with yours (i.e. wear little clothing), but have absolutely no right to make assumptions about what you can do to someone else’s. The way someone is dressed isn’t permission to draw inferences or assumptions about sexual interaction. A sexy costume is not an invitation. It does not equal consent.
If you would like to become active with this campaign, contact the Office of Health Promotions through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by their office at 111 Waverly Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13244.
By Meghan Reilly