Saturday, October 17, 2009

But I don't want to be sexy!!!

It's nearly Halloween, and as every woman knows, that means we only have one option when it comes to costume choices: sexy.

But I don't want to be sexy.

My fiance suggested that we could dress up as Batman and Robin, which I thought would be fun.  But I told him I wanted to be Batman.  Which of course started a heavily gendered discussion.

First, a disclaimer: my fiance is wonderfully supportive.  As I'm reading up on the ways in which privilege works, and discussing it with him, he's even been noticing it and pointing it out.  He's also gotten really good at noticing gender roles and presentations, sexism, racism, etc. in shows, movies, and commercials.  Sometimes I like to play a game, where I see a new ad on tv and after it's over, I look at him and ask, "Why do you think I'm angry about that?"  He gets it right.  And I know it's not easy recognizing privilege.  I've been there.  I'm still there.  Because in recognizing the ways privilege works means that I have to give up that privilege, and there are times where it's like I'm having an internal battle.  So I know that for a straight white cisgender man this is also difficult, because there's a lot of unpacking to do there.  But it's all necessary.

That being said, me saying I wanted to be Batman still challenged some notions of gender that had yet to be discussed.  So he suggested that I could be Batgirl.  Or this abomination:

First off, NO.  Second, how many times do I have to point out that high heels are not practical crime-fighting footwear?  Third, FUCK NONo way in hell am I wearing that.  Ever.  I wouldn't even risk losing a bet if I know that is my punishment.  Note: the above image is labeled as a plus-size.  Really.

I really really really hate that the woman version of anything has to be sexy.  If I want to be Robin, why can't I just be Robin.  Robin doesn't wear a skirt, or heels (though honestly I wouldn't complain if he did), so if I'm going to dress as the character, I'm going to dress the way he dresses without sexifying it.

Oh, and what the fucking hell is this:

A sexy school girl witch?  Are you fucking kidding me?  So, what?  Now we're just mashing our heterosexual male fantasies together?  Maybe I'll dress as a slave princess kitten pirate.  With wings.

So anyway, my fiance and I were at the mall yesterday looking at costumes to kill time.  After having my fill of the above, and similar ilk, I moved on to the men's side.  That's when I saw the Edward Scissorhands costume, and I immediately got all excited and said that's what I wanted to be.  My fiance's response: that's weird.

In a way I guess it would be (though after being together for nearly 5 years, you'd think he'd be used to my "weirdness").  And for several gendered reasons.  One, it's a man's costume.  There isn't even a sexy lady version of that one (which hadn't escaped my notice).  Two, given that most if not all costumes marketed and made available to women are sexual, my choice in being not sexual is breaking from (a disturbing) norm.  While I don't care if other women choose to freely express themselves on Halloween, the one day where we're actually expected to be sexual (well, we are anyway, but we're not supposed to like it, cuz then we're sluts, or something), it's not for me.  Because, three, all costumes made available to women are all about playing up male fantasies.  If I choose not to engage in this, I'm shirking the expectation of engaging in the male fantasy.  My rejection of this effectively called out my fiance's privilege (see, the above disclaimer was relevant!).  He, as a man, can be whatever he desires to be for Halloween.  Me, as a woman, can be whatever a straight man desires me to be.  My fiance has a privilege to express himself in any manner he chooses on Halloween.  My options as a woman mean I can only express myself in a sexual manner within the confines of male fantasy.

And it gets disturbingly worse, because now us ladies can sexualize our doggies too:
Isn’t that cute? The dog looks like it’s filming a (more) pornographic version of the “Hit Me Baby One More Time” video! Seriously, dude, have the porn and entertainment industries so thoroughly brainwashed the American female into believing that her life ought to revolve around eliciting boners that we’ve now moved on to dogs?
I don’t dislike dogs. Dogs are cute and often very entertaining (though they stink a little more than I’d like them to), and I don’t mind seeing them around and even petting one occasionally. I won’t blame dogs for this abomination and affront to human decency and self-respect. I won’t blame the victim, as it were. Dogs don’t read blogs or dress themselves, so I’ll leave them out of it. Female pet owners and Halloween costume-wearers, on the other hand, I’d like to ask a question: Don’t you think it’s kind of insulting that when you have just one chance a year to be whatever you want, you’re still expected to be a sex object? Can’t we have one day of rest in 365? Men get to pretend to be any fanciful character their psyches can devise on Halloween. The don’t often come up with anything all that interesting, but still, they get to be whatever they want. And we’re supposed to also be whatever they want? That’s a pretty shitty deal.
The fuckability mandate sucks. Why foist it upon your poor dog?
This shit seriously needs to stop.  Halloween is my favorite time of year, and this is ruining it for me.  And whatever I dress up as (if I do dress up at all--money constraints and whatnot) you can bet it's not going to be some version of some male fantasy.

I'm thinking I might start planning for next year.  Since I'm an avid seamstress, I think I'll just make my own damn costume.  It sucks that the types of things I'd be willing to dress as just aren't available for me as a woman, and me making my own costume will only solve my problem.  Hmm....maybe I'll start my own costume business: Feminist Costumes for Feminists.

**UPDATE**  There is a non-sexy Robin after all.  Who knew?



Unknown said...

OMG! I never saw it that way. I have little girls. This sh*t will never do. luckily they are home schooled and are creating their own costumes. Of course they don't have to deal with this just yet. but the costumes out for them lead them down that path of overly defined role and minimized positions in life.

FilthyGrandeur said...

yeah, it's pretty bad. but i'm trying very hard not to be one of those feminists that try to tell everyone what they can and can't wear. i just want to point out that given that these are our only options, it becomes problematic. i want women to be empowered in their sexuality, but it's pretty shitty that this is always in terms of hetero male fantasies...

jemand said...

I am so, so, so looking forward to this Halloween. I'm 22 and have never ever celebrated it before-- my fundamentalist family thought all things Halloween were evil. Of course dressing sexy was too lol. So at least right now I'm totally thrilled about my witch costume with a black feathery hat and a thick black feathery boa and an elegant black velvet dress.

Probably... in five years or so, I'll be irritated with the commercial costumes and gendered expectations... but right now even those seem like freedom lol. Anyway, this comment is pretty random, not sure if it entirely addressees what you actually wrote, but I felt compelled to comment anyway.

Holden said...

Way back in high school I went as Nancy Sinatra and everyone asked me if I was going as a prostitute. Fast forward ten years and I am very seriously considering going as The Ethical Slut.

All of this is terribly confusing.

stufflikemikans said...

Your post made me think of this:

I want to go as "Sexy Abe Lincoln" :P

FilthyGrandeur said...

lol! that video is awesome. "sexy sexy!"

you could totally rock the sexy abe lincoln. top hats really are sexy.

Jenny said...

My favorite costumes ever were when hubby and I went as thing one and thing two. Red feety jammies and blue wigs. It was funny as heck and comfy all night.

Father Jackal said...

I know this isn't really the issue here, but it's worth pointing out that their totally was a female robin (despite DC's attempts to downplay her, she remained a fan favourite after her badly-scripted death and is the new Batgirl). Her wiki page is here, , and she's completely badass.

And yeah, theer is a disturbing lack of costumes for women that aren't "sexy _____"

Tom said...

There was also a female Robin in the Dark Knight Returns, but it's probably best not to bring up Frank 'literally all women are whores' Miller in the context of a feminist discussion.

shreen said...

Hey, thanks for making me laugh that entry was great. (via :]

Quercki said...

I went into a Halloween store to get a costume and left without buying any of their "costumes for home porno videos."

Lindsay said...


I love Halloween, but a) don't like most of the available store costumes, b) couldn't afford to buy a costume every year as a kid, and c) am now probably too big to wear even plus-sized adult women's costumes.

Now, I mostly like doing goofy, fairly easy joke costumes (I was a vector one year; all that meant was that I carried a sign with an arrow on it) or more complicated X-Men costumes (so far, I've been Nightcrawler and Mystique. I'd also like to do Rogue, Phoenix and Sabretooth).

I still love Halloween, but I now only buy makeup and props from Halloween stores; it's been so long since I had a prayer of finding anything I could wear.

Unknown said...

What confuses me most about the sexified Halloween costumes is how, even when portraying an already sexualized female character, they feel the need to make the costume that little bit more revealing, that little less true to form to expose leg and cleavage in the cold Autumn months.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree, the sexualised expectation of halloween is fucking bollocks. I live in the UK and it is probably worse in america, but I do find that creative costumes are praised, eg. I went out as Regan Macneil last year and got tons and tons of compliments, and did see a few really inventive costumes on other girls. The majority however just did some shitty old cliche with fake blood and a bit of tit and curves. USE SOME CREATIVITY!!!!!

I must say though, that girls do just bow to the pressure and dress sexily. As much as I hate the patriarchal shitty idea, women make me so angry for just letting it control them. Have they not seen enough of women's bodies to last them a lifetime??? Why don't people advocate actually scary costumes like we did when we were children? I'm going out as a rather unsexy film character this year and I dont care. Though I must say to you, who wrote the blog, just ignore the pressure! Be yourself, and you'll be complimented on your idea.

FilthyGrandeur said...

my main issue with this is that these are the only costumes available to women. if there are women who want to dress that way, fine, but i think variety would be nice, since it wouldn't all be playing into hetero male fantasies...