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Ponnada: The sexualization of Halloween

BY SRI PONNADA | OCTOBER 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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I’m not used to celebrating Halloween, but this year my friends forced me to get into it. So I decided to go shopping for a costume. To my surprise [well, not really, because I was expecting it] — there were few options for women who try to stay away from looking like a bimbo.

Naturally, I was very frustrated that almost every women’s costume on Party City’s website looked like something an alternate version of myself might wear to a strip club. The company’s objectification of women is simply off the charts ridiculous. Thankfully, I’m not the only one who is pissed off at Party City and the costume choices that the company has provided for women.

A handful of outraged women (and men) have circulated a Change.org petition calling Party City out on its blatant sexism and requesting the company to provide some not-so-sexy options for women to choose from. I mean, it’s only fair. We don’t all want to be a sexy inmate, or sexy witch, or sexy Batwoman. Sometimes, a girl just wants to dress up like a banana — without any secret sexual undertones.

Why can’t women be a doctor, a cop, or a librarian without being expected to sex it up?

It’s unbelievable that none of this occurred to whichever dude in a suit decided what costumes Party City — among the nation’s other costume vendors — would sell. A high-school senior (the author of the Change.org petition) was able to make the connections and also to take an initiative to change this costume problem and the underlying societal views it represents.

As sad as it is to admit, our society shamefully continues to immerse itself in a culture that prides itself on the sexualization of women.

Now, some people might argue that “slutty” costumes provide women with a choice to explore their sexuality and to feel empowered doing so. But there is a clear distinction between healthy sexuality and sexualization.

As the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls points out, there are numerous components to sexualization that make it different from healthy sexuality.

Sexualization occurs when a person’s value comes from her or his sex appeal or behavior; a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy; a person is sexually objectified or made into a thing for others’ sexual use (“Officer, please arrest me.”); and/or sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. The association notes that all four of these conditions don’t have to be present, but any one is an indication of sexualization.

With respect to these raunchy costumes, there is no doubt whether at least three of the four conditions are there.

These outrageous costumes are holding women to a standard that equates physical attractiveness with being sexy (you can’t be a sexy nurse unless your boobs are popping out of your corset shirt, for example), turning women into sex symbols, and the company is imposing this hyper sexuality upon women by giving them little to no alternatives to dressing as what is deemed to be “sexy.”

It’s quite unfortunate that Halloween — a holiday that’s supposed to be fun and full of candy (or at least in my opinion) — has turned into a day/night when women parade around wearing pretty much nothing in the name of sexual empowerment.


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