UCSD Costumes 2012: Nightmare on Gilman Drive

Despite the awkward middle-of-the-week Halloween this year, the college party culture is as hot as ever, with UCSD students packing house parties in different costumes every night, and flocking to rage hubs like UCSB and USC. But Halloween hasn’t always been this way. Halloween didn’t come to America until Irish immigrants fled to the United States due to the potato famine in 1846 and brought with them “All Soul’s Day.” It wasn’t until 1934 that a Portland, Oregon newspaper coined the term “Trick or Treat” in a story about Halloween pranks. The phrase then found its way onto doorsteps as a way to ask for candy in the mid-1940s. Since then, Halloween has overtaken mainstream American culture and become the second-largest commercial holiday in the country, according to the National Retail Federation.

This commercialization has amplified the adult party culture. The baby boomer generation experienced Halloween as a night when “anything goes” as far as costumes and behavior. Yet if women wanted to hike up their skirts and plunge their necklines, they would have to opt for a homemade costume, since costume shops were uncommon and had limited options such as nuns, flappers and witches. Since then, companies have hopped on board to make sure that the entire Halloween experience can be purchased, from the orange Oreos to the spooky soundtracks to the Leg Avenue costumes (which emphasize more leg than costume).

Social media has taken the Halloween party culture to new heights by making it so you aren’t just dressing up for one party anymore, but for your 600 closest friends. Around the time of Halloween, Facebook news feeds flood with pictures of friends’ costumes and of the various parties happening on the weekends preceding the big day. Social media also influences how some choose their outfits — a consumer-spending survey conducted for the National Retail Federation found that 15.2 percent and 7.1 percent of consumers look to Facebook and Pinterest for costume inspiration, respectively. This is a time to show off your awesome costume and your rage face, and to further glorify Halloween partying. College Halloween is an epic time, and here are some other views on this scene.

— Madeline Mann
Opinion Editor

Revealing Costumes Echo Already-Present Trend in College Theme Parties

Around the time of college, Halloween begins to reveal itself as an entirely different monster. A night which once attracted blood-smeared faces and makeshift scars now seems to focus less on being scary (Halloween’s traditional aim), and more on being sexy — for the girls at least. Halloween boutiques are not establishing this fad but rather catering to a hip trend, as college theme parties similarly appear to center around the goal of showing skin.

College girls have transitioned from being bunny rabbits to playboy bunnies, and a night once focused on actual candy is now about being a piece of eye candy. Websites advertising this transition from doll to diva in female Halloween attire are making sure to supply “sexy officers” and “cute nurses” to meet college students’ new demands. But it doesn’t have to be October for the media to “sexify” women. Men’s Health Magazine released a list of “The 10 Sexiest College Party Themes,” which places such themes as “Bros and Hos,” “Lingerie” and “Anything But Clothes” as a few of the themes with the most potential.

Our culture has narrowed its lens to focus solely on the “sexy” side of women, no matter the circumstance. The “sluttyness” now attached to Halloween is a microcosm of the college environment. To garner attention, this festive day originally intended for children has kept college kids interested by doing one simple thing: making it sexy. Halloween fits nicely into the raunchy college environment where, no matter what you’re celebrating, leaving nothing up to the imagination (when it comes to your costume) is a sure sign of a good time.

— Matthew Rosin
Contributing Writer

Gender Differences in Costumes Exemplify Sexism in Retailers

This Halloween, boys big and small will dress up as firefighters, Batmans and maybe even patriotic army soldiers. Girls might go as the same — sexy firefighters, sexy Batgirls and sexy soldiers. To an unobservant eye, there is no difference between the sexes. Yet, the single word “sexy” has placed a sexist spell on the Halloween festivities.

Not only are most girls’ costumes characterized by low tops and short skirts, these types of costumes now occupy women’s wear of all ages. A quick search of costume retailers, such as Party City, halloweencostumes.com and even Walmart, reveals that young girls have a limited array of costumes featuring little but a short dress on an Elmo costume or a skintight cloth shown by a cat ensemble.

For older girls, the results are even worse. Clothing gets even scantier, rivaling stereotypical prostitution garb. Halloween is about expression, but ghosts and ghouls have changed to sexy and sexier. In today’s selection, boys’ costumes often imitate the true professions or characters, whereas girls’ costumes are sexified versions of the original. As a Tumblr blog, “F*ck No Sexist Halloween Costumes,” points out in side by side men’s vs. women’s costumes, this prejudice is clear. Something as innocent as Oscar the Grouch goes from a man with a trashcan for men, to exposed cleavage, bare thighs and raunchy leg warmers for women. Moreover, the man’s costume is clearly meant to be a costume, whereas the woman’s points to another Halloween “treat.” Not only does this make it extremely hard for girls to find acceptable outfits, it also displays a blatant sexism on the part of designers, one that advocates selling your body in a get-up, as opposed to promoting expression through authenticity.

Halloween is not the problem, costume manufacturers are. Girls who favor more traditional outfits should not be subject to the producer’s sexist decisions. Costume companies need to cater to all of their consumers; firstly, by carrying costumes that accurately mimic the original character, and secondly, by providing costumes that preserve the character’s origin without resorting to obscene cleavage and short skirts.

— Cedric Eicher
Contributing Writer

Racist Costumes Demonstrate Insensitivity to Cultures

As Halloween approaches, we are bound to see people dressed up in negative stereotypical impersonations of another race. Although these people may not realize it, they are in fact showing severe racial insensitivity towards the people of the race they are imitating. Last year, this prompted an Ohio University student group named Students Teaching About Racism in Society to put together the “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign to help raise awareness toward the offensiveness of certain racist costumes. The students are out to prove that the racial Halloween costumes can be genuinely hurtful and demeaning to the people of their race and to their culture.

According to a Newsfeed article, one of STARS’ main tactics is to feature images of students from various racial backgrounds holding up photos of people who have dressed up as a negative stereotype of their individual race. One particularly startling example was of a young man who held up the photo of a man dressed up as a Middle Eastern — the issue here being that the costume was that of a suicide bomber. Another example shows a young woman holding up the photo of a woman dressed up as a gangster in blackface, with every inch of her visible skin covered in brown paint. These costumes are tremendously offensive to the affected racial groups, as they reduce the race to a caricature that reinforces the negative stereotypes that society already holds of these groups.

While individuals clearly have the right to wear whatever they prefer this Halloween, hopefully they will show a little more tact and respect when putting together a costume thanks to STARS’ efforts. There are a multitude of amusing costume ideas out there that don’t require depreciating an entire race and belittling the feelings of others.

— Bahar Moshtaghian
Contributing Writer