Ohio State women have a variety of costumes to choose from this Halloween: sexy skeleton, sexy cop, sexy leopard and even a sexy angel.
But some members of the OSU community feel the public should be aware that these costumes may open the door for the objectification of women because of existing social pressures to wear them this Halloween.
Guisela Latorre, an associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, said she feels that when women choose their costumes, there is a gray area about what those choices signify.
“A lot of women are conscious of the popularity of the ‘sexy’ Halloween costume, the ‘sexy nurse,’ the ‘sexy maid,’” she said, “I think that that in itself is sort of like a patriarchal pressure on women to perform a particular over-sexualized self.”
J. Brendan Shaw, a doctoral candidate in English, said that there are risks to choosing such costumes.
“There’s pressure for certain ideas of Halloween and for costumes being ‘sexy,'” Shaw said. “But I think related to that is also the idea that there’s risk involved with choosing those costumes or the ‘asking for it’ narrative comes out of that.”
Latorre said with this social construct in play, consequences are inevitable for both women and men.
“I think that if you add the element of alcohol, with the partying thing, it can make women vulnerable to everything from outright rape to just objectification, disrespect (and) degradation,” she said.
Men are also becoming socialized through this concept to think that women are objects, Latorre said.
Shaw said the pressure for both sexes in terms of costumes is not equal, but agreed that consequences exist for women and men alike.
“It also suggests that (men) don’t have any agency, that if something were to happen to the woman and (men) were responsible, then it wouldn’t be (the man’s) fault,” Shaw said. “The costume made them do it, which is a silly understanding of both sides of that.”
Erika McCort, a second-year in pre-athletic training, however, has chosen to dress as one of the Three Blind Mice for Halloween this year.
“Now, I think the costumes expose women more. That’s what people expect women to wear,” McCort said.
Men would give women looks that made them feel uncomfortable McCort said, and dressing provocatively has a negative and unsafe connotation associated with it.
Latorre, however, suggested that the problem might not lie with the costumes, but with our perceptions of women as a society.
“A lot of the times we turn (the responsibility) to women,” Latorre said. “I would turn that question to men and say, ‘You need to respect women, you need to question your perceptions of women and any kind of sense of entitlement that you may think you have towards women’s bodies.’”
In addition, Latorre said she feels that a woman’s safety should never be compromised based on her attire.
“Just because a woman is in a public space and is exploring her sexuality doesn’t mean that she becomes the property or the object of assault or the object of harassment by others,” she said.
Shaw said he advocates for a change in mindset to break down this social pressure by questioning our motives for judging others and then allowing others to have their free space for self-expression.
The campus will see a variety of costumes this Halloween season, but Shaw says one rule always applies.
“Consent doesn’t evaporate because it’s Halloween or because we’re wearing a costume,” he said. “We’re always wearing a costume, it’s just during Halloween, it’s more obvious.”