"Slutty" costumes: Enough with the Halloween shaming of grown women

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The Internet was made for judging. It sort of functions the same way that passing notes detailing a fellow eighth-grader's period mishap used to, except the shit-talking is done on the world's stage, and can be as vitriolic and hateful as the author chooses. (It can even be anonymous, in the case of comment trolls.)

Now, during Halloween season, those annoying Internet note-passers get to heckle women of all ages for what are considered "slutty" costumes. I'm never down with slut-shaming, and Halloween is no exception. So to the women of the world who want to wear what others deem "slutty," this one's for you.

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If you're not familiar with the practice, slut-shaming is when comments (like the word "slut") are used to describe a woman in a way that is supposed to be an insult to her character, based on assumptions about her style of dress, perceived sexual behavior, etc. (For a more detailed explanation of the term, read this great piece written by a dude about it.) As far as I know, there is no playing field-equalizing term for men that carries the same harmful connotations as "slut," which is why the shaming aspect is generally reserved for women (though I'm not ruling out that it is word used to shame people of all genders and orientations).

I love Halloween. I love dressing up as someone or something else, and revel in seeing what creative costumes strangers come up with. Although I don't tend to dress in revealing apparel, I don't understand why there are often social parameters put around what is deemed "appropriate" for a woman to wear. Those parameters come in the form of comments from both sexes about what has moved from the idea of a "sexy" Halloween costume to a "slutty" Halloween costume. (For the record, I'm not talking about the sexualization of little girl's costumes -- that's a whole separate issue.)

To me, slut-shaming women for their Halloween costume choices is just a symptom of a larger problem: The idea that someone else -- outside of the autonomous body wearing the supposedly incriminating costume -- gets to decide who a woman is, what she stands for and what her actions can supposedly mean.

The bad news for the cat-callers of the world? It's not really up to you to decide who a woman is or what she is about based on her apparel. Ever. Especially on Halloween, when we are all putting on a show to have fun and quite possibly escape what we usually wear the other 364 days out of the year.

The best part about this slut-shaming debacle? It is easily remedied. You don't even have to consider yourself a feminist to not be a slut-shamer. You just have to be the kind of person who has the ability to understand why it is important not to use harmful labels against others -- especially on a night celebrating illusion, mystery and the fun of being someone else for one evening.

In short, if you don't like a costume someone else is wearing or you can't control yourself around another human because of the way they are dressed, stay home. And shut the fuck up about it.

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