editorial by: Online Editor David Fejeran
Around this time of year, Halloween stores all across the country are trying to lure you into the corporate money-maker of selling outfits that you’re only going to wear for one day of the year. Many of these outfits are sporting all kinds of wrong. Some of them exhibit cultural appropriation at its finest, such as “Indian” costumes that make full use of cultural stereotypes without actually respecting the traditions of individual tribes. Some straight-up mock entire races of people, such as the use of blackface, which is making an unexpected comeback. Some of them are straight-up creepy, such as dressing up as Bill Cosby. In addition, the large collection of women’s costumes this year, as usual, are very revealing.
This is not an editorial commenting on women’s choices in clothing. This is not an editorial trying to pressure women to dress more modestly, especially around this time of year. This is an editorial telling men to leave women and their wardrobe decisions the hell alone.
From a very young age, every woman you have ever met has had someone at some point in their life tell them how they should dress. Many parents tell their little girls in first grade, “Look at that outfit! You’re going to look gorgeous on your first day of school,” all the while ignoring these girls’ capacity to excel in her academics. Those same parents often end up later telling their now teenage daughters, “You’re not walking out of my house like that! What’ll those boys think of you?” This problematic communication, far too common in this country, is reinforced by two equally problematic issues.
The first of these is a school dress code that kicks a girl out of class for revealing too much of her shoulder. This ultimately teaches girls that they are nothing more than a distraction to the boys in their class, teaching them that boys living without distractions is more important than them receiving an education. While as a teacher I recognize the importance of professional attire, there are still far more restrictions on girls’ clothing than boys’. The second of these issue is a culture that teaches women that they exist to please male onlookers. Both issues disregard women’s right to choose whatever they want to wear without being judged.
While this problem persists in society 365 days a year, it rears its ugly head and marches proudly every Oct. 31. If you walk down the aisle of any Halloween store, you’ll find a variety of men’s and women’s costumes or a quick Google search will also do the trick. There are very few women’s costumes that don’t reveal at least a little bit of cleavage and quite a bit of skin, and those that don’t hug the body extremely tight. Men’s costumes, on the other hand, with the exception of gladiators and literal sexual innuendos, are significantly less revealing.
Now, women could buy one of the many revealing outfits from a traditional Halloween store, but will likely receive unwanted advances and flirting at a party she might attend. Not to mention, she might be catcalled on the way to the party and be objectified by unwanted strangers. On the other hand, a woman could not buy into the corporate Halloween market and make her own outfit, one that isn’t as revealing, and one that makes her feel more comfortable in her own skin. But in a world that tells women that they need to look attractive and sexual in order to be accepted, women dressed more conservatively are often called “prude,” “boring,” and “not worth my time.” Dress one way, you’re a prude, and no fun. Dress another way, you’re a slut. Either way, men are shaming women for the decisions they make about their clothing and appearance.
This has to stop. Women, dress however you please. It’s your body and your individuality, so express it. Men, don’t comment on a woman’s body. Don’t shame her into dressing a certain way. And most importantly, let women express their individuality however they want.