Halloween Objectifying Women: Gender Biases and Social Norms
To observe and collect date on Halloween costume options and how they relate to gender roles, primarily women, I have visited Halloween retail stores. On October 18 I Went to Spirit Halloween at 7:00pm. On October 24 I went to Halloween Alley at 6:00pm and I also went to Spirit Halloween at 7:30pm. On October 30th I went to Halloween Alley at 4:30pm. These Halloween stores provided me with a diversity of costumes to compare and analyze.
I feel that the perpetuation of gender stereotypes has a negative significance, limiting females and males to a limited range of emotions, conduct, dress and societal acceptance. A typical belief is that men are not meant to act nurturing and emotional. These are considered to be feminine qualities. This limits and decrees how men and women show emotion, limiting them from the chance to express in ways outside of the acceptable norm. Specific to Halloween women are expected to look sexy, pretty, and overall to appear as the socially acceptable version of feminine. The expectations for men at Halloween are to appear as strong and powerful, the counter of the female’s sexy, in masculinity. The costumes available and social acceptance of traditions supports and encourages “sets of behaviors that are commonly perceived as masculine or feminine within” (pg. 113) the Halloween culture, instantly insinuating gender roles and biases within the holiday.
I would say that some women want to look sexy on Halloween because it is a night when they get to play a sexy version of themselves, or the sexy version of a character, without getting slut shamed like they would any other day of the year. However, wearing a sexy costume is almost not a choice anymore. Dressing sexy is expected of females. The social structure of the holiday makes girls dressing sexy the acceptable norm. This is an example of socialization; “they are interacting appropriately with others and by coping with the behavioral rules established by the group”(Shlutz 108). I can note a great example from the movie Mean Girls. Lindsay Lohan’s character arrived at a Halloween party dressed as a creepy zombie bride, a non-sexy costume. As she walked into the house she noticed that all the females were dressed “sexy” and instantly felt out of place. She was the only girl to not wear a sexy Halloween costumes. Lindsay Lohan’s character at one point specifies that “in girl world Halloween is the one night of the year where a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it” (Mean Girls.). Thus, emphasizing that there are “rules for behavior that is assumed to be typical within a specific social group” (Schultz 111) to become Halloween norms.
I believe the current Halloween norms perpetuate sexual objectification, most notably with women. The choice of dressing sexy or not is limited, based on what costumes are available to women, in addition to what society has deemed as acceptable today. Halloween also makes it seem women do not have sexual freedom and that the only thing that matters is looking sexy. This limits the female’s sexuality, in that it inhibits “her own sexual desires, orientation, and preferences” (Schultz 113).
Going back into my field work notes I noticed that many of the female costumes for different characters were very similar with how the outfits would fit on the models. For example, “Deer Me” was a tight cold-shoulder dress versus “Dirty Cop Officer” which was also a tight dress. Tight, revealing and sexy is the common theme among almost all female costumes. I think this is a good example of where sexual cue or imagery is obtained from. Halloween provides a good example of the cycle of only being sexy, since that is what in the norm. Thus, supporting “the cultural definitions of appropriate behavior based on culturally defined categories of ‘male’ and ‘female'” (Schultz 113).
Adult costuming for women is overwhelmingly and compulsory “sexy” while costuming for men is not. Whether a women desires is to be a nurse, pirate, firefighter, vampire, etc. the availability is the sexy version of those identity’s. Women are limited to costumes with features such as skin-tight costumes, high heels/boots, and the showing of skin through short dresses, skirts, or shorts. While making observations at Spirit Halloween I noticed a costume called Sultry SWAT Officer which included a tight dress, gloves, arm band, and garter. The model of the picture was also in a stance that made a sexually suggestive pose and made the female to look sexy, vulnerable and exposed. Although less fabric of a costume does not affect the way a women’s body is it can send a message as to how the women body should be. I observed that men have multiple costumes to pick ranging from scary, funny, nerdy, and powerful. The male costumes are not defined and limited to being sexy. For the most part a male can dress up as a police officer, doctor and nurse without it being provocative and degrading to them. Looking back to my observations of how the male models pose they are typically standing with their legs spread, feet planted on the ground, often arms are positioned in a way that men are shown as strong. By having men pose in such a way makes then look powerful and dominate. Many of the male costumes are also comfortable and have little to nothing to do with their outfits being skin tight, often they are loose clothing. A few examples include the following: A Rustic Pirate which comes with a shirt, vest, and a shoulder belt. Another example is an Police Officer which includes a shirt, pants, hat, belt, and a metal badge. For the most part male costumes are quite masculine and represent how men should be, based on society’s norms, stereotypes and sexual biases. I noticed that women receive less clothing then men, which is especially shown through Halloween costumes. This ideally is proving that “the culturally constructed beliefs and behaviors considered for each sex”(Schultz 113) is defining that gender behaviors should stick to females being feminine and males being masculine.
I have observed and concluded that the Halloween social belief system guides female citizens according to obstructive, repetitive, recommended norms and practices of gender bias. This Makes it troublesome for women to discover and investigate diverse articulations of female sexuality in their costumes. There are distinct gender biases.
Halloween Objectifying Women: Gender Biases and Social Norms