Why sexy Halloween is OK
If I asked you to name three adjectives to describe Big Bird, what would you choose? Yellow? Feathery? Tall?
I'm going to take a stab in the dark and guess that "sexy" wouldn't be amongst the responses.
Obviously though some people have a different take on the sensuality of our famous avian friend, as Sesame Street has reportedly recently sent a cease and desist letter to a website retailing a sexified women's Big Bird costume just in time for Halloween (which it is worth noting is now almost completely sold out.)
The sexy costume for the ladies has become a much-mocked mainstay at Halloween, and dress up parties in general often have themes that encourage skimpy dressing like pimps and hos, gangsters and molls, or the all-American import of the toga party (which kindly offers an equal opportunity for both genders to be scantily clad).
When I noticed this trend a few years back of taking seemingly innocuous costumes like being a cat and putting a sexy spin on them, I set a challenge to myself to try to come up with a costume that I didn't think anyone would have done a sexy version of.
I finally settled on 'bee' because they're so round, sting-y and I find black and yellow an almost viscerally unattractive colour combination, but it turned out my guess was very,very wrong.
Witches, cats, nurses, Big Bird, bees - it turns out they are all equals when it comes to getting an adults-only make-over.
You can think of almost any regular costume and odds are some costume manufacturer has already made a risqué version for full-grown women.
So why has being a sexy insert-blank-here become such a popular go-to costume? I think for most women their relationship with the idea of being sexy is extremely complicated due to the mixed messages society sends us.
We're taught that it's important for women to be sexy (and if you look at how products are marketed to us and the aspirational archetypes commonly used you'd think that it was the number one attribute a woman should strive to achieve) but at the same time warned that being slutty is bad, bad, bad.
So basically there's this invisible line of sexy we should creep towards but always being careful to never overstep it into the evil realms of Slutland.
Now where does Halloween fall into all of this?
Tina Fey noticed the phenomenon way back in 2004's Mean Girls when her protagonist Cady narrated, "Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it."
Halloween is all about taking on an identity that is explicitly not yours, so it gives a safe space to dress up however you want without it being seen as being "you".
Wearing sexy costumes has become so popular because there's an in-built out against accusations of being "slutty" since there's the barrier of "Oh, it's just a costume - it's not me!".
If society was more accepting of women dressing how they wanted and embracing their sexuality in whatever form they desire without it being considered an invitation to be accosted (and events like SlutWalk weren't still needed to try to drive home the point that the amount of respect and safety a woman deserves isn't at all tied up in what she wears) I don't think the sexy costume would have become so ubiquitous.
I've read some criticisms online of this phenomenon - generally along the lines of "Society's morality is crumbling due to this influx of sexy cats one day of the year! Ladies are wearing low cut tops and short skirts and mesh cut-outs - do not get me started on the mesh! Halloween? Pfft, more like Shallow-een!".
But if women's bodies and sexuality weren't treated as a dangerous temptation they must keep under wraps at all times it wouldn't need to be only under the guise of a costume that they felt comfortable wearing something revealing.
YouTube comedian Jenna Mourey (A.K.A Jenna Marbles) got over eight million views for her NSFW video defending "Sluts on Halloween" saying wanting to dress sexy is not a valid cause for criticism.
"Why are you so angry at her for being a sexy giraffe? You know what you need to do is you need to worry about your goddamn self. Plus she probably looks f**king cute. And even if she doesn't? It's not your f**king business."
Now this isn't to say that women should feel pressured into dressing sexy for Halloween if it's of no interest to them, but it also doesn't mean they should be criticised or judged if they make their own choice to dress as a sexy nurse, sexy cop or yes, even sexy Big Bird.
Because if you're going to fight for women to be able to wear whatever they want, you have to fight for it every day of the year - 31 October included.
- Daily Life