Only Jerks Shame Women For Wearing Sexy Halloween Costumes

It's the one night of the year that people can dress however they want.

Women cheering in halloween attire SHOTPRIME | Dean Drobot | Canva

I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. 

On one hand, awesome pumpkins and spooky cat decorations show up everywhere and the bank (finally) puts some good candy in the little bowls on all the desks. 

On the other hand, the line to purchase costumes at Party City is so long you have to take a number, and your teeth hurt because you shoved a bunch of bank candy into your purse and can't stop eating it at your desk.


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It's also the time of year when every blogger releases a think piece about the evils of "sexy" Halloween costumes.

And don't get me wrong, I am definitely on the side of calling out the stuff that men do to harm women (which is basically all the time). And these call-outs do make some valid points.

After all, there was a time when you could visit a costume shop and find a reasonable set of costumes for women: Raggedy Ann, waitress, Tootsie Roll, candy striper, or maybe even a nun.

Then came the introduction of "sexy" costumes, like sexy bunnies, sexy maids, and sexy nurses. 


That was all well and good. People probably got some post-Halloween use out of those costumes, too. More bang for your buck, as they say.

But then the "sexy" costumes took over. Suddenly the most normal costumes ever were made "sexy" with a tiny skirt, crop top, and push-up bra — sexy teacher, sexy prisoner, sexy Native American woman (racist and sexist!), or even sexy Winnie the Pooh (ew).

And you couldn't find the standard nun or nurse anymore. Most stores only carried "sexy nun" or "sexy nurse."

The line was finally crossed when "sexy" costumes started trickling down to little girls' sizes, and they no longer wanted to dress up as actual doctors. Now they wanted to be sexy doctors, just like the grown-ups. 


This is a big problem, and one the anti-sexy Halloween bloggers have done a great job addressing.

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But, now, it seems like the anti-sexy costume voices have taken over. They consider any women wearing sexy Halloween costumes as part of the problem and portray them as an embarrassment to all women.

And that's not cool. Women don't need more shame

Because here's the deal: I'm a grown woman. And, if I want to wear a sexy Donald Trump costume, I'm going to. 

I don't need your stink-eye, and I don't need your pity. And I don't need your purity propaganda.


It's my body. It's my Halloween. And it's my choice.

Because the problem isn't the sexy costumes.

The problem is when "sexy" is the only thing we get to be. When it's our only choice. 

But sexy itself? Well, that is totally okay.

Because there's a lot more to feminism than finding the most clever "feminist" Halloween costume. We're not always going to want to be Notorious RBG  or Susan B. Anthony. 


Photo: Author

Because, as great as our feminist icons are, we are more than that. 

Sometimes we go for humor (I'm obsessed with this stupid "Can't Touch This" costume) or want to be part of an embarrassing but adorable couples costume. Sometimes we want to be creepy like everyone dressing as that little girl from Stranger Things. Sometimes we just want to be cute and put on a fluffy My Little Pony costume. 

And sometimes we want to show a lot of leg.

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That should be okay. Our bodies are not offensive — none of them, regardless of size or shape — should be shamed into being covered.


Our appeal is not a problem. Looking hot on Halloween doesn't undermine anyone else's freedom.

If I sound defensive, know that I'm not. I've never actually worn a sexy Halloween costume. I've been a robot woman and, yes, I've donned the red Rosie The Riveter bandana more than once. 

Photo: Author


This year, I'll be going as Kate McKinnon's Holtzmann from Ghostbusters. And I'll admit to balking when I asked the customer service person at the costume shop for the Holtzmann Ghostbuster costume and she asked, "Regular or sexy?" 

Regular or sexy Holtzmann?! No. 

But, if you want to go as a sexy Ghostbuster, I want you to have the freedom to do that without scorn.

Because it's really all about balance, right? And the freedom to choose.

As long as there are plenty of non-sexy costumes available to us, we should be able to wear whatever the heck we want on Halloween night. 

However, there's one thing we can all agree on: Holtzmann never needed a short skirt and push-up bra to be sexy.


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Joanna Schroeder is a parenting writer and media critic whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and more. She is co-author of the upcoming book Talk To Your Boys from Workman Publishing.