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Halloween is this weekend. What should girls wear? Summed up pretty accurately on the most recent Saturday Night Live episode, fake Barbara Walters says she and Maria Shriver are going to a costume party: “She will be going as a hot, sexy nurse, and I will be going as an old male nurse.”

There you have it, women of Penn. You can be hot or you can be … well, let’s be serious, just about everyone wants to be hot.

I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with being next to naked on Halloween, should that be your costume of choice. My issue is with the fact it’s practically impossible to find an acceptable alternative.

“One of the criteria [for a costume] is to dress a little more risque,” Engineering sophomore Sarah Scolnic said. “I don’t even know why. I couldn’t tell you where it comes from.”

“[It’s about] getting away with things you couldn’t normally do in your ‘real’ life,” College senior Nikki Mendell said.

Perhaps you’re thinking there are lots of other choices. “But last year I did Dick in a Box!” “I went as a Ghostbuster!” For the most part, though, these are variations on a few themes. There’s the goofy costume, the throwback costume, the only-clever-if-you-watch-the-news costume (for the love of Ben Franklin, please do not attempt “Sexy Chilean Miner.”) But hot and goofy tend to be mutually exclusive and women usually choose the former.

The ability to wear skimpy costumes is kind of freeing. Generations ago, we fought for the right to vote, to work, to divorce, to own property. Now, we enjoy the right to walk around in our underwear. Just as the feminists of yesteryear always dreamed we would.

Even girls who don’t want to be completely bare — and guys, it can be really cold on Halloween — still want to feel attractive. So what’s a middle-ground-seeking coed to do?

Maybe just grow out of it. “I think younger girls want to be sluttier because it’s like they have to show off,” Mendell said. “But as you get older you want to be funnier or clever.”

“It’s nothing like what I wear on a normal basis,” Scolnic adds of her costume this year. “I definitely will never wear this costume again.”

Funny, they both say “slutty.” When I asked College senior Eric Dein, if he could describe girls’ Halloween costumes in one word, he replied: “Besides slutty?”


Can we pause for a moment and address the misuse of the word “slutty?” Quick review: a slut is a person who has casual sex with an exorbitant number of partners. To call an outfit “slutty” is to imply that the person wearing it is someone who engages in casual sex with an exorbitant number of partners. But girls who wear “slutty” clothing are — more often than not — actually anything but “slutty.” They’re proud of their bodies, they want to feel desirable, they’re caving to peer pressure, they’re just having fun — whatever they’re doing, they’re not necessarily screwing everything that moves. The term isn’t just degrading; it’s inaccurate.

That being said, I think the underlying issue with skimpy costumes is that, in deciding the only way to be a “sexy nurse” is to dress scandalously, we’re buying into a monolithic view of sex appeal: there’s only one way to be hot, and that way is to view underwear as outerwear. We’re college women, damn it, we should feel sexy all the time, in or out of our clothes, on Halloween or Valentine’s Day or freaking Sukkot, for that matter.

See you all out this weekend! Or, more likely, I’ll see all of you out this weekend. Don’t forget your jacket.

Jessica Goldstein is a College senior from Berkeley Heights, N.J. Her e-mail address is Say Anything appears on alternate Wednesdays.

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