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Davis, California

Sunday, June 16, 2024

(Re)Fashioning Gender: I’m a cat, duh



It’s almost Halloween! You know what that means: It’s the one time of the year when you get to be anything or anyone you want. Unless you’re a girl. Then, according to most of the costumes available, you can be a sexy anything or anyone you want. Yay! I guess.

OK, I’ll be honest — I’m kind of conflicted. In my experience, Halloween costumes made for women are essentially just sexualized versions of men’s costumes. While I think it’s problematic to say that revealing Halloween costumes are a negative thing, because that could imply an urge to censor women’s bodies, I do know that it’s nearly impossible to find a woman’s costume that doesn’t have the word “sexy” in front of it. But with men’s costumes, the opposite is true. This double standard, in my opinion, is where the issue lies.

On one hand, it’s kind of fun and empowering to dress up and look, well, hot. Maybe that’s just my narcissism talking, but who cares? A little narcissism is fine in small doses, and besides, I think it’s awesome when girls wear what they want and feel good about themselves — I’m all for self-empowerment and high self-esteem.

It’s just that, why is dressing however you want (which, a lot of the time, can be deemed promiscuously) only “allowed” one day of the year? It’s kind of funny (can’t you hear me laughing?) that people who say Halloween costumes made for women aren’t sexist at all because “girls should be able to wear whatever they want!” are usually the same people who, on any other day of the year, shame women for dressing “inappropriately” or showing too much skin in public.

So, what? Girls are only allowed to be empowered and wear what they want one day of the year? No wonder so many of us are eager to dress like a “sexy” cop or a “hot” nurse or a “naughty” slice of watermelon (yes, this is an actual thing). It’s our one free pass to put whatever we want on our own bodies. How wonderful for us!

The other issue I have with costumes made for women is that, when you compare the costumes to their male counterparts, they become totally unrecognizable. Have you checked out this Tumblr? Do it. I’ll wait.

What’s best about this blog is their juxtaposition of costumes made for men and women. Let’s take, for example, Scooby Doo. For men, the costume looks like – you guessed it – Scooby Doo! But for women, the costume looks like…a leotard with a tail? Paw prints on your boobs? I’m so confused.

There’s a plethora of these comparisons: a bunch of grapes which, for guys, looks like a cluster of oversized balloons taped to a spandex onesie, but for women look like a few flimsy pieces of fabric painted purple and tied with a string. Or, one of my favorites, a SWAT costume that, for men, looks pretty realistic with a bulletproof vest, body armor, boots, gloves. The whole nine yards. But the SWAT costume made for women is a mini-skirt and a crop top which the model pairs with an equally practical pair of fishnets and stilettos.

Now, I’m not saying that these costumes are ridiculous because they need to be more realistic. I know that’s not necessarily what Halloween is about. But why are men’s costumes so realistic? Why do they actually look like the person or thing they are meant to be dressed up as, while women look like a sexually objectified version of them? That’s a bit of an issue if you ask me.

It’s just strange that men get to be a realistic version of something while women get to be the sexualized version of them. What does this say to and about women? That we don’t get to be real things unless we’re hot?

Someone pointed out to me that maybe we can be both, and that’s why women’s costumes are made the way they are; but I think the fact that virtually every single costume made for women is a sexy version of something implies that we must be both. We have to be sexy and powerful or intelligent or whatever our costume is supposed to represent.

That’s great and everything; I think that women can be all of those things at once — but it also puts a huge level of pressure on women to appear in a way that amplifies their sexuality. On Halloween (and, let’s be honest, any other day of the year) women have to be pretty and whatever they want. Men just get to be…whatever they want.

On that note, I think I’ll make my own costume this year.

If you’d like to smash some pumpkins, summon spirits from the dead or concoct a pot of witches brew, email CHELSEA SPILLER at ctspiller@ucdavis.edu.


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