If you’re a sucker for spooky stories, creativity, wild costume parties, and concerningly large amounts of candy and junk food, then this time of year is for you. Halloween is right around the corner and kids of all ages look forward to October 31st to have fun with friends and make new memories. When asked, most people have a story to tell about at least one crazy or remarkable Halloween they’ve experienced. Here’s mine.
I was in elementary school sitting in my first grade classroom with my friends. We were eating the cookies we decorated, watching scary movies, and painting pumpkins. Halloween had fallen on a Friday that year, so our teacher let us enjoy some fall festivities together before the weekend.
This was about two months after I returned from summer camp at Frost Valley. During my time there, I had a “boyfriend” named Christian who was older than me; I was 6 and he was 9. You can already tell this was a bad influence waiting to happen. One day during afternoon snack time, we were sitting together holding hands when he leaned in and whispered the word “sexy” in my ear. Naturally, being 6 years old, I had never heard that word before, so I asked him what it meant and he explained it. When a counselor overheard us, she told us that it was an inappropriate word and that Christian and I would face consequences if she heard us repeat it.
That summer, not only did I date an older boy, but I also learned a word that was apparently off limits for my age. It was like a rite of passage that made me feel so much cooler than my peers. So, that day during our class Halloween party, I took my paintbrush, dipped it in black paint, and wrote “SEXY” on my pumpkin in capital letters. I did this about 10 more times in a variety of colors until almost every inch of my pumpkin was covered with the word. With a horrified look on her face, my teacher quickly noticed and immediately sent me to the principal’s office. I was screamed at, a note was sent home to my parents, and I was no longer allowed to participate in my school’s Halloween parade later that day.
Obviously, I mainly remember this experience as one of the countless funny, bizarre stories from my childhood that my family and friends joke about to this day. Recently, however, it also made me realize the connection between Halloween and sexiness that has been created in our society. Young girls and women are taught that their Halloween costumes should be “sexy,” which we seem to associate with being “slutty,” as costume shops and online stores release items each year that are even more tight-fitting, low-cut, and skimpy than the year before. In fact, there are now sexy versions of costumes that would normally never be considered sexy, including a sexy hamburger, a sexy teddy bear, and even a sexy baby. In the movie Mean Girls, Cady Heron points out how common this is when she says, “In the real world, Halloween is when kids dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.”
Is this a problem? That all-year round, women are shamed for revealing their skin or their figure, but then are given a pass once a year? And even on Halloween, this “pass” is questionable; some of these over-the-top, extremely sexualized costumes put us at even further risk of objectification.
So, to ladies celebrating Halloween this year, here’s what I want to say. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wearing something to show off your body, especially on Halloween when the point is to go a little crazy. Let’s be realistic here, I’m a junior in college and I’d be lying if I said that none of my Halloween costumes over the past few years haven’t been on the sexier side. Not to mention that expressing confidence and body positivity is always a plus, no matter what day it is. Just remember to ask yourself why you are wearing a certain piece of clothing: Is it because you actually feel comfortable and like how it looks? Or is it because you feel expected to?
I wish I could go back in time to my innocent 6-year-old self ferociously painting “sexy” on her pumpkin, motivated solely by her desire to defy adults rather than a genuine understanding of what the word meant. I’d tell her that it’s not the actual word that is wrong, but rather how it’s used to make us feel like we must be something specific on Halloween, the one day a year when we’re supposed to have the freedom to be anything we want.