When I was a kid, before I understood that patriarchy wasn’t a particular type of game hen, Halloween was my favorite holiday. I spent weeks dreaming about my costume. In hindsight, this was a rather amusing waste of my time because I dressed up as a ballerina for six years straight. It’s worth mentioning, of course, that growing up in Kansas, I spent many Halloweens lacing my toe shoes over my snow pants as a way to stem off the cold while we trekked from door to door.
Maybe it was this early flirtation with clothing conservatism that kept me from seeing the value in the trend of Halloween costumes in recent years. In fact, I often feel like Lindsay Lohan’s character from “Mean Girls,” trying to dream up the most awesomely intricate character charade, only to be greeted by fellow femmes hanging out in lingerie and animal ear headbands.
With this kind of backdrop, is it any wonder Halloween seems to kick off the season of shame and insecurity? As women, we’re constantly bombarded with messages that we need to be all sex, all the time, something that has created a wide range of lasting impacts in our society from eating disorders to self-esteem issues. Culturally, women are taught that their overall sexiness defines their worth and identity. Even a night which has come to commercially bill itself as the one in which we can be anybody else offers only a conditional escape for women: they can be whomever they want to be, provided that person is still sexy.
This year, Halloween we get a much-needed make over in the self-esteem department from the Love Your Body Day campaign on October 19. Since 1998, the Love Your Body Day, an awareness effort by the National Organization of Women, has sought to get a dialogue going to speak out against advertisements and images of women that are harmful, disrespectful, and demeaning. These same words seem to be pretty appropriate descriptors for the Officer McNasty get-ups and sexualized storybook characters (I really don’t recall Dorothy wearing thigh highs, and remember, I’m from Kansas, so I’m totally an expert on all things “Wizard of Oz”).
Of course, swearing off the makeshift black cat backup costume is only a small step towards living the dream of body acceptance. Here are five surprising ways to use this fright night to celebrate and accept yourself—the scariest possible concept to companies that bank on people always hating what they see in the mirror.
1. Stage a costume contest that doesn’t include a category for the Sexiest Costume. Instead, honor the Most Comfortable Costume or Best Looking Costume That Escaped Conditioning for What Women Should Look Like but Really Don’t Because It’s Unhealthy. Similarly, good luck fitting that title on a plaque.
2. Listen to songs that preach loving every inch of yourself, regardless of what the magazines say. When you’re creating your party shuffle, make sure to sandwich songs like Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and India.Arie’s “Video” between Halloween hits “Monster Mash” and “Thriller.” These tender tunes (and others) are a perfect anthem of acceptance.
3. Make a pinata based on snappy advertising lingo. Take a stack of magazines and pull out the pages that offer up advertisements promoting weight loss or exploiting women to sell a product. Use these strips of magazines to create your own Halloween pinata, because what will be most satisfying than smashing words like “THE NEW AND IMPROVED SKINNIER YOU” to pieces?
4. Bob for buzz words. This activist twist on the old favorite has partygoers attempting to remove apples from tubs of water, but each apple is carved with charged, body-shaming language like “THINspiration” or “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” Whoever collects the most gets to take the apples home to make into a pie of body-praising affirmative goodness.
5. Skip the usual monster and spooky fare to create a more positive pumpkin carving experience. Using medium to large-sized pumpkins, select a word that sums up loving your body. Decorate one side of the pumpkin around this word, carving and bedazzling it. Make it yours! On the other side, illuminate why this word applies to you.
Halloween is usually a holiday where we get to celebrate being someone, anyone else, for another day. This year, let’s focus on celebrating the opportunity to be ourselves.
In Hollywood, Love Your Body Day is celebrated on Sunday October 23rd and Adios Barbie will be there! Co-founder/co-editor Pia Guerrero is leading a panel called “Beyond Beauty and Body Image” that’s not to be missed. For more information, visit NOW Hollywood’s website here.