Halloween is a holiday where a person can become anything they wish to be, but the societal trend for women is to be as sexy as can be.
A woman can dress as a zombie, a pirate, a gladiator and even as a crayon, but the variety ends when every selection in the costume stores involves showing cleavage and almost everything else.
“We’ve seen an increasing desensitization to sexualized images in our popular culture in the last decade,” said Dawn Johnston, a professor of gender studies at the University of Calgary, on Oct. 16.
“It takes more and more to shock us than it used to, and I think that Halloween has kind of gone hand-in-hand in those senses.”
Johnston and many others believe that Halloween night is looked on as an ‘anything goes’ holiday, which gives people a chance to step out of their comfort zone and be out of their usual character.
Women who might not dress particularly provocative in their day-to-day life have a safe opportunity during Halloween to show their sexual selves without judgment on their character.
“But I think that there is increased pressure for women to display themselves in a particular way to be noticed in our society,” said Johnston. In a culture where the mass media pushes sex in our faces, and simultaneously judges women for dressing a particular way sends out mixed messages.
“On the one hand, when you walk into a costume store and all you’re presented with are options that expect you to exploit your sexuality I think that has the potential to be a really damaging influence,” said Johnston, adding that if women are empowering themselves through deciding that they can dress how they want and do what they want it’s not necessarily the end of the world for them to dress in a particularly provocative way.
Halloween Alley, a Halloween store located on 14 St. and 12 Ave., is well stocked with horrific props, spooky accessories and the typical women’s costume aisle of the short and sexy variety.
“It’s kind of what I’ve come to expect from Halloween. It’s not anything that I notice that is weird because it’s so normal,” said Nikki, a customer in Halloween Alley, who was looking for a burlesque style costume to go with her top hat.
“There are a lot of women that come in that really aren’t comfortable looking that sexy,” said Shelly Osmond, store manager of Halloween Alley.
“Really sexed up, most of the selections are really short cleavage things,” commented an anonymous shopper about the women’s costume selection at Halloween Alley.
“I feel like it’s allowed on Halloween. You can dress however you want and no one can say anything about it.”
“I’m not a crafty person; I can’t sew or do anything like that. It’s like my only option; I have to go to stores like this,” added the 21 year old female.
“I have all sorts of comments asking why most of the merchandise we have for women is short or revealing,” said Tarek, an employee at Halloween Alley.
“I had a customer come to me and say ‘I want a costume that makes me look good but not slutty.’”
“They (customers) know that Halloween is either scary or sexy and that’s what it’s becoming unfortunately. I also like the funny costumes but I don’t think we’ve been selling as much of those,” he said.
“I think a lot of them are inappropriate or they don’t cover enough,” said Sarah, another customer meandering through the women’s costume aisle with an expression of disinterest on her face.
“It’s nothing I want to wear,” she said. Not sure what to do, she said she’d keep looking elsewhere.
“We’re pretty creative coming up with some ideas for them,” said Osmond. The employees suggest to uncomfortable shoppers to add crinolines or booty shorts as well as colour-coordinated undershirts to the revealing costumes.
Osmond said that close to 50 per cent of the women’s costumes are sold with crinolines that give another two to three inches length on the costume.
Osmond estimates that it’s the 17 to 23 year olds who have no qualms about dressing provocatively, where-as once women have hit the 24 and older years they feel less confident about their sexual image.
Waitresses in particular come in looking to be as sexy as possible to cash in more tips at the bars or clubs.
“Like in any environment there’s a big difference between people who make a choice, with all of the knowledge to dress a particular way versus people who dress a particular way because that’s what society suggests they have to do,” said Johnston.