Snow White, Catwoman, (slutty) Rosie the Riveter, (slutty) Tiger Lily, Katy Perry in her “California Gurls” video, Eve… These are some of the costumes I’ve dressed up in for a variety of costume parties over the years. You will notice that each is either hyper-feminine and/or hyper-sexualised (when I went looking for a Belle from Beauty & the Beast costume for my 21st, the only one I could find for hire was a short, tight one that resembled the original character’s garb in no way).
At the other end of the dress-up spectrum, I have a couple of friends who relish costume parties as opportunities to stretch the gender performance barriers. Michelle has a penchant for covering her face in all manner of makeup and face paint for her takes on Puss in Boots, The Joker and Elphaba from Wicked (also known as the Wicked Witch of the West). Lana dresses skankily as often as she does dowdy, mixing it up as a bandit for our most recent Christmas party, Little Red Riding Hood, a male pirate when all her fellow females were attended as slutty wenches or slutty pirates (or slutty Tiger Lilys!), and Cher.
And on the other side of the coin, there’s Jackson, who was the scantily clad Adam to my Eve. When I suggested deviating from Captain Planet (for which he tried to convince me to let him wear just body paint. To a work do? I don’t think so!) to Adam, he said he’d go as whatever I wanted him to provided a) I organised the costume and, b) he got to show off some skin. He spends most nights in the gym, so what not flaunt what he’s worked hard for?
Around Halloween time, I read an article on sexy costumes for men, and how there are none. At least none that focus on the man as a sex object; rather, they suggest he’s the recipient of sexual favours from women:
“When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced, have access to one night stands, or being in charge of and profiting from women’s bodies. A different type of ‘sexy’ entirely.”
For a man who’s confident—not cocky—in showing off his body (he’s even tossing up [pardon the pun] becoming a male stripper as a way to pay for a helicopter flying course), Jackson as Adam is certainly one to add to the seemingly non-existent “sexy male costume” column.
I find these attitudes to gender and costuming refreshing. Personally, as much as I talk the anti-gender stereotyping talk, I prefer to dress hyper-femininely, especially when it comes to costumes. Honestly, I guess I’m scared of coming across as anything less than “female” and whatever that means these days. I enjoy showing off my face, hair (which is why I chose to leave it out instead of wrapping it up in Rosie’s polka dot bandana) and body. I wish I were confident enough to buck this all-too-common trend amongst women and get my drag king on every now and then. In fact, my back-up costume if Adam and Eve fell through was Michael Jackson, so maybe I’m not as frightened about tapping into my masculine side as I thought.
While I’ve already got my Halloween costume in mind for this year’s festivities (Gloria Steinem undercover as a Playboy bunny: you can’t get much more hyper-sexualised than that!), perhaps this year I will resolve to step out of the one-slut-fits-all box and try something a little less feminine…?