Drop the slut talk

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“I’m a mouse, duh.”

When Karen Smith of Mean Girls said this regarding her Halloween costume, she started a running joke that’s been played out for the last decade.

The joke’s purpose in the movie was to contrast Cady — the intelligent, complex girl who wears a frightening costume for Halloween — with Karen, the silly ditz who sports little more than lingerie and round ears.

Today, this line is still quoted as a typification of the “slutty” Halloween costume. It’s past time the joke was laid to rest.

The characterization of certain costumes as “slutty” has enabled oppressive attitudes to infiltrate our thinking about Halloween and women’s fashion in general.

The word “slut” carries an implicit value judgment. The understanding is that someone who wears “slutty” clothing deserves less respect than others, particularly from the person applying the label.

Even tracing the word back to its origins as a name for an unclean or slovenly person, rather than one who is sexually promiscuous, reveals that it has always carried negative connotations.

Some women approach the issue by attempting to reclaim the word and describing their own state of dress as slutty. These remarks are always intended as a form of self-deprecation, where women essentially say, “I’m calling myself a slut before you get the chance because it hurts less if I beat you to the punch.”

Rather than reclaiming or redefining the word, though, this act merely reinforces the dominant understanding of what it is to be “slutty”.

Halloween is meant to be a time when people are free to wear clothing that departs significantly from their “real life” fashion choices. Ideally, this is an opportunity for freedom of self-expression.

Even so, the Halloween season never passes without mention of “slutty nurses,” “slutty police officers” and even the odd “slutty pumpkin”. These ensembles may be more widely accepted on Oct. 31 than other days, but that doesn’t make them immune to the “slutty” label.

Women are expected to try to make themselves desirable by conforming to standards of beauty. But when society grants women the opportunity on occasions like Halloween to fulfill this expectation by wearing revealing clothing, they’re criticized as slutty.

This limits their opportunity for expression and creates a culture of judgment.

It’s hard to imagine that many of us really intend to create such an environment for women. The time has come to align our vocabularies with our ideals.

Kate is the Journal's Assistant Lifestyle Editor. She’s a third-year philosophy major.

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