J: So… what’s everyone going as for Halloween?
A: I’m going as Sexy Zebra!
Me: I’m thinking about going as Sexy AIDS victim.
C: Are you actually going to get AIDS? Because I know a guy….
Years ago, my sister and I started a competition to see who could come up with the most inappropriate “Sexy” costume, in reaction to the “Only night you can dress like a slut and not be judged by other women” phenomenon of Halloween in Girllandia. Before I moved to New Mexico, the only first-hand experience I’d had with Sexy Halloween involved accidentally walking into a party/fight where all the girls were mad at each other because they had decided to go as Hooters girls for Halloween but then Group A had gone out and gotten their Hooters tee-shirts without Group B, who then retaliated by going out and getting Hooters *tank-tops,* which were sluttier and therefore better, and in the end all the Hooters girls were mad at each other. Ali and I managed to log about five minutes at that joyous occasion before heading back to my dorm room where we drank a handle of rum and played Drunk Super MASH, a college twist on an old favorite.
At Grinnell, we valued cleverness over sexiness. People dressed as showers, as a menstrual cycle, as Zelda Fitzgerald, as Eve (naked, but not Sexy Naked….weird naked), as “myself in 10 years when I sell out to Corporate America.” It wasn’t until I left that little bubble and went into the real world that I encountered Sexy Halloween in all its absurdity.
A few minutes after my sister and I started one-upping each other with Sexy Inappropriate costumes, my then-roommate walked into my room to show me her costume: extremely high heels, a tiny miniskirt, a baby-tee, and a black eye. “Ta-daaaa! Do you like my costume?”
“What are you going as?” I asked. “Sexy Domestic Violence Victim?”
She seemed slightly offended. “No! Mischievous tomboy!”
“In those heels?”
“I wanted to be a Sorceress,” she said. “I have an awesome velvet cape. But… it’s not sexy enough.”
Really? The ironic thing was that this same girl had JUST been talking with me about the silliness of Sexy Halloween earlier that day! How can you laugh about it and then – not an HOUR later – buy into it? How can you stand there and tell me you’re a feminist and then not wear the velvet cape you want to wear because “As a girl, you have to be sexy!”
When did the Halloween sea change occur? When did we shift from being cute and even scary to sexy? I clearly never got the memo – I went from being “Old Man” (complete with wite-out in my eyebrows that didn’t come out until Thanksgiving, thanks Mom!) in 1993 to “Social Construction” in 2000 without much in-between. Maybe there was a day in high school where they pulled all the girls into the health teacher’s room and said, “Now that you’re seventeen, you must apply this adjective to every costume you wear….” And when does it end? Do we get to stop being sexy after we get married? Have kids? Is sexy an obligation or a privilege?
There was a good discussion over at BROOD about the sociological implications of Sexy Halloween (healthy expression of female sexuality? Reclamation of stereotypical gender roles? Power dynamics in a gendered hegemony?)
Myself, I’m planning to go as the grown-up version of this baby: