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Sexy Halloween costumes acceptable, expected

O’Donnell is a senior secondary education major and can be reached at caitlin.odonnell@drake.edu

Ah, Halloween. My favorite time of year, full of candy, haunted houses and the age-old Halloween tradition: slut-shaming. It’s this paradox: women are expected to dress as sexy versions of a nurse, a bumblebee or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. And then when they do attend their local wholesome Halloween party dressed as such, there’s this weird objectification/“judginess” that takes place.  In terms of costumes, you’re either a prude (because you really wanted to be a realistic-looking bunny) or a slut (because you feel pants are overrated).  There’s no winning.

A costume-less example of this paradox: A recent Times-Delphic editorial under the pseudonym Jane Hoe insinuated that women exist to be sexy for the men (“So what do we girls have to do? Give them head!”), and a Drake professor’s response explained that if we hook up, we must not respect ourselves (“There will very likely, and rightfully so, be feelings of regret and guilt”). Are we seriously narrowing down women into either virgins or whores again? That’s some 15th century moralizing going on right there.

Because I am seriously not interested in wearing a chastity belt as part of my costume, can we please stop pretending that A) women are defined by their sexuality and B) costumes are there to illustrate said sexuality? To be clear: my costume length is in no way proportional to how much I “respect myself.” Nor, on the other hand, should I feel like the only option I have is to be a sexy (fill in the blank). And to address this fear that women must dress revealingly to be wanted or attractive, have a little faith in yourself. My first-year roommate dressed in a penguin suit a la “Happy Feet,” and she looked damn fine.

For the five people who read this and are like, “That’s totes not true! Women can dress however they want, and societal expectations have completely no impact on me and/or my view of women!” congratulations.  For everyone else who has a basic understanding of reality, here are your three rules for Halloween 2012:

1. Dress modest! If you decide you want to dress in something clever and cool and it also happens to cover a significant portion of your body, you rock it, man. Don’t let anyone pressure you into being sexy Amelia Earhart when you think historically accurate is better. You go be your bad self.

2. Dress sexy! In underwear! Or nothing! If you decide that you are going to dress in something that is showy and skimpy and fabulous because you want to, you do it, girl. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are less than wonderful. Bring a jacket so you don’t get hypothermia.

3. Stop being a creep. Hello. I know this zombie costume is somewhat limited in coverage, but you still have to look at my face. And if you touch my partially covered body without my permission, I will cut off your hand for my zombie prop.  My costume does not equal my consent.

I will put in a caveat about skimpy costumes: Please, for the love of God, don’t be a “sexy Indian.” I KNOW your Native American costume is probs super cute. I know. Sorry, but you don’t get to narrow down thousands of years and tribes and cultures into one offensive stereotype that’s more or less racist. You wouldn’t go out dressed up as “Hispanic,” right? (Please say right.) If you already took the tags off your “Pocahottie” costume, burn it.

Beyond that, though, wear what makes you happy. Wear it because YOU want to and it makes you feel good about life/your body/playing dress up in college. Remember to be nice to the other girls. We’re all together in this glorious fight against sexist Halloween expectations, and you making fun of the sexy toothbrush doesn’t help. However you dress for Halloween, go do awesome stuff with awesome people and have lots of fun. No chastity belt required.



  1. Corey Daniels October 25, 2012

    Oh Cate, you freaking rock. I’m going to show my lady this, and I’m expecting an AMEN!

  2. Ariana October 25, 2012

    This reminded me how much I missed your sass this summer. And your feminist ways. I also saw your picture and thought, “NO ONE SEPARATE HER CURLS!” That would be all. 🙂

  3. Sarah October 25, 2012

    Oh my god Cate O’Donnell you are awesome for writing this! So true I couldn’t agree more!
    ~Sarah Niles =)

  4. Joe October 25, 2012

    Don’t be a sexy solder either. Disrespectful.

  5. james madison October 28, 2012

    My 100% native uncle tells me stories about growing up on the rez in Montana. Here is a relevant one:

    The rednecks and natives in the area knew to stick to their own, so there were only a few minor confrontations here and there. Except for one Halloween when half the town nearly massacred eachother. The local good old boys got dressed up as stereotypical natives (giant headdresses, warpaint, tomahawk, etc), got drunk and went by the reservation making whooping calls. The natives, who dressed more like mexican ranchers, got REALLY pissed. The locals and the natives formed into two huge mobs and approached eachother in a clearing, sort of like in gangs of new york. At the last second, the local pastor and grand tribal elder both jumped in the middle of the raucus. They worked out a peace deal. The rednecks would have to make amends for by doing something for the whole tribe.

    There was an older indian healer, who they say was a always a little weird (too much of his own medicine?). He supposedly molested a bunch of boys after he had them inhale some really strong peyote on a spiritual outing. They had no real evidence but everyone was sure he did it. The natives couldn’t get rid of him the old fashioned way, one because of respect for the old ways (he was an elder), and two because they were sure the FBI were watching them (the reservation had a huge marijuana smuggling thing going on). So they told the rednecks take care of it.

    The rednecks, still all dressed as stereotypical natives, came roaring into the rez in their crowded pickup truck, whooping like apaches the whole time. They ripped up to the guys trailer and dragged him out as he begged for mercy. They tied him to the back of their pickup and peeled out, dragging him out into the woods miles away (first going across miles of paved road). Since the whites were known not to go on tribal land (nor did the sheriff care about native crimes), and the natives obviously did not really dress up like they do in movies and go around scalping people (nor did anyone on the rez talk), the feds didn’t know what to make of it and dropped the investigation.

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