I’m so overwhelmed with work obligations right now that I even forgot that today was Halloween. When I started scrolling down my neglected blogroll, however, I was reminded of the date by the proliferation of posts that try to answer the question of why there so many sexy women’s costumes for Halloween and so few sexy costumes for men.
The usual answer of “because women are sexualized by society” makes no sense to me. This is a very Puritanical, prissy society we live in where people tend to have very unhealthy attitudes towards any exhibition of healthy human sexuality. Remember folks having heart attacks when Sandra Fluke mentioned the word “contraception” in public?
This Puritanical uptightness is precisely the reason why female Halloween costumes tend to be on the sexy side and men’s don’t. Halloween is a carnival, and a carnival always has the following meaning:
Bakhtin’s theory of carnival, manifest in his discussions of Rabelais and “forbidden laughter” in medieval folk culture, argued that folk celebrations which allowed for rowdy humor and the parody of authority offered the oppressed lower classes relief from the rigidity of the feudal system and the church and an opportunity for expressing nonconformist, even rebellious views.
Halloween offers women a rare opportunity to exhibit their sexuality freely. At a carnival, the popular imagination identifies an issue – in this case, an inequality in terms of sexual freedom between men and women – and brings it into the open at least one day a year. This is definitely a very positive phenomenon because it offers evidence that the problem is identified and recognized.
Women who wear all of these sexy costumes at Halloween are agents of important social change. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with donning different kinds of costumes, of course. At a carnival, one should play out the issue that bothers one the most. If sexual freedom is not an issue for you personally, then you won’t be tempted to enact it, and good for you. But judging people for addressing this inequality in a playful way is neither productive nor fair.