Halloween Costumes: Empowerment Or Exploitation?

Halloween Costumes: Empowerment Or Exploitation?

How to avoid the pressure of the sexy-nurse cliche.

Halloween, Freshman Year, Greek Row. My friends and I are huddled in a group on the steps of a frat house. Two boys in muscle tees stand in the doorway, arms crossed over their chests. A bass line throbs beneath the porch floorboards, making the windows quiver.

The pair of eyes scan our outfits, brows raised. I feel humiliated, waiting for judgment, suspended in Purgatory between parties. My Wednesday Adams costume seems conservative, at least compared to the group of girls in front of us—in a nod to The Purge trilogy, they wear skimpy lace lingerie and masks, carrying fake machine guns (never mind the fact that it’s a crisp forty degrees outside).

I feel exactly like Cady in Mean Girls when she walks into the party dressed as a grotesque monster bride. I would much rather be curled up on the couch with a pillowcase of candy, rewatching Hocus Pocus with my cat.

The billion-dollar Halloween costume market is dominated by sex appeal. Your options as a woman are limited to the sexy nurse-cop-witch-pirate-cheerleader-cowgirl, or something equally objectifying. This is excluding, of course, the cultural appropriation of costumes such as the sexy Geisha or Native American, which fetishize and reinforce racial stereotypes.

Most costumes feature a mini skirt, exposed cleavage, provocative mesh tops or fishnets. The intention of these clothes is to draw attention to your body, to present something alluring and seductive—they are catered to appease the heterosexual male desire, dictated by the male gaze. The costume industry is a reflection of how women are hypersexualized in media, such as the American Apparel ads that range from racy to demeaning, or in the male-centric Marvel superhero universe.

The perpetuation of sexualization teaches girls that they should equate their self-worth with being physically attractive and seek validation in the form of flattery. Media exposure has been proven to shape the perceptions of an ideal body, with research linking unrealistic media depictions of women to lower self-esteem and poor body image in young girls.

This isn’t my way of slut-shaming the Catwomen in leather bodysuits or vampire queens in rib-squeezing corsets. Plenty of women feel empowered by showing skin, they embrace their bodies and celebrate themselves. It’s an act of self-love and self-appreciation. They enjoy dolling up and strutting down the street in killer heels, without the intention to impress anyone. You should be able to dress in whatever way makes you feel comfortable, without being pressured to exploit your body or adhere to typical gender roles.

Need some original non-sexy Halloween costume ideas? We live in the Golden Age of Television, which has birthed some of the strongest female protagonists yet. Any Orange Is the New Black character will do; Game of Thrones has a plethora of badass heroines, as does The Walking Dead if you’re leaning for something more traditionally horror-oriented. There are many opportunities to be creative and have fun without exploiting yourself or someone else’s culture.

Cover Image Credit: Mariah Hall

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11 Feminist Halloween Costumes You Don't Need Cleavage To Feel Sexy In

If you’re looking for the most scandalous outfits to wear this Halloween, this may not be it.

If you're a socially conscious f eminist, you'll know sexy shouldn't be defined by anything other than what you make of it.

However, when most people type in "sexy Halloween costumes" into their search engine, they might be looking for tight bodysuits or something that shows a little more cleavage. Don’t get me wrong, I'm not knocking out bunny ears or mesh tights. However, it might be time to stretch what that definition means.

I've gathered a few costume ideas that are sure to make a statement this Halloween while representing some of the most iconic women of our time. So, here are the ten best Halloween costumes for forward-thinking women like us!

1. Rosie the Riveter

Who better to show that we are equal and can do a “man’s job” just as good (or better) than Rosie the Riveter? This outfit is bold and inexpensive. You may even have this in your closet!

2. Marilyn Monroe

"I am very definitely a woman and I enjoy it.”

More proof that you can be beautiful in pants or a dress. Embrace the beauty within.

3. Taylor Swift

“I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life,” Taylor Swift said in an interview with The Daily Beast.

Enough said.

4. Hillary Clinton

President or not I’m still with her. Just like feminists and activists before her, she has paved the way for modern women to stand up for themselves and have a voice.

5. Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony proved any woman could turn her dreams into a reality. She helped remove limitations and showed women to be fearless. Fast forward 97 years and women can achieve even more than. Yes, we still have more to accomplish, but we’re definitely nearing the horizon!

