I gave my rhetoric of gender and sexuality students the opportunity to post their observations about Halloween and gender norms, so I thought I’d share a few of mine from college.
I don’t recall that college women tended to wear “slutty” costumes on Halloween when I was in school, but then again, that could be because of the time period (mid to late 80’s), the location (near Atlanta, i.e., the South), and the school (a women’s college).
Here’s the costume I wore to a frat party my first year in college, in 1985:
The costume was downright conservative, with the “tree” made of a dark green sweater and dark green long corduroy skirt. But I do recall that a group of guys at the party gathered around to sing “Oh Christmas Tree” and offer to put “presents” under my tree. Hmmm, I guess you can sexualize even the most modest costume! (But I don’t recall feeling remotely threatened or bothered by the guys, just not all that amused.)
Here’s the costume I made for my boyfriend and me my second year, in 1986:
I don’t quite recall the thinking that went into dressing him up as a box of Bounce and me as “static cling,” other than that it had something to do with the fact that Bounce “controls” static cling. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean to imply that it’s OK for men to “control” women. More likely, I meant it ironically, especially since my costumes shows that the Bounce isn’t all that effective at doing what it claims to do!
When I think back to the other kinds of costumes I saw at frat parties (at Georgia Tech), I don’t really remember girls dressing in “slutty” outfits. What stands out more in my memory are the costumes based on humorous plays on words, like my friend and her boyfriend who dressed up as doctors, so that they’d be a “pair a docs,” or another couple who wore black-eye makeup and t-shirts with the letter P on them, so that they’d be “black eyed peas.”