PETA activist Jabeen Akhtar, who works for the U.S. EPA, painted her nude body like a tiger Feb. 7, 2006, to protest the circus coming to town in Charlotte, N.C. Akhtar is now campaigning against sexual Halloween costumes (photo: Jonathan Jones/Special to WND)
An animal-rights activist who stripped nearly nude before striping herself to look like a tiger is now, ironically, telling women not to dress sexily for Halloween, calling the trend of erotic costumes “hyper-sexualization.”
As WND previously reported, Jabeen Akhtar of Raleigh, N.C., is a federal worker with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who volunteers as an activist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
On Feb. 7, she took part in an anti-circus protest in Charlotte, N.C., where she painted tiger stripes on her skin and sat in a cage on a public street, wearing only “panties and pasties.”
But despite the flaunting of her body for ogling passers-by, Akhtar is now telling other people they should avoid sexy costumes for Halloween.
“They will be pretty hard to miss, because they will be everywhere – in thigh-high boots and mini-dresses, with toy accoutrements such as handcuffs, stethoscopes and whips. And lots of cleavage. The most popular creature for a woman to dress up as on Halloween this year: the tramp,” Akhtar writes in a column published today in the Raleigh News & Observer.
By “tramp,” we’re not talking the everyday streetwalker – an undesirable look that brings to mind poverty and abuse. We’re talking genre tramps. A trampy cop. A trampy nurse. A trampy soccer player.
These costumes aren’t anything new. They’ve been available at lingerie and fantasy stores for years. What is new, and has garnered the attention of college newspapers and the national media, is that these costumes have gone public – taken from the adults-only retailers and put in the local family Halloween store, neatly packaged on the shelf near the Ladybug costume for children ages 3 to 5.
Indeed, at the large, seasonal Halloween stores it looks less like Halloween and more like Frederick’s of Hollywood. Brands like Playboy, Foreplay, and Dreamgirl dominate the racks of women’s costumes. Shoved to the corners are the costumes that used to be popular – witch, fairy, vampire – the fuddy-duddy non-tramp versions that cover all of your skin.
Much has been written about the reasons behind this latest trend in Halloween attire. That, for instance, Halloween has become the one night when a woman can dress like a tramp in front of everyone she knows and still be considered a good girl on Nov. 1. And that these outfits are harmless fun; wearing them is no different than wanting to look sexy when you go out to a bar.
But the costumes do more than make a woman look sexy. They make a woman look like a man’s fantasy – a taboo, dirty image she hopes will remain in his mind as she goes back to her boring sweater sets the rest of the year.
Men are not demanding that we dress like tramps on Halloween. This is a hyper-sexualization that is largely self-induced by women. It is a simultaneous embrace and rejection of our mothers’ feminism: these costumed women are exercising their free will to look like the stereotype of the sexualized woman that men have fantasized about for decades.
Akhtar rhetorically asks if there is really harm committed when the women who don such costumes are intentionally embracing the stereotype for a night.
The true harm lies elsewhere. There is a far more subtle and pervasive stereotype that these costumes perpetuate when women appear en masse at parties clothed in them – that women are neither creative nor capable of poking fun at themselves.
Check out the variety of costumes you see on men this year, everything from doctor to redneck to deviled egg. Men tend to exercise their individualistic preferences on Halloween and aren’t afraid to look like deviants. Indeed, their self-esteem will be nowhere around that night. They are the ones who will have the blood running from their cut-open brains, the ones who will elicit drunken bellows of laughter all night because of their blonde wigs and high heels.
It is rare to see a woman in a costume that will make her look ugly or make people laugh at her. It reflects poorly on women that, given the chance to put our imaginations to work one night of the year, we choose to look like tramps. In spite of the different trampy-costume genres, it is ultimately a homogenous look, boring, predictable and one-dimensional.
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