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The gorilla days are over

Special to The Spectrum

Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 17:10

jamie

Spectrum File Photo

Has anyone ever actually witnessed a prison inmate donning a short, tight and unforgivably highlighter-pink dress? This is a standard question I ask myself as I encounter young girls during the remaining hours of October each year.

Perhaps a fraction of this is an observation of my transition into adulthood, but Halloween has transformed drastically over the years. The “costumes” for teenage girls as young as 12 and 13 have seemingly shrunk before our eyes. The days of aiming for a menacing, tremendously hideous or even humorous ensemble are ostensibly and unfortunately growing dimmer.

The “Costume Equation,” as I like to call it, for a great deal of young girls has become: How little fabric can I slap on while still maintaining a title for my costume? The answer to this is inconclusive in that the boundaries of just how much skin can be exposed are being pushed further every fall.

As Halloween approaches this year, and the sights and smells of autumn arouse nostalgia, I can’t help but feel reminiscent of the gorillas of Halloweens past. For four consecutive years of early adolescence, I spent a night of trick-or-treating heavily clad in a gorilla suit fit for a 6-foot, 250-pound man. On the fourth and final year of this tradition, I realized just how much I stood out in comparison with the other 14- and 15-year-old girls.

Granted, a girl swimming in a body of artificial gorilla fur is bound to be quite conspicuous wherever you go, but as I trailed behind a group of my best friends, pillow case full of candy over my shoulder, and hiked up my suit where the safety pins had failed, I found myself resenting the “Sassy Sailor,” “Glitzy Goddess” and “Lil’ Bee” in front of me. So, in my stubborn contempt for this debauched version of classical Halloween festivities and my apprehension for being the only gorilla in a room full of sexy pirates and cops, I stopped dressing up.

To quote the screenplay written by the astounding Tina Fey, “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total [hussy] and no other girls can say anything about it” (Mean Girls). Unfortunately, this is a despairing truth among a considerable population of young girls in America.

Flip through a Party City catalogue around this time of year and you’ll find an amazing majority of the costumes targeting young women and teenage girls are provocative, skin-baring versions of what they claim to be. For instance, the “Eskimo” costume is the last garment you’d wish to find yourself wearing in the Arctic Circle. If you’re actually into sports, you may want to stray from the “football hottie” costume.

Based off of educated assumptions, tackling people in a hip-hugging short skirt may ensue some wardrobe malfunctions. Rebecca Hains, professor of advertising and media studies at Salem State University, emphasizes how today’s Halloween has become “hyper-commercial.” She says “it’s become an expectation for females to dress in sexually provocative ways even when costumed as, say, a children’s cartoon character, like Nemo from Finding Nemo, or a mundanely macabre item like a body bag” in her article “Halloween costumes: More sexualized stereotyping for girls.”

Despite how shameless its products are, I give credit to Party City and those alike for their creativity in sexualizing household objects. Who knew dinner plates and a bag of Skittles could look so risqué?

These sexualized portrayals of characters and objects on Halloween are limited to those sold specifically for women. The men’s version of an M&M actually looks like an M&M, whereas the same costume advertised for women is merely a skimpy, tight, short dress with an “M” planted in the middle for good measure.

There is an apparent trend for women to dress up as provocative inanimate objects that are stereotypically enjoyed by men, such as a dartboard, a pool table, a beer tap and, yes, even a sexy remote control. The young women to which these costumes appeal are clearly not troubled by the thought of being sexualized. Rather, they are actively seeking and demanding the attention that wearing a slinky get-up attracts.

This is where the heart of my dismay and agitation lies. These costumes became the sour grapes of my relationship with friends who decided “floozy” was acceptable Halloween attire. If the thought of your mother and father depresses me after evaluating your skimpy outfit, I may feel less than willing to wish you a Happy Halloween.

As a disappointed gorilla, all I could do was lift my mask for a breath of fresh air and silently blame all those sexy dinner plates for sucking the festivity out of a holiday I once enjoyed.

 

email: jlfandl@buffalo.edu

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