With Halloween fast approaching, many Western students are in search for the perfect costume. Halloween costume Web sites have endless supplies of different personas to suit your every mood, or so you'd think. Sexy cowgirl. Sexy witch. Sexy Girl Scout. Wait a second – Sexy Girl Scout?

While women have many options to be a sexy (insert profession here), men's Halloween costumes are usually aimed at being scary or funny, Amber Aldrich, Coordinator of the AS LGBT Alliance said.

The fact that men dress as superheroes or villains and women dress as vamps reinforces the fact that women are seen as sexy and available, she added.

Even children's costumes are subjected to sexism, Western Associate Professor of Sociology Jen Lois said. Lois highlights the differences of gender in costume in her course, Gender and Society, Sociology 268.

For example, the differences in choices for boys and girls are obvious in a simple pirate costume. A boy's costume has the traditional Capri pants, vest, an eye patch and a sword, while a girl's costume has a short skirt and high-heeled boots.

“The girl's costume is a watered-down version of what a pirate is,” Lois said.

Lois said the general themes advertised are to be sexy, scary or silly. Halloween costumes typically play off of gender stereotypes, Lois said.

As a society, we value men for the things they accomplish and women for the ways they look, Lois said.

While women may be advertised sexy Halloween costumes, Jenny Henley, Co-Coordinator of the Women's Center, said women should be able to showcase their sexuality in any way they want to, even through costume. Women are funneled toward the short skirts sometimes because that is what is available, Henley said.

Women's Halloween costumes can be seen as an example of how our society is structured, and even though little things like a Halloween costume might seem irrelevant, the reason sexy Halloween costumes are so popular is because of a more oppressive foundation, Henley said.

But why the stigma toward sexy Halloween costumes? Does it really say something about our society when all of the costumes are sexualized?

“Girls use that excuse that it's the one day they can dress like a slut and not get called on it,” Niki Winburn, junior, said. “Personally I don't think we have enough reasons to dress up as it is.”
Just because women's Halloween costumes are advertised as sexy does not mean that every woman wants to dress that way. Although it is empowering to have the choice to express sexuality through costume, sometimes women want the opportunity to be something funny or scary too, Aldrich said.

Katie Burnside, senior, said while sexy costumes can be cute and fun, there should be more creativity when choosing them. Burnside enjoys making her own costumes with individual pieces instead of purchasing one costume that everyone else will be wearing.

This year, Burnside will be dressing up as a cat lady. She plans on wearing an oversized gray sweatshirt with “kitty-cat memorabilia” and stuffed animals attached.

“It's fun to dress up because you can be someone different even if it means you dress up as a slut – someone you're not,” Burnside said.

Julio Cortes, senior, said he usually sees women dressed in angel or devil costumes or in a short skirt. While they may be attractive, Cortes said the fun of costumes is to get creative, look silly and have fun.

“I think people get a little crazier when they are in a costume or behind a mask,” Cortes said.