There’s an iconic scene in Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan’s character shows up to a Halloween party as Frankenstein’s bride (complete with a face of white makeup and some gross fake teeth) while everyone else is dressed as some sort of sexy animal. Lohan is mortified. The audience is supposed to relate, laugh, and look at these scantily-clad women with at least a little bit of disdain.
If you want to be Frankenstein’s bride on Halloween, you absolutely should. No one should shame you for that. And if you want to wear a tight skirt and mouse ears (“I’m a mouse, duh”), you absolutely should. No one should shame you for that either. Halloween is the time to wear what you want to wear. It’s the time to don the costume of someone you admire, or something you think is funny, or something that makes you feel beautiful. No one has the right to tell you what that looks like.
Dressing up for Halloween is a chance to try something new, something you might not feel comfortable trying in your everyday life. If there are a pair of fishnets in the back of your closet that you’ve never worn before, and you’d feel pretty weird putting them on to go to your Psych 104 lecture, wear them on Halloween. If you want to dress as Amelia Earhart because she’s a badass and an inspiration, wear your aviator hat on Halloween.
Neither of those costumes are any inherently more feminist than the other. In fact, there is nothing more detrimental to feminism than setting arbitrary moral rules about women’s clothing, or pitting women against each other, or shaming women for what they wear.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been told that “Halloween is not an excuse to dress like a slut.” The truth is, Halloween is not an excuse to slut shame people who just want to eat some tiny chocolate bars and have a good time.
It’s a problem that you can get a guy’s police officer costume with pants and a cool badge, but the same costume in women’s sizes includes a miniskirt and handcuffs. If you want to be a cop for Halloween, you shouldn’t have to be a sexy cop just because you’re a lady. But if you roll up to a party and roll your eyes at the girl who bought the miniskirt and handcuffs, you’re part of the problem.
The way to free women from harmful beauty standards and judgement isn’t to create new standards and start judging a different set of women. Women need to know that they have the autonomy to decide how they want to dress, on Halloween and every other day. So ladies, whether you’re dressing as Frida Kahlo or busting out your fishnets, I’m sure you look great. Wear whatever the hell you want.
Just don’t do blackface. That’s not feminist at all.