How to Have a Feminist Halloween

A report from England …

Walking around one of Manchester’s most prominent fancy dress shops recently I was horrified at the outfits it had to offer. It’s not that the stock was scarce or anything, its just that with all the lycra nurse outfits that look as though they would only just fit a child, I felt a little as though I’d accidentally stepped into Ann Summers or a nursery–two words which should not be included in the same sentence.

I’m not sure why I was surprised by this fact, as every Halloween the streets are lined with girls wearing next to nothing, stumbling through the streets in their sky-high heels and getting called sluts by other women and slags by the very men who objectify them. I’m not saying this from some sort of moral high horse or a convent: I, too, have succumbed to the skimpy outfits year on year. I’ve sported the devil get up, wearing frilly knickers and netted knee highs. I’ve been a slutty pirate  and a police officer, although on that occasion I was criticized by some friends for not dressing slutty enough!

While lads get the opportunity to be something scary, political or funny such as Freddy Kruger, Tony Blair or a Magic Bus (yep, I saw someone dressed up as a big blue bus one year), we women get to be a sexy nurse, a fallen angel or a sultry vampire.

This is exactly why I am asking you to join me in making a stand! I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick of shivering at the bus stop in my underwear every year and getting honked at by strange men passing by. I want to be creative for once and show the world that I am an intelligent human being with interests and a sense of humor.

This will be my first Halloween as a blonde, and so at the start of the month I decided it would only be appropriate to invest in a yellow biker suit like the one my idol Uma Thurman wears in Kill Bill. Even purchasing this outfit turned out to be a challenge, as the majority of women’s costumes in this style have been fetishised and are made from PVC or Latex–which, despite popular opinion is nothing like what Uma Thurman wore in the actual movie. Eventually I decided to settle for the Bruce Lee version in a small size. See, you have to dress like a man in order to find an outfit which doesn’t count as slutty! Imagine my excitement when it finally arrived in the post, followed by disappointment and grief when I tried it on and was bombarded with criticism from my parents and laughs from my friends labeling me ‘Ali G’ and ‘Jimmy Savile.’

The fact that I have been told that I look like a dead pedophile DJ has resulted in the heart-wrenching decision to send it back. On the positive side, it has forced me to brainstorm some other ideas for potential outfits, none of which, I am happy to announce, involve any last minute trips to tacky, fancy dress shops. You’re welcome!

Frida Kahlo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not exactly a reference to recent pop culture or events, but I decided this lady is worth including anyway. This one is all about the eyebrows and the jewelery. This get up is for you if you are creative, colorful and charming. It’s also ideal for those who enjoy their pre-night-out nap and have punctuality issues like me, as you don’t have to endure the eye-watering and time-consuming task of plucking your eyebrows while waiting for your nail polish to dry.

Effort Rating: 4/5

Likelihood of someone else turning up in the same gear: 1/5

The Women behind the Mad Men

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think this one would work best as a team effort. Get the girls together and fight amongst yourselves over who gets to be Peggy, Betty and Joan. I suppose you could get your other halves involved to really put on a show but I think a girls night makes a much better statement and is a little less pimps and prostitutes.

Effort Rating: 4/5

Likelihood of someone else turning up in the same gear: 1/5

Katniss Everdeen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to confess I’m no Hunger Games fanatic. I was hoping for the film to sweep me off my feet the way that Kill Bill did almost  a decade ago, but I was left disappointed by the whole thing. That’s not to say that Katniss isn’t a pretty kick-ass character nevertheless and I would definitely give a hearty thumbs up to any woman I saw dressed as her on a night out.

Effort Rating: 3/5

Likelihood of someone else turning up in the same gear: 2.5/5

Princess Merida

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brave has been a hit with the kids this year, offering young girls an alternative to the usual animated princesses who long to be saved by a gorgeous knight, dashing prince or hilarious ogre. With wild fiery hair, an awesome Scottish accent, a love for archery and determination to control her own future, this girl is something special. Don’t leave this costume for the kids!

Effort Rating: 4/5 (unless you’re Rebekah Brooks you’ll have to find the wig.)

Likelihood of someone else turning up in the same gear: 1/5

Female Olympians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Gemma Gibbons and Nicola Adams. [If you’re not British, pick a woman Olympic star from your nation!] Show your appreciation and sporting enthusiasm by getting  kitted out in your sports gear this Halloween. Athletic ability and toned body optional. Try to save your giant chocolate coin [representing your gold medal] until the end of the night!

Effort Rating: 3/5

Likelihood of someone else turning up in the same gear: 1/5

Pussy Riot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re used to seeing varying sorts of cats on Halloween, which is what I think makes this option so poetic. These women have hit the headlines this year after being banged up in prison for standing up for what they believe in. I’ll refrain from getting all political on you and instead will emphasize the ease involved in this costume. All you need is a dress, tights and a brightly colored bobble hat or tea cosy. Cut three holes in the headgear of your choice and, hey, presto, you’re ready to riot.

