As Halloween and Boyfriend’s defense both near, I find I’ve got too much other stuff going on to come up with a costume this year. I’m threatening to buy a mini bottle of mineral oil to keep in my purse, which I’ll whip out and pour on my head if anyone accuses me of not having a costume. Then I’ll stare at them with dead eyes like a certain Pharma Bro.
That said, if I were going out and/or all-out, I would face the same dilemma as other women/feminists: Smart or sexy? (Not that they have to be mutually exclusive, of course, but things like “sexy Amelia Earheart” have always struck me as a bit odd, whereas “Baberaham Lincoln” is amazing.) I would likely opt for sexy. And I’m not about to be smart-shamed by my equals on the day when it’s most acceptable to embrace one’s id.
Ultimately, either option is revolutionary. With studies stating that men don’t actually want to date smart women, even if they think they do, showing off your smarts can certainly be a defiant act.
Showing off your butt cheeks is, too, though. How often do women get to be subjects, rather than objects of our sexuality? How often do we get to sexualize ourselves, on purpose and before strangers do it to us? We get whistled at, harassed, and groped while dressed for work or running errands. It’s unexpected; it feels like a violation and the instinct is to blame ourselves for having invited it somehow. What’s empowering about Halloween, by comparison, is that it’s “the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut, and no other girl can say anything about it.” Public, overt displays of female sexuality are still controversial, even in 2015. And that’s messed up. Women should be allowed to want sex. Even when we’re “asking for it,” we should still get to choose what “it” is and with whom to have it (plus other terms). Wanting to have consenting sex with someone is not the same as having given tacit permission to everyone.
These matters certainly get complicated when sexually mature, socially immature teens dress alluringly, but this is not a thesis on nature versus nurture. I’m talking about adults here. Adults wearing otherwise non-offensive costumes.
I agree with Dan Savage: Halloween is a great pressure release valve for the sexually frustrated and repressed. It’s fantastic that women, in particular, have carved out a day to push back against all the socio-cultural bullshit that expects us to keep our ‘she wolves’ in the closet. On the one hand, Halloween seems a random choice for this cause, but on the other, what better day? There’s the obvious option to “transform” into anyone or anything for a night. And surging libido in the face of mortality is more than a Hollywood trope.
As much as I love puns, those are an option for me the other 364 days of the year. I’m smart and witty every day (okay, most days). For too much of my life, the descriptor “smart” has precluded all others. For every elementary school project that involved describing our peers, I would get “smart” n – 1 times. It frustrated me to no end to be seen as someone so one-dimensional. There are even a bunch of other interesting traits that are correlated with intelligence!
Some women must have enthusiastically embraced one-dimensional identities, though. It drives me nuts when smart women (or, worse yet, “smart” women) think they’re automatically superior to those who follow pop culture, wear sexy Halloween costumes, etc. And don’t even get me started on the wide variety of stupid opinions men hold with regard to such things. If you’re not sure if a scantily clad woman is smart, there’s this great test: Start an interesting conversation with her and find the fuck out. In my case, it would be misguided to underestimate me because of my unpretentious taste in music, love of aesthetics, and desire to be friends with Mindy Lahiri (The Mindy Project) and Tony DiNozzo (NCIS) in real life. I am interested in learning for the sake of learning, but not intelligence for the sake of discussing my IQ with douche canoes.
I guess what I’m saying is, in cerebral circles, Halloween need not be yet another opportunity to whip it out and measure it, “it” being the hallowed (pun definitely intended) g factor. If dressing up as Cherlene isn’t your thing, cool; but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s because of your intelligence. I love my brain and I am proud of it and thankful for what it does and how, but it came in a pretty great carrying case, too. Smart feminists have curves beyond our sulci and gyri that can be empowering to show off on Halloween.