We all know the “Mean Girls” scene where Cady arrives at the Halloween party dressed as a scary zombie bride and, in return for her Halloween spirit, receives a lot of dirty looks from other girls at the party who are dressed as immoral bunny rabbits and not-so-angelic angels. Karen even asks, “Why are you dressed so scary?” and Cady matter-of-factly says, “It’s Halloween.”
Meanwhile, in the background of the scene, the audience can see boys dressed as funny Vikings or even wearing scary masks similar to Cady’s. While this scenario is just a scene from a movie, I would argue that this depiction of a typical Halloween party is not far from the truth and could easily happen at Lehigh. This “Mean Girls” scene demonstrates not only the double standard of male and female costumes, but also how teen culture promotes and expects promiscuous costumes from women.
As a sophomore, I have experienced Halloween Week here at Lehigh, and know that many girls choose to dress up as sexy animals or perhaps naughty nurses. And while I am not judging anyone for their costumes, because I too have made these outfit choices, I question why female students just accept this expectation of dress and follow it like it is some sort of tacit guideline.
During a voiceover in “Mean Girls,” Cady says, “In the real world, Halloween is when kids dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In girl world, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girl can say anything else about it.” This infamous movie quote is actually applicable to our campus. On a typical party night, girls may be more cautious of what they wear because they don’t want to risk being judged. However, on Halloween, you get the chance to dress up however you want, and college students definitely take advantage of this opportunity. Halloween allows students to dress as promiscuously as they want and not feel like they are going to be shamed since they virtually have an excuse to dress this way.
Aside from the college culture promoting risky dress, Halloween is a true demonstration of the double standard between men and women. How many boys have you seen wearing a Hawaiian shirt and claiming it to be a costume? Now think about how much more rare it is to see a girl doing this. Why are women expected to wear something cute and revealing, and how can men just throw on something at the last minute and have no one question it? I’m not saying that every girl should wear a sports jersey and call it a night, but maybe girls should be more willing to come up with a silly costume instead of just resorting to the classic cat ears and tight black dress. (Again, no judgments because I have worn this cliché outfit just as much as the next girl…)
While obviously there isn’t going to be a sudden change in the way girls dress for Halloween, I think it is important to be cognizant of this culture expectation and double standard so we can at least make some small, progressive steps toward addressing these issues. Maybe one night during Halloween Week could be designated to have a funny theme, and girls would not feel any pressure from the unspoken Lehigh dress code.
I’m not suggesting everyone put on a wig and fake teeth to be a zombie bride like Cady in Mean Girls. But whether it is our laziness or the campus culture that makes us resort to the stereotypical costume, we should not be afraid to stand out and take risks to defy the Lehigh Halloween standard.