Halloween, a Celebration of Self-Expression or Self-Degradation?

Halloween has always been my favourite holiday. When I was a kid, it was an annual opportunity for many exciting transgressions. Eating candy for breakfast and staying up late watching A Nightmare On Elm Street followed by a week of nightmare induced sleepless nights are just some of the examples. And of course, it meant that I could dress as ridiculously as I wanted to and could finally express my weirdness without judgment. But those innocent times of pumpkin pie filled bellies and trick-or-treating ended way too soon.

By the time I was a teenager, I traded my ghost-face mask for a pair of Minnie Mouse ears and ripped tights. It seems like women go through a rite of passage when it comes to Halloween costume choices. October 31 turns into a beauty contest. Who’s wearing the highest heels this year, who looks best in a “sexy nurse” costume, and whose eyelashes stay glued to their eyelids the longest are the main questions that concern the majority of women. I’m sorry but I can’t write about Halloween without quoting Mean Girls, “it is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”

Like the movie, this “rule” is completely fictional. I, like many women, have experienced just the opposite and have been slut-shamed, by fellow women most of the time, far too many times on Halloween nights. This has made me pause to contemplate the message I am trying to communicate with my Elvira-inspired outfits. I won’t speak for every woman, however, I believe Halloween, just like any other day of the year, is all about self-expression and experimentations. It’s up to you to see what challenges you and what costume will make you step out of your comfort zone and allow you to try different roles. After all, we are all creative beings who embrace performativity. Experimenting with different looks can be an enriching experience.

Being a half-naked zombie for Halloween is great, if you feel empowered by it of course. But this type of ensemble should not be the only go-to on Halloween. That being said, it is unacceptable to objectify or slut-shame any choice that a woman may make. I personally encourage everyone to take advantage of this amazing holiday this year. Find a Halloween party that will make you dance with your demons until dawn, tap into your most creative self. And ladies, let’s make an effort to not slut-shame each other.  

Kate Shylo is a master student at the University of Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer.

  • Columnist (Fall 2018)
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