The Link Between Halloween Costumes and Body Image

HalloweenCostumesBodyImage.RachelJohannes-2It seems these days the only epidemics on everyone’s lips are medical. The news is constantly gathering facts, spreading the word, and making sure the people are well prepared in a fight that hopefully, we never have to face. But what about the epidemics that don’t get national coverage? What about the epidemic of negative body image? In my opinion, this problem has as many serious health risks. In anticipation of Halloween and the culture that has become Halloween costume shopping, it is important to address the situation at hand.

While browsing the stores and websites, it has come to my attention that the costume selections are not very versatile. Almost everything offered for women comes with a title of “sexy this” and “sexy that”. These costumes are very revealing and tight – most with short hem lines and cropped tops. A lot of women don’t appreciate the lack of choices and are apprehensive to spend money on these pieces.

So what are some options? Well, you could make your own costume or some variation of one sold in stores (this can be costly and time consuming, though). Or, you can adhere to societal pressure to amend your body in the weeks prior to Halloween in order to be able to feel confident in one of the very limited options out there. I’m sure you can see the problems with this and if you can’t, I, your feminist friend, will willingly guide you  through the three main reasons why this is completely unacceptable, especially in 2014.

First, the fact that very limited, very sexually suggestive costumes, are almost the only ones on the market is an exact personification of how society views, and therefore treats, women as sex symbols. Women already face enough problems in the workforce in terms of being taken seriously and dealing with sexual harassment – how is portraying almost every single occupation in a sexual light going to help this?

It is completely up to the individual as to whether she wants to buy these costumes, but the problem lies in the fact that there are almost no conservative options. Penn State sophomore Sarah Beechay has taken note of this as well. As the President of Triota, a National Women’s Studies Honors Society, Beechay says, “ Your halloween costume should be a choice. I’m all for dressing up sexy or scary or whatever you want to do. Mainstream stores have created an issue lately because for the most part, they don’t offer a choice. The “choices” for women’s costumes are “sexy, sexy, sexy, or sexy.” Women who aren’t comfortable with dressing sexy or don’t desire to are then left without a costume and feeling as though they are wrong. “If we women had more options, we could make choices on how we wanted to look, not have those choices provided to us by the advertisers and designers of these costumes,” says Beechay.

Second, this issue is certainly not aiding the fight that feminists all over the world are facing in terms of positive body image in the media. When all we see is one type of body as the model for virtually any brand, it is hard for average women not to get caught up in the pressures of trying to conform to a standard of beauty that is nearly impossible. All bodies are beautiful, but not all bodies are the same.

Although the media has made some positive strides, it still has a long way to go and the whole Halloween costume ordeal is truly not helping. As we looked at the costume selection, my friend said “They should only make these costumes in a size extra small”. She may have been kidding, but the underlying tone of that statement was very serious. Not every woman is a size extra small so why should designers only market to that size? If you’re not that size (which most women are not!), shopping for a costume can make you feel pretty bad about yourself.

This brings me to my next point. No one should have low self-esteem, especially caused by something as simple as Halloween. Yet it makes perfect sense as to why this is happening. Confidence issues aside, this problem could bring up a whole bunch of health issues as well. Many women feel the pressure to conform, and the means that they take are not always healthy. Out of many body image cases come stories about fad dieting, over-exercising, and eating disorders. By feeling like you “need” to lose weight in order to fit into your Halloween costume, it is all too common for some women take extreme and unhealthy measures.

This problem is serious and we should all be made aware of this in order to keep ourselves healthy and happy this Halloween. Just because something is sold and displayed in a store DOES NOT mean that it is the norm when it comes to body image and beauty standards. Women need to remember that they are unique and beautiful. Feminists will continue to advocate for positive strides in the world of body image, but the real change will come from the community of beautiful and capable young women. Stay smart, stay healthy, and happy Halloween!

Photo by Rachel Johannes 


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