Why do certain words trigger such strong emotions in us? We associate words with specific feelings that we carry throughout our whole life—some words inspire us, some hurt us, some anger us, and some motivate us. However, no matter what meaning we give to these words, they always create some sort of value that we learn to accept.
With Halloween right around the corner, a particular s-word comes to mind. This word has been derogatory in the past but as time goes by it becomes more and more normal and socially acceptable to use, especially around this time of the year. For the most part, women have been more inclined to dress in costumes such as bunnies, cops, and nurses rather than scary costumes such as a zombie or a witch. It is in cases like this that the s-word gets thrown around, unaware of the power it has to insult someone. Insert “slutty” before any of these costumes and you get the point. Is it okay to use that word simply to celebrate a consumerist holiday? Our word choice says many things about who we are and what we believe and should be chosen carefully. By saying it, we prolong the life of this ugly word; all while we have the full capability to pick less offending adjectives for costumes such as “sexy nurse” or “sexy bunny rabbit.” This word has become so common in the description of Halloween costumes for women that when the phrase “slutty Halloween costumes” is Googled, Google yields results that replace “sexy” with “slutty,” treating these words as if they are one and the same.
Companies also have a responsibility to their new and loyal customers to use language in such a way that demonstrates who they are and how they view their customers. Fortunately, companies that are selling these provocative costumes use the words “sexy” or “adult” in place of the stigmatized word “slutty.” For example, yandy.com features women’s costumes that range from “sexy swashbuckler” or “adult peacock” to “sexy corn on the cob.” Halloween costume companies seem to understand the offensiveness of this word and avoid it completely. While choosing to use language in this way protects the company from accusations of disrespecting women, it does not solve the problem of the common usage of this hurtful word in relation to their costumes.
Sexy costumes for women dominate the shelves during Halloween, which shows us that our culture has undergone a change. Since the early 1950s,women’s clothing and style has changed dramatically. We all know that clothing throughout the years is associated with sexuality and sometimes with negative stigmas towards women. Halloween appears to be one of the only days women can dress more provocatively and it is accepted; for whatever reason it is- to embrace their sexuality or for another reason. Regardless, we have to realize that there are some words that people get offended by and sometimes they slip through the cracks (like the s-word). But we can’t help but to wonder why? Whether we are regular people or a unified company…it matters.
Note from the authors: This blog is meant to shed light on the acceptance of the word in our language; that some words are used without regard to their meaning (hence the importance for company’s care in their own word choices). The analogy of Halloween is simply meant to show the issue in a more socially constructed way.