November 5, 2021 | LIFE | By Mahnoor Rehman | Photo by Iris Guo

As an international student from South Asia, my first impression of Halloween was the image of costumes and dressing up. Since I was raised in a society that does not celebrate Halloween, I never had the experience of trick-or-treating, community building, spooky stories or the sweets and delicacies affiliated with the holiday. 

The word “costume” has always had complex connotations for me since I started my journey at Colorado College. The costume-making process can lead to misrepresentations of non-Western communities. Although it might not be intentional, it adds to the already present systems of discrimination and violence.

While Halloween can be fun, creative, and imaginative, it is often a season of reiterating sexist stereotypes and gendered clothing. The hyper sexualization of female-identifying bodies and the expectations that people should wear a certain type of clothing on Halloween is another problematic aspect that goes unnoticed. 

I want to make sure that it’s clear that I am not policing what female-identifying people choose to wear while they are navigating their own comfort levels. There is nothing wrong with expression of your body in the ways that make you feel your best. 

The problem arises when society starts expecting a certain sexist norm. Especially when there becomes a peer pressure to wear specific clothing that is easily sexualized.

Another important concept that is very relevant to this conversation is the idea of political correctness. In many institutions where “sexy dressing up” might be the main theme of the Halloween weekend, people who are opposed to such ideas may feel reluctant to come forward. Especially in smaller groups, the peer pressure is always present, and people are hesitant to voice their concerns about costumes for such events.

The expectations placed on women identifying bodies remains rooted in sexism. It is problematic that there are a set of societal norms that people should follow in order to be fun and engaging. If one fulfils those expectations, they are accepted into the events and parties, but at the same time are sexualized. And if they decide to move away from those expectations, they might be seen as boring or annoying, and they may be bullied for their political correctness. 

Another major element that encourages this culture is the capitalist system of marketing costumes through gendered fashion. By dividing costumes for certain sizes and ages and constructing clear distinctions between gendered clothing, the market limits the imagination of people and also perpetuates gender violence by completely eradicating nonbinary people’s existence. 

Halloween has its own value depending on the culture and location it is celebrated in. However, sexualization becomessalient in communities such as Colorado College, where the holiday is mostly associated with parties and costume making. 

Everyone has the right to wear whatever they want as long as they are being considerate about their positionality. However, the expectations, interpretations, and judgements of society can have dangerous consequences and have to be eliminated completely. 

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