6. Amelia Earhart

Not only was she an American aviator, she was also the first woman to ever fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Talk about goals. This Halloween, you can defy gender norms just like Amelia did.

7. Frida Kahlo

Surrealist painter Frida Kahlo explored the depths of her identity, culture, gender, class, love, and loss. Through her persona and her artwork, she defied feminine beauty and gender stereotypes in a time where women had few rights and were viewed as submissive. Who ever said you had to get your brows waxed anyway?

8. Birth Control

Hands off my birth control!

This might be sound a little kooky, but isn't that what Halloween is all about? This year, make it a point to express how you feel through your costume. Women need to stick together! So, let's dress up as birth control to remind the GOP we will not accept another restriction.

9. Wonder Woman

Adding Wonder Woman to our list was a no-brainer. She’s a crowd favorite, especially the way Gal Gadot represented her in the new movie.

Overall, Wonder Woman is a symbolic character that reminds us anyone can be a hero. The days when only little boys looked up to their favorite superhero are long gone. Now, kids and adults of any gender have a badass female superhero to fawn over.

10. Madonna

More than 30 years ago Madonna broke the barriers of what men wanted women to be. In a time where women were expected to follow certain rules, her attitude and bravery overcame those norms. Shoutout to "Hocus Pocus" for the inspo.

11. Rey from "Star Wars"

In "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Han Solo's new protégé Rey is loaded with martial skills anyone would admire. Daisy Ridley plays the franchise's first female protagonist with a strong feminist persona. Rey refuses to be defined as "just a woman" and is definitely no damsel in distress. Instead, she is a fighter, survivor, and all around badass.

This Halloween, don't just be brave. Be Rey.

Cover Image Credit: Beyoncé's Facebook Profile

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10 Random Ways To Have Fun This Spooky Season Without Being Basic

4. Hide in a corn maze and scare other people.


Fall can be a wonderful time of the year if you try to enjoy the season for what it can truly be. With all those warm colors, crunchy leaves, pumpkin spiced everything, and spooky scary skeletons, fall is a season like no other. I am going to offer you a list of new ideas you can try in a completely non-sarcastic way.

1. Decorate someone else's place as a haunted house. 


You should most likely ask for permission if they are complete strangers to you. Another option is to ask a relative or a close friend if you can go and decorate for them. Bring out those cobwebs and creepy witch brooms and start decorating.

2. Carve some pumpkins and leave them on random porches. 


You can make them look super scary or super artsy, but just make sure you give them to other people. They will probably enjoy the gift more than you anyway as long as you make it totally appropriate for all crowds.

3. Take a pile of leaves and organize them by color. 


This may sound tedious and completely pointless, but at least it will give you something to do. Once they are separated, go ahead and jump in the new piles. Make sure you get a picture of your outcome too because that is a major success.

4. Hide in a corn maze and scare other people.


It may take a long time for someone to actually walk by, but when they do it will be totally worth it to see the look on their faces when you freak them out. Bonus points if they scream at you.

5. Whip out your famous veggie tray instead of offering candy. 


Nothing like some good ole healthy options on Halloween. You could also substitute the vegetables for something else such as fruit if you prefer. The sky is your limit, so just go wild this spooky season.

6. Leave a note on your porch saying "take one" but have no bowl out. 


Everyone loves a good holiday prankster. Make the sign super aesthetic and elaborate as well as big enough for people to read to want to come up to your porch. Once they get there, they will be super disappointed which could be a lot of fun.

7. Watch a horror movie first thing in the morning just to traumatize the rest of your day. 


Start with something extremely violent and terrifying. If it can create daymares, then it is completely the right option.

8. Wear a sheet over your head for an entire day and pretend to be a ghost. 


Just make sure you have a couple eyeholes to be able to see where you are going. This could either be a really good idea or a potentially dangerous one, so just make sure you freak people out while you can.

9. Pick a random day to give out "Best Costume" certificates to your friends. 


Make sure it is a completely regular day where no one is wearing any sort of costumes. Pass out different certificates such as "Most Boring" or "Scariest". If none of your friends know it is coming, it will be even funnier for you.

10. Wear a costume to a costume store.


Make sure to pretend to be deep in thought while staring at the shelves. Also make sure to wear your most obnoxious costume you own because why not be super tacky all the time.

Halloween may be just around the corner, but the fall season is just getting started. Make this spooky season one to remember full of laughter and good times.

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