By: Emily Yakashiro
I have noticed a curious trend when it comes to critiques of “sexy” Halloween costumes: that such costumes are criticized (in addition to everything else) for being ‘lazy’ because they are not especially creative or inspired–and that this is somehow a bad thing.
Now, yeah, to my mind, “Sexy Shark” costumes don’t really shout creative.
And I take issue with these costumes below because they are SUPER RACIST and problematic, and that whoever wears them has put no thought into how their costume might hurt someone.
Costume images above found here.
Still, this tendency to lampoon sexy halloween costumes (provided they are not racist like the ones above) as especially not creative and therefore intellectually offensive and/or lazy is something I take issue with.
First of all, why do costumes have to be intellectual, creative, or thoughtful? I live in Vancouver/Coast Salish Territories, and I have observed that, day to day, the citizens here aren’t all that stylish–and that’s okay. As such, it does not surprise me at all that people here might not have the most outrageously creative and innovative Halloween costumes. Nor do I expect them to: why would people who prefer comfy layers and athletic wear go all out for Halloween? It seems to be a dissonant expectation to me.
Second, I find this troubling because of the gender expectations that are colliding with women’s intellectual capabilities. Women shouldn’t wear sexy Halloween costumes because they’re creatively uninspired and not loaded with intellectual meaning? Give me a break. Women are too busy working for 70% of what men are paid, fighting to break the glass ceiling, and balancing the many responsibilities in their lives–and now they have to come up with an creative, artsy Halloween costume with a decent intellectual explanation behind it, or else be considered lazy? I call bullsh*t, ’cause that kind of sentiment is teeming with some sort of intellectual elitism to me. I’m (not) sorry, but I can totally see the appeal of just quickly grabbing a sexy Devil costume off the shelves of whatever grocery store I’m in and heading out to a party.
Third, it’s entirely possible to wear a store-bought sexy Halloween costume and for said costume to have intellectual meaning to the wearer. Store bought costumes are great for those of us who aren’t talented with a sewing machine (for example, I love the idea behind Take Back Halloween, but a lot of their suggested costumes are way beyond my sewing level and/or price point), and besides that, meaning can be ascribed to sexy Halloween outfits. For example, in school I studied world religion, with a focus on women in religion (shocker, right?). Being an introvert, perhaps I would don one of those sexy witch costumes as a conversation starter, and I could go into a whole conversation about the European witch hunt and misogyny–which, incidentally, was the topic of my final undergrad paper. Or, I could talk about how historically inaccurate my costume is, and go into how I’ve been reading lots of stuff by Starhawk lately and how inspiring it has been. It wouldn’t have to be this intellectual or anything at all, but the possibilities are there.
Lastly, as I’ve mentioned before, I have a
history herstory of wearing supremely lazy Halloween costumes and calling it a night. From Halloween 2007-Halloween 2011 I had the privilege of being a university student with a full course load and working and volunteering. Those were my personal priorities, and as much as I love fashion and clothes, I couldn’t afford to spend money or time on putting together a great costume. I threw together a costume last-minute based on clothes I already had or just pinned on a sheet–really. And I know that wearing a sheet for a costume is just as “lazy” or uncreative as wearing a sexy, store-bought Halloween costume, but somehow I don’t ever get flak for wearing the former…
It has nothing to do with the fact that I know nothing about creativity or fashion, nor that I am not a smart or intellectual person. I would also like to resist those who might say, “but you’re different, you’re a feminist, you at least wore an artfully draped sheet not a slutty pirate costume,” because that hasn’t always been true. While I’ve been a feminist forever, I’ve worn some really offensive costumes in the past few years that I deeply regret. I’m a smart, feminist woman, but I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve done stupid things, but I’m not a stupid person–I’m learning and growing just like everyone else, and I would assume the same for the women in the Sexy ______ costumes I’m bound to see on Thursday night.