posted 2011-11-18 15:09:53

Concerning the right to be sexy

Unfair gender norms target women’s sexuality

Allison Smith -- Staff Writer

Walking into any sort of costume shop, it probably goes without saying that most of the costumes for women lean toward the risqué. I remember being sixteen, standing uncertainly in Party City, and struggling to decide on a costume that would be flattering without attracting the much dreaded “slut” label. Despite the obvious trend, the costumes still had a vast range, from ‘sexy maid,’ and ‘sexy Native American,’ to ‘sexy Eskimo.’ Exactly when Halloween became about flaunting your sexuality, rather than begging for candy, I’ll never know. But it has become increasingly apparent that Halloween is the one night a year a woman can dress in skimpy clothing without ridicule. But what about the other 364?

It seems reasonable to argue that dressing provocatively promotes the objectification of women. Some might assert that dressing in sensual outfits is a sign of a woman’s insecurity, and lack of respect for herself. But I strongly disagree. Doesn’t it make more sense to conclude that a provocatively dressed woman is as secure as a modestly dressed women? After all, it’s a sign of the woman’s personal confidence in her own body image. Yet women are heavily criticized for what they put on their backs, sometimes even on Halloween, and unbelievably more so than men.

A man is never criticized for dressing too manly—in fact, a man’s dress is often only ever criticized for including clothes that are “too feminine” or “too gay.” So why should a woman be criticized for choosing to dress in a way that flaunts her femininity? There’s a double standard endorsing the social and sexual expectations of men and women. Unfortunately the stereotype persists that “good girls” are those who do not engage in sexual activity and “real men” are those who do. It is a cruel, double-edged sword, where women who dress modestly are prudes and women who dress sensually are sluts. Clearly, it’s a no-win situation for women, and there often seems to be no in-between. Sadly, many do not recognize the hypocrisy involved with labeling a woman as a good girl or a slut.

I’m not saying that a woman’s beauty is more important than her intelligence; I believe the opposite. Nor am I saying that women who dress modestly are ashamed of their bodies, or that all women who dress provocatively are confident. I simply assert that it is a woman’s decision to do what she wishes with her body, and should be able to without fear of derogatory comments. Ultimately, doesn’t this just come down to freedom of expression? Fashion is not about utility but about expressing individuality. Consequently, the right to dress provocatively should be something that is promoted rather than discouraged. That it is socially unacceptable for a woman to present herself in a way she deems fit sends the wrong message.

I wouldn’t encourage pre-teen girls to dress older than they are, but for women, I say it’s their body and their decision. While Halloween is the perfect time for a woman to dress as modestly or as ‘slutty’ as she chooses, it’s about time that same privilege be extended to the rest of the year.