Hopefully you all remember the scene from Tina Fey‘s 2004 comedy, Mean Girls, where it’s Halloween, and Lindsay Lohan’s character, Cady, says:
“In the real world, Halloween is when kids dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.”
Well Cady, I’m not so sure there’s any real separation between so-called-“Girl World” and the real one we’re all living in today. In fact, there’s really no division when you account for all the influence one ideological realm has over the other. Young girls watch television where beautiful, busty women fill out their costumes like Playboy Bunnies with seemingly effortless ease. Likewise, young girls interact with one another, in such cliques as those displayed in Mean Girls, learning how to perform their gender properly via socialization in “Girl World.” When I refer to Fey’s construction of “Girl World,” I am indeed referring to that social landscape in which certain young ladies of a certain socioeconomic status inhabit, one from which I, in many ways, came from: having grown up a white, middle class girl in Long Island, New York.
Long Island was a lot like you what think of when images of suburbia enter your mind: freshly mowed green lawns, white picket fences, trees (instead of skyscrapers). And I remember one particular October 31st, it was a beautiful autumnal afternoon and my friends and I were all dressed up for trick or treating. It was our freshman year of high school, so we were smack dab in the middle of Girl World, which I conceptualize more as a temporal location (as well as sociocultural) rather than a physical place. Our costumes were short, tight and what some might call scandalous. A middle aged woman passing by my front lawn, with her ten year old daughter in tow, said with shameless disgust,
“See? No wonder someone was raped on this block not too long ago. Those SLUTS are gonna get it!”
My freshman year of high school: Christine (me, top left) the “army brat,” Amanda (bottom left) the “pink fairy,” Emily (center) the “red devil,” and Ali (right) the “1920’s flapper girl.” Long Island, NY.
And I can remember the sting of her words. I can remember the instant guilt I felt in snapping this photo (above). Was I dressed like a slut? Was I a [Halloween] slut? How had Girl World suddenly collapsed with the real one? Why were my friends and I not accepted as the army brats, pink fairies, red devils and 1920’s flapper girls that we were trying to emulate? Instead, we were branded sluts, and according to my former neighbor, worthy of one such heinous crime as rape. This type of mentality is the direct offspring of an entire culture of ignorance, known as rape culture. Rape culture refers to that patriarchal society in which we reside (within which Girl World and the real world simultaneously dwell). It is a social environment that accepts rape as normative – even natural – thereby placing blame and responsibility on victims of rape, whom, according to rape culture, did not successfully avoid the so-called-inevitability of asking for it.
Some popular ideas surrounding this notion of rape and rape culture include (but are not limited to):
…Don’t dress too revealing…
…Don’t walk/drive alone late at night…
…Always watch your drink at parties…
The implication always being that if s/he failed to comply with any of these regulatory rules, then they stupidly put themself at risk for having their body violated.
If I could go back in time, I would tell that woman about the powerfully dangerous ignorance she was perpetuating to her daughter by calling us sluts, and by forewarning her daughter about the invitation to bodily violation via Halloween costumes. What a terrible, terrible thing to do, to teach young girls that there is shame attached to the body, and that they alone carry the extraordinary burden of responsibility. How dare we teach children: “don’t get raped,” as if that is ever any person’s intended goal. It is time we begin targeting the source(s) of violence in and around rape culture; it is time we begin to teach the rhetoric of, “don’t rape,” as stranger rape is far less common than familiar or familial rape.
For information on SlutWalk and its mission(s), check out this NY Mag article.
This blog post is not to occlude those pressing realities surrounding the hyper-sexualization of girls and self identified women in society, namely surrounding the American Halloween season in which underage girls dress like (well, let’s face it) Playboy Bunnies. This blog post is specifically targeted at the rape culture which I, myself, experienced in Girl World, where to my shock & dismay, ‘I was not allowed to dress like a slut, since other girls did say something bad about it,’ Tina Fey! This blog post is intended to interrogate rape culture and to challenge its debilitating rhetoric.
“No matter who you are, No matter where you work, No matter how you identify, No matter how you flirt, No matter what you wear, No matter whom you choose to love, No matter what you said before: NO ONE has the right to touch you without your consent.” –SlutWalk NYC