Unapologetic progressive. Fearless activist. Plucky liberal.

I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in years, but my workplace had a contest where the second-place prize was a parking spot across the street. I really wanted that space, so I decided to find a costume. I didn’t want to buy an entire outfit, and I’d been looking for an excuse to wear my prom dress again (yes, I like it that much and yes, it still fits). So my mom and I came up with the idea to go as a beauty pageant contestant.

Now, as a feminist I have conflicted feelings about beauty pageants (or “scholarship programs,” if you’ve seen “Miss Congeniality”). They’re yet another way society judges women based on how they look.

However, after looking online and in stores for accessories, I think my costume is 100 times better than anything I could buy commercially. It seems women and girls these days have almost no choices when it comes to Halloween costumes. Everywhere I looked, an everyday occupation had been sexualized beyond belief. Check out some of the following, which I saw at my local mall:

Sexy nun. Hot firefighter (scroll down to see the men’s costume, which isn’t nearly as suggestive). Officer bombshell. Sexy cabbie. Sexy rookie. Teen officer bombshell. Cracked.com came up with a list of sexy Halloween costumes that shouldn’t exist.

Yes, there are some companies that sell exclusively sexy costumes, but even a lot of the mainstream costumes seemed unnecessarily sexualized. At the site SpiritHalloween.com, there are three sexy categories for women: Sexy Costumes, Leg Avenue Sexy Costumes, and Playboy sexy costumes. Even the innocuously named “Classic Characters” still has outfits dubbed “Saki 2 Me,” “Backdraft Babe,” “RN Trouble,” “Pocahottie,” “Native Knock Out” (yes, shocking, the outfits are racist as well as sexist), “Convict Cutie,” “Nurse May I Kiss It,” “Princess Pow Wow,” “Plunder Down Under,” and “Heidi Hottie.” And the men’s sexy costumes are—oh, wait, there aren’t any.

To clarify, I have nothing against women being sexy and dressing however they want whenever they want. If you have the body to rock one of the above costumes, more power to you. I think women who can’t or don’t want to wear them, though, should have lots of other choices that don’t include wearing a full-length bedsheet. Goldilocks found her “just right.” Isn’t there something out there between sexy and frumpy?

I can think of lots of famous women and occupations that would make great costumes. What about Hillary Clinton? A Supreme Court judge? Amelia Earhart? A scientist? Audrey Hepburn? Ella Fitzgerald? Danica Patrick? J.K. Rowling? Oprah Winfrey? Mia Hamm? Michelle Obama? Princess Diana? Sally Ride? Tina Fey? A tennis player? Joan of Arc? Frida Kahlo? Maya Angelou?

These are all incredibly accomplished, smart women. There should be more outfits out there reflecting the significant contributions women have made to society instead of reducing them to a couple of yards of skimpy polyester.

The editors of Feministing.com agreed: They came up with this list of feminist Halloween costumes.

Because really, who wakes up one morning and says, “I’ve got it! I’m going to be a sexy nun for Halloween!”

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Comments on: "When did Halloween costumes become so sexualized?" (3)

  1. Well, there is the Sexy Mr. Santa (the weird combination of holidays that it is). I’m sure it’s really popular with the men.

    http://www.buycostumes.com/Sexy-Mr-Santa-Adult/20746/ProductDetail.aspx?REF=SCE-froogle&AID=10273928&PID=3668349

  2. Megan McClure said:

    I’m proud to say I’ve never gone as a sexy anything for Halloween….Last year I went as a female pilot a la Amelia Earhart and this year I went as Coco Chanel….Hooray for smart successful women!! My friend Katie wanted to go as Ms. Frizzle, how cute would that be!

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