A Transatlantic Invasion: Halloweenies and the Rise of Stockings

Note: This article is not addressing the various religions or cultures that Halloween has been ripped from/exploited/altered. This is just about the bullshit.

This is also a reflection of anyone who would dress in societal gendered clothing for women and is written as myself who identifies as a cis woman..

Halloween is my favourite holiday – my absolute favourite. However, I have always been curious about the costumes we choose as adults and my perception of a stark difference between gendered costumes.

After googling (or your search engine of choice….where is Jeeves actually…) “male Halloween costumes”, the first 20 images includes two costumes emphasising a penis, a topless fireman, a magnet with cat heads on it and a Baywatch style bathing suit with a pubic rug.

Let’s replace “male” with “female” and run the same test:

The twentieth image was a condom costume.

The first three were a short skirted pirate wench, a BDSM nun and Wonder Woman bodice and hotpants. Every costume is tight and not one costume is without stockings and heels – including an interpretation of a Minion. Apparently they like knee highs and high heels too – who knew?

When did Halloween become an opportunity for sexualising women? Is it that this is the only night women feel free to explore this to the extreme? Are we taking the Mean Girls girl-code that Halloween = “slut” mode?

My perspective is skewed. I have only attempted “slutty” fancy dress as a “sexy” Mummy  - the dead kind, not the kind you find at the school gate who somehow always is preened to perfection. My costume didn’t land. I couldn’t work it and was consistently asked either what my costume was or if I was an actual nurse. Zero points for BG. However, I always had this secret envy of those who could rock a daring costume – the Mean Girls mouse or the wench and her stockings. Most of the time I want to dress as my favourite male comedian or actor – Wayne of Wayne’s World, Harry from Dumb and Dumber or even Mario of Nintendo fame. This year is no different. I gleefully offered to be the Beetlejuice groom and could team up with a gal-pal willing to be a Beetlejuice Lydia bride.  I am not sure whether it is because I know I suck at being sexy cosplay or I just relish in thinking I am funny for the night. (It is almost always male comedians or humorous characters…what a naughty feminist!)

Hear me out.

I’ve been to so many parties of people being able to wear whatever-the-fuck but primarily women are wearing something wholly uncomfortable. The exception I must admit is my 6’4 German cis male friend turning up in white pants and white vest Miley Cirus-style. He was still in flats though.

In the time of the #metoo movement this worries me. The public still hear regularly hear rape victims “asking for it” because of their attire. I’ve also seen some wonderful, creative and detailed outfits that may be closer to cosplay and typically deemed as exposing but is an expression of appreciation and creativity. I admire this attention to detail. Freedom of choice. True life acting. Hey Jim & Andy – meet these people.

Halloween is on the rise in the UK as quickly as we pull up our stockings. There has been an overall 3.2% year on year rise on Halloween specific spending, with a £1.3m increase on pumpkins alone.  Great news for me – the only US commercial import I thoroughly enjoy. As an “accidental” goth, I get to watch horror films, listen to scary stories and read my Dennis Nilsen book without needing to excuse my “unfeminine” behaviour with my interests in the macabre, as often feels the case.

My worry is the obviously commercialised holiday now being so sexualised that in the future my nieces no longer feel the freedom to select their choices of costume. They’ll stop being Batman because Wonder Woman’s revival and ever-shortening hotpants are more in-line with the “slut code”. They won’t be Rosalind Franklin. Or Aretha Franklin. Or any other fabulous humans. They risk being resigned to “sexy mouse” or Playboy Bunny and feel the Mean Girls pressure whilst really they want to be the costume they choose as our markets seem to narrow our choices.

Sure – my nieces are young and I don’t need to worry for now – but when does this impact hit?

I love Halloween. I love my nieces. Please let’s all work a little harder at protecting the fun behind the holiday, the respect of people’s choices and burn the damn stockings if you choose.

This year Matthew, I am going to be…

Article by B.G