'Sexy' costume trend sends troubling message to girls

info@islandpacket.comOctober 24, 2011 

Halloween, though still a few weeks away, provides serious fodder for a "Pastor's Corner" column. Few holidays stir up as much controversy. Christians don't like the spooky supernatural overtones; police warn of the dangers of going door-to-door, and dentists offer prizes in exchange for candy to prevent cavities.

These are valid concerns, of course. I'd encourage all parents to be aware of the dangers of occult activity that can creep into Halloween celebrations; not to let kids knock on the doors of strangers; and be sure to check they brushed their teeth.

However, the Halloween trend I find most disturbing is best summarized in the 2004 film "Mean Girls," when the main character, Cady, explains that "Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total ... (let's just say this impolite word rhymes with "but") ... and no other girls can say anything about it. The hardcore girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears."

While this description is a bit crude, the reality is that any girl over the age of 7 searching for a Halloween costume will discover the entire selection prefaced by the term "sexy" (even if it's not labeled "sexy," per se, it's certainly implied in the hemlines). Justin Timberlake's not bringing sexy back -- the costume shops are, with their options for sexy ragdolls, nurses and crayons.

"Sexy," by definition, means something is sexually suggestive or stimulating. Growing up, I always enjoyed Halloween as an opportunity to dress up as someone I found glamorous or intriguing. I transitioned from painting my face as a cat or clown as a child and began raiding mom's makeup supply to wear with a poodle skirt when I was a teenager. I wanted to look older and pretty, but "sexually stimulating" was not an objective when I was 11.

While the pressure for parents to allow their daughters to dress as a "sexy whatever" (insert anything: cowgirl, panda, maid, vampire) for Halloween is becoming disturbingly normal, this is a great opportunity to discuss the difference between looking pretty, glamorous and interesting versus looking "sexy."

I'm not saying girls need to wear a burka, but Halloween is a great time to learn how to get attention for the right reasons -- for being creative, quirky and beautiful. Not because you're the girl with the most skin showing.

This isn't normally an objective: why should it be for Halloween?

In "Mere Christianity," C.S. Lewis tells the story of an unattractive man who was forced to wear a mask that made him appear more attractive. Lewis explains, "When he took it off he found his own face had grown to fit it. He was now really beautiful. What had begun as disguise had become a reality."

What had begun as disguise had become a reality.

As we help our daughters, nieces and friends choose their Halloween costumes, be sure the disguise is a reality that will both inspire the right behavior and get the right attention.

Alison Griswold is the director of youth ministry at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church. Follow her on Twitter @alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.

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