Dunbar: The scary side of racy Halloween costumes

Blair Dunbar, Columnist

How fortunate is it that this year Halloween falls on a Friday? What better day for a notorious party holiday? You can stay out all night without having to worry about waking up early the next morning for classes and, for most students at Northwestern, the high midterm season is over. So get ready to party!

I never really liked Halloween. Yes, strange, I know. It just always seemed more of a hassle than it was actually worth. You have to gather a group of friends, spend hours walking around the neighborhood hoping people were home, and then, assuming they were home, ask for candy that I could just steal from my own house. But the worst part of Halloween? Deciding what costume to wear.

Even at the wise age of 18, 19 or 20, the decision of what costume you should wear may still be problematic. However, instead of deciding which Power Ranger is the strongest or which princess has the prettiest dress, you have to be socially aware of your costume choice.

NU is no stranger to the issue of problematic costumes. In 2010, student leaders held a special forum after two white students thought it would be entertaining to dress up in blackface. Then, in 2012, the NU ski team held a “Beer Olympics” party in the spring with team members dressing up as a citizens of another country. This led to costumes involving Native American headdresses and references to South African apartheid.

It would seem a tad condescending — and obvious — to point out that in this day and age that we should be socially aware of our costume choices. But what about the less discussed but implied Halloween costume guideline: Women should dress as slutty as possible. Stores like the seasonal Halloween megastore Spirit advertise costumes catering to that “slutty” or “sexy” look. Turn on any Halloween movie or Halloween-themed television episode and you will most likely see women dressed up in unitard kitten costume or nurse outfits with plunging necklines or superheroes with miniskirts and transparent tights.

The actual tradition of dressing in a costume for Halloween comes from European and Celtic traditions. Believing that ghosts visited the living for the day, people were scared they would run into these creepy visitors if they left their houses. For protection, they would wear masks so the ghosts would not be able to recognize their true identities. I’m not sure the idea of less clothing is a logical solution to the problem of disguising yourself from recognition, but maybe a bare midriff would be enough to scare the ghost away?

I don’t have a personal problem with any Halloween costumes. If someone wants to dress like a slutty cop, who am I to stop him or her? But we should also recognize the ridiculousness of the social pressure on women to go to parties barely dressed.

People like to emphasize that Halloween is an opportunity to come as you aren’t. So, be a superhero or a dinosaur or a soldier or any nondescript figure you choose. Just remember, Halloween is only for a night. Although you may be able to come as you aren’t, you should still stay true to who you are.

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].