Effort Rating: 1/5

Likelihood of someone else turning up in the same gear: 1/5

Slut Walkers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stick two fingers up at my pleas to cover up this Halloween and show the men out there that just because you are wearing something skimpy from a high street sex shop it doesn’t necessarily mean you want to sleep with every guy that leers at you or pinches your goose-pimpled butt cheeks. You can do this by scrawling angry messages on your bare bits or by waving a sign in the air. This is also a good idea if there’s a part of you that still wants to recycle last year’s costume and save money.

Effort Rating: 1/5

Likelihood of someone else turning up in the same gear: 5/5 *

*but team your outfit with feisty messages and a placard and you have the edge. Belle of the ball.

Lady Gaga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you love her or loathe her there’s no denying that Lady Gaga couldn’t give two shits whether you like her outfit or not. The beauty of being Gaga this Halloween is that you don’t actually have to copy every little detail. Be brave, bold and don’t be afraid to make a statement, and she’d no doubt offer a nod of approval towards your creativity.

Effort Rating: 5/5

Likelihood of someone else turning up in the same gear: 2/5 – if you opt for an outfit replica. 0/5 if you put the effort in.

The reason I saved Gaga until last is because you could even integrate all the ideas above to make one great big homage to all of your idols. Team a classic Betty Draper dress with boxing gloves, felt-tip-pen tattoos and a crossbow. Only make sure to cut bigger holes in your balaclava if you decide on this option, because you don’t want your Frida eyebrows to go unnoticed.

Crossposted from I’m From Sale But I’m Not a Sailor

Photo of Frida Kahlo via Flickr. 1964 photo of Helen Gurley Brown, ad-copywriter-turned-Cosmopolitan-editor-in-chief, from Wikimedia Commons. Photo from Barbie Collector. Photo of Jessica Ennis via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Pussy Riot via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of woman participating in Slut Walk via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Lady Gaga via Wikimedia Commons

Comments

  1. Love this!!! My younger sister and I have been doing this a while i think without knowing. we just usually go with the same thoughts as little kids, meaning halloween is the one day you could dress up as whomever… your heroes, inspirations, rockstars… so far between the two of us we’ve been lady gaga, Janelle Monae, mad men, Virginia Wolf, Wonder Women…

  2. You know how else you can have a feminist Halloween? Dress up as the clothed version of whatever you want.

    Sometimes I get super annoyed that to “have a feminist Halloween” I’m supposed to go as as feminist icon. If you want to dress up as a nurse go for it- buy scrubs. The alternative to abandoning your current costume idea is to remind people that the sexified version the shop is selling is a grand deviation from reality.

    • You know how else you can have a feminist Halloween? Dress up as an UN-clothed version of whatever the fuck you want!

      Feminism does NOT translate into covering up your body! If you want to cover your body, you should do that! If you want to walk around naked, or in fishnet and a bustier, or in a 1950s housewife dress and apron, you should do that too! You do you!

      Feminism is all about choice, the choice, the opportunity, and the safety to be whoever you want in your female, male, or genderqueer body.

      Personally, I don’t appreciate the implication that sexualized costumes, or showing your skin/tits/ass, or treating your body like the art piece that it absolutely can be (if you want it to be), or putting your sexual dreams/desires/fantasies on public display are somehow not feminist. Because they absolutely are.

      And Halloween is not really about reality. At all.

  3. Jenn I couldn’t agree more. In a fancy dress shop yesterday I saw a group of girls mocking a full length nun costume. “As if anyone would wear that?!” one girl said. They’d probably say something similar about real police/nurse costumes

  4. Here’s an entire website dedicated to costume ideas for women that are NOT of the sexy whatever variety:

    http://takebackhalloween.org/

    Love that it has everything from goddesses and queens to Ada Lovelace and Lise Meitner, not to mention Frida Kahlo.

  5. Surely you don’t need to even limit yourself to female icons to have a feminist Halloween. Why NOT go as Freddy Kruger, Tony Blair or a Magic Bus? Why NOT go as something grotesque and scary?

    Personally I would have thought that simply not buying into the common trends of hyper-sexualised costumes would be different enough from the norm to show that you aren’t going to let people dictate what you as a woman should be wearing on Halloween.

    I feel like it’s not so much the fact that there are ‘sexy’ costumes on the market that are the problem, but the lack of an alternative.

    Then again, maybe that’s just me. ;)

    Anyway, happy Halloween!

  6. I wore frilly white shirt, a very fancy waistcoat, a black frock-coat, a red and old sash, most of my jewellery at once, and curly red wig, with pirate boots, an eye-patch and cheesy plastic flintlock. I spent most of my time fielding questions about “girls aren’t PIRATES!” and if I had dressed up as a man, and educating people about real female pirates, such as Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

    Dress as whatever you want, sexy or not. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling that you HAVE to sexualise your costume, but if you want to, that’s your choice too.

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