As much as I love Halloween, few things make me despair quite as much as all the comments — pretty much exclusively from straight, cisgender men — that tend to pop up on the holiday about how “Halloween makes them not want to have daughters.” Happily, though, this year, scads and scads of Twitter responses to men saying Halloween makes them not want daughters rose up out of the depths of the internet — and what somany of them do so wonderfully is point out exactly why the statement “Halloween makes me not want daughters” is so problematic. It’s not a funny joke; it perpetuates rape culture in some truly alarming ways.
In all honesty, there are obviously a lot of reasons the whole “Halloween makes me not want daughters” thing is problematic, but the two most glaring are these: It simultaneously slut-shames and victim-blames women and femmes who wear sexy Halloween costumes. On the subject of slut-shaming, saying “Halloween makes me not want daughters”implies that the reason it makes you not want daughters is so you don’t have to deal with your daughters owning their sexuality. What’s more, it implies that women and femmes shouldn’t be sexual at all, perpetuating the obsession with “purity” and virginity our culture has harbored for centuries.
But if people want to dress up in sexy Halloween costumes, that’s their prerogative — and they should be free to do so without being shamed for their choice. Also, fun fact: When someone dresses in a sexy getup, it’s not necessarily for the benefit of the straight, male gaze. In fact, it’s often because it makes them feel good and they like they look in it. What a concept!
Which brings us to the second point: If people dress up in sexy costumes, they should also be free to do so without their costume being read as an invitation for sexual harassment or assault. Saying “Halloween makes me not want daughters” implies that, if daughters wear sexy Halloween costumes, then men will obviously not be able to keep their hands off them — so if they get groped, harassed, or assaulted, then it’s obviously because they chose to wear sexy costumes, rather than because the person who committed the harassment or assault chose to harass or assault someone else. This is classic victim-blaming, placing the responsibility for the unwanted behavior squarely on the shoulders of the survivor, rather than on the shoulders of the person it really belongs to — the perpetrator.
What’s more, this slut-shaming and victim-blaming occur in a society where often, the only pre-made costumes available to women and femmes ar eof the sexy variety, making the whole thing something of a catch 22. It’s a point that’s been made repeatedly — and will no doubt continue to be made for as long as it’s necessary — but it’s worth noting again, especially here: Sexy Halloween costumes aren’t a problem simply for existing (although there are definitely some costumes that probably shouldn't exist in "sexy" form); they become a problem when they’re the only options available to women and femmes, and sadly, that’s often the case.
Just a quick look at a standard costume purveyor shows the dramatic difference between costumes marketed to women versus those marketed to men — and that difference is that if, say, women want to dress as firefighters, their options are limited to sexy ones, while if men want to dress as firefighters, they can just, y’know, dress like actual firefighters. It’d be awesome if women and femmes had the option to choose between sexy firefighter costumes and non-sexy firefighter costumes, but that option often just isn’t available.
So, within this context, by slut-shaming and victim-blaming women and femmes for wearing sexy Halloween costumes when those costumes are often the only options available for them, we’re really saying, “If you want to dress up on Halloween, you have to dress up as something sexy — but if you dress up as something sexy, you’ll be bashed for it at best and assaulted at worst. Also, whatever happens to you as a result of you wearing something sexy, you’ll only have yourself to blame for it.” It’s a lose-lose situation
When it comes to sexy Halloween costumes, the point is always about choice — about being able to dress however you want, whether that’s as a sexy wizard or in the most authentic Pennywise getup the world has ever seen. Both are valid choices (asis any other choice, either between or outside of those ones): If sexy costumes aren’t someone’s cup of tea, they should be able to choose from non-sexy options; however, if someone loves dressing up in sexy Halloween costumes, they should be free to do so without facing slut-shaming, unwanted comments or behavior, or victim-blaming if they do end up dealing with unwanted comments or behavior. It’s really quite simple.
And the folks of Twitter nailed it. These responses highlight both the issues with “jokes” about Halloween and daughters and the hypocrisy of those who make those “jokes.”