Silence the slut shaming this Halloween

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Photo Credit: Alexandra Vanderhider | Daily Texan Staff

When I think about Halloween, I picture Regina George in “Mean Girls” posing for her mother in a lingerie bunny costume. Protagonist Cady Heron narrates the clip saying, “In girl world, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” 

In 2018, Halloween is interwoven with party culture on campuses. The handmade princess costumes once worn by little girls are now knee-high stockings and bustiers worn by women. Nevertheless, a woman’s costume choice should not define her as a slut. Halloween, just like any other day, is not a time to shame. 

The sexualization of Halloween costumes goes hand-in-hand with the crass commercialization of the holiday. Sex sells. Retailers from Party City to Dolls Kill take advantage of sexualizing everything, and dressing promiscuously on Halloween is arguably encouraged. And yet, there is a caveat to the reckless fun. People talk. Jokes are made. It seems harmless, but the lasting effects of slut-shaming can be damaging. 

“Growing up in a culture where women are ridiculed for basically every outfit they wear sucks because you don’t know what’s right or what’s wrong,” said Katarina Tyll, a religious studies and international relations sophomore. According to Tyll, this can create a struggle between being shamed as a prude or a slut.

The LA Times defines slut-shaming as “the practice of punishing or making character judgments about people.” This practice is a form of both gendered bullying and sexual harassment. Research on the topic conducted by Texas A&M University-Kingsville revealed that students “significantly (identify) with judging a woman by the way she dresses.” Particularly regarding clothing, slut-shaming can create a sense of social anxiety and lower self-esteem. 

“A lot of people aren’t okay with women deciding to dress how they want to,” Tyll said. “So if they decide to show more skin, then they’ll be seen as less than or slut-shamed. In reality, it’s just clothes that they are wearing.”

For students, Halloween is an escape from the monotony and stress of everyday life. It is a night when we can be anyone or anything we want. This childish practice creates excitement. However, for women, it can be the opposite, as they face judgment for how they dress. Janet Davis, a professor in the College of Liberal Arts, said there is a “tightrope of propriety that’s at play.”  

From sexy minion to sexy bunny, sexy costumes are empowering for some women. It is the magic of playing dress up. There should not be a double standard attached to Halloween. Women should not be treated differently than men for also using the night to play dress up.

“Just as kids get to dress up however they want and have fun, teens and adults should be able to do the same thing in a more grown-up way,” sophomore advertising Julia Ramirez said.

To combat slut-shaming this Halloween season, students can speak up and push back. Davis said the difference between the past and now is that now there is actual discussion around the subject. “People are talking about (slut-shaming) which signals, to me, that this has reached epidemic proportions.” 

Whether you are slipping into your bunny lingerie or cloaking your body as a zombie bride Cady Heron style, Halloween is not a special time to pass judgment. Women and men can wear whatever they want, any time of the year. So this Halloween, speak up and fight to erase the word slut from the conversation. 

Wyatt is a journalism freshman from Atlanta, GA.