What Fishnet Stockings on Halloween Taught me about Feminism

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Halloween is an interesting holiday for my gender. Mean Girls sums it up quite well, actually. Some of us are Regina and some of us are Cady. There are those kinds of girls, and then there is the group I believe I fall into. Those girls wear lingerie with animal ears. Those girls buy the confusing (to me) costumes at the store that start with “sexy” followed by a random occupation - costumes that always involve skin tight dresses and fishnet stockings. I have never found myself in the ranks of those girls. Last year I was the Hamburglar, for goodness sakes.

But this year I found myself perusing Amazon for a pair of fishnet stockings - and feeling very uncomfortable about it. Not because my outfit was anything to be uncomfortable about - I was in need of fishnets so my ice cream cone would be complete with waffle cone legs! - but because it felt a little too close for comfort to something those girls do.

I discussed with multiple friends how strange and out of character and weird it felt to be seemingly falling into this group I didn’t. I didn’t! I wanted to make sure everyone knew it; I needed to convince myself. No matter what, I wasn’t one of those girls.

I slowly realized I had bought into, yet again, a lie that I spend a lot of time pushing back against: women are binary.

We see this persuasive falsehood all the time: a woman can either be sexy or she can be smart, a woman can either be ambitious or she can want to have a family one day, a woman can either be funny or she can be pretty. We don’t like women to be complicated, we like them to fit into tiny boxes. There are only two options. One is good. The other is bad.

Obviously, we want to be in the better box.

This causes us, as women, to convince ourselves that whichever box society puts us in, wherever we fall on the scale, is the better option. To do that, typically, we do whatever we can to convinces ourselves the majority of other women are worse. We do whatever we can to remain part of the good; we do whatever we can to make other women part of the bad.

Isn’t that frustrating? We’re so busy competing with each other to notice the patriarchy keeps winning.

In the midst of my judgement of those kind of girls on Halloween, I had to check my feminism. Sure, I believe women have the right to choose what to wear and shouldn’t be shamed for lack of clothes and all that - but I still wanted to feel morally better because I hadn’t chosen what they’ve chosen. They might have the right to wear that, but what kind of message are they sending? What kind of men are they attracting? What does it say about their self esteem?? I snidely thought to myself. (All the church girls who survived Modesty Culture - can I get an amen?)

But, I realized, it’s 2017 and we’re still being told what to wear. It’s too revealing or we’re too much of a prude. It’s not funny or we’re trying too hard. It’s too this or too that - we can’t win. We can’t ever win.

Worse, we’re still, somehow, basing so much on a woman’s outer appearance, determining so much of her worth and value by something so ridiculous. And I, someone who would consider myself a strong feminist, am part of the problem.

I’m done assuming I’m better, less than, different, or anything based on someone’s choice of clothes. I’m done trying to type cast others or minimize who they are by what they might be wearing. I’m done trying to convince myself I’m in the in - by working so hard to make everyone else out. At least, I’m trying to be. Society is one hell of a drug.

I’ve spent so long trying to not be one of those girls. They’ve probably spent so long trying to not be me. We’ve built each other out to be enemies because we’ve been told to. We’ve bought into the misconception that two kinds of women can’t both be good. Because we aren’t allowed to be nuanced, we aren’t allowed to be beautifully complicated. Only men get to be so many things. Women are only two dimensional or one sided, and I have zero patience for it any more.

I’m done thinking of those girls in my head, and putting myself above them. I am not any better - morally or otherwise - than a woman who wants to dress half naked on Halloween. I am not any better - morally or otherwise - than a woman who refuses to dress up on Halloween. I am not any better - morally or otherwise - than any other woman. Full stop.

Halloween is upon us - or, more accurately, Halloweekend. And from an ice cream cone to all the Sexy Cops, Sexy Firefighters, Sexy Goldfishes (that’s a real thing this year), as well as all the funny, punny, made-yourself costumes, and to all the ones who won’t be dressed up: I’m done judging you, competing with you, determining what’s best for you. Feminism is all about freedom, and I think we need to work harder on granting some to each other.

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