By Maya Workowski || Staff Writer
On Monday October 29, the Alice Drum Women’s Center hosted a discussion on Costumes, Consent, and Culture for this “Spooky Szn.” The conversation focused on questions such as, “Who are you dressing up for? Why do you want to look hot?” If you want to look hot for yourself, that never grants consent for others. However, consider this opinion for a second: if you dress up in a hot costume, there is the element of wanting to be seen and identified as a sexual subject, which is utterly different than a sexual object.
If sexiness as a subjectivity did not exist, then sexy costumes also would not exist. This idea quickly becomes more complicated when we consider who dictates what sexiness is and who is deemed a sexual subject.
News-flash: the patriarchy! Not just the patriarchy, but the white, heterosexual patriarchy that strives to push masculinity and femininity to the outer limits, which creates unattainable, ocularcentric, Eurocentric beauty standards. If this is the case, can women ever act with full agency?
Applying this further: can people of any oppressed gender, race, or other identity ever act with full agency? How do we know what we “want” to do, if wanting is an act shaped by what we are taught? Therefore, it quickly seems as though “wanting” is something that never happens with full agency.
So, can people wanting to be seen as hot, ever truly make this an act all their own? The problems that are apparent every other day of the year somehow become even more magnified on Halloween. Halloween is perceived as the annual “opportunity” to be a slut because it allows people to disidentify from that maltreated identity and say, “That’s not who I really am. That’s an image I’m putting on.” People don’t want to be identified as slutty every single day of the year because there is the fear of being identified and treated as a slut.
Halloween can be seen as the penultimate holiday of cultural wrongdoing: a spook greater than your typical scary costume. People of different races, sizes, and other identities are judged by how closely they conform to Eurocentric beauty ideals.
Cultural costumes are a site of cultural appropriation. If you want to appreciate a culture, just don’t do it on Halloween. This is a holiday rife with persona and reduction. At the discussion, one question that came up related to this topic was: “Can we claim ignorance?” If a child puts on a halloween costume, the child isn’t blamed but the parents are. When do we as a society stop blaming the parents and start blaming the child? Would they be 14? 20? Would we blame a 6-year old?
It could be as easy as parents having a conversation with their children to prevent physical acts of violence. People don’t hit because that is an act of violence, we don’t take what isn’t ours, we don’t appropriate. Why do we treat the taking of material objects differently than the taking and reduction of concepts?
It’s okay to feel uncomfortable with new knowledge at first. But take the time to think about why what you may be engaging in could be considered ignorant violence. Erasing and reducing a person’s identity is an act of violence. Now that we’ve had that discussion, let’s discuss some healthy, safe ways to enjoy halloween.
-Dress up as something that isn’t inherently reductionist!
-Dress up in a sexy costume if you feel like it
-Eat some delicious candy
-Go out to a party
-Or don’t go out to a party; maybe have some tea and watch a movie. 🙂
-Do nothing for Halloween! It’s pretty chilly outside anyway.
Sophomore Maya Workowski is a Staff Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.