Women have a right to dress slutty on Halloween, and to feel safe doing It

Would that there were more occasions to wear catsuits!!!

This is a post I wish I didn’t have to write. But the LA Times found this op-ed by Charlotte Allen somehow credible enough to publish, and so I have to. This is a post in defense of dressing slutty on Halloween. It is a post arguing that dressing slutty, for Halloween or any other occasion, is not an invitation for rape. This is an argument that really shouldn’t have to be made in 2011, but sadly, here we are.

Charlotte Allen juxtaposed dressing slutty with Halloween and the Slutwalk movement. She argues that feminists (all feminists – ’cause we’re all the same, apparently) are hypocrites because we rally against slutty Halloween costumes, yet bare all at our Slutwalks. Then she goes on to say that feminists are in denial of the “reality” that visual stimuli somehow makes men’s brains tell them to rape, and that rape is linked to hotness, or youngess, or something. Basically she’s saying that dressing slutty invites rape and women should know better and if it happens, it’s probably your fault for being an idiot feminist in denial.

(Did I just put words in Allen’s mouth? Sorry, I couldn’t help it. As my friend Simone said, “I want to punch this op-ed in the face!” Read it for yourself if you want to check the accuracy of my interpretation, but fair warning, it may make you feel stabby.)

Here are some points that Allen missed about feminists, Slutwalks, and sexy Halloween costumes:

1. Not all feminists feel the same way about dressing slutty on Halloween or Slutwalks. Not all feminists support Slutwalks.

2. Feminism is – in the most basic terms – about being free to make choices. Feminists write angrily about sexy or offensive Halloween costumes for women not because they don’t believe women should ever dress sexy or slutty on Halloween, but because the proliferation of sexy costumes is so great and so overwhelming that it’s difficult to find something that isn’t a sexy version of a regular costume. There are very few CHOICES for women outside the sexy/slutty genre. Being angry that 99% of costumes offered for women (and even young girls!) are “sexy-something” costumes is not only rational, but not the same thing at all as telling women they shouldn’t dress slutty on Halloween.

3. When feminists share ideas for non-sexy Halloween costumes, they aren’t (or shouldn’t be) trying to encourage women to “cover up” or shame women who choose to dress slutty; they are simply helping women who choose not to dress slutty come up with some ideas because non-sexy ladies costumes are few and far between.

Here are some points that Allen really doesn’t understand about feminism, rape culture, and a woman’s right to dress slutty on Halloween:

1. Allen wrote, of Slutwalks, “Women get another chance besides Halloween to dress up like prostitutes!” Well, yeah! I would argue that women don’t have enough opportunities to dress up as prostitutes, or anything else. For those of us who aren’t actors or burlesque dancers or LARPers, socially acceptable opportunities to dress up – in ANY costume – are rare. I don’t think I need to hash this out, but for many, dressing up like a slut is FUN. People who enjoy dressing slutty do it because it makes them feel sexy. For most, Halloween is a once-a-year chance to channel our inner sex kitten. Dressing slutty is a choice that women should be empowered to make for themselves. It would be anti-feminist to suggest otherwise, or shame a woman for dressing in a way that makes her feel good.

2. Dressing slutty is not an invitation to rape. Ever. Seriously. Period. Rapists will rape no matter whatever the fuck their victims are wearing. Dressing conservatively will not protect anybody from rape. Suggesting that men are susceptible to “visual stimuli” and therefore unable to control themselves around sexy-dressed ladies is supremely offensive to men.

3. In a perfect world, women should be able to feel safe wearing a sexy costume. They also have the right to feel safe walking down the street bundled up in a winter coat but the reality is that often, they aren’t safe. Not because they’re wearing the wrong thing or “sending mixed signals” or whatever the fuck, but because of op-eds like Allen’s, that continue to place the blame, the shame, and the responsibility on women instead of working to prosecute rapists and educate would-be-rapists.

What Allen truly misses about feminist responses to dressing slutty is this:

We are about breaking down rape culture, not breaking down women who want to wear catsuits on Halloween.

7 thoughts on “Women have a right to dress slutty on Halloween, and to feel safe doing It

  1. Feminism is – in the most basic terms – about being free to make choices.

    I thought Feminist was about : “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”

    If you want to argue that one way of going about social equality is increasing women’s choices, that is logically understandable. However those two statements don’t mean the same thing.

    “Suggesting that men are susceptible to “visual stimuli” and therefore unable to control themselves around sexy-dressed ladies is supremely offensive to men.”

    It may be offensive but that doesn’t make it any less true.

    “In a perfect world, women should be able to feel safe wearing a sexy costume. They also have the right to feel safe walking down the street bundled up in a winter coat but the reality is that often, they aren’t safe.”

    In a perfect world I should be able to walk down a dangerous city like Compton, wearing an expensive suit, with an gold watch and not get robbed. There are a lot of things I should be able to do but I don’t.

    “Then she goes on to say that feminists are in denial of the “reality” that visual stimuli somehow makes men’s brains tell them to rape, and that rape is linked to hotness, or youngess, or something. Basically she’s saying that dressing slutty invites rape and women should know better and if it happens, it’s probably your fault for being an idiot feminist in denial.”

    This is very poor reasoning To begin with you don’t offer any concrete evidence that supports your case (typical of Feminist).

    A better argument would be that visual stimuli increases the likelihood of men wanting to mate in the amygdala along with the hypothalamus which can override conscious choices found in the cerebrum. The amygdala is more powerful in men then women and therefore the override is much stronger.
    (http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v7/n4/abs/nn1208.html)

    The amygdala, a part of the deeper brain, can “take over” the body. The is seen in the classic fight or flight response. Where if one feels a “threat” the body will automatically address the problem without proper thought. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4g25d7_Afmc)

    The reason is survival and reproduction; genes care not for societal morals. Woman also have the same mechinanism and when threatened (truly threatened) will attempt to fight or flee as well without conscious thought.

    • I am a neuroscientist studying a system that involved processing in the amygdala and hypothalamus. First of all, we tend to advise against “wanting to mate in the amygdala and hypothamalus.” That’s going to leave some pretty big holes in important places.

      But more importantly, you should be very careful when citing papers to properly interpret them. If you read that Nature Neuro paper carefully, the scientific and statistical merit of which I am not going to get into here, you would see that their conclusions are that their is more amygdalar activation in response to a set of stimuli in men and NOT that this “overrides” consciousness more in men, whatever that means. Your theory that activation in the amygdala and hypothalamus “override conscious choices found in the cerebrum” is a vast oversimplification of decision making circuitry, and frankly, not correct. The “fight or flight” response does exist (ie hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) , but I don’t understand in what context you are proposing its action.
      Overall, if you are trying to use neuroscience to justify some sort of neural basis of rape, you are using incorrect conclusions and a dangerously oversimplified understanding of how the brain works.

    • Oh B,

      I was compelled to respond to another wonderfully articulated criticism of yours, in which you so eloquently stated that women haven’t a clue as to what their talking about, usually ever. I could then assume, with that rationale, you must be a woman indeed. But of course I disagree with your reason, and disregard your criticism on the basis of pure ignorance. You have already been criticized for your lazy attempt to argue without a legitimate understanding of the science you wish to employ, I am here to criticize your lazy attempt to discredit the author on the grounds of language usage.

      feminism |ˈfeməˌnizəm|
      noun
      the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men

      “Feminist activists have campaigned for women’s rights—such as in contract, property, and voting — while also promoting women’s rights to bodily integrity and autonomy and reproductive rights.” (excerpt from Oxford English Dictionary)

      This is in fact, about choices. You first mis-represented the author, as she did indeed use the word “feminism” not “feminist” and then proceeded to discredit her interpretation without adequate support. You see B, advocation for ones rights, is in essence advocation for ones ability to have “choices” or “control” over oneself and their condition of living. Your arguments both here and in other comment threads indicates a very modest comprehension of history, historical context, and frankly common sense. You are not a scientist, you are not visionary. You have done nothing but expose yourself to be in possession of too much time, with too LITTLE to offer, which may in many ways explain your frustration with the opposite sex.

  2. Pingback: Slutty Facebook images, why girls do it! – MassPublicity.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s