When I was younger, part of the fun of Halloween was always seeing what others chose to dress up as. Now that I’m older, I’m seeing that the variety I enjoyed so much doesn’t extend to half the population.

While men’s costumes range from serious to scary to hilarious, women’s costumes almost always follow a single theme: sexy.
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Ignoring this trend is impossible. Browsing through Party City’s online costume catalog shows this choice disparity as clear as day. While browsing for costume supplies with my significant other, out of curiosity we began counting the women’s costumes that weren’t sexy versions of something. It was rare we found more than two or three per page. The men’s section on the other hand was full of options, all of which focused on actually functioning as costumes rather than looking attractive.

Spirit Halloween, another major costume retailer, practically comes out and says it by stating that its women’s costumes are made to “emphasize your sexy shape,” while men’s costumes are made for guys to “have fun and be cool.”

Interestingly, a women’s costume consisting of little more than a couple scraps of fabric costs the same as a full men’s outfit.

For the record, I’m not saying sexy costumes are bad, and I’m not shaming women who want to wear them. Far be it from the purpose of this article to impose puritanical values on others. I’m arguing for choice, and that includes the choice to express sexuality. But when expressing sexuality is practically the only option, that’s unfair.

“If it’s not some submissive, purring woman behind a cat costume or a Snow White with my boobs pushed so high that they touch my chin, I’m left with only a few costumes made to show how funny I am,” said Montevallo student Gabrielle Brown. “None of this is to say sexy costumes are the bane of women,” she added. “If whatever you wear makes you feel good about yourself and your focus is not seeking the attention of others to boost your self-esteem, then wear it. Work it to your heart’s desire.”

While one might find criticizing Halloween costumes to be overreacting and taking up the sword of Tumblr–style social justice over nothing, I think it’s a sign of bigger social problems, namely how our culture looks at women and their place in public. Such an emphasis on sexuality and impressing others drags the social pressure on women to be attractive into an occasion that should be about judgement-free fun.

Many of my female friends are crafting their own costumes instead of buying them to avoid this. I commend them, however, I can’t help but feel like this is a necessity rather than a choice. Choices are good–they’re empowering, and it’s a sign of real equality when everyone has them. The choice whether to dress up as a sexy nurse or a serious one for Halloween is a choice everyone should have.