How Halloween objectifies women: warding off ghosts and showing off bodies


Jackson Spenner

Spirit Halloween’s costume categories have fewer than 100 scary costumes for women, but almost 150 sexy outfits.

Lizzy Wan, Diversity Coordinator

When I explained my Halloween costume plans to my friend, she immediately shot down my idea: “Lizzy, you’re supposed to dress slutty,” she said.

Halloween is a time to be whomever you want: dress up, wear whatever and feel like a kid again. However, women can’t seem to escape the expectation that we have to show some extra skin on Oct. 31. Take a look at the women’s section in any Halloween store: there are animal costumes, scary costumes, movie characters — but they’re all distorted into extra-tight, revealing outfits that skimp on fabric. 

Growing up, I never felt the pressure to wear a specific costume, especially a small, skimpy one. More often than not, I picked outfits with jackets and long sleeves because walking around outside on a fall night was freezing. It wasn’t until I got older, stopped trick-or-treating and was subject to sexualization that I felt such pressure.

To be clear, the sexualization of women is not isolated to one night of the year: a study conducted by the University at Buffalo found that 83% of women featured in a Rolling Stones magazine were sexualized compared to 17% of men who were sexualized. However, Halloween is our society’s excuse to amplify its objectification of the female body — all in the name of “dressing up.”. 

Take “Mean Girls” as an example — when protagonist Cady Heron’s crush invites her to a Halloween party, she shows up as a zombie bride with fake teeth, a black wig and a blood-stained dress to complete the look. Yet, upon arrival, she is faced with confusing stares from fellow students. Why? Wasn’t it a costume party, after all?? Simply put, her costume wasn’t sexy enough. Queen bee Regina George was wearing the same amount of fabric that a one-piece swimsuit would cover, dressed in fishnet tights and knee-high boots. Of course, she completed her “bunny” look with fur ears.

Let’s be honest: no girl wants to be the Cady Heron of their Halloween party, so they resort to a skin-tight costume that pleases the rest of the room.

Unfortunately, unwanted attention can quickly devolve into sexual misconduct. At conventions, female cosplayers depend on the understanding that “Costumes are not consent.” 

At this time of year, it’s a much-needed reminder for all of us.

In fact, Colorado State University reported that between 5% and 7% of all sexual assault cases are reported on Halloween weekend. 

Sexualizing Halloween costumes not only threatens women who feel pressured to wear such revealing costumes, but the outfits also diminish the hard work that women in these fields do. Your “sexy nurse” costume only ridicules the careers of actual nurses around the world.

At the end of the day, you should wear whatever you want. Halloween started as an ancient Celtic festival, where people lit bonfires and dressed up to ward off ghosts. So whether your costume will help ward off those ghosts or not, enjoy the night and don’t wear something because someone else is telling you to.