The media's sexualization of women is one of those unsettling issues on which radical feminists and religious conservatives unwittingly converge. Never is this disturbing alliance more apparent than on Oct. 31, when feminist critique of the increasingly sexist and racist array of women's Halloween options meets old-fashioned conservative concern for The Children.
"It seems as if they are trying to create a parade of children dressed up to sexually attract males," the Washington Times' Rebecca Hagelin, of the religious-conservative approach, writes in her rejection of sexualized Halloween. "Just who they are supposed to entice is not clear: 14-year-old boys carrying bags of candy? Dads who answer the door? The pedophile down the street?"
While we may lack conservatives' zeal for the neighorhood pedophilia trope, feminists are as annoyed as anyone that a woman's default Halloween costume can most accurately be described as Pair of Boobs With Incredibly Stupid Wig Over Fur Legwarmers, while men have a splendid range of sweet wolf-related costumes from which to choose. In order to tackle this problem, Hagelin has released a servicey guide entitled "how to save your family by protecting your children's modesty." Feminists might try a different approach.
Conservative: "Our daughters need to understand that what we wear, even as a costume, says volumes about who we are and what we think of ourselves," Hagelin writes. "When our young girls are encouraged to put their bodies on display, in sexually precocious ways—even as a 'joke' or a masquerade—they are reduced to objects."
Feminist: Our daughters need to understand that what the Slutty Halloween industry sells us, even as a costumes, says volumes about who they are and what they think of us. When our young girls are encouraged to put their bodies on display, in sexually precocious ways—even in poorly-made, mass-produced approximations of male fantasy—they are robbed of the opportunity to dress as something truly awesome, like Hit-Girl.
Conservative: "Tell your daughters that God created them to be respected as people created in his image; persons whose bodies are as precious to him as their souls. Let them know that you love and respect them too much to allow them to cheapen themselves—even for one night."
Feminist: Tell your daughters that swapping one form of patriarchy for another is not a real solution to sexism; media sexualization should not be countered with enforced prescriptions of modesty. Let them know that you love and respect them too much to allow them to believe that they can forever besmirch their souls by wearing a halter top—even for one night.
Conservative: "Have courage and talk about costume choices with the parents of your children's friends, so that everyone is on the same page. If you are the parent of a young man, don't hesitate to talk with the parents of the girls he may be going out with for Halloween. Modesty protects the hearts and minds of both young men and young women."
Feminist: Have courage and talk about costume choices with the parents of your children's friends, so that everyone does not dress as Hit-Girl. If you are the parent of a young man, don't hesitate to talk with the parents of the girls he may be going out with for Halloween in order to register your condolences at the arrival of a lifelong sexist double-standard in the lives of their children. Modesty protects the hearts and minds of both young men and young women, but only girls get called "sluts" over it.
Conservative: "Finally, provide alternative entertainment. Many local churches host fall festivals and events for teenagers, or events where teens are invited to help host parties for younger children. And most of them have costume guidelines."
Feminist: Finally, do not send your daughter to church on Halloween, as the resulting resentment over the God-sanctioned hemline-measuring will only increase her fidelity to Sexy Hermione Granger costumers.