From mythical creatures such as Greek gods and mermaids, movie characters such as Katniss Everdeen, to firefighters and policemen, the possibilities for Halloween costumes are infinite, although, a certain notion seems to come with Halloween — the idea that “less is more” when it comes to picking women’s costumes.
“A majority of Halloween outfits underline women as sexual objects,” said Valerie Nguyen, a senior kinesiology major. “(Costume selection for women) narrows the choices down to sexy or un-sexy.”
She said the best example for the differentiation between sex appeal and comic relief when shopping for women’s costumes is the typical, boxy hamburger costume and the advent of the recent “Sexy Hamburger” costume offered to women by intimate apparel website Yandy.
“You’re either a hamburger or a sexy hamburger,” she said.
Nguyen is not the only person offended by the sexism perpetuated in costume choices for females, with movies such as the comedy “Mean Girls,” journalists such as Janice D’Arcy from The Washington Post and the newly created blog “F–k No Sexist Halloween Costumes” note the sexism found in women’s Halloween costume options.
“F–k No Sexist Halloween Costumes” compares costumes meant for men with those meant for women, with results showing the disparity between the more conservative and practical male versions and the often times skimpy, skin-tight female choices.
Some of the costumes the blog compares include bacon, sharks and children’s television classic Gumby.
In one photo comparing the male and female costumes for the Star Wars’ Chewbacca, the men’s costume is composed of a fully body suit covered in long brown fur accompanied with a face mask made to resemble the series’ character’s infamous face. The women’s costume, however, shows the model in a tiny furry bikini top with a hood and arm warmers attached, a tight brown mini skirt and knee-high go-go boots.
“It’s difficult buying a non-sexy costume,” said Marissa Everling, a senior interior design major. “That’s why I’ve dressed as a hot dog for the past few years.”
The proliferation of sexy outfit choices acts as one example of how women are not valued for their competence or ability but for their bodies and availability to men, according to Tanya Bakhru, a women’s studies professor.
“Virtually every Halloween costume has some kind of hypersexual element to it,” she said. “It says to women and girls that their primary value (in society) is their sexuality and who they are is most important in terms of their sexuality.”
Despite the unpopularity of revealing costumes by Nguyen, Everling, Bakhru and the bloggers behind “F–k No Sexist Halloween Costumes,” there are fans of outfits such as the “naughty nurse” and the “dirty cop.”
“You know if some girls have the body for it, then why not?” said Thanh Tran, a junior computer engineering major. “Some (girls) can pull it off while others can’t.”
Senior biology major Kirstie Tablan said that costumes should not be looked at as raunchy or immodest and that the people wearing them should be taken into consideration before any judgment calls were made.
“I don’t think (women’s costumes are sexist) because it really just depends on what you do and who you’re hanging out with,” she said. “If you feel pressured to look slutty during Halloween then you’re probably hanging out with the wrong friends.”
However, others asserted that societal norms and values should be scrutinized instead of judging the women who choose to bare more skin on Halloween.
According to Katrina Swanson, a social media intern at SJSU’s Women’s Resource Center, modern society still contributes to “slut-shaming,” which is the act of making a woman feel inferior or guilty for acting or dressing in a way that is seen as excessively sexual through calling them “slut” or other derogatory terms.
“There’s an encouragement (to wear these costumes and they) are the only options presented to women,” she said. “It’s a confusing message society is sending to women (and is telling them) ‘you have to wear this kind of costume but you’re still a slut for doing so.’”
Camille Nguyen is a Spartan Daily staff writer. Follow her on Twitter at @camillediem.