CWR Writers’ Roundtable: Halloween Costumes

EVAN: Loyal readers, and those who don’t have any strong feelings about the blog whatsoever, welcome to an old feature with a fancier name where the three writers get into the holiday spirit.

That holiday is, of course, All Hallows’ Eve, and the topic we will be discussing is the broadest possible one, at least in my opinion: Halloween costumes.

There are a number of different directions we could go with this, so I’m going to start things off light and ask what our ideal Halloween costumes would be, if we were actually going to dress up. Gordon mentioned earlier this week that he tends not to celebrate holidays, so it’s definitely hypothetical.


GORDON: Gun to my head, I’d probably go as Rorschach. The superhero- not the psychologist.

And that’s all contingent upon there being zero effort or money spent on my end.

KAT: John and I are going as the Doctor and the TARDIS because I bought him a sonic screwdriver a little while back.

EVAN: Man, you guys are a bunch of nerds, and, uh, I would . . .  probably go as a gender-swapped Captain Marvel, seeing as this is an ideal situations kind of question.

KAT: Yeah, we were actually going to both go as the doctor because I thoroughly enjoy the gender swapping deal too, but dressing in blue is cheaper than buying a pinstripe suite (so I could be the 10th Doctor, obviously).

EVAN: I know little to nothing about Doctor Who.

KAT: Fair enough. All you need to know is the 10th is the best.

Anyways, back to costumes, there is a lot of talk on the feminist front regarding Halloween costumes this year, especially the designs for women [yes, that is a very anatomically correct costume below]:

So as you can see from the Daily Show interview with Kristin Schaal, everyone is talking about the Halloween costumes for women, and how they only come in a sexy version.

EVAN: Gordon is out for now due to spoo-oo-ooky water problems at his building, but yes, Kat, there’s a pretty gigantic difference between male and female costumes, which is horrible but also hilarious.

Case in point, the fact that the AMC-branded Walking Dead costume for ladies is titled “Sassy Rick Grimes.” I cannot not think that is the funniest thing.

KAT: Oh man, that is just ridiculous. I love seeing the guy and girl versions together. Like a banana costume for one, it’s essentially just a yellow dress for the girl and an actual banana suit for the guy.

EVAN: Yeah, you were actually the one who linked me to an article that linked me to a tumblr post called F-ck No Sexist Halloween Costumes and the contrasts are pretty incredible to behold.


What needs to be added to what you said about women’s costumes always being the “sexy version” of whatever the costume is supposed to be is that men’s costumes always play it completely straight. Doctor costume? You wear a stethoscope and a lab coat and you are good to go. Doctor’s costume for women? You wear a stethoscope and a lab coat-style dress complete with short skirt and plunging neckline.

KAT: Exactly, as we learned from Mean Girls costumes for women aren’t really costumes, just an opportunity to dress in less. But some women are getting irritated by this trend in costumes so they are starting their own costume stores, like the Take Back Halloween site.

My question is, how much of this is hype and how much is actually a problem? Do people buy actually buy that ridiculous banana costume, for example?

EVAN: And I see Gordon seems to have resolved his spoo-oo-ooky water problem.

GORDON: With the promise from the maintenance guy that I will not be held liable for this fiasco.

EVAN: Gordon, you’re not responsible for the behaviour of ghosts.

Or are you?

GORDON: I’m with Kat on this one. I gotta ask, similar to Evan’s post on racism in pornography, why are we bothering?

I mean, yeah- it’s indicative of a wider problem in society, but we seem to be focusing on really small part of a much greater issue.

KAT: Great point. It’s really only a symptom of a bigger problem. Honestly I think the main reason people bother is because of the season. I mean honestly, why did we pick this topic for discussion? Because it’s relevant to this time of year. Sexy costumes are just one element in the bigger discussion about the objectification of women/streamlining of beauty/etc.

GORDON: I guess my issue is that the solution just seems so simple: Wear your own clothes, or a men’s/unisex costume, or a non-hyper-exposing women’s costume.

EVAN: In other words, stop buying slutty costumes? Can I use that word? Is that allowed?

GORDON: If you insist on being past your 20s and still dressing yourself up, yeah.

EVAN: I’m not really sure what “dressing yourself up” is supposed to mean here-

“Fem-police,” as imagined by Party City.

KAT: Hey now! Let’s not shame the weirdos who still love a good costume party (i.e. me)!

Also, Evan, I’m not sure how I feel about tossing around the “slut” label, just to be the fem-police over here.

EVAN: That’s the answer I was looking for, and more or less expecting.

GORDON: Again, it’s just hard for me not to be cynical about this “problem.”

“Boo, I sometimes can’t dress up in a costume that adheres to my standards of modesty once a year for a viciously commercialistic ‘holiday.'”

KAT: Come on guys, don’t you ever want to have kids? I’m all for anti-capitalism but it’s awfully hard to check out of making purchases altogether when you have a family. And you do realize those designs aren’t just marketed to adults right? It’s not like these things are selling in the “adult” stores. These are for sale in the dollar store. THE DOLLAR STORE. The store most full of awesome according to most kids.

GORDON: Firstly, no, I don’t ever want to have kids. Secondly, if I did have a kid (ain’t no way I’m having more than one), little Liberty Brown is not going to be growing up celebrating Halloween, or any holiday (barring May Day, and only if she so chooses).

EVAN: Is Liberty a boy or a girl?

GORDON: Liberty is my gay daughter.

EVAN: How strangely fitting.

KAT: Why do you want to deprive your children of one of the few opportunities in the year for then to get out and socialize with random neighbours?

GORDON: Why do you assume my child is being kept indoors most of the year?

EVAN: I think Gordon’s social life answers that question for you.

GORDON: But look, my point is, I don’t think this stretch of territory is ground integral to the victory of feminism. The costume problem will be solved by the establishment of feminism, not vice versa, I think.

KAT: I agree that it really isn’t an integral issue, I just find it an interesting one.

Also, unless you are living in a co-op (which are totally awesome, just hard to get into) then, if most of the North American neighbourhoods I’ve seen are any example, your kids wont be interacting much with their neighbours without being seen as weird… or Mormon…

GORDON: I’m not seeing kids building deep, meaningful bonds as they traipse from house to house taking candy from strangers, but again, I didn’t grow up with this tradition.

KAT: Fair enough.

EVAN: To sort of interject here, I appreciate what you’re trying to say about . . . I don’t know what adjective to choose . . . “female-friendly”? Eh. Costumes that aren’t provocative are hard to come by, but let’s be fair, those costumes aren’t for children to begin with. It’s kind of a moot point.

And if we do want to talk about kids you know you could always dress them up as Martin Van Buren, the fact that you’re Canadian aside.

KAT: Not marketed to kids. HA! Industry doesn’t care who it markets to as long as someone buys. there are no “not marketing to kids” rules anymore and the reality is kids wanting to dress older than they are actually is a big issue for parents right now. So to say it is a moot point is a stretch I think.

That being said I certainly do agree that it is a smaller part of a bigger issue and shouldn’t have necessarily gained the amount of attention it has-

EVAN: These costumes literally aren’t in kids sizes, is what I’m saying, and-

Ladies and gentlemen, Kat was just abducted by the Mothman. It’s strange, I know, seeing as how far we are from West Virginia. Ah well, we really must continue-

GORDON: To take up what Kat was saying- yeah, the industry doesn’t care who it markets to. Which is usually the cue for me to start singing the international and waving a red-and-black flag.

It leads me back to my original issue- that these costumes are a symptom and not the disease. You wanna address the problem of- your words- “slutty” Halloween costumes, you gotta address the much greater issue of objectification, and further up the chain, Capitalism.

Just to play devil’s advocate, by the way, who defines “slutty” here? I mean, to be fair a sleeveless costume would be considered immodest where I grew up

EVAN: I think it’d be fair not to quote me on that, seeing as I went out of my way to see if its usage was appropriate and expressed hesitancy at using the term in general.

GORDON: Duly noted. We’ll let the angry mob outside decide your fate.

EVAN: The angry mob . . . of zombies?

GORDON: I refuse to make my dialogue Halloween-themed.

EVAN: Anyway, we’re not going to let this fall into a discussion on the virtues of Capitalism, so I’m going to ask you two questions related to Halloween costumes, one of which is sort of frivolous and one of which is not.

GORDON: Capitalism has no virtues, but proceed…

EVAN: First of all, what think you about costumes that are plays on words?

GORDON: I hate them. I hate them so much. I want to wander the streets assaulting people who give puns physical form.

EVAN: And secondly, what does a costume have to do for it to be a form of appropriation or racism?

GORDON: That’s tough- a costume could be easily argued to be a mockery of just how dumb that stereotype is (see our post on ironic/hipster racism). All things considered though, I’d say when a costume is clearly made to emulate a specific stereotype- blackface immediately springs to mind.

But again, I’m hesitant to fault people for not putting together a period costume.

EVAN: So I could dress up as say . . . man, I don’t know, a member of a mariachi band and that would be cool, right? I mean, if I was doing what I could to legitimately look just like one?

GORDON: I guess so- again, it’s tough for me to make a legitimate call, considering what a low opinion I have of the whole affair.

EVAN: Man, I sure wish Kat hadn’t been abducted by that Mothman.

GORDON: The Mothman is a harbinger of doom- not an actual bad guy. Educate yourself.

EVAN: I’m not saying he did anything bad, I’m saying he abducted her. Maybe he had a perfectly legitimate reason.

GORDON: This is… possible.

And speak of being stolen away- I’m gonna have to steal away myself pretty soon- I apologize to all the readers for not having been able to be a part of this more- be sure to check in next time for your weekly dose of Gordon.

EVAN: Let the record show that Gordon was bodily dragged away from his laptop by the Bunny Man, who is not just a harbinger of doom.

I cannot explain how the Bunny Man got all the way to Las Vegas from Virginia, but it is strange how urban legends from that part of the US seem hellbent on disrupting this blog post.

There’s not much point in me jabbering on to myself, so I suppose I should just close thi- Wait. What was that. The Flatwoods Monster?! No, stay back! Stay back I say! Before it takes me I want to thank you for reeaaaadiiii-


13 responses to “CWR Writers’ Roundtable: Halloween Costumes

  1. I laughed out loud at Gordon’s “spoo-oo-ooky water problems at his building.” I cheered internally at “Not marketed to kids. HA! Industry doesn’t care who it markets to as long as someone buys.”

    But there was a surprising lack of Senor Chang gifs at the mention of Evan dressing up as “a member of a mariachi band.”

    But, this post was good enough for me, so:

  2. Strange abductions aside I enjoyed this roundtable. So, good job. Or something.

    I want to chime in with an answer to Gordon’s question of who defines “slutty.” Also, I will change it to who defines “overly sexualized” because I agree that that word shouldn’t be used.

    In my mind an overly sexualized costume is one that is designed to be sexy unnecessarily. Unless you are dressing up as a stripper for Halloween there are very few costumes where being sexy is actually part of what you are portraying. A notable example would of course be that “sexy pizza” costume. Is there anything inherently sexy about pizza? Not unless you’re Jon Stewart. But seriously, there is no reason for that costume to be sexy. Same can be said of a nurses costume. Many people would say that female nurses are inherently sexy and I would argue that sexualizing that career is unnecessary. Nurses are hard working people and having sex and looking sexy is not a part of their job.

    I feel that the difference between an overly sexualized costume and a “normal” costume is pretty apparent when side-by-side like here:

    I mean, that Scooby Doo girl? Ew. Scooby Ew.

    That pun was for you Gordon.

  3. Man, I sure wish I hadn’t been abducted so early in the conversation! I wanted to share this article with regards to appropriating culture stereotypes for Halloween.

  4. Evan, overly sexualized costumes are being made in child sizes. For example, this costume is for a “tween,” and it is relatively modest, but it is also supposed to be a “Sesame Street Big Bird” costume:

    Here’s another one for a tween, a peacock. It look pretty similar to your shark example above:

    Here’s a girl’s cat costume:
    and a “cowgirl”

    And, not to leave them out either, here are a couple of toddler cat costumes:

    • I wasn’t able to see the tween peacock costume, but in general the strongest example in support of your argument is probably the cowgirl one. I mean, the cat toddler costume isn’t any more sexualized than a ballerina outfit,

      I’m willing to concede that these are fine examples of the female versions of costumes being more like themed outfits when compared to boys’ more straightforward depictions, that I cannot disagree with.

  5. Sorry, Evan, I posted the wrong link. Here’s the peacock costume:

    Also, I have a true story from my life that relates to this discussion. Last week, on Halloween, I wore cat ears to work. I didn’t wear any other costumey things. I just wore my normal, modest, professional, business/office clothes with cat ears. Chris and I work in the same building, which is also our church, so after work I went down to his office. We were putting our jackets on and grabbing our stuff to leave, when someone (Chris is concerned that I should identify them on the chance they read your blog)came over to talk to Chris about a youth thing. The first thing he said, however, was, and I’m quoting directly, “So, does she wear those at home too? Because I know how you are about cats. I didn’t know if it was some sort of role-playing thing or something.” This man has children my age and older. He is also in a position of authority in our building. Yet for some reason, he seemed to think that me and Chris’ sex life and my wearing any sort of Halloween costume went hand-in-hand, and was an appropriate connection to comment on. Yes, overly-sexualized Halloween costumes are a symptom of the greater sexism disease, but they are worth talking about, because like most things were women are objectified, it’s not just the women who choose to participate who are affected. Because many Halloween costumes for women are overly-sexual, my dressing up in any way for Halloween was seen as inherently sexual.

    • I’m going to keep playing devil’s advocate with this and say that his comment had more to do with you wearing a costume than anything else, holiday included. Costumes and roleplaying in the bedroom are a 365 days a year sort of thing for some people, and this dude making a dirty comment doesn’t necessarily connect to Halloween. If anything you could point to the wider cultural knowledge of sexual roleplaying in general.

      All that said, the sexy preteen peacock costume is a pretty valid point.

  6. Pingback: My Problems with Genderbent Cosplay | Culture War Reporters